jeudi 14 février 2013

Does Your Job Define You? When There Is Always Something Better To Do


In an advanced society with a high standard of living, employment proportions much more than a means to feeding yourself and your family. I have been living in the USA again for the past few months after living in Spain for over 17 years and have noticed a range of attitudes when it comes to the working life. In the USA especially, your job defines you. The professional identity here is such that “what do you do?” is generally the most important and most telling question upon meeting someone.

In Spain this is a much tricker subject given its current economic condition. There is tremendous unemployment right now; it has increased from 7% to 26%, with over 50% unemployment among the younger generation. So when I hold interviews there I find a great deal of people looking for an answer to the above question, looking for something to do.

As I have started interviewing in the USA, however, I find that everyone here also seems to be looking for something to do. This is not because they are not doing anything (for reference, the national unemployment rate here is roughly 8%), but because Americans are always looking for something BETTER to do. They are ambitious and intend to reach the height of their labor potential.
The good news about this behavior is that it makes for a more efficient labor market. An employee moves voluntarily often to maximize their labor value, perhaps to allocate their skills more effectively. Perhaps they are worried about the opportunity cost of not reaching for something higher, wondering: am worth more than I currently earn? Am I missing out on the “experience of a lifetime”?
The bad news is that it also accounts for a lot of unhappiness, both at work and in other realms of life. People here wonder not only if they could have a better job, but also if they could be eating at a better restaurant, or hanging out with better people, or even having a better boyfriend/girlfriend, or a better spouse, or sadly sometimes even better children. This quest for excellence can take a high emotional toll. In the pursuit of happiness, insatiable ambition isn’t the fastest route.

Change is good, improvement is good, competition is good, but being happy with what you have is frequently better.

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