Last Christmas I lost my job. The several web-based projects I had developed for the company that employed me were simply not taking off to the extent we had expected and the company’s owner just ran out of money. A few years ago the likelihood is they would have succeeded but ever tightening constraints have resulted in less money being spent generally.
I had been lucky to get this job following the loss of my previous job to a ‘rationalisation’ that resulted in that company’s closing its Irish operation. This after having been poached by the company from my previous position at a rival firm, where I had worked for eight years.
What to do? I was facing into a new year with a family to support and an ever increasing mortgage. A conflicting panoply of thoughts passed through my brain. Was I meant to be a part of the corporate world? Which I hated. Which only served to eat up my time. Which kept me from doing what I really wanted to do. Which is write. But then how do I keep the roof over our heads, the proverbial wolf from our door?
What to do? Look for a new job, certainly. But, not to be defeatist, we’re talking about a shrinking pool of jobs in which, at 48 years old and with no degree, I’m competing against 20 somethings with degrees coming out their wazoos who are still living at home with Mammy and Daddy and willing to break their backsides working for half the salary I would need to sustain me and my family. A recent survey revealed that employers no longer rate a wide range of experience the way they used to and certainly don’t value loyalty.
It was then that I looked at my CV and realised that between the cracks of its corporate sheen was all the stuff I did for fun and never mentioned for fear that it would send out the wrong message: that I am not a corporate animal that lives and breathes for someone else’s bottom line, that I have a life of my own separate from work, that I only work to pay the mortgage and feed my family, nothing else.
All my ‘hobbies’: writing, editing Albedo One for the last 18 years, and FTL before that, layout and design of the magazine, all the reciprocal ads and banners that had to be designed, guest spots on panels at innumerable cons, the creative writing teaching gigs. Could all these various strands of endeavour be strung together into a paying proposition?
The answer was, of course, yes and no. Yes I could make money at freelancing in these areas. But no, I probably couldn’t make a living at it. However, I said to myself, what have I got to lose by forging ahead on these fronts while looking for a ‘proper’ job? And the answer was nothing.
What a curiously liberating concept that is: to have nothing to lose by doing what you really want to do. It was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. In fact, as I launched into building a profile for myself as a freelance writer, editor and teacher, it became clear to me that the world is rapidly changing with regard to traditional notions of what constitutes a job. Permanent jobs are becoming a thing of the past. The job market is reshaping itself into an amorphous creature that chews up and spits out workers in short order. It is only interested in short-term gain, happy to use and abuse young, hungry talent for a brief time and replace it with newer candidates who are willing to have the skin flogged from their backs in the hope that it will lead to better, more secure positions. Of course it does for some. But it doesn’t for many. And so the proverbial treadmill spins ever faster and the people at the top rub their hands in glee (cackle, cackle).
It seems to me that the people who will do best in this brave new world of work are those that can multi-task, those that have a wide skill set and are willing to take on themselves all the risk that was previously taken by employers. That is, those that can freelance, those that can contract to do a specific finite task and then disappear until the next time they are needed.
There’s no question that things are tough financially. In a very real way I’m still working for other people. And I can’t just write; the truth is there’s way more money in editing and teaching. The strange thing, though, is that despite the fact I’m now working six, sometimes seven, days a week at the things that pay best, I’m getting more writing done than I used to with a nine-to-five job. Perhaps it’s the fact of my doing what I’m meant to be doing that has boosted my productivity.
So join me in raising a glass to pursuing your destiny. I may be starving but I’m happier and I could stand to lose a few pounds anyway.