WorkPlace 101: A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work?!? (Guest Post)

By AverageBro


“Children Grow. Women Produce. Some Men Go Work. And Some Go Steal. Everyone’s Got To Make A Living.”

Fewer words of absolute truth have seldom been spoken. It’s entirely true: everyone’s got to make a living, one way or another.

Most of us have 9 to 5’s. Even homeless people pickup cans and cash in bottles. Stay at home Moms have the toughest gig of all. Chicks on welfare in the hood do hair and sell crabs.[1] Folks in the mountains slang OxyContin. Even a lazy assed dude who mooches off women has to expend energy charming these young ladies into helping him stay cozy and unemployed.

It is emphatically true. Everyone’s got to make a living.

But is your job just a way to get paid, or is something larger? Is your job something you really enjoy doing? Does it benefit society? Does your job fulfill some inner need? Is it more than just work, and if not, does it even need to be?

By observing the comments, I think most people who read this blog has some level of education beyond high school. I know we’ve got lawyers. We have engineers. We have teachers. We have community organizers. We have PR folks. We have folks working in the media. We have IT geeks. We have professional baby mamas (and you know who you are). One thing seemingly all of these people have in common is that they intentionally chose a certain career path, trained themselves, and pursued it. I’m also assuming most people choose their careers because it’s something they’re naturally interested in, and likely good at.

But the question I have for all of you is, is your career simply about the 1st and 15th, or is there some greater need being satisfied? Does your job need to be rewarding beyond the paycheck? And if so, what are the dangers of being emotionally invested in a career?

When I got my first (and to date, only) gig out of college, I was looking to be a career climber. I’d start out as a Junior Engineer, work my way up the ranks, and eventually become a Director level manager. The 10 year plan, with each necessary rung of the ladder was mapped out. I also took a huge amount of pride in the sort of work I did, because I’m just an inquisitive and analytical dude by nature. I think like a person who writes code for a living. Everything has logical meaning. Writing programs was a logical extension of myself, so the job came easily. I quickly excelled, and my ascent began.

When I became a manager a few years later, I had arrived. The money associated with the job was good. I was able to make calls on who I wanted to hire, and build my own staff of Jr. Engineers from the ground up. I mentored and molded these folks to embody the level of professionalism and technical expertise the job demanded. I got to travel and see the world on somebody else’s dime. Life was great.

And then, just like a bolt a lightning, a massive re-org took place, and I found myself completely out of management, and back to essentially doing the same job my Junior Engineers were doing.

My job performance was great, and it had nothing to do with the change. The company decided to shake things up, and I was merely a victim of a numbers game way above my pay grade. All the time and effort I’d taken into building a successful team and practice were for naught. I was literally back to square one. And it sucked.

Contemplating my next career move, a friend recommended I read a book called “Fire Your Boss”. Oddly, that friend was my boss at the time, as I’d been re-orged to report to him. The choice of book seemed odd, but I took his advice and grabbed the book from the library. It has literally changed my perspective on the meaning of work, and its place in my life.

Despite its title, the book is not really about entrepreneurship, but rather about how to pimp the Corporate game and make it more profitable and less agonizing. It more or less suggests that you not look for any level of personal fulfillment from your Day Job. The reasons for this are many, but the gist is that a job is all about getting paid, as most people wouldn’t do what they do from 9-5 without some compensation. Thus, it recommended focusing on all the things you can do to maximize your earning potential, and save the personal needs for elsewhere, namely your personal life. I’ll admit, I definitely didn’t agree with everything the book said, but the overall point was undeniable. Things are so fluid, so often out of your control on a job, you’d be foolish to get emotionally invested. Get money, and come 5pm, get lost.

The book is largely common sense, but some of its principles are out of the box for me. It recommends making your boss look good as the number one requirement of any job. It asserts that nobody hires a stranger, and that networking on your job is just as important as building your skills. It surmises that jobs are better than careers, and explains the huge difference between the two. And finally, it suggests that you not look for any level of personal fulfillment or satisfaction from a job, not when it can be taken from you in the blink of an eye.

While I’ve never been one to neglect my home life for work, I will admit to getting too emotionally tied up in the daily workplace comings and goings. And while I’ve always had relationships and activities outside of work that I looked to for fulfillment, I’ll also admit to looking for perhaps too much of this on my 9-5. After reading the book, this too changed. If some of you think I put too much emotion into those kids I coach, perhaps you’ll understand better now.

