Updated: Jan 29, 2022
The past few years have taught me a lot about people's perception of employment. Some jobs have variable hours (such as a shift nurse, hairdresser, waitress, etc.) but many of us fall into the standard M-F daytime grind, whether it's in a factory or in an office, or anywhere in between. We are united on social media as we dread Monday and collectively share our excitement when Friday comes. This goes on for 40+ years as we live for weekends while dreaming of retirement.
Yet, there is so much skepticism over anyone doing it differently. Anyone who rejects this model as a gig worker, a network marketer, or anyone who isn't issued health insurance and a 401(k) when they work. Why are we so suspicious of them? Why are we so hard on them?
When my younger daughter graduated high school 4 years ago, she planned to play college hockey and study biochemistry. She gave up both after her first year and recently graduated with a biology degree. However, I noticed those years ago whenever I was asked about her plans, it was always met with a nod of approval. Honestly, it made me uncomfortable. Having an exchange over someone's life choices, watching it go through someone's else's paradigms, and seeing them decide it is an admirable path? Didn't feel right.
If she had decided to backpack Europe for a year, that is an admirable path. If she had decided to teach yoga, that is an admirable path. If she had decided to start a new job as a custodian the week after graduation, that is an admirable path. Can we please stop ranking how people earn their money and spend their time?
I've been guilty of this. When I meet someone socially and she is a doctor, it's "wow" with an impressive nod. (C'mon, you know the nod.) Or if someone is a teacher, a nurse, a police officer it's a soft-hearted appreciation for their service. Sound familiar?
This topic is staring me in the face as I radically switched my employment this past year. I was a CFO. I've received the impressive nods. I've watched as people shifted the way they responded to me since, for some reason, their viewing lens changed even though I did not. Yet, I was not a CFO in a large public corporation, so I was still "normal" enough for people to like me. This is where the double standard kicks in. We are impressed by accomplished people, yet we have so much disdain for the things they have because they are accomplished.
How does a young person making life choices navigate this? They grow up watching their parents hate their jobs, hearing society admire the "elite" professions, while witnessing commentary against those same professions such as "Have so-‘n-so pay for it. He has a lot of money." Our society tells us to pursue capitalism, get advanced degrees, buy a lot of "stuff" and then hate everyone who actually does it. American culture contradicts itself constantly and no one wins. Friends, don't fall into these paradigms.
I used to start conversations with my husband with "back when I was working . . . " and I had to stop. I AM working now. I have to give myself credit for that. Instead, I say, "Back when I was CFO-ing." I am not earning what I used to but my value did not diminish. If anything, it is greater, since I am a better member of my community. I help more, educate more, connect more, volunteer more. I don't get impressive nods anymore and yet I'm providing a much greater service than ever before.
Did you know that according to Forbes and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, gig workers will comprise 43% - 50% of the American workforce by 2020? Folks, that's NEXT YEAR.... In a few years, the M-F workplace warriors will be the weird ones. The majority of opportunities will be on a freelance basis. What are you doing to prepare for that?
Start by monitoring your reactions. Ask people what their ideas are, not just their jobs. Do they like creative projects? Being outdoors? Physical challenges? Ask yourself those same questions and interview someone with a non-traditional job. Our jobs are rarely our legacy. Don’t give them the power of double standards.