So I just graduated from my graphic design program and am about to re-enter the workforce. The last time I graduated college, back in May 2009, I was trying to find a job in the worst economic crisis since the ’29 stockmarket crash with a degree I didn’t have all my faith in. Now, thankfully the circumstances are pretty different and I am starting a job… tomorrow!
Embarking on this new career, I can’t help but think of my grandfather who worked for the same company for over 35 years. However, this notion of working for one company for your whole life seems to be shifting. I know so many people around my age (pushing 30) that are working just to save money so they can quit their job and travel around Europe/volunteer in Africa/be some sort of nomad. This is whether they are high-paying white collar jobs or low-paying service industry jobs.
This isn’t really an original concept, there are plenty of articles (here’s one) explaining the work ethic or lack thereof of “millennials.” I know, I hate that word too. They explain it’s not necessarily about work-life balance, it’s more about living your life now.
I agree, but I also think it’s more than that. It is the way that companies hire you, especially in the more tech-y industries. As a graphic/ux/visual designer, it is pretty common to work on contract. In return for their non-commitment, the company is kinda saying, “hey let’s hang out for a bit, and see how it goes before things get too serious. We won’t be mad if you end up working somewhere else at the end of this contract.” And it makes sense except for pesky things like healthcare, made less pesky because of things like obamacare.
This mutual non-commitment trickles down to other parts of our lives. If you don’t have the commitment of a 30 year job, it’s hard to commit to a 30 year house mortgage. So that’s where tiny living comes in. For the price of a car, you can buy/build a house. You just need to find someone’s backyard to plop it in.
There was also that article going around Facebook about that woman who has been “on vacation” for 3 years. Really what she did was save up money, quit her job, travel to mostly cheap but tropical destinations, and work her way around with odd jobs while staying on friends’ couches. I put this under the category of “feel good stories that make you feel bad about yourself.” Eat Pray Love falls under the same category. That’s great for people who can swing it but what grinds my gears is when she says, “I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.” Well how can you not understand it? That’s not a super easy lifestyle. And people have things like partners, friends, family, or maybe even kids.
This non-commitment isn’t really sustainable. Is there a time where we have to grow up, bite the bullet, and earn our way? I think it is difficult for us pay our dues because we saw our parents’ generation work really hard, only to be laid off during that crazy time in 2009. And the tech industry is known for working people to the bone and then throwing them out the next day. So it is difficult to pay our dues when we don’t know if they will ever pay off.
To me, the U.S. is a place of extremes. Oh our houses are getting too big? Let’s live in 100 square feet! I don’t like my job? I am going to quit my job and travel the world for 3 years! We don’t have a work/life balance, just work or life. But either way is depressing to me. Why can’t we like what we do? Or balance what we do with hobbies? I intend to try just that.