Convergence: Organizing the Job and the Career Economy (Part 2)

Socrates: So, Mike, you are exploring some principles that can help you and others organize their thinking about jobs and careers.

You spoke about your father as an example of a model of job / career choices with limited options.

Are you saying that all members of the World War II generation had the same experience as your father?

Mike: No...I fully understand that no single person can embody the complete experience of a generation. However, many people experience the kinds of constraints that my father found in his life. I would also suggest that the overall movement of the American / post-industrial economy and society has broken down many of those constraints and opened more opportunities for more people. The result of those shifts is the complex, multi-dimensional job and career economy of the early 21st century.

I would also note that my father was a fist generation Italian-American. His parents came from small, rural villages in northern Italy. Some of the limitations that my father experienced reflected the traditional values and practices of those villages.

In a sense, my own life reflects a transition towards a more open system.

When I was growing up, my family and the significant role models in my life expected me to become a priest.

For whatever reason, I did not go to the seminary. However, I did attend Catholic education through high school. Then, at Stanford, I found myself studying to become a modern Italian historian, with a focus on the early Catholic political party in post-World War I Italy. I even started a Ph.D program in modern Italian history at Harvard.

Clearly, my family and my Italian Catholic traditions shaped my early career thinking.

The first real decision of my life was to leave Harvard in the fall of 1970. I returned home to Menlo Park, but I had made a radical break from my early career directions and from the requirements of my family traditions.

In the years and now decades after that break, I found myself in an increasingly open job / career marketplace, not necessarily of my own choosing.

As I reflect on my life after the departure from Harvard, I recognize that many of my job / career choices flowed from my life experience. I needed work to generate income. I needed more income to provide for a family that eventually included a wife and 4 children. I needed to be home during the Cancer Wars when my family was fighting for survival. I needed to have some income to supplement Social Security after I gave up my life savings in the Cancer Wars.

There is no such thing as complete freedom in our job / career decisions. Each of us face life experiences and life changes that profoundly impact our work decisions.

However, despite the limitations, I experienced a great deal of freedom in my job / career decisions after Harvard and I had a Stanford undergraduate education and degree that gave me the foundation for a bewildering array of potential directions.

The following list of my jobs and occupations after 1970 reflects the freedom of choice that I found in my work life:

  • teacher aide in elementary education
  • Reading Center aide, "brains behind the Center activities"
  • student teacher
  • classroom teacher
  • bilingual Spanish/English classroom teacher
  • Computer Operator trainee
  • Computer Operator
  • technical writer
  • technical training instructor
  • technical course developer
  • Computer-based Training developer
  • people manager - in three phases, documentation, off-line support, and project management team
  • project manager
  • system release program manager
  • curriculum manager
  • small business instructor at community college
  • job search / small business startup instructor in One-stop Center
  • Career Center coordinator in Adult Education
  • Spanish language instructor in Microsoft basics
  • management consultant for small business
  • author of 26+ books
  • Web site developer
  • professional artist
  • professional photographer
  • social entrepreneur

My point here is that the range of choices that I have had over the last 45 years far exceed the choices that my father had and that many people in his world had in the mid-20th century.

And, the choices that my children have in the early 21st century will likely go far beyond my opportunities - a topic for our next conversation.

Socrates: Hmmmmm ... This is a good place for us to stop for today. I understand that you re-invented yourself several times over the span of a lifetime and that you suggest that the next generation will face even more dramatic job / career upheavals.

All this change requires a lot of energy and exacts its own toll on people's lives.

Mike: Yes ... For a person caught in the limitations of a culture and society like my father experienced, it takes enormous energy to live within the limitations and to preserve one's inner life.

For a person facing the expanding culture and society like I experienced, it takes enormous energy to re-invent oneself over and over and to preserve one's core, one's center, in the chaos.

In our next conversation, let's talk about ways to structure and organize one's job / career thinking in a world of unlimited choices.

Socrates: OK. Have a great Wednesday in July, Mike. The journey is long and hard; build resilience.

[Copyright (c) 2015 by Michael J. Genevro]