That Perfect Job

It seems to me…

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ~ Confucius.

There isn’t any universally perfect job, all entail certain compromises. Any job I might consider perfect would not be perfect for everyone. In addition, with experience and age we change and the job that seemed so perfect at one stage in our life might not be very enjoyable after a few years. Most people not only change employment a number of times throughout their working years, they change their entire profession on average five to six times.

A perfect job is one in which you excel, for which you have the aptitude, and with which you are very comfortable. It should align with your short- and long-term career and personal goals. Additionally, (1) it should pay sufficiently well to meet all your family’s needs with a little extra for saving and playing, (2) it should have a good working environment, (3) there should be opportunities to learn new skills, (4) managers and coworkers should be willing to share the load, (5) there should be some flexibility in working hours, and (6) some encouragement of creativity.

Not a complete list but sufficient for a start. There obviously are many additional criteria that should be included; for example, everyone wants a job they feel to be worthwhile, a job that is good not only for one’s self but also for others.

There also are physical and personality traits to consider. If you are 6’6” and weight 230 pounds, you never are going to be a jockey regardless of how much you might desire it. An introvert probably will not be happy in sales or as a motivational speaker; a gregarious extrovert will not enjoy the isolation of biological research.

When considering a profession, the obvious first step is to know one’s self, something difficult for most of us – we frequently tend toward over-confidence or exaggerate personal skills and abilities. Most people make decisions on the basis of unsupported biases; e.g., they do not like math since they found it difficult and uninteresting in K-12 though their only experience came from incompetent teachers who had little or no knowledge of actual mathematics. Everyone is different as is their preference in selecting that “perfect job”. My decisions obviously are relevant and pertinent only to me.

While I frequently would prefer to work outdoors, I’m grateful for a comfortable office during cold or inclement weather. There also is an appeal for being independent and not working for someone else but anyone with their own business realizes they do not actually own the business – it owns them.

Everyone desires a job allowing creativity rather than endless repetition. Too many jobs provide little variability. There must be an opportunity to learn. Whatever the field, it should be non-static regularly experiencing development and advancement. It should be multifaceted providing the opportunity to specialize in one such facet but with sufficiently related options that changing to another area within that field is not overly difficult.

Medical and legal professionals are deservedly respected; everyone wants to assist people experiencing difficulties. While not a medical professional, I’ve trained (and trained others) to provide assistance with minor difficulties until advanced care is available but I’m too empathetic to either physical or emotional trauma to ever consider it as a profession. Lawyers constantly are locked in an antagonistic competitive battle with their peers – in a courtroom only one wins, the other loses.

Professional athletes are well rewarded to play games but always run the risk of career-ending injury. Regardless, a career normally is relatively short and an athlete constantly is being challenged by other players who inevitably eventually will be better than them. Most who aspire to a professional athletic career fail.

There likewise are many people who desire to be entertainers: singers, musicians, actors, dancers… While most of them believe they have the requisite talent, few are ever successful. Every small club in the country has a band and singer no one will ever hear of. Most would-be actors in Hollywood or New York end up parking cars, pumping gas, or waiting on tables.

Artists and writers are creative and independent but frequently are impoverished even if they are successful. While most of us have more than we necessarily need, no one wants to live just from day-to-day never certain how they will get through tomorrow much less be able to adequately save for retirement.

Many people in the trades; carpenter’s electricians, plumbers, etc.; are able to make an adequate living though for most it is neither especially financially rewarding nor creative. While many people find this type of employment satisfactory, I personally prefer something more academic.

Police, firemen, or many other public service jobs are depended upon by their community but are insufficiently rewarded considering the occupational risks to which they are subjected.

A nation is dependent upon its military for its freedom and independence and everyone is grateful to those choosing to serve. But it is not for everyone. I have a natural penchant to question why and am unable to obey an order without considering how best to accomplish the desired action or task. Suggestions, alternatives, or questions frequently were seen as challenges to authority and not appreciated.

Teaching at the college/university level always is rated as one of the most personally satisfying occupations available. I enjoyed teaching upper division and graduate level college classes where students were interested and engaged and there was a wide variety of ever changing subject material. The challenge for K-12 teachers is to present material so as to create a level of student interest where they develop a love of learning strictly for the sake of learning. Unfortunately, most teachers do not receive a passing grade. It is difficult for a teacher to maintain an interest in subject material they teach repeatedly year-after-year and personally do not find challenging. Regardless of how much they enjoy working with children, most teachers begin to burn out after a few academic years (the average K-12 teacher remains in the classroom only five years). Almost everyone’s list of their teachers they believed to have been “not good” exceeds their all-too-short list of those they considered to have been “good”.

