Peter Kirby Harris, on the new working practices of Millenials.
I have one job (Teaching) for the money it pays and the other (Researching) for the satisfaction it brings. One day, I hope these will be one and the same, but as it stands I’m getting through life and enjoying myself some of the time. Yes, I’d like to be able to do more but living according to my means has its own satisfaction, that what I do I do is off my own sweat and toil, I feel in charge of my life. I have fixed hours for my job, there’s very little overtime but there is flexibility. When I’m not at my job I’m working on my career, putting in the hours needed to meet deadlines when I have them, and then working on my own research and writing. This is what I call my work—but it is not my job. I am not alone in living in this situation.
The funny thing is I like teaching so my job may not be my ideal but it’s far from a nightmare scenario. I’ve been doing this for about 4 years now and on a ratio of job: work earnings it’s about 75:25. I wouldn’t want to be in this scenario in five years’ time but for the next couple of years it works well. My other work is freelance so doesn’t provide a steady income the plus side is there is lots of variety. When I’m on a project it allows me to tap into what I’ve been studying and learning over the past five years and when I’m not on a project I can either take it as holiday time (enforced, not optional) or use it productively to research and write more thereby adding to my portfolio and increasing my chance of finding more work in the future. Overall a happy situation all around even if it sounds precarious.
If I lost my job then I would have to find a job that could be more hours for the same pay—which might also mean giving up my work. It would also involve me re-entering the hunt for a job and all the bad news stories that come with it—these usually begin either ‘record numbers apply for entry position job,’ or ‘job interviewers make candidates dance, sing, do impressions/animal noises etc’. Yes I am very concerned about this but if I focus on doing my job well and putting extra effort into my work then I am optimistic. If the economy improves then my transition from job to work might speed up but I know it won’t happen instantaneously.
In my view of the world, being a man helps in a precarious situation like the one I could be in. Not being a biologically determined male human but by exhibiting positive masculine traits such as a) standing up for myself, b) being the best person I can be, c) be willing to make horrendous blunders but have the courtesy to apologise and make amends, d) not being too proud to admit I may not be doing the right thing and need to course correct and e) being there for friends and family and not being entirely self-absorbed by my predicament. Lots of my male friends are a little overwhelmed by what exactly they are supposed to be in the modern economy, many are still finding their way or jumping from one job to another. Perhaps I’m just lucky that I found a job I liked enough to keep me financially solvent while I work on launching a career. From people I’ve met, I know I’m not the only one in this situation—the way to know when you meet this person is to see whether they mention their job first or their work first when asked ‘so, what do you do?’
It has often been stated that the recession after 2008’s financial crash was one that affected men disproportionately but I think this does men a great disservice. Ingrained into us from a young age in all western societies is the idea of ‘who we work for’ as if to suggest that freelance, casual work, working from home, retraining or further academic study is somehow copping out or not stepping up. But if you lose any particular employer and attachment, your purpose in life doesn’t disappear in a puff of smoke. The idea of ‘jobs for life’ is no longer relevant to millennials and multiple career changes are the new norm as we adapt to changing economic conditions. Our father’s generation were expected to be sole breadwinners and an additional salary from a spouse was a bonus. For our generation it is a necessity to a successful relationship, but also something that most men desire in a partner—which is that they are satisfied with the work they do and can bring interesting views and opinions to the relationship.
Being a man in a time of economic uncertainty has its ups and downs. We can find it hard to admit to our faults and look for help. But we can also pick collective ourselves up, dust ourselves off and head back into the job market with abandon, safe in the knowledge that when the time is right or stars are aligned, our work—which we really would rather be doing—is going to take off and get us where we want to be. In the meantime we should go to our jobs and do the best that we can do. Patience is very much a virtue but not one they taught us in early life, so we have to learn it ourselves through trial and error and it doesn’t always have the desired results. But as long as we respect ourselves and think long and hard about what we want to be doing and how to get there, then the rest is just details.
Photo by trippchicago / flickr