I’ve noticed that I came to love neoliberalism once I quit working and started riding in the cart with the idle rich. It’s preferable to pulling the cart and subjecting yourself to the supervision of an employer.
After nearly two years of retirement, I have formulated a slightly different perspective. I’ve only shared it with a limited number of my currently-working colleagues cuz the lesson is kinda dark…
Everyone probably has some memory of their first true job where they worked at a proscribed location for proscribed periods of time performing very simple, explicitly described tasks that were likely mundane or physically taxing in exchange for a wage. Those jobs likely entailed fifteen minute breaks and maybe 30 or 60 minutes for lunch and those intervals were carefully watched by employee and boss alike. Neither wanting to give or get a fraction of a second more or less from the exchange.
I can remember my first job where my concept of time during those hours was so acute that a fifteen minute break was like “stickin’ it to the man” and I would feel time elapse waiting for those breaks or lunch periods.
After entering Corporate America, I enjoyed my first few jobs. They were focused on technical processes and equipment that I found fascinating, they were 100% tied to my formal education and involved delivering vital phone service to millions of people. The work mattered. There were no “breaks.” There was no designated lunch hour. Days flew by in a blink of an eye. I had a CAREER, not a JOB.
As I started moving around and moving UP in management, the share of time working on actual delivery of service or creation of new products or software declined and the share of time devoted to “planning” or “reporting” or – as my level went up – “rationalization” of what others already decided to do skyrocketed.
Obviously, a large, highly specialized corporation REQUIRES planning for headcount, budgets, product roadmaps, marketing campaigns, etc. Many tasks in management ARE very abstract which is why many IN management find they don’t particularly ENJOY management that much. It seems too disconnected from reality. The problem is that in most large corporations, management IS disconnected from reality. Many of the inputs generated by lower levels are not read or are not understood by the layers above, making the effort required to produce them completely pointless.
Despite that, the typical person ascending through that career path becomes very adept at continuing to rationalize how each day is being spent. This is not exactly what I PREFER to be doing but this will provide me skills to move to the next level where I can influence things early on and ensure my company avoids the mistakes I’m seeing so frequently now… This isn’t just a JOB, this is a CAREER. That’s the inner dialogue.
As your career continues, the time spent rationalizing your continued participation in a work structure that may be highly lucrative financially but is increasingly devoid of any of the mental challenges you ENJOY solving continues going up. Your day is dominated by meaningless drudgery creating headcount plans and “roadmaps” that no one in management is actually going to USE when finally forced to make a decision about something. But the pay is good, you might get that next promotion and might be able to stop the madness in a new, higher role.
Then, as Pink Floyd so famously put it,…
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun.
When most people finally retire, one thing becomes absolutely clear.
They were all just JOBS. Your particular spin and style of doing your job will vanish instantly the minute you announce your retirement. The minute you publicly opt out of the game, even if your actual retirement date might be months away, the remaining players in the game completely discount all input you have. Who cares what you think? You’re not going to be here.
It’s a very difficult message to convey to people still working, still “mid-career”. For people staring at a mortgage, car payment, daycare or college tuition for three kids, etc. this continued rationalizing of a “career” as the reason for tolerating the ongoing tedium of working in Corporate America might be essential in allowing someone to tolerate the prospect of plugging away for another decade to meet those family goals. But the story is the same when you get to the finish line.
They were all just JOBS.