Career angst (not mine this time)

(If you’re coming here from my 2011 post, note that this is from a year ago. T has a steady job, the latest in a very long chain of events which goes something like career track/redundancy/temp work/total unemployment/short course/job which turned out to be a dead end – as detailed below – temp work, more total unemployment in which we agreed he would wait for something remotely challenging or with growth potential/full time job.)

I’ve been the main income earner now for over a year (and for most of that time, I was a student). And I’m tiring of it.

T has been working – sort of – for a few months. Basically he does tree work and landscaping – it’s a “fun” job for him, and seeing as he only works with one other person, he doesn’t really have to worry about work politics. BUT. There are a lot of buts.

a) The pay is about as bad as it gets.
b) The hours aren’t even regular
c) It’s also kind of a seasonal thing, and obviously winter will be the worst.
d) And long-term, where is this going?
e) It’s a company started up by our flatmate’s father, who is essentially the boss of both his son and T. (I just don’t think family and business mix).
f) For example, T is still on an hourly wage. But I think the boss’ son/our flatmate is now on a salary. This means he doesn’t really care if they don’t have work for a few days, as he isn’t affected. He’ll just take off on a fishing trip or something.
g) T is adamant that they are serious about the business, but they haven’t even got around to registering with the Companies office, among other things.
h) Our flatmate is what you might generously call a screwup. He says he’s learned from all his mistakes, but he really hasn’t. It’s only a matter of time..he’s not the brightest crayon in the box. And after two months, he still hasn’t even got around to getting the business cards printed up. That’s how he rolls.

So for all this talk of really kickstarting the business, getting more contracts, getting more money, I’m sceptical. I know it’s only been a few months, but we can’t afford to keep on like this for much longer. I’ve told him we need to re-evaluate the situation, and he agrees – he wants to start looking for another job.

A while ago I got my hands on a copy of Refuse to Choose: What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything? by Barbara Sher (bear with me here, this is related). It casts light on those who the rest of us might call deadbeats or flakes; those who can’t settle down, those who bounce from job to job without committing. Sher says these people are Scanners, “endlessly inquisitive” individuals who are curious about many unrelated subjects with no desire to specialise in any. Rather than valuing money or “success” in the traditional form of the word, Scanners have their own “nectar” and once they get what they need out of a project, they’re ready to move on.

She identifies nine types of Scanners, including the Sampler, Wanderer, Jack of all Trades, Serial Specialist, Plate Spinner and Double Agent. Whether you find yourself returning to the same things time and time again, or are always seeking new challenges, she offers advice on finding ways around that, balancing multiple interests and devising paths toward finding a career that works for you.

When I hit the Jack of all Trades chapter, I knew we were onto something. Jacks don’t value career success. For them, what’s important is usually something in their personal life – family, music, whatever. For them, the “good-enough” job works and it works well. It works even better because they tend to excel at whatever they do and rise rapidly through the ranks. According to the author, these kinds of Scanners can literally do anything, and shouldn’t waste time chasing the mythical perfect job (odds are it doesn’t exist).

You know what? That’s him! He’s quick to learn and has impressed people in everything he’s done. Athletics. The army. His two years in engineering and fabrication. Coaching kids sports. His university course (he now has uni entrance qualifications, should he decide to enrol in the future). He’s got an aptitude for cooking, for working with his hands, and just for learning in general. It’s almost annoying just how good he is at anything he tries.

After wading through all that, I think I feel like I have a little more understanding of how he ticks. But at the end of it all, neither of us can help but feel the same as we did before: Why can’t he find something and stick with it?

So: what advice would you give someone like him? Where should he look? What should he do?

3 thoughts on “Career angst (not mine this time)

  • Reply The Asian Pear February 15, 2010 at 09:48

    I don’t think this is something you can actually really help him with. There has to be motivation on his part of he’ll be indifferent to anything he eventually decides. The most is you can encourage him to try introspection, job shadowing, job interviewing (ie: people with professions he’s interested) to do research until he finds something he loves/interested. He’ll just end up fluttering around and settle on something til he finds something he truly wants then.

  • Reply Amber from Girl with the Red Hair February 15, 2010 at 11:59

    You know, Eric used to be kind of bad with money and it used to drive me crazy. He also just really got on this welding path in the last 2 years, before that he kind of fluttered around too.

    I can only give you the advice my mom gave me, worry about your own life not his. I know that’s tough, but it’s true. That’s why mine and Eric’s money is COMPLETELY separate with the exception of our savings account for our trip.

    I really don’t think you should or should have to support the two of you. Maybe if you quit paying all the bills T will smarten up and find a solid job that will support him? It’s worth a thought… At one point I was the higher income earner out of me and Eric but we still split EVERYTHING right down the middle. Even though I made a few hundred dollars more a month than him!

  • Reply The ‘job-that-you-wake-up-excited-for’ propaganda « Musings of an Abstract Aucklander January 20, 2011 at 07:06

    […] their passion” and have read Barbara Sher, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the “good enough” job, which pays well, doesn’t demand too much of you and allows you to pursue your interests in […]

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