I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now

Today, there is a window cleaner working on our house - cleaning windows which have not been done in at least 8 years (since we moved in) but possibly never cleaned at all. It's a nice(ish) Melbourne day so I commented how lucky he is to be working outside today. He replied that he loved it and it "beat the heck" out of his old job.

His old job? (Because you know nosy ol' me had to ask.) He was an architect with a major city architecture firm.

Yes. An architect of 20+ years experience is cleaning my filthy windows. What's more, he seems pretty darn happy to be doing it. Ecstatic, even. He said he just could not take one more day sitting in front of a computer in a big office.

Today, I re-read an email from my little brother which questioned the "take anything" job versus the "career move" job. When I came to Australia, I took the "take anything" job, and eventually one of those morphed (without my really noticing it) into the "career" job. I had an entire career going in university administration without even realising that what I was doing was carving out a career. And then one day, I realised that the career I'd fallen into wasn't one I particularly liked, and so I jumped ship and went to culinary school. A story most readers of this blog would be familiar with, so I won't re-hash it again. Suffice it to say I don't think I could have achieved that leap without several 'take anything' jobs - all of which were useful in their own way.

When I was working at the cafe from hell a few months ago, I mentioned to someone in passing that I took the job because of what it might teach me. Not because of the pay, the location, the job itself (although all of those were contributing factors). I took it mostly because of what I thought I could learn from it. It wasn't the career job, not really - it was more like the take anything job - but it was also a job at which I thought I could learn something. So in a way while I knew it was temporary, and would not advance my career at all - I saw it as a chance to ADD to my career knowledge.

I can understand the dilemma, though - when you're not sure what you want to do, how do you know which career job to look for? Would you potentially be "wasting" your time in a take anything job? My answer to my brother was basically that he should do the 'take anything' job because frankly, having money in the bank gives you the freedom of TIME to think more about the career job you might want.

And then I realised that maybe there are people who would disagree with this opinion, namely my Dad who would say the take anything job is a waste of time and effort.

So - suppose you're nearing 30. You have no wife (but you do have a serious partner), no kids, no mortgage. You do have some living expenses, but you have no defined career either. The career you started has basically tanked (hey, thanks economy!) but you do have a whole load of skills and abilities. Armed with only that information - which do you choose? The take anything or the career?

Enquiring minds want to know.


the baker's wife said...

Oh boy, do I have something to say on this....

Firstly, as an employer who seems to be constantly facing candidates clearly on the 'take anything' path, piss off. Your years of experience, uni degree and self absorbtion will not get you through the day if you don't give a shit about the job your doing today. Yep, work takes time and effort. There is no such thing as a 'no-brainer' when it comes to turning up and doing your job. You must 'bring it', all day, every day. If you aren't currently working this way, you haven't realised you potential, or the potential of your job. Work takes up large chunks of your life, but done well, it invigorates and enhances you, until you fall down.

Now then, since I was a 'take anything' employee for a long time (well, I did pay my way through Uni for 5 years..) the take anything job, with the above attitude applied will get you a long way. Examples of jobs I have had are:
-paid to walk up a hill daily with an overweight unmotivated nurse who needed company, today I'd have been called a personal trainer;
-afternoon care for thirteen 'tweenies' in a scottish girls boarding school;
-body piercing;
-traffic surveys
-fill-in host presenter on a vox pops show on ch31, yet to be discovered by Rove;
-of course, s**tloads of catering, waitressing and bar tendering.
Yes, I had time and money to think about my future, to decide what
I didn't want to do etc..Take anythings will expose you to situations you wouldn't put up with in your 'career'. And you do it 'cos your on the take anything, and thus you become resilient, flexible and exposed to new ways and attitudes which you may not on the career path. Face it, in a career job, you'd never put up with doing coffee runs and hours of photocopying, but in a 'take anything' you do it and get real good at it. So when there's a paper jam in your career life, you can fix it.

Ok, and the final part of this rant is this. My sister wants to practice Chinese Medicine. But she needs money, so she studied massage (2 years) and worked at that, living and trying to make time to work and study. But massage was too physical, so she did a short course in hairdressing (1 year) and is working in a salon to get money to be able to work and study part time. This path has taken her twelve years. Lots of working, no closer to her goal. If at any stage she had bit the bullet, started the study and got a 'take anything' that didn't suck her energy and will to live, she'd have been a doctor of Chinese Medicine about four years ago. So do try to keep focused, do not waste time trying to get where you want to go the long way.

And don't forget the punch card operators. These guys set themselves up in a great career only to find technology surpassed them and they ceased to exist, like dinosaurs. Perhaps spending time deciding on a career path is futile in todays world? Perhaps a bit of a focussed 'take anything' is the way of the future.

Raffaela said...

I am 25, I have no kids, a serious boyfriend and I graduated from Film school 1.5 years ago. I switched countries and am now working in a "take anything" job. Granted the pay in good, etc.

For me, there was no choice. Although I live with my boyfriend, who has the career job of his dreams (a chef with daytime hours, weekends off, carte blanche culinary freedom and a decent budget to work with -- I think you can appreciate that!) I still support myself financially. I'm constantly hoping to take the job that will help me career wise, but without much luck, and so I finally took a job that pays well, is good enough for now, but....its not what I want to do.

I think WHEN you take a "take anything" job, its important to a.) not loose sight of the career dream, but also b.) to have a plan, and be doing something to work towards the dream.

Its one thing to say "im just taking what I can get so that I can survive, I will have to look out for my dream job when I have mone" Its another to have a clear, concise plan, in which you start mapping out what is preventing you from getting that dream job, to take on courses, to arrange to get the skill set or experience needed. This time should also be invested in networking, and keeping certain contacts close, that can help you for when you're ready to get (back) into the the career path.

I have given myself a time limit for this job, I am enrolled in evening and weekend courses and I am constantly keeping up my contacts in the film world via emails and the occasional phone call to keep me in the loop.

I think thats important. If I didnt need this "anything job" for financial reasons, I would drop everything and persue the film dream. But its a difficult path, so now its all about making the dough.

the baker's wife said...

Yes, I follow with Raffaella too. My best friend is an artist and has spent years doing take anything jobs to finance her art career. Which is going along very well. But it was necessary to work to buy art supplies, to buy food and most importantly buy beer and cigarettes. She however, tried to work as little as possible, and so spent years with an income of less than $15,000 p/a. She was empowered knowing that that's all it took for her to live well...

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

I can see all sides to this issue - but I think maybe I did the 'take anything' job a disservice. I suppose for me that kind of job still has value and merit (and WHAT that value and merit is are for me to decide). I've never been one for a "whatever" job which you take but don't give two cents about. I guess that speaks to my wider thoughts on life - that everything has a purpose, even if the purpose is not entirely clear.

I think the point both of you make is that even with a take anything job there needs to be some sort of underlying PLAN. Some goal, some purpose, some IDEA that this job is going to give you a skill or enable you to do something else. Just doing endless take anything jobs with no idea of where you want to go is okay for some (who are content with the clock in/clock out work mentality) but not for the rest of us for whom ambition is a way of life, not an optional extra.

An interesting topic - thank you both for taking the time to reply.