“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours” Jerome K. Jerome – from Three Men in a Boat 1889

When asked about happiness, Sigmund Freud’s response was “Work and Love” so I suppose if you love your work you’ve got it made!

For a lot of us work is merely “the daily grind” but work can give us a sense of self-worth, a sense of value and can provide us with the sense of challenge which is necessary for our personal growth.

But do we have work, a job or a career? Work itself is merely labour or physical activity; it is a ‘job’ that translates that into a defined task performed for money. But when we say ‘career’ we are describing an understood progression from novice to expert which is often a lifetime’s experience.

There is another side to the word ‘career’ – it can mean to rush about uncontrollably, and in these hectic days that is often the way we feel about our working life. And it is not surprising. In the past our working life often began in the same company that it finished in. Longevity was rewarded with the ubiquitous gold watch and a pension. It was safe, secure and re-assuring. But now young people want, and are urged to pursue, a very different work path. Variety and experience are the keys; and often they will switch jobs every few years.

Technology has changed not only what we do, but how we do it. Not only the types of work available but also the standard working hours have changed radically. Previously, unless you were engaged in shift work, you could virtually guarantee a standard 9 to 5 job; indeed the idea has been enshrined in a popular Hollywood film! But research is showing that this concept is rapidly becoming obsolete.

In 2000 a UK wide study found that well over 59% of men and 52% of women were employed in non-standard jobs – that is their jobs were either temporary; involved working independently of the employer’s premises; were under 30 hours a week or over 48 hours a week; or were not during the regular working day.

Changes in our working habits reflect the complexity of modern society. Its attitudes and aspirations reflect the types of work being done. For instance as society has become more litigious it needs more legal and para legal workers. An aging population requires more workers involved in age care. More dependence on technology increases the need for the producers, repairers and instructors in these fields. And as society changes, then our work requirements will change with it. If we are one of the millions of workers engaged in office jobs we can often feel that there is nothing else out there – but the global village is vast and diverse so look out the window and consider this :

  • For all our reliance on technology, the largest global work force is still engaged in farming; and only one third of this workforce will receive wages for their labour. Half of all agricultural workers are women.
  • It is estimated that there are over 100 million enterprises world wide. When we hear the word entrepreneur we tend to think of multinational companies – and yet the majority of these 100 million enterprises are small businesses. Of the 300 billion workers in the world more than one billion are self-employed in agriculture or work in small businesses.
  • More than 200 million people are employed by the tourism and travel trades, which represents approx 8% of all global employment. 70% of all these workers are women, and 50% of the workforce is under the age of 25. In a dramatic example of how events can unexpectedly affect our working life, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that nine million workers lost their jobs due to the effects on tourism and travel of the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.

It is expected that even more dramatic changes are ahead for us. For instance the ILO predicts that in the near future nearly 60% of the world’s labour force will be in Asia and one quarter of all the global workers will be in China. Other predication for the immediate future emphasises the need for training and education. In a changing working world, we need to be equipped to adopt and adapt to change. Thinking outside of the normal 9 to 5 can help us survive the changes that will inevitably come throughout our working life. If you are prepared it could mean that you are more likely to be able to find satisfactory work when you want it.

*The information in this article is from “Change – how to kick-start the future and refresh the spirit” by Alison Haynes; published by Murdoch Books Pty Ltd in 2004. A fascinating book with some remarkable information and ideas for ways in overcoming our fear of change and using it to our best advantage.
Michele @ Trischel

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