Tom, at TrueTalk Blog, expanded on my Electronic Arts post to show the other side of the job dilemma. Where my post on EA showed the "joys" of working for an electronic sweat shop, his post, Hourmania, discussed the far more common trap of losing ones life and family to the seductive lure of an apparently ideal job.
He describes a work situation which most creative people would sell their soul for:
I work with some of the most talented designers in the world. They're boundlessly creative, hugely energetic, and work harder than anyone I've ever seen. Unlike the EA story, No one is driving them to do so. They drive themselves. Their standards continually escalate, and the work gets better still.
I worked in that kind of environment more than once. These were the most intensely rewarding positions I have ever held. These were also the times when I did the greatest damage to my personal relationships outside of work.
Tom puts his finger on the problem:
We have to get past this "work/life balance" rhetoric and think more deeply about our expectations of ourselves. We have to be able to come up with an answer to when "enough" is "enough."
There is no pat answer for this one, but I see a number of young people making more intelligent choices than I did. For example, I see two-career families where one family member puts a career on hold in order to raise a pre-school age child. This is their alternative to paying for full-time child care. They are taking a long-term view of what is important and I think that is the key.
I think that taking the "main chance" is appropriate when that dream job comes along, but both the worker and the family need to set a time limit and a purpose for the immersion in the dream job.
If you think of the opportunity as a career/financial booster with a finite window of opportunity, it might work out best for all concerned.
The dedication can be intense, but like going to college or back for an advanced degree, the primary focus should be on what comes afterwards.
Employment today is temporary. Like it or not, you are an employee at will. You can be
let go for cause or no cause. There is only one long-term solution.
Every job you take should be part of a plan to equip you for full self-employment at some later point in life.
When one is post-retirement age as I am, there are few positions available even for the most highly skilled professionals. The internet shakeup of 2001 spilled hundreds of thousands of experienced workers into the ranks of unemployed. Many of the over-fifty group are still looking for work. The only solution for most others was to work for themselves.
Pensions are a thing of the past and Social Security may be a mirage, but a skilled person with business acumen and a nest egg can always generate income. The ideal jobs are those that prepare you for long-term job security as your own boss.
What do you think? I welcome your thoughts on this.
UPDATE: I have written another post, the ideal job - part 2, to provide some help in recognizing an ideal job.