Employment within the leisure and hospitality field (barber, hairdresser, cosmetologist…) provides an opportunity to combine business and pleasure. While not financially lucrative, employment opportunities abound even during economic down turns and it is relatively easy to find new employment after moving to a new location.

The food and dining (chefs, cooks, servers…) industry, other than in fast-food chains, always requires skilled employees and never will be off-shored. It can require many years of experience and training to develop a reputation and achieve respect at higher quality restaurants, otherwise, work can be hard, repetitious, and the hours long.

Mining is one of the most difficult jobs available. While the pay is relatively good, it definitely was not for me. While the difficulty was not necessarily a concern, I have a basic aversion to being underground. There are many employment alternatives within the industry but none ever had any personal appeal.

Sales positions, either wholesale or retail, generally provide relatively low pay though some high-end positions can be very financially rewarding. When asked to assist in sales negotiations, being somewhat of an introvert, I never felt totally comfortable. Most salespeople also felt somewhat uncomfortable having me involved as I tended to be honest and openly discuss any system problems or weaknesses.

Professional and business services, including market research and real estate, had little appeal. I possibly preferred a profession somewhat more technical – developing and using the latest gadgets and devices.

The transportation and utilities sector includes everything from truck driver to airline flight attendant. I loved flying and might have considered pursuing it as a career following separation from the military if I had not discovered computing. (I always have regretted not maintaining my pilot certification.)

Not everyone should feel obligated to go to college. Vocational schools provide preparation for many professions from medical assistants, automotive and computer maintenance and repair, accounting, or food preparation. An associate degree awarded by a community, junior, or technical colleges indicates the recipient has completed a program of study with a broad base in general education and a concentration in some specific area. Contrary to common belief, many positions available to someone with either an associate’s degree or following completion of a certification program actually earn more than many college graduates.

Many college students select a major based purely on personal interests without adequate consideration of what they will do following completion of their degree. Many fields require an advanced degree – not only in liberal arts but also in some sciences. History and English literature are great but I’ve met quite a few administrative assistants working in offices who have a degree in English and salespeople with degrees in history. A B.S. in biology or chemistry might be sufficient for employment as a basic lab technician but rarely will anyone without an advanced degree be involved in pure research. Some research labs require their janitors to have a B.S. in physics. This probably is not what undergraduate students had in mind.

Everything considered and admittedly not for everyone, some professions such as mathematics, computer science, or engineering provide many very desirable attributes and benefits though the basic academics are more difficult and require greater effort than many students are willing to expend. This is especially true for students with either weak or inadequate preparation in K-12.

Mathematicians receive a substantially higher initial starting salary directly out of college than most other professions. It also rates higher in a number of job related criteria including income, stress, physical demands, potential growth, job security, and work environment than other professions. Jobs in the private sector are plentiful and those qualified are highly valued in many career fields. Whether someone is interested in developing models and interpreting their results or in developing efficient algorithms to expedite known processes, mathematics and computer science are the tools of choice. 81 percent of those employed in the field expressed great satisfaction in their profession.

Those employed in the computing field expressed equal jab satisfaction. 60 percent indicate they were extremely happy with their choice of computing or information technology as a career and also very satisfied with their current role, assignments, and responsibilities. 77 percent of these professionals said that even if they could start over, they still would choose computing or information technology as a career[i].

Obviously, not every possible career choice was mentioned; this is no more than a representative sample. Yes, I had experience in additional possible career paths: commercial fishing, horse tracks, carnies… None of which I chose to pursue.

I was very fortunate in career selection. After separating from the Air Force, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I planned to do it: return to college, major in physics, specialize in particle physics, and work in fusion research. It didn’t happen. The second day on campus another student gave me a tour that included the math department’s computer (which malfunctioned immediately after we entered the room).

Computer science was neither a major nor a profession at the time but my future was set. I completed an undergraduate degree in math and after working a year as a programmer/analyst, became one of the first graduate students to major in the new field of computer science. From today’s perspective, we seem like pioneers in that new profession. Yes, compared to today, it was primitive. While much has changed, if I had to start over, I would make the same choice. Computing might not have always been the “perfect job” – but it was darn close.

That’s what I think, what about you?

 

[i] McCafferty, Dennis. IT Careers Are Stressful but Satisfying, EWeek, http://www.baselinemag.com/careers/slideshows/it-careers-are-stressful-but-satisfying.html?kc=EWWHNEMNL06162014STR3&dni=134971244&rni=24685478, 12 June 2014.

 

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About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
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