Basically, the book is about changing your perspective, rather than getting too emotionally spent on your situation. And in the time since, I’ve been able to successfully turn the corner in this regard. I work harder than ever before now, because I want to improve my skills, gain more experience, and beef up my resume so that I can continue to make more money for my growing family. I take even greater pride in my work, but certainly not more pride than I take in my job as a husband and dad. I work longer hours, but the minute I hit the elevator for the day, work is over, and home begins. I save my energy and verve for things (like family, friendships, and community) that matter. My job is truly nothing but work, but I’ve never done it better, nor been more successful at it. And yes, I became a manager again.

I guess I say all this to ask the following.

Question: Is a job just a means to some ends, or is there a greater personal goal? Is your current job personally fulfilling? Is it possible to be too emotionally invested in a job? Got any personal career-related stories you wanna share?

[1] Yeah, I have an extended family member with 11 kids on welfare who makes an awful good living selling soft shell crabs out her kitchen. Sad, but true.


AverageBro is the blogger responsible for (what else?) the eponymously titled Peep his site for politricks, sports, pop culture, and random Negro Nonsense. It’s just one Black man’s opinion. What’s yours?

21 thoughts on “WorkPlace 101: A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work?!? (Guest Post)

  1. Right now I am working as an Academic Advisor. I really enjoy most of it, helping my students to achive the success they aspire to. I also love my team and managers and think the environment is generally nice. When I first graduated from college, I worked for a retail giant, in their corporate headquarters. It sucked every ounce of life out of me and I dreaded heading into work each day, having to feign niceties w/ people who didnt look like me and whom wouldnt pay me any attention outside of the job. While there is no perfect job…and I am a subscriber to the "a job is what you’re paid for, purpose is what you’re made for" mantra, sometimes you find a great mix of the two. For this reason I have deided to pursue a Master’s in Education so that I can continue to work in the field and move up accordingly. I have found something that is purposeful as well as personally fulfilling, and that is a true blessing!

  2. I think I’m going to send this my mom. She’s a special ed teacher in an "underserved" school and WAAAYYY too emotionally involved in her job. She’s very good at it, and when you work with special needs kids, you’ve got to get emotionally involved with them (somebody’s got to be on their side, after all), but man, the BS teacher cliques, the gossip, union fights, school board nonsense that she stays up at night worrying about? Man. It’s insane. She almost never talks about anything else.I think the whole idea of getting emotionally involved with your work is something largely encouraged and created by "empowerment employers" — you know the kind, they spend half their time trying to inspire you to feel like part of the "family" or "team" and to be personally (emotionally) invested in the business’ welfare. Outside a small business or non profit this is BS. I am a cog, a tool. The owners/investors won’t cry if my granny gets sick, they probably won’t even give me bereavement leave. And if they get in financial trouble, it’s not really difficult to decide to lay me off.

  3. "Make your boss look good." Of course, you agree with that. You’re a corporate clone.

  4. I forgot to add that there’s a term for someone who holds a job just for financial gain. Sir, I do believe that’s called being a prostitute.

  5. Averagebro, what was the real point of this essay, to have us review your corporate career or read a self-help book critique? I’m glad you realize there are no certainties in life, that life manages to throw us all a curve now and then, and how we respond to it is the real test. BTW, you seem to have a demeaning attitude toward those living on welfare, including your own family member, whose relation you refuse to say. I would imagine some people are working or trying as hard as they can to get by on welfare, and it’s not my place to make condescending remarks about them. I wouldn’t think the most are frying hair and selling crabs. It sounds like Ronald Reagan calling black moms "Welfare Queens." This patronizing tone is usually a characteristic of a Republican ("by their fruits you shall know them") who, through good fortune, achieve success and then have no sympathy for those less fortunate.

