The ideal job

Tom,  at TrueTalk Blog, expanded on my Electronic Arts post to show the
other side of the job dilemma. Where my post on EA showed the "joys" of
working for an electronic sweat shop, his post, Hourmania, discussed
the far more common trap of losing ones life and family to the
seductive lure of an apparently ideal job.

He describes a work situation which most creative people would sell their soul for:

    I work with some of the most talented designers in the world.
They’re boundlessly creative, hugely energetic, and work harder than
anyone I’ve ever seen. Unlike the EA story, No one is driving them to
do so. They drive themselves. Their standards continually escalate, and
the work gets better still.

I worked in that kind of environment more than once. These
were the most intensely rewarding positions I have ever held. These
were also the times when I did the greatest damage to my personal
relationships outside of work.

Tom puts his finger on the problem:

    We have to get past this "work/life balance" rhetoric and think
more deeply about our expectations of ourselves. We have to be able to
come up with an answer to when "enough" is "enough."

There is no pat answer for this one, but I see a number of young people
making more intelligent choices than I did. For example, I see
two-career families where one family member puts a career on hold in
order to raise a pre-school age child. This is their alternative to
paying for full-time child care. They are taking a long-term view of
what is important and I think that is the key.

I think that taking the "main chance" is appropriate when that dream
job comes along, but both the worker and the family need to set a time
limit and a purpose for the immersion in the dream job.

If you think of the opportunity
as a career/financial booster with a finite window of opportunity, it might
work out best for all concerned.

The dedication can be intense, but like going to college or back for
an advanced degree, the primary focus should be on what comes

Employment today is temporary. Like it or not, you are an employee at will.  You can be
let go for cause or no cause. There is only one long-term solution.

Every job you take should be part of a
plan to equip you for full self-employment at some later point in life.

When one is post-retirement age as I am, there are few positions
available even for the most highly skilled professionals. The internet
shakeup of 2001 spilled hundreds of thousands of experienced workers
into the ranks of unemployed. Many of the over-fifty group are still
looking for work. The only solution for most others was to work for

Pensions are a thing of the past and Social Security may be a mirage,
but a skilled person with business acumen and a nest egg can always
generate income. The ideal jobs are those that prepare you for
long-term job security as your own boss.

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts on this.

UPDATE: I have written another post, the ideal job – part 2, to provide some help in recognizing an ideal job.

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0 Responses to The ideal job

  1. Kim Berggren says:

    I wish it were not so, but you are right. As a 50-year-old tech worker in a large corporation, I am increasingly aware of my vulnerable position. Often I feel like I am standing on a trap door—-and my employer can pull the lever any time. When it opens, I will be in a free-fall. I feel my only choice is to prepare for self-employment. Unfortunately, not everyone has the skills to build a business on their own. Here is an opportunity for someone to start a business helping workers to prepare for starting their own.

  2. Fifteen years ago, my wife and I decided to take a chance on ourselves. It turned out to be the best bet we ever made on every possible scale. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy…we’ve had many anxious moments, but many more moments of real satisfaction at doing what we were meant to do.

    Happy to have you link to my writing, David. Thanks.

  3. Dave says:

    This is precious commentary!

    I have always strived to look at the big picture. But in contemplation of the mission and quest that has sat perched upon my nose for the last eight years – I certainly haven’t.

    Although you try to enjoy and learn from the journey of searching for the ideal job, you tend to get caught up with the immediacy of where you are at.

    In Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker devotes a chapter to The Second Half of Your Life. I think it wonderfully reinforces your comment about preparing for self employment!

  4. Bren says:

    This is a great post, David. I can’t really articulate the ways that this resonates with me. In my family of 30-somethings and toddlers, I took a pretty significant pay cut in order to have commute to work that I do on foot. My wife has been working half-time, but won’t be working at all next year, for precisely the reason you describe.

    Good stuff and it’s nice to have big decisions validated by the voice of experience. 🙂

  5. Rosa says:

    Aloha David, how I wish all our youth could read — trust in, and believe — your post, and to use Bren’s word, how it resonates with so many of us. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20, but foresight is far, far better.

    One of the traps my husband and I fell into along this same road was convincing ourselves that the “easier” path of working for another employer for so long would also be easier on our family, cutting down our stress with financial risk, overly long hours when it’s only you and you can’t clock out, etc. And while those certainly can be factors, I now wish we kept looking for more options and worked our way to self-employment more gradually versus going cold turkey. For as you so intuitively pointed out, along the way, thinking to stop at that “enough” with the dreamy employers we sought and did find, seemed to disappear from our actions altogether.

    My own Talking Story is on holiday ho’omaha (hiatus) right now, but I’ll be linking to you in my next e-letter to my Ho’ohana Community to share your post soon. Mahalo for staring this collective wisdom.
    Happy Holidays.
    TITLE: The ideal job
    BLOG NAME: microISV
    DATE: 06/18/2006 11:23:07 AM
    David St. Lawrence has an excellent blog where he often posts about careers, small business, and becoming an entrepreneur. In his post The ideal job, he defines the ideal job as follows:
    Definition: The ideal jobs are those that prepare you for long-t…
    TITLE: My Mana‘o on Why I Write.
    BLOG NAME: Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching
    DATE: 01/24/2005 12:32:52 PM
    *mana‘o is the Hawaiian word for meaningful thoughts, not things you simply think about, but those things about which you have thought deeply, and now believe with great conviction.
    TITLE: The Ideal Job
    BLOG NAME: Business Opportunities Weblog
    DATE: 01/04/2005 08:51:51 AM
    David St. Lawrence: “The ideal jobs are those that prepare you for long-term job security as your own boss.” via microISV…
    TITLE: The ideal job
    BLOG NAME: Myke’s Weblog
    DATE: 12/15/2004 10:47:04 AM
    The passage below is from the Ripples weblog. I agree with David’s premise. In hindsight, I must have know this subconsciously, because it is the only explanation for my career path.Employment today is temporary. Like it or not, you are

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