A friend of mine who lives in Japan once wrote in her blog about her friend who had been stuck in a dead-end job. My friend described how her friend had been “made” to do mundane, non-exciting work for many years, such as making coffee for her bosses, making copies of the documents, filing etc. and not given more challenging tasks at her job. Her friend thinks about leaving that job from time to time, but finds herself trapped because she doesn’t have any transferable skills. The blog post continued with, “Of course, the reason why she doesn’t have many transferable skills is because her company does not give her tasks through which she can learn those skills”. I had a very strong reaction to that sentence. I didn’t comment to that post – I did not agree with her at all, but I didn’t know how to offer a different point of view without sounding like I am attacking her or belittling her friends’ trouble. I kept thinking about that statement and wondered if the majority of people who consider themselves stuck at a dead-end job feel the same – in that they can’t get more skills because their employers do not give them more interesting, challenging tasks. Her friend had another reason for not trying to find a different job besides lack of skills – it was the comfort of the secure paycheck. She didn’t feel she could find a job that pays her better than she was getting paid, considering how few skills she had (that was her perception of herself). I thought, it would be very hard to convince anyone that she deserves better, if she herself does not think so.
I don’t know this person my friend was writing about personally, so I have no idea what she is doing now; it has been at least 2 years since I had read that post. I wonder to this day if she is still doing the same tasks that she doesn’t find joy nor value in doing. I sincerely hope not. I hope she has found some way to enjoy her job more, or has acquired more transferable skills by either speaking up at her job and asking for it or taking classes after work, or better, has found her passion and moved on. In her mind, she was playing it safe by not trying to get out of that dead-end job, probably by thinking “At least I have a job”. But for how long? If she just continues her current employment and never learns any new skills “because her company does not offer the challenge”, it would be detrimental later when the company decides to replace her with younger person with the same skill level who would work for less money. People think that trying to be on your own, starting a new business, or pursuing your dreams and not working for a company is risky, but I believe it is not necessarily riskier than the alternative, i.e. trying to convince themselves that they don’t deserve more, maintaining status quo of “playing it safe” – those could be, in my opinion, a bigger risk in a long run. We have all seen that even the companies that appeared rock solid as if they are made of diamond just vanish in a matter of days. It does not matter if you have MBA, Ph.D., or graduated from the most expensive or most prestigious university. I’m a Tokyo University graduate, but that fact alone does not make me feel like I am “secure for life” if I don’t keep taking actions to move me forward. Clearly, what matters more is what skills you have, not which school you graduated from. I do hope that our kids would want to go to college, but if they don’t because they have other passions and want to pursue their dreams, I wonder how seriously I would be disappointed. I do plan to teach our kids about exploring their possibilities as entrepreneurs in addition to the academic stuff, if only to see if they have any entrepreneurial bones in their bodies. If we(our kids and I) determine that they don’t, it will give them more incentives to focus on making themselves employable – whatever that means in their time. Earlier this year I had read this book “Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire” by Troy Dunn. The book received some mixed reviews, but I enjoyed reading it (probably because I never had that experience or education on it as a child), and the book has lots of practical ideas about how to start planting seeds in your kids’ minds about becoming self-sufficient. In the end, it does not matter if our kids end up having their own businesses or working for great companies, as long as that is what they really want, but I plan to show them different ways to make a life – not just a living.