Sunday, January 26, 2014

White Collar, Blue Collar, No Collar

"Do what you love and you'll love what you do, that's only true when I'm following you (God)" - Tobymac

The trick to finding your career these days is widely known. Analyze what you're good at, what you like to do, and what makes a positive impact on the world around you. Where ever those three overlap, that's where you ought to work (I wrote a whole entry on it here). That's probably where God is calling you. Turns out that's not the whole picture.

What if you don't have the chance to? What if you grew up without great opportunities. People say if you work hard you can get out of it. In America that is sometimes true, but usually it's not. But America aside, what if you live in a country wrecked by poverty? Are those people missing out on God's calling for their lives? And if we follow this model, who is going to pick up our trash for us. I mean I bet there are people who are passionate about collecting garbage, but do you honestly think that there are enough of those people to fill all the trash collection jobs. And what about other jobs that our society is decidedly unimpressed with, like construction workers, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, bus drivers, etc., etc. The list goes on. Note that without these jobs, society would come to a halt.  Also note that almost no parent would sit their child down and tell them that if they work hard and everything goes well then they'll end up getting to do one of those jobs. They're used more as threats. "Study hard, so you don't have to do that when you grow up!"

I'm working now. I finish bicycles. It's not glorious. You don't need a college degree for it. When I tell people what I do, I have this strong urge to add in that I'm a mechanical engineer, and that I'm doing a little bit of design as well and that my engineering role in the company will be growing soon.

What in the world?! Am I afraid that someone will think less of me because I have a "trade/blue collar" job?!?  My identity is so tied to what I do. I know I would judge someone like me, so I have to tell the story in a way that ensures people know I'm here of my own free will. I'm not trapped in a job that bores me and simply pays the bills. I could do better! (What's better mean anyway?!) I just like it here. I'm doing what I love! (or so I tell myself). - That this is my natural response has given me cause to stop and ponder.  It's a shame that I think that way, and that I'm not at all alone in thinking that way.

So anyway, there's a problem. America's job situation is a mess. The way I think about work, identity, satisfaction, and happiness is a mess. What we teach our children about growing up to be respectable is a mess. So.... food for thought. Also, this article, similarly themed, with a lot more words (here!).  It talks about the damage that the "do what you love" mantra is doing both to those who don't get that chance, and to those who do.

And this video interview with Mike Row, who did the show "Dirty Jobs":

So the moral of the story is go do some work. Get paid something (to meet you needs). Find a way to enjoy it. Don't rest your identity as a person on it.

Also, I don't know how to do most of what I just told you to do...


Andrea said...

Which would we rather live without, indoor plumbing (blue collar) or MacBooks (white collar + sweatshops)? Maybe America has gotten so overrun with luxury that we've lost perspective as a nation on what is useful (and therefore should be meaningful, respected) work?

Alene Pierro said...

People who are aware and introspective put so much thought into who they are, why they are, what they want to be and how they can accomplish that. You are thoughtful and intentional in every single way. You are complicated and engaged in life and in your work. There will rarely be a one word answer or simplified, uninterested, unchallenging conversation that will satisfy you. Challenging yourself to converse differently is a great idea, but don't just challenge yourself. Challenge those you talk to.

P.S. It's been 10 months! Keep writing! Miss you! Love you!