Saturday, February 18, 2006

When You Vacuum Faces for a Living
Being in the market for a new career and all, I've been thinking lately about the nature of work and how what we do defines us.

My esthetician, Galina, loves her work, whether it's vacuuming faces or scraping the bottoms of people's feet. And that makes sense - she's damn good at it and she owns her business. So she's got the satisfaction of doing a job well and she's got control over how she approaches her job.

Jamie's job is going to be ending about the same time as mine, and we were discussing our philosophies about work and identity the other day. We're on opposite spectrums of our careers - she's in her twenties and I'm ... not. But we both realise that we strongly identify ourselves by what we do for a living. To me there is nothing sadder than the sight of a woman my age working at KFC. I don't know if it's snobbery on my part, or maybe that I feel I have to boost my self-esteem by doing something more meaningful, perhaps a bit of both, but I think primarily it would be the utterly soul-destroying boredom of spending your days contributing to heart disease and coming home smelling like a deep-dryer at the end of it all.

Oddly, both of our men-folk seem to have a much different attitude toward work and identity. Jerry is looking at retirement at 52 or 53, and says that he's happy to pump gas at Esso or stack shopping carts at Safeway for a few hours a week just for something fun and non-taxing to do. He works in a high-stress high-responsibility position now, so I guess the brain break would be welcome. He would have no problems telling people he pumps gas.

The same is true for Jamie's fiance, from a slightly different perspective. He says he would be more than happy to drive a back-hoe for $80,000/year. He doesn't need the status, he'll take the money.

What about you?

What motivates you in your career? What's important to you? Money? Status? Creative freedom? I'd love to hear about it.


Jas B said...

I keep telling my Dad that if I don't find a job by end of June this year, I could pump gas at a gas station! Thank God he has a sense of humor, other wise I know he can kill me (no he won't, I am his little girl!).

I think it all comes down to individual perspective and for that matter, circumstance. I am single and have no family here in Calgary (of course you, Jerry and Eva are like a family), if I don't end up with a job that I desire, I would do anything (wash dishes! he he...gotta pay the bills!)to survive. Neither my job is so high paying that I have loads of money stacked up in the bank that I can fall back upon. As well, I cannot be a burden on my brother or on my parents for that matter (I know they don't think that way, but I cannot do that).

So, I guess, under exigent circumstances, I would have to eat dirt and work a job that I thought was beneath the same time, I would be striving hard to get my dream position.

The money factor, for me, is important as well, but if you like the job that you do and the people that you work with, I won't mind compromising. What would I do with loads of money if every single day at work was mentally excruciating and stressful....I would probably spend all the money on therapy anyway and end up poor!! Ha ha ha

Anonymous said...

You have an aesthetician? Esthetician? Aestitichian? Anesthesiologist? How the hell is that word spelled and how did you remember it?!? I love her name though, that's beautiful.

Jerry can retire at 52, now how sweet is that! He doesn't sound like the sit-still-and-watch-the-world-go-by type of guy, I guess that's why he'd be cool playing with shopping carts for fun. Which actually kind of sounds like a gas anyway but I'd be more likely to scare the rich folks by pretending I'm pushing the cart into their highly waxed BMW's to give 'em a new pinstripe.

So what motivates me. Helping others and autonomy, for sure. If I have the ability to help others out of a jam and the freedom to do it MY way, not the corporate way, I'm a pretty happy camper. That's pretty much it, sounds simple but I'm really my own worst boss. And I like it that way. :D

Oh, and HI BARBARA! You have an e-mail being constructed for you about your motherfuquing kick ass cd mixes. WE heart BARB'S MUSIC.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Jas, I realise how lucky I am to be in my position, in that Jerry makes a decent salary and still doesn't mind being married to me. It sure was a different matter when I was young and single and had student loan debts.

Good point about having to spend your extra money on therapy if in a job that was mental torture. And on meds as well.

Michelle - how are you feeling babe?

Perhaps I should see an anesthesiologist rather than an esthetician. Might do me a whole lot more good. Although I loves me pedicures.

We may be eating dog food if Jer does retire at 53, but maybe he can steal it from Safeway after he distracts them by ramming carts into BMWs.

You ARE your own boss, aren't you Michelle? That would be very sweet, especially when you can tell yourself to fuck off and other fun stuff like that.

Glad you're liking the cds - we are loving ours as well ("ours" because Jerry commandeers them all the time. Mutual admiration society - yay!

Anonymous said...


Not meaning to get too deep here (and considering that it’s the GOB typing- how likely is that?), but…

Having recently gone through a job search, I found myself thinking about what I wanted from a career. I realized somewhere along the way that I lack any form of supervisory skills…more to the point, I don’t WANT to supervise. Not everyone is cut out for managerial status. I am one of them.

‘Chelle and I periodically will throw a buck or two at the state lottery…not because we expect to win (…although it WOULD be nice…), but because it’s kinda fun sometimes to speculate what we would do if we did win. The question always arises, would we quit working. The answer is always no…but we would work for ourselves, doing things we enjoyed.

Money and Status play a role in any job, but satisfaction (for me) comes from knowing that the work done was done well.


Anonymous said...

hey sweetness, all is good. I'm a firm believer in making my immune system do its job so a little illness is good for the soul. It just totally sucks when one is coughing and riding the cotton pony simultaneously. I think I said too much.

I have never had a pedicure. You sound so blissed though, I think I'm missing out on something. When we get together this summer, though (!!) we'll have a girlie day's out. I didn't say that and we were never here...

