As a career counsellor in private practice for the past 25 years, thousands of individuals have confided in me about their motivations for working. For most of us, it boils down to this: we work because we have to, simple as that, in order to pay our bills and provide for our loved ones.
Until now, most of us have had no real reason to question a way of life that is organized in its most simplistic form around our potential to get a good education, secure a stable job, purchase a house, grow a family, and follow a life script of working and buying as a reward for what we do. This is The American/Canadian Dream—‘work hard, play by the rules, get ahead.’
Except that getting ahead is getting much more difficult (even impossible) for many of us due to various social, economic and technological forces. For some, the link between work and wages amounts to ‘wage slavery’ if the work is dull, dirty or dangerous…while others feel stuck in jobs with ‘golden handcuffs,’ because the wages and benefits are too good to give up no matter how much they dislike the actual work.
Even for those who like their work, we must acknowledge that depression—often caused by work-related stress and burnout—is now the #1 disability in North America, costing billions in productivity losses, billions more in social welfare, while eroding family security.
Adding fuel to that fire, we find wages stagnate while housing costs soar and inequality between the very rich and the rest of us increases dramatically. We lose our job security when companies move their operations to cheaper labour markets. Robots are replacing unionized factory jobs. Automation is replacing white-collar jobs. If you doubt it, subscribe to Undone free weekly online mag to track these trends & issues.
All this is now business as usual. And we accept this entirely, well…because we have to.
Really? Do we, as individuals, have to accept this state of affairs as rational and inevitable? Does winning at life mean we must accept this story of work with all its built in assumptions? One of the most effective ways that I know for stepping outside this employment trap is to write out your story and get it analysed for a pattern of meaning.
Storytelling opens up a space for challenging our current identity, for re-interpreting our life experiences in a way that opens up space for new career options. You can change your career, your job, and your life without losing money or status or health or whatever is near and dear to you. There is evidence to prove it. There is the example of thousands who have done it.
In short, your story is not fixed but fluid. You are not trapped but, instead, you have access to many opportunities that may be more rewarding and enriching than the one you have now. We make our story because we make our life. We have choices.
You can create and live a better story!