I’m only doing this temporarily until I can find a real job. — My parents are adamant about my need to get a real job. — Why don’t you get a real job?
The phrase seems silly to me. Isn’t a job just a job? What makes one job more real than another? And what is a “Real Job,” exactly?
Anxious to understand, I started asking people who used the term what they meant by it. Unsurprisingly, to different people it meant different things.
According to those I’ve asked, a real job is…
- a full-time job with set hours.
- a job in my major/field/area of specialization.
- a job that pays more than minimum wage.
- a job that pays salary.
- a job with health insurance/sick leave/paid vacation.
- a job with room for growth/advancement opportunity.
- a position with a job title and description.
- anything that’s NOT a temp job.
- anything that earns a steady paycheck.
- something that will make me feel like going into debt for a degree was worthwhile.
What’s fascinating about these responses is how nearly all of them focus exclusively on job details. That is, there is a common expectation for the job to satisfy the requirements for being “real.” The exception is #10, where the responder believes how they feel about the job is more important.
This exception among the typical responses made me wonder: Why don’t all people think this way? When asked to describe a “real job,” why don’t people concentrate on the feeling they’d get from it, rather than the actual job? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to hear people describe how a real job is…
- a job that’s fulfilling!
- a job that’s stimulating!
- a job that’s challenging!
- a job that’s rewarding!
- a job that’s enjoyable!
In other words, shouldn’t the single defining factor of how “real” a job is be determined by how it makes you feel? After all, you listen to your feelings when you decide which jobs aren’t real — and it makes them easy to identify because jobs that aren’t real feel wrong.
Consequently, you’re anxious to leave them. You may stay put for longer than you’d like (under the influence of sensibility and reason), but the feeling of displacement is undeniable. You’re always on the lookout for something better, something more real, something that feels right.
Amazingly, while writing this article I received a coincidental email from a friend I haven’t seen since high school. After reading some of the articles on LifeReboot, Rich contacted me to share the details of his own “life reboot.”
I majored in computer science, but I didn’t want to get a programming job right out of college — I wanted to come to Japan instead. My guidance counselor commented that as far as prospects for getting a good CS job went, “One year in Japan won’t kill you.” Four years later I’m still here.
I’ve reinvented myself as an English teacher. Teaching in high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools has been a far more rewarding experience than coding ever was. For the past year I’ve taught exclusively at elementary schools. The kids’ energy, seeing their smiles, having them motion for a high-five and say “Higher! Higher!” and then muster all their energy to jump and smack my hand — it’s all awesome. My classes are simple and modest, today I taught kids to say things like “I’m going to the sea” and “I’m going to the mountains.” Even so, just seeing how happy the kids are and the unbelievable energy in the room during a great class — it’s awesome.
Not only my job, but simply living in Japan is great. I’ve made so many new friends, I’ve done so many new things I wouldn’t have dreamed of in the states, and even now my daily life can be an adventure. One of the best things about living here is meeting a new Japanese person, talking with them for a good hour or two in Japanese, and having them say things like “Wow, I’ve never talked with a foreigner (non-Japanese) person before. It was so interesting meet you. And your Japanese is amazing!” It feels like I’m really making a different and impact in the community, not just at my work, but in my daily life as well.
Some don’t consider this a “real job.” My parents keep bugging me to go back to the states, and my brother (who now has a programming job in Tokyo) wants to get me a job at his company next summer. I could go back to a computer job, but I have more fun doing other things. I like talking with people, I like being in front of a crowd, I like writing, I like telling stories. And although coding was fun for me back in the day, I feel like there’s something more I want to do with my life than write parsers and scan databases.
I don’t really know where my intro into self betterment, self improvement, or whatever you want to call it started. I suppose I’ve changed a bit since I’ve been here. One of my college friends came to visit me and she said, “Rich — you’re different. I don’t remember you being this energetic, this happy, this full of life when you were in college. It’s awesome!”
I can easily relate to many of Rich’s points, especially the notion of family members who encourage you to get a “real job.” The thing is, when you allow yourself to be influenced by the perspectives of other people, especially family, you miss out on the opportunity to define a “real job” for yourself. Remember, to different people it meant different things.
The intentions of Rich’s family are good. They’re only trying to “save” him by encouraging him to do something they believe is practical. What they fail to realize, though, is how Rich doesn’t need to be saved. He’s found a job that’s personally fulfilling that simultaneously rewards those around him.
What could possibly be more real?
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