The Flip Side of Corporate Life – WWED
I’ve been feeling guilty the last couple of weeks – not just because I haven’t had time to write my column for The Collared Sheep – but because I’ve written such categorically depressing advice to young people about the world of work. I’ve been thinking that maybe I should turn in a column that’s a little more positive. After all, surveys say you’ll spend an average of 91,250 hours of your life at your desk working for someone who thinks he’s Skokie, Illinois’ version of Bob Sugar.
Maybe you’ve been tempted to quit. There’s a lot of hustle going around the Internet. Just about anyone will tell you that you can quit the business. You just need to “light your fire,” find $100 for your startup, and that there is life after tampons*. It’s awesome if you can do it, but if you make the leap from your crummy desk job to peddle your expertise as a “super Temp; ” you need to know that it’s going to be different, it’s going to be done in your pajamas (not that I’ve ever done that -shifty eyes-), and it’s going to be very hard work.
You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok? It’s actually very challenging to do high-quality work and find the energy required to develop next year’s projects. There’s zero safety net. You’ll work many, many hours and much of it will be in a room alone.
But I promised I was going to go positive this week.
Your boss may be a dolt, but there are times when being a follower (rather than a leader) may be the best thing going. I’m thinking there are (at least) three things that your desk job offers that are worth a burnt offering on the next big holiday: benefits; a paycheck; and a whole lot of Kwan.
Remember that scene in Jerry Maguire? When Dorothy asks Jerry in the elevator if he’ll be offering benefits? Take a memo from the self-employed: My health insurance premium is upwards of $600 a month and counting. There’s no dental plan. I don’t have a 401(K); a 403(b); long-term care insurance; a discounted gym membership or even free donuts in the conference room on Fridays. I enjoy my work but the day I put my Mom in a $5900 a month dementia unit was the day I starting thinking about applying for a lame government job with full benefits and a liberal leave policy.
Another big bonus of a full-time corporate job is the paycheck. As paltry as your salary may seem, as long as you do what you’re told (and I’ve greatly simplified this argument for the purposes of this column), you get paid. You get to go home at night and watch TV rather than catching up on QuickBooks. You can get a mortgage and a car loan. At the same time. You know exactly how much your check will be each and every week.
But most important? It’s the Kwan. I talk a lot about the huddled, dysfunctional masses, but in real life? I’m all about the team. Help me help you. The folks I worked with at each job have become treasured colleagues and often, very close friends. When we worked together we made difficult situations interesting and fun. Today, I still rely on those same colleagues for feedback about my new project ideas, I know who my “go to” people are in every town; but most important, I know who I can count on personally and professionally. You know who you are. (And you complete me.)
That’s just a long way of saying – I know it’s bad, and I hope it doesn’t last forever, but in the meantime? I’ve given you at least three things worth holding on to during troubled times. I’m glad we had this talk.
[ *Actually shameless plugs for some of my favorite entrepreneurial thinkers: Danielle LaPorte; Chris Guillebeau; and Jennifer Boykin. ]