Insisting that Work Begins Working. For All of Us.
What’s happened to us? And, when did it happen? When did we, the workers, become so willing to accept the blame?
Have you noticed it too? That it’s hard to voice a complaint about your job, or your pay, without being made to feel as if you have no right. That you should just be grateful to even have a job?
It seems we’ve become conditioned to believe that it’s on us. That it’s up to us to work harder, sacrifice more.
It also seems that we’re conditioning our kids to follow in our footsteps. To accept this same mindset. We tell them early in their high school careers that they need to appeal to college recruiters. Take AP classes. Play sports. Get involved in clubs. Be a leader. All so you can be one of the select few to get in. In to what? A school that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Dollars you need to borrow.
And, while you’re borrowing, it starts all over again. Get involved. Be a leader. Intern. Network. All so you can be one of the select few to get a good job. A quality job. A job that lets you repay your loans and eat something other than ramen.
We continue to just accept that this is our fate. That we should be grateful for the few quality jobs that exist. And, do our best to get there first. To get a good job before someone else.
Why do we do this? Why do we act as if we’re the victims of larger forces we cannot shape or control?
Perhaps we’ve been led down a path that looked, at the time, to be the way forward. Perhaps, at one time, “work harder” was the right answer. Perhaps, at one time, quality jobs were in abundance and complaining was ungrateful. Maybe there were in fact boot straps to pull.
If that’s true. If there was that time in our history, that time is gone. It’s been gone. And, we need to accept that. Accept it and move on. To a new path.
We need to create a new map. One for all workers. One for the ditch diggers, and the teachers, and the inventors. The world has plenty of work. For all of us. But, we need to collectively insist that work begin working for us all.
That’s not to say that we need to all earn the same. That all jobs should be created equal. They’re not. Nor will they ever be.
But, work should let us all live dignified lives. To be lovers, parents, aunts, and uncles. To have time to rest. Time to wander. Whatever that means to each of us.
Sure, that’s idealistic thinking. I readily admit that. What I won’t admit. What I won’t concede is that it’s impossible thinking.
We are at a crossroads. A crossroads of possibility. Automation is coming. It will change the nature of work. So, let it come. But, let us not stand by, passively. Let’s no longer be the willing victims to the world of work. A world that leaves us burnt out as we strive for some ever elusive balance.
Let’s seize this opportunity to shape a world of work that is inherently balanced. That recognizes our dignity as humans. That respects our desire to be more than just a worker.
To seize this opportunity, we have to change our mindset. We have to change our narrative. We have to acknowledge that we’ve been jumping through endless hoops just to please the universities and employers. That we’ve been conceding and sacrificing too many times.
To start, we have to stop shaming those that are stepping up and challenging the status quo. We have to be willing to have a conversation about what education and work is and should be.
As Tim O’Reilly says, we have to stop thinking about jobs as if they’re products on a shelf. That once they’re gone, that’s it. There’s nothing more we can do.
We are not the consumers in the world of work. We are the creators, the problem solvers. None of what we have would exist without our combined labor. We have more power than we think we do. And, it’s time we start using it.
But, we can’t do it alone. We can’t just look out for ourselves and hope our kids have it better than us.
We have to support those that are speaking up. We have to be willing participants in the conversation. We have to be open to new ideas. To wander into unexplored territory and see what new paths we can forge.