If you are a creative. If you are a freelancer. If you have ventured from traditional employment to forge a career that works for you. I am sure you are tired of hearing the phrase; “get a real job.” Our societies are still stuck at traditional models of work.
We have not yet accepted that unpredictable jobs (creatives/freelancers) are “real jobs” too. As someone who started engaging her creative side way later in life, I got curious why creatives are rarely given the respect they deserve.
Respect by acknowledging the importance of their work in our respective societies and paying for it.
So, what entails a “real job?”
Is it a regular paycheck?
Is it the benefits that come with the job; health insurance, maternity leave, sick days, pension plan?
Is it having a cubicle and staring at a computer screen from 9 to 5 for 40 years or more?
We’ve been socialized to accept that if one’s job does not meet the above criteria, then they do not have a real job. They are not responsible adults yet. They are going through a phase that will pass.
What if this is not a phase? What if you are amongst the few who knew from a young age what you would like to do for a living? You’ve always known what is a “real job” for you. You just can’t see it any other way, and you have the means to do so. Isn’t that “real” enough?
With the changes that are taking place in the job market worldwide, different jobs are coming up; non-traditional jobs, we may call them. People are finding different ways of expressing themselves.
Corporate professionals, like me, who didn’t think of themselves as creatives, are finding easier and more accessible ways to express their creative side.
Our society has taught us that creativity is usually a backup plan. That freelancing should only be a side hustle and not a full-time job.
That creativity is for people who do not know yet what they want to do for a living.
That creativity is for people who couldn’t get good grades in school.
That creatives are awkward, antisocial, weird… you name it.
Our parents would be happy if we could just do as they tell us. If we could follow the career path they had envisioned for us. They want the best for us, and they believe we can only achieve it by emulating them.
The “best in life” to a majority of people looks like this: Go to college. Find a career you can commit to. Stick with your employer until retirement. Get married. Have kids. Buy a house. Retire.
Just don’t forget to teach your children the same.
What distracts most of us from sticking to our preferred means of making a living, is our concerns with what the society will say and our human need to fit in.
How will I introduce myself when I meet people? What will I tell my friends? What will I tell my parents’ friends, relatives, former college mates when they ask?
Someone once told me; if you are raising your kids the way your parents raised you, you are raising them for a society that no longer exists.
I completely agree with the above statement, here’s why:
The traditional model of work is becoming obsolete
It is happening at a faster rate than we would want to admit.
Regular working hours
A regular 9–5 job seems to be the exception rather than the rule nowadays. According to the World Economic Forum, the stress of overtime work is affecting many employees, both in the developed and developing world.
Many of us have found ourselves working extra hours. Carrying work home. Working from home over the weekends. How is this any different from a creative/freelancer who doesn’t have regular working hours?
I think it does not matter…. work is work. You want to do work that matter. You want to thrive. You want to be brilliant. The good thing is you get to define that for yourself.
The combined effects of technology; robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are shaping the future of work.
We cannot work in old ways anymore. Some jobs will become obsolete. Some will be automated. We have to be adaptable. This means we have to be open to the fact that we might not understand how someone is making a living, but that doesn’t make their job any less “real” than the regular 9–5 office job.
If someone has decided to do a job that doesn’t guarantee a regular paycheck. A job that doesn’t come with “benefits”. They are still working. They are generating income to support themselves, and that is a “real job”.
“The future is an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, and if you have the courage of your own thought and your own observation, you can make of it what you will”
~ Lewis H. Lapham
I see the advancement in technology as being given many blank canvases to create whatever we want. Our parents and older generations had limited canvases. Access to the Internet was limited, if at all. Without the Internet, we wouldn’t even have a platform like Medium to do what we are doing right now. An opportunity to learn about the world, without necessarily travelling.
Whereas this era has brought its own challenges, we cannot deny the fact that it has granted us a wide variety of opportunities.
We have many canvases and we can create as many things as we want. Which as a result opens more avenues to generate income… or if time allows us, we can create stuff just for the fun of it. After all, man cannot live by bread alone.
Is there a job that is 100% predictable? And if there is, does that mean you have a secure future; both in terms of finances and career?
It is human to seek stability. We are chasing regular. We are chasing predictable. We are chasing safe.
Does it exist?
The guarantee of a paycheck at the end of the month.
Jobs are a guarantee until they aren’t: Until the management is reshuffled, and you are made redundant. Until your company shuts down. Until you become a victim of office politics. Until you start a family and your employer decides you are too much of a baggage. Until god forbid, you fall sick and you can’t sustain the heavy workload. Until your company decides to cut costs by outsourcing cheap labor from other countries:
Nothing is a guarantee.
Pension plans, social security, health insurance and other benefits that come with formal employment is what most of us call “safe.”
The goal for most of us is to have a financially secure future for ourselves and our loved ones. How we achieve that, is up to us. For sure, the 401k option might be the easier or more “predictable” path for many.
Health insurance is definitely a priority. We want our loved ones to get the best medical attention when the time comes. But, having a corporate job doesn’t guarantee that your health insurance is covered until death… life happens. You get to decide for yourself and your loved ones, what suits you best. And that decision doesn’t make your job any more or less real than the other.
When it comes to social security, I wouldn’t bank on it, as Sean Williams argues; Social security is headed down an unsustainable path. One cannot rely on it.
Every path has its puddle
We have the freedom to choose what sacrifices we are willing to make in our lives. If you are willing to give up what ignites your soul for a regular paycheck and health insurance that is ok. If you choose the unpredictable path and get private health insurance and invest otherwise for your retirement, that is also ok. The good news is, with technology we can somehow do both. And if money is an issue, we can do a job that we do not like until we have the financial freedom to do what we like.
Not to say, that employees in the corporate world or people who have the regular 9–5 traditional jobs are not safe, or are not following their passions. My emphasis is on free will; whichever path we choose there will be risks involved and rewards. It is upon us to decide which risks we are willing to take and plan accordingly for a future that suits us best.
“Realness” of a job is not determined by the amount of money you make or how fast you make it. It is not determined by how regular and predictable your job is. It is not determined by your guarantee of job security until retirement or death.
It is determined by what feels right to you. Don’t let your soul be eaten alive because you want to fit into society’s ideals.
So, to anyone who has ever been told to get a “real job”, I have great news for you…. it does not exist!
Keep doing what you are doing. If you feel it is time to shift gears please do so, but not because the society has told you so. But because you know deep down… that it is time for a change.
The fact that the future is unpredictable, might just be an opportunity to be more. To do more. To stretch your talents further. To explore who you are at your core. And if you can make a living while doing it — that is a win!