  6. BTW, check out "Good Will Hunting." I love that movie and I think you can learn a lesson from it.

  7. A job is just a job, is just a job. I spent most of my college years and most of my evaporating 20’s thinking that my job defined me. So when I did well in my job, I was happy, when I did poorly I was unhappy. what my boss thought about me was important. I had to do well to make money, to buy the stuff that I wanted, to make more money, and buy more stuff that I want. This is the kind of thinking that defines the rat race that Robert K. talks about in Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Then I saw the light, and realized that I don’t like being on someone elses time, I don’t not like pursuing somebody elses dream, I really don’t like working in teams, and i don’t like being told what to do, so I have to do all that I can do to get to what I define as freedom. While I believe in doing great on your job, and I always seek to build new skills, I am building these skills and doing well to make money to do my own thing, to have more freedom over my time and provide for those that I am responsible for.A job can be here to day and gone tomorrow. This is very evident right now with our current unemployment rates. Having an attachment to a job is dangerous and a set up for condependency (your worth and well being is contigent upon that job)Really, it is only in western cultures where we are taught to value jobs so highly. In previous times and in other cultures a job was something that you do to make the money that you need ed to live. In agricultural cultures, you worked the land and ate what you planted or killed. Now jobs are atttached to worth, sexiness, manhood, being right with God, etc.I have a mentor that says: A job is a means for you to earn and learn so that you can do your own thing, nothing else and nothing more.

  8. The key is taking from your boss what you want to do for yourself (if anything), otherwise a job is what someone gives you when they need help with THEIR WORK. Its not YOUR WORK, its theirs. Not YOUR IDEAS, but theirs and unless youve got a specifically different business concept to present and the plan to put it into action, everything else is day dreaming and wasting time in your cube. Thats not to say that theres anything wrong with working for others, but I think most people dont realize that they are emotionally investing in someone elses business when they show up to work. If you are down for working for someone elses idea (which can be rewarding and an effective use of your time) then kick ass at it and dont begrudge your boss for the dream/idea/work you aren’t making happen for yourself.

  9. Question: Is a job just a means to some ends, or is there a greater personal goal? Is your current job personally fulfilling?At age 36, I am 4.5 years into my second career as a children’s and teen librarian. I chose this career because I wanted to change the world by working with children. If it weren’t for real life, I would do this job for free. I like helping parents, kids, teens, teachers, etc find books and introduce them to the world of electronic databases. You should have seen the smile on this young man’s face last week when I told him that we do career counseling at the library, offer a class on MS Word, and do resume critiques all for free. Or the grown man who I told that the library offered FREE adult literacy classes after he revealed that he got his baby daughter a library card so she could grow and learn how to read unlike him. Oh the most shittiest of days when people are yelling at me, my supervisor is stressing or a baby pukes on me, I still wouldnt’ give up my job. Is it possible to be too emotionally invested in a job? Got any personal career-related stories you wanna share?Yes, it is possible to be too emotionally invested or affected by my job. When I was forced to take 9-months off from work to rest during a difficult pregnancy and a C-section birth, I realized that my family needed me to be "there" more emotionally and physically. My little girls needed their Mommy more than the kids in the library, so I learned to chill through all of the difficult situations that came up. I do get emotionally attached to some of my patrons, like there is this particular family that comes every Saturday that I"m very fond of. She’s a single mom of four-19, 13, 8, and 2. Her children are very smart and well-behaved, but her health is not good because she worked in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Her youngest daughter was also very sick and has some developmental issues from what was in the mom’s system. She really holds her family down. I help her as much as I can in the confines of the library. Sometimes, I"ll bring in some things from home like used video games from my husband or the "extra" school-readiness workbook I accidently bought at the store. She told me one time that if she comes to the library and I’m not there, she doesn’t have a nice visit. Funny thing is, I know the name of all her kids but not her name. lol. When she doesn’t come, I miss her too because I worry.

  10. I voluntarily resigned from my job recently because I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. It meant nothing to me. I just looked forward to the money which wasn’t all of that either, but paid the bills while I lived at home. Now, I’ve found my passion in writing again and I’m venturing off to DC to make a different in social issues. Something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was little. I don’t know what the money will look like, but at least it will have meaning to me. I’ve always been that type. Unfortunately, life demands and responsibilities pulled me away from my former goals, but now they are back. Corporate world sucks, so I’m finding my own way.

  11. Some jobs have genuine value as opposed to others. Professions such as social work and counseling have their intrinsic rewards and can be fulfilling. Helping others is certainly more valuable on an emotional level (not so much financial) than a monotonous 9-to-5 desk job. Office jobs (e.g. filing, sorting mail, busy work at a desk, etc.) have very little to offer in terms of personal fulfillment. The prize is the check, nothing more. It’s true that our society places obscene value on such jobs (and employment in general). A job should not define who you are as an individual. It is a means to an end; a paid distraction for you to invest in what you’re really passionate about.

