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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Making Modern Careers Sustainable

As of writing, I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone times are really tough if you are out of work right now. In fact, times are really tough for many people IN work right now. The world seems to have a gone a little bit crazy with the global economic crisis and so many firms struggling to make their numbers add up. How did we get so complacent that we allowed ourselves to get into such a mess? Probably because when times are great it is easy not to worry. Many of us have had about ten years of growth and good times. After such a long time we forget to make the usual self-preservation checks and before we know it....Caboooom....we've been made redundant and we have no means of servicing the debts we ran up during the good times.

In the 21st Century, a healthy world depends upon workers working and making our careers sustainable is all about doing the necessary detective work to discover the real meaning in our work. The hard part is tailoring this meaning to actual labour market demand. I watched a BBC programme the other day on how Brazil has switched its focus to bio-ethanol fuel sourced from sugar cane as they have little access to crude oil. The tough reality is that if you live in North East Brazil there are virtually no other options than cutting cane in the fields as this industry is just about the only employment in that region. Doing something else would mean leaving the community to explore other kinds of employment options; which if the worker has a family and strong sense of community., is a tough call. The economic reality can be harsh and history is filled with migrant workers being forced to move to earn a livelihood. So talking about 'fulfilling careers' can be a luxury some workers feel they cannot afford.

My heartfelt belief is that each one of us has a talent within. If we can discover this talent work ceases to be such a terrible chore. Even for those labouring hard in the fields in the hot sun, there will be some who find the work rewarding. They might not grow rich financially but they have the life they prefer. To make a career sustainable is about understanding the invisible transaction that only happens when we identify meaning in our work. Meaningful work will almost certainly involve making a contribution that benefits society around us. This fact is possibly the secret many only learn when it is too late. The banking systems have collapsed as a result of greed when a tiny minority gained disproportionate rewards from unsustainable transactions ignoring time-served wisdom. As long as nurses, care workers, teachers, fire crews and people serving their communities gain such lowly recognition compared to the obscene salaries of professional sportsmen, catwalk models, film stars and celebrities of questionable contribution to their fellow beings, then there will be imbalance and immorality in the economy.

Beware of working transactions driven by self gain alone with such little consideration given to how our work enriches the wider community. The reward of a sustainable career enjoyed over the long haul of a worker's life relies upon a holistic, interactive, vocational system of meaning, contribution and lasting value!! Or, in simple terms, workers channelling their innate talents to better the lives of those around them.