It seems all you hear about these days are jobs. You know, the American economy needs more of them, but they’re being shipped overseas, and all the political candidates are pledging to bring them back.
Do you believe the hype?
I think we need to keep things in perspective here. You, the government, and even the next president will have very little say in companies providing jobs for all of us. There’s only one person who can keep you employed, and that’s you.
How can I do that, you might wonder?
Luckily, I found a book that might help us out. It’s called Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew B. Crawford.
In this book, Crawford inquires into the value of work as a good in and of itself. Quick! How many of you hate your jobs? That was a bit of a rhetorical question. No one has jobs anymore, right? If you’re one of the lucky few, you may be clinging to it for dear life–even though that might be the worst thing to do.
Are you suggesting I leave my job?
Maybe, maybe not. For insight, here’s a quick bio on Crawford: he tinkered in auto shops and as an electrician while working his way through college and graduate school to earn his PhD. After completing his thesis, he worked for a Washington think-tank. This lasted a short while before he quit and opened his own motorcycle repair business. Some people would love the influence and wealth attributed to such a prestigious position close to government. Crawford disagrees, and here’s his explanation why:
“I was always tired, and honestly could not see the rationale for my being paid at all–what tangible goods or useful services was I providing to anyone?” (5)
He admits that he may not be well suited for office work, but continues to explain throughout the book how the separation of work from craftsmanship is detrimental to our society. As someone who now works with his hands, Crawford understands and appreciates what he means to make and fix things.
He loves to turn wrenches and the intellectual engagement of his new job. He enjoys helping people and bettering their lives in a practical way. I think he makes an excellent teacher.
What should you do for work then?
“The only credible answer . . . is work that engages the human capacities as fully as possible” (52).
In other words, becoming a widget maker on an assembly line can be a great job provided that it challenges you in some profound way, while staring out the window of your corner office can be a confining experience. It depends on the individual, and I charge you to take the time to figure it out for yourselves. You’ll spend most of your lives working 40, 60, 80 hours a week or more, so it’s worth it to find something you love.
As a matter of fact, the more ardently you pursue work you love, the more specialized knowledge you will earn. The more highly specialized your skills become, the more indispensable you will become to your boss. The more indispensable you become . . . well, I think you get the picture.
Here’s a final thought. If your boss won’t fire you because you’re indispensable, do you even need a boss to tell you what to do? Why not start out on your own? If you are your own boss, isn’t that the best possible job security?