I faced a problem.
I was receiving more e-mails requesting my advice or thoughts on various issues than I had time to answer. Some of them were actually quite presumptuous, because in order to thoroughly answer them it would take at least two hours of my finite life (my favorite being “how should I plan for retirement”).
But instead of becoming frustrated or angry, I got smart. I started “Asshole Consulting.” I would politely tell people that I would like to answer their questions, but I didn’t have the time unless I was paid to do so. I thought it would go nowhere, but because of the generally brief and simple nature of most people’s questions, they were easily answered in a 10-20 minute e-mail, which I would only charge $15-$25, respectively. Soon, a market was made and I’m at least making beer money by helping out the occasional lost soul.
But something interesting happened. While for the most part people’s questions were specific to them, I started noticing “general themes” or “common questions” that were not specific to any one individual. They were questions most people had and I figured rather than regurgitating the exact same advice I would write a post about it saving me time and them money. And hands down the most common of these common questions is:
“I hate my job. I just can’t tolerate it anymore. I’m thinking of a career change or at least finding a new job. What do you recommend?”
And I intend on answering it now as it is one of the most important lessons for all men to learn, and the earlier the better.
First understand you’ve been over-trained. Both in terms of abilities and expectations. You go to school for 13 years in the public school-prison system where they tell you you are going to do great things. Naive 20-something, math-impaired women euphemistically posing as teachers tell you the prettiest of lies about your “wonderful and glorious” future. You then go onto college where you get at minimum a bachelors, but probably a Masters as “that will give you an edge in the labor market.” But what you don’t understand is that pretty much everybody has been doing the same and so the market is flooded with college-educated individuals. And no matter how high your GPA and how many advanced credentials you have, there are not enough jobs to sop up all the excess college graduates. This not only means HR and employers can be astronomically arrogant and picky, but that what jobs you do land are 100% guaranteed to be WAY beneath your capacities, abilities, and desires.
Second, understand that economic growth is slowing. We are only growing at about 60% of the rate of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Without that extra economic growth there are mathematically fewer employment opportunities and certainly less challenging ones. So whereas if you were a GI coming back from WWII Boeing would likely hire you as an aerospace engineer, today Boeing would maybe hire you as dataentrysman. If you’re lucky.
Finally, the Baby Boomer generation was absolutely HORRIBLE in terms of financial planning. Most squandered their inheritance from the WWII generation, blew what money they made on divorce lawyers, and are now the most participatory group in “reverse mortgages.” They did not save anywhere near the amount they needed for retirement which means…
Most of them have to work past retirement.
This means there is a log-jam at the top of most companies. And without executives retiring, nobody else can be promoted up the corporate ladder. Until the Boomers retire (or die) you can expect a long wait time before finding a job that challenges you.
Now there are other reasons, but because of the aforementioned three nearly 100% of all US jobs suck. They just plain suck.
They’re not challenging, they’re not interesting, they’re nowhere near what you’re capable of, and they’re not improving as the economy continues to stagnate. Worse, the people of the country themselves are decaying, which not only means that your co-workers and bosses are going to be less professional (and most likely intolerable), but dishonest, deceitful and manipulative (misleading job descriptions or Adria Richards, anyone?). What this means for you, and this is one of the important lessons to pull from this post, is that you are not “unlucky” or just having “bad luck” finding a “decent job.” ALL JOBS SUCK. ALL JOBS ARE LIKE THIS. There is no “good job with a sane employer around the corner, you just need to apply one more time.” There is no “grass is greener on the other side.” All jobs in the current day economy are like this.
So the question then is, “What? Am I just screwed? Am I condemned to sucky jobs for the rest of my life or vainly job-hopping in order to find ‘the one’ job that doesn’t suck?”
And the answer is a “yes, but” and the “but” is the key epiphany you need to enjoy life as much as you can.
Realize that you cannot change the general decay and suckiness of the job market. Ergo, if you cannot change it, the only thing you can change is you. Specifically, how you react to it. It is here you need to attain a certain amount of “Zen” with your workplace surroundings, specifically “letting things go” that you don’t control.
First, give up any dreams you had of “making it big as a corporate man.” True riches and success do not come from working hard and loyally for an employer. It is MUCH easier today to make it on your own as an entrepreneur than it is the absolute mental torture the “corporate man career” route is. And I’m not joking. Modern day employment is so bureaucratized you are going to be more efficient and profitable in the long run starting your own company.
Second, because traditional employment is so painful and not the true source to financial success, you must view traditional employment for what it is—a tool to (in the most extreme Machiavellian sense) advance your own personal dreams. Your dreams are not to be a “good corporate man.” Your dreams are to work up enough capital to start your own company or enough money to retire ASAP. You’re not going for a gold watch. You’re not going for a 401k match. You’re not going for a corner office.
You are going in there, day in, day out, to fuck that company out of as much money for as little work as possible before you throw it away like the slut you picked up at the bar last Friday. You will pump and dump your employer.
Third (and this is really hard, but very key), train your brain to ignore all injustices, transgressions and politics at the office. This is arguably the biggest “problem” most of my “clients” have. They’ll write page after page of how their co-worker didn’t pull their weight, how a female peer filed a bogus complaint, how the boss changes his mind every day, and in general how the workplace is the opposite of a meritocracy.
Remember 1) you’re not there for the long haul and 2) you don’t care to get promoted. Just paid.
For example, I was 32 at the time and easily had over a decade of solid (and advanced) financial analytical experience. However, my boss was so inept and staff so dumbed down, that I could finish my real work in about 2 hours. This left 6 hours per day with nothing to do. So what did she have me do?
File and scan.
MOST of you would find this insulting. But I didn’t. I had achieved that “Zen.” Whether it was 8 hours a day doing advanced economic analysis or 8 hours a day filing and faxing, I didn’t care. It was 8 hours a day I was getting paid for. And so I sat there for A MONTH STRAIGHT doing nothing but scanning files in (the CEO didn’t authorize the $1,200 for a high-speed scanner which would have cut it down to a week). Besides, where was I going to go? All the jobs, no matter what the pay or the titles, were just going to be the same damn thing.
Perhaps it is not what you wanted to hear. Perhaps it is a bit depressing to see yet another piece of the world co-opted and corrupted by societal decay. But like dating and women, you must also take this “red pill of employment” for it is reality. And just like dating, if you based your decisions in the real world, you will have much more success than sticking your head in the sand.
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