Monday, November 01, 2010

The benefits of being jobless

A little while ago I read and article called "In Praise of Quitting Your Job".

The short version seems to be that if you're not allowed to be creative in your job you should quit. Your muse will leave you so you shouldn't stick around in a job that makes you miserable.

I kind of agree and kinda don't. I'm gonna get into why.

I'm gonna guess that he tends to work in creative fields. A graphic designer most likely. Accountants tend not to complain about not being allowed to be creative in their jobs. Fry cooks don't go on about the fruits of their labors.

I want to start by saying I don't really sympathize. He seems to have the artist mindset. He wants to be creative and be left to make what he thinks he should be making. That's not gonna happen no matter what company you work for. The company needs an ad or a poster or a mailer or a themed packet of information or a catalog. Some will allow you a certain amount of creativity. The best you can hope for is that they'll let you develop three ideas, present those, and then only screw with those minimally. More often you'll be part of a group who dictates fonts, colors, styles, themes, and the like. You have the technical skills to produce what they need and that's what you're there for.

A girl I grew up with worked for an advertising company that had Walmart as a client. No creativity was allowed. She wasn't on the committee to develop the ad. They were hired to produce what Walmart wanted. Sounds like the guy who wrote the article has had a string of similar jobs.

I can appreciate what he's saying about the job. Management can do a better job of working with their employees so they feel they own the project a bit more. The author needs to understand what the company wants. They're paying for technical skills. Some pay for creativity, but most want skills.

This leads me into why I think that art classes in school rank right up there near reading, writing and arithmetic classes. Damn near everyone will have to make a PowerPoint presentation at some point. Possibly a website. The occasional flier, garage sale, lost dog, or brochure may come up, too. These aren't what would generally be considered art, but some design skills would be very handy. Some basic rules about using no more than three fonts, balancing the page, complimentary colors, and the like should be in place to keep the person from using every single PowerPoint transition and animation. I still get the occasional "THAT'S what my 7th grade art teacher was talking about!"

Finally, I want to whole heartily agree with the author's basic premise. An occasional bout with unemployment is important to mental health.

Think back to when you were a kid. Your job was school. Some teacher/bosses you liked. Others you hated. There were student/coworkers you liked and those you hated. The work came and came and wouldn't let up. You didn't get paid anything for it. Most of the work went in the trash before long. Where's the job satisfaction in that?

However, there was always that light at the end of the tunnel. There was a winter break of several weeks and then a summer break of several months. There was hope. There was relief. Some time in the comprehendible future THIS WOULD END!!! 

That's gone now.

You get two weeks off per year. Maybe three. Some even get four if they've been with the same company for a few decades. You might get to take a whole week of it at a stretch. But that doesn't even begin to compare. Look down that tunnel? See a light? No, but the map says that there is another end to this tunnel. It's called retirement. It's not 6 months away. It's 30 years away. There's your relief.

There is another option. Quit from time to time. When you get fired think of it as being given summer vacation. Of course, this works best if you have enough money set aside to permit 90 days or so of food and bill paying before you're destitute. That's just good fiscal sense.

Think on what I've just said. I've told this theory to several people whose jobs were crushing them. It didn't help with the job, but just the understanding helped relieve some of the misery and they walked away feeling much better.

Not that I can say too much. My plan used to be that ever few years I'd pack up and move to a new city. Vacation time would be spent visiting the family while I'd use the rest of my life seeing the world. Then I landed in a city I liked with a job I liked and it pays well. If I took my own advice I'd almost certainly end up with a worse job and a worse boss. Nine years with this job doesn't seem as long as the two years of my last job.

And finally, finally, I want to talk to the managers of the world. One of the most important things you can do for your employees is to let them do their job. Geeks and editors (and loads of others) are happy to do their jobs. Give them a project and let them finish it. Don't move up deadlines while adding on more projects. Don't make a habit of canceling projects after several months of work. The most valuable thing you can do is clear obstacles out of their way. Often they don't even need credit for their work, just so long as nobody else gets credit for their work either. Do this and your employees won't be writing essays like the one that inspired this post in the first place.

1 comment:

GreenCanary said...

I take mental vacations every 15 minutes or so. I find that this helps with the insanity. Sort of.