My 40-year search for a real (authentic) job

12 Aug


I never really fit in a box. I wasn’t a typical kid. I didn’t do typical things. Picking a major in college was hard because I was interested in so many different things. I asked the Dean of Liberal Arts if I could create my own program. He said no. I wanted to be a writer so I became an English major because that’s what writers did back then.

After college I quickly realized my English Lit/Philosophy degree wasn’t likely to open a lot of doors. It was partly my fault because I didn’t have a clue what doors I wanted open. I wanted to go where I fit, where there were people like me, where I could do good work, use my natural strengths and talents, feel appreciated for who I was. Nearly forty years and god knows how many jobs later, I’m still looking for the same thing.

I don’t have a good resume. A good resume is one that goes into the giant resume machine and matches up nicely with all the key words and shoots out the other end with a plethora of gold stars. Companies list very specific jobs and look for people who have exactly that very specific experience. That’s not me. I’ve gone deep in a couple of areas, but mostly gone wide. I’ve changed my focus as the world has changed and continually learned new things. I’m a really good learner. You’d think companies would care about that, but they don’t.

I’m old. I don’t feel old and I don’t act old, but when it comes to attractiveness in the job market, age works against you. People say it doesn’t matter and many actually believe they believe it, but they don’t. If the final two candidates are 38 and 58, I guarantee the 38-year-old wins every time. I’m not saying you should hire old people just for the sake of hiring old people. It’s not about age, its about diversity of experience and perspective. A team made up only of Millennials or GenXers or even one of Baby Boomers, is not diverse.

When someone asks me what I want I often say I don’t want a “real”job meaning a typical 8–5, fits nicely into a box, kind of job. But a real job is exactly what I want. Real as in authentic, alive, true. I want a job with meaning and purpose and depth. I want a job that fits me. I want to make my own box. No, its not a box I want, its a cape! I want a cape made up of all my special powers, a cape that hugs me and supports me but doesn’t close off or block out the world. A cape I can connect to other people’s capes and make a giant blanket that shelters and supports everyone on the planet.

I am writing this post because I have a sneaky suspicion there are other cape people out there. Maybe if we all joined forces we could build a world where designing your own college program, your own job, your own way of living, is the norm and not the exception. I don’t need to get rid of the boxes, necessarily, but it would be nice to have an alternative.

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