Yes, I am my own boss. I am the master of my domain, heh. I'm pretty lucky that way but it wouldn't be possible without GOB supporting my outlandish needs. We don't always agree, but in this regard he's cool that way.

Mutual admiration society indeed! Our punk rock Mia stole your Trifle Off Centre cd... GOB is jealous. I haven't even had a chance to listen to it all the way yet and I'm about to throw down parental clout.

You're rocking our world. Not like I'd know (except for The Constantines!). Cry for me.

Anonymous said...

Having just started my carrer literaly 2 weeks ago I'm not sure yet what I want from it. I know that I want to make a deccent enough salary right now to be able to pay off my student loans and pay back the bank of mom and dad within 2 years. I guess money isn't that importiant to me...yet. Maybe if I was married or dating or living with someone the situation would be completley diffrent. I spent the better part of 5 years working at Safeway and personally I could feel my brain turning to mush from lack of use! I know for sure that I need a job that allows me to use the skills they taught me at school.

Kellee said...

I have no motivation whatsoever.
(Just Kidding!)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

GOB - sweety, I missed you! You are after all my mentor in this whole throwing in the towel and going for a new job business. People management is not much fun, I'll agree - there's often a whole lot of babystitting involved. But being the grandmotherly type as I am, I can usually fake it.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be paid to do something you love and would do for free anyway?

Michelle - hahaha, the only thing that's worse is sneezing whilst on said pony. Nuff said about that!

I will let the wonderful Galina know that a pedicure-virgin needs her special touch and you will be addicted. Hey, it's a medical neccessity, I maintain!

Oops, is it too late to warn you that there's a lot of fuck words on the cd that Mia confiscated? Oh well, if you can't corrupt your friends' kids, who can you corrupt?
Mia's a punk? God bless her, a girl after my own heart - being an olde punk myself.

Monica, I'm really glad you got out of the service industry trap. You are going to find your chosen career to be so much more fulfilling. Go after what interests you!

Kellee - little miss 1000 different jobs under my belt! No motivation - ha! I call bullshit on that! You kill me sometimes.

Neil said...

For me I'd say it's balanced between money and enjoyment out of what I do. I have the enjoyment.... the money may come with time. I hope.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Neil, the money will most definitely come with time. You are still a young whipper-snapper compared to me. Do what you love, the money will follow.

Anonymous said...

Great post, it is lovely of you to put that out there. This issue is VERY near and dear to my heart. I am 33, having spent a career in retail and entry level office jobs (and some management), falling into things and rarely being inspired. Like you say about your sister, I am fascinated by people who love their work. HOW does that happen? For some of us, maybe accepting it's not any one thing and embracing many types of work (paid and hobbies like writting my blog). I used to think I would die if I did not find that one thing/ be happy with my lot. But I have accepted that I may always be a searching person and that may not be the crime I once thought.
Money is definitely not my motivator, it's fairly far down the list (except for survival)I need to feel involved, challenged, ideally with at least a few like minded people with humour around, ideally with a company whose practices do not keep me awake at night. (Please note I am in between jobs now and can dare to dream) I am returning to university at age 33, I still don't know what I want to do but I know what I don't want to do. I have the luxury of few obligations (no kids) and a supportive husband but it still took me 5 years to work up my nerve.
And no, it's not wrong for you to not feel ok about KFC etc. I have worked with older women in those jobs who loved it and just wanted a few hours of socialization and not enough to impact their pensions. But clearly, not for you.

Anonymous said...


Me? Yer mentor? Too much credit you are giving me, yes?

I have no doubt that you will be able to find work befitting your unique skills. Patience is key - and a thick hide when dealing with rejection.

Remember that every interview is a two-way street. Enter into each with the purpose of finding out if the company is a good fit for you by asking questions about your bosses management style and preferred working environment. I found the approach opens the eyes of potential employers to the fact that you are more than just a name on a resume.

For me this technique was also beneficial as it made it easy to spot managers who are rigidly set in "interview mode" - a sure sign that the interviewer may have a problem with control issues. This type of employer would've been a BAD fit for me.

I wish you the best...may patience and providence guide your job search!!


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Jacquie, thanks for contributing your thoughts. I think that knowing what you DON'T want is probably the most important thing to determine. Happiness via process of elimination!
You have a real gift for writing and you obviously enjoy it, but as you say sometimes it's enough to keep those strengths as hobbies (via blogkeeping). I wonder sometimes if writing for a living (and thereby writing to task and against deadlines) would still afford the same satisfaction.

GOB, those are excellent pieces of advice that I'm not sure I would have come up with on my own. See -you are so my mentor! I will be tough on the interviewers (assuming I get any interviews).

Maureen said...

Can I boast and say I currently have two jobs I like most of the time? Of course neither of them pays a load of money, but I get by and can buy myself treats :) I've worked at a lot of different things in a lot of different places, some that payed huge amounts of money and others that haven't, big corporations, political offices and small family businesses - I think I'm happiest doing something that interests me, pays enough to get by and leaves me free time to play.

Good luck on the job search, I love going on interviews (I am so weird! haha).

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Maureen, it sounds like you've got everything going your way. Good for you! A job that interests, enough money to get by, and free time to play - well I have to agree on that assessment on criteria. That's about all one needs to be fulfilled, I think.
Thanks for the good wishes, and have fun covering the ECMAs!