  12. Some people work a job to provide resources to live their purpose. Other people work their purpose. Either way works depending on where you are in life and where you are headed.I love my job because it is my reason for being. If the money stopped coming I probably would only notice when the electricity was disconnected & the phone shut off. Fortunately, resources have a way of finding you when you are busy fulfilling your calling.If you are emotionally invested in a job that is not your calling, you will be disappointed and probably quite angry when things go south. You are maintaining not living.Wake up each and every morning to pursue a passion and your purpose- your reason for being. That is living! Life is too short not to live each and every day doing something that lifts your spirits, excites your soul, and causes you to dream of how to do great things.

  13. My job has to mean more to me than a paycheck. I put myself through college and grad school so I could choose a career that makes a positive difference and now I’m happily working as the communications coordinator of an environmental non-profit. I think climate change is one of the most horrible issues the world has faced since the threat of nuclear war, only this one is definitely going to happen! Knowing that what I do every day makes a little bit of difference for the better is what makes it possible for me to put up with all of the bullshit with a (more or less) cheery attitude.

  14. Well, let me agree with the comment at the top of the article about Stay-at-Home Moms having the hardest job. Well, that’s my job, and of course it’s a job that makes a difference in this world in a multitude of ways, but mostly to the little black boy who my husband and I hope to raise to rsponsible adulthood. The job is hard enough, but try raising your black child in a 99% white community. We have changed elementary schools three times (two private, one local) in search of not perfection, just honest, fair and welcoming teachers who might see our child as equal to the others. I can and probably should write a book about our experience with biased to the point of crazy, teachers who tried their best to label our child "learning disabled", because he does not match their perspective of little boy blond. Our son is smart, but not blindlly compliant and they could not find a way to inspire, engage or just plain show mutual respect for his being. "Oh, he’s so well-mannered, but we can’t put our finger on how to motivate him." How about a little positive reinforcement? We had to pull him out of our community elementary after numerous meetings with the principal and later with the "Special Ed" team, who could not prove a teacher’s "hunch" that our child needed their help. I will spare the many details . . . and then there’s the cub scouts who never invite him to their homes, and the "play dates" he’s invited to, but are never reciprocated at our home. Well, I’m ready to move, but how do you know things will be any better anywhere else? These are not even the big battles in being a good parent. Like living through the drudgery of daily life: providing healthy food, clean clothes, and home; attitudes, homework, activities, and on the list can go! At least I chose this line of "work", and I would advise anyone thinking about taking it on, to please talk to others about the realities. There is no training for this and everything changes just when you think you’ve got a handle on it. I’d tell all young girls: Save for a nanny fund in your early years, for just the first couple of years, to preserve your mind. I really don’t know how we do it. I gues it’s love.

  15. A job can be something special or nothing more than a paycheck, it all depends on the individual and their intentions and cirucmstances. Is your career simply about the 1st and 15th, or is there some greater need being satisfied? My current job pays the billsDoes your job need to be rewarding beyond the paycheck? And if so, what are the dangers of being emotionally invested in a career?I hope to initially get into a career with some sort of meaning to me. However when open my own business, then it’s TOTALLY personal.

  16. the idea of a job being only a paycheck is so sad and depressing to me! life is so much more! i’m a social worker and it’s woven into my identity. i would be happy with many jobs within the social work field. i have to be careful not to become too emotionally involved however so that i don’t burn out and i have to constantly process and do self care to protect myself from vicarious trauma. i can’t imagine doing a job i wasn’t passionate about….that’s how i choose my jobs- do they ignite me? otherwise, work would be energy sucking instead of energy giving. i don’t have a big paycheck, but because i love what i do, i’m eager to learn and therefore, good at my work…this has ensured that i secure a decent job and am on a good career path. if a job doesn’t work out, like the writer of this piece experienced, it just means i carry my dreams, hopes, skills and desire to contribute to society to a new job.

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  18. Hai i’m newbie here and would like to introduce myselfI’m from Luxembourg and come to this forum from search engine.Nice to meet you all šŸ™‚

  19. Hello, Does anyone know the website TutoTop? Looking for a tutorial on newsgroups, they told me there was one super! Thank you in advance!

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