Thoughts for a Modern Workplace

Russell - Livonia, Michigan
Entered on June 14, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, work

This I believe.

In the days of the steam locomotive, the engineers who ran them were king. They were one of the most sought after skilled trades of the day. They could command huge salaries and the best benefits of the times. In the early 1980’s computer programmers were pampered. If you were good, you could command a huge salary. Your boss would bring you your lunch and you could work when you wanted. Today, surgeries are being performed in other countries for much less than what they are in the United States. While they are not up to par, I can’t imagine it would take another thirty years for the other countries to catch up to our technologies. We are, after all training many of the surgeons here in our schools in the United States.

It seems that today as it was in the past, people choose a career and based it on the demands of the workforce. Considering jobs that are high in demand have always been an important consideration as young people embark on college pathways and begin looking into potential careers. Then you get that job you were worked for and waited for and it seems that just as you get comfortable in your position, today, 20, or 60 years ago, change in the marketplace happens. The career that seemed so secure is not what you thought.

Just like the steam locomotive engineers who were prized in their day, change happens. They were left without a job the day after the diesel engines came out and no skills to carry on to a new career. Programming became something you could outsource. Key punch operators once in demand no longer exist.

You cannot rest thinking a particular career is what you want to do for the rest of your life and that your employer cannot survive without you. You need to maintain a backup plan. There is no job security, no lifetime employment contract. People lose jobs all of the time because of changes and economic downsizing and then have trouble replacing those jobs even when they are highly skilled. Who you are is not what you do and losing a job can be a huge blow especially to a family breadwinner. Many people have gone to extremes because of the worth that they placed on their jobs. Look at the people who lose their jobs and either commit suicide or go into their workplace and kill people. This is all because they placed the value on who they were with what they did and they now feel that they do not have anything left especially if they have no other skills, options or back-up plan.

I remember my parents talking about belt tightening when my father was taken off his duties as a truck driver for Kelsey Hayes to a forklift operator because of downsizing. I couldn’t imagine what he did wrong to have that done. He loved his job and he seemed good at it. I overheard he was told it’s nothing he did, the company just had some cut backs. There seemed to be a lot of people being laid off, and he was lucky he had a job. In our parent’s generation, job loyalty was important. Employers have no loyalty to workers in economic hardships. It’s all business. Your family needs to be run like a business. Consider yourself as an entity that needs looking out for.

In my quest to make sure that these things did not happen to me, I diversified as much as possible, possibly too much. I made it my goal to be able to do something well no matter what the outcome of whatever industry seemed to be struggling at the time. I worked in a restaurant, electronic sales, and made eyeglasses before I found something I loved, machining. I couldn’t imagine people wouldn’t need something made in the future. To me it was like being paid to do your hobby. People make things all the time for fun and I’m getting paid for this. This was not manufacturing in the normal sense of the word, this was prototype machining. You make a couple of these, and a couple of those. Leave the huge 1000 piece or more, boring run jobs somewhere else. I am working on a college pathway now in the event that the economy hits the manufacturing industry and I am left without a career. I chose a different pathway that I would enjoy but also utilized my abilities. My wife who is a teacher, made sure that her master’s degree career path was diversified in the event that classroom teacher jobs were cut and they are all the time.

I believe that life is circular in its nature and things that happened in the past are meant to be learned from. We will always be talking about the latest technology and the newest job market. I believe that in order to take care of your family, you must diversify yourself just as a business does. I believe that you make sure that you do not take your job for granted and know that if you do lose your job, it is not personal, it’s just business. I believe if you take care of your family like your own personal business, you will safely sail the economic waters of your generation. This I believe.