Monday, March 22, 2010

The Shifting Reality of a Job

With the passage of the healthcare bill, many people are saying that Obama has, for better or worse, created the defining moment in his administration.

For many of us, the defining moment of our generation was created for us, with the near collapse of the financial industry, housing market, and the subsequent economic recession. With capital and jobs drying up, seeing many of our parents face the specter of and unfunded early retirement, many of us have totally lost faith in the corporate promise of 40 plus years of work in exchange for comfortable golden years.

This reality, is forcing huge numbers of newly minted graduates to move back home, seek employment at much lower wages doing far more menial tasks, and reconsider whether the American Dream is still within our reach.

We are likely to be the first generation that is less well off than our parents. Our education degrees from prestigious universities are in fields that give us little to no hard skills or marketable knowledge and because our friends don't have jobs either, the networking potential of our degrees just plummeted as well.

But is everything really so bleak? Or must a system begin to collapse before a new one can arise? Many people, threatened at the prospect of losing high stress-high paying jobs are finally taking time with their families they should have taken years ago. Fear forces us to focus on what is truly important in the present, not some vague plan for the future. While I'm not advocating a wholesale flight from a culture of disciplined spending, it seems silly to save and save for some deferred life plan, when things seem as though they are collapsing around us. Better to spend the dollar today when it might be enjoyed to the fullest than to have $5 when you are 65 and finally ready to enjoy the golf course with your bad hip.

As our culture shifts, from office workers chained to cubicles from 9-5 (or 8:30-5:30), regardless of whether they were effective between those hours, to a culture in which performance is valued over specific locations or hours, I hope to see people able to refocus their time around people instead of things, the production of experience rather than the consumption of product.

At this fork in the road, as the gatekeepers are being shaken to their core, we have an obligation as a generation to set a new way forward. To offer a new vision of the American Dream. To find jobs that add to our world instead of detract from it. Jobs that encourage us to gain new knowledge, skills, and understanding of the world around us, instead of crushing us down into interchangeable machines.

Perhaps we can finally ascribe a value to our time and our interactions with others, instead of the wealth we can command but don't have the time to enjoy. A crisis presents danger alongside opportunity, and as the defining crisis of our generation, it is essential that we uncover the opportunity.

Click here to read some stories of St. Louis Jewish young adults and how they are adapting to the new reality

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