( Day 3: The adventure continues. I am noticing just HOW MUCH I think about television. In the course of 3 hours today, I referenced when Larry David put a woman in his cell phone under “Wendy Wheelchair”, the MadTV Desert Classic, and the Jim and Pam wedding on The Office and that Chris Brown song that plays during it. I think I am ready for television to be less ingrained in my head.)
I’ve realized that I don’t need a traditional, professional office job to be happy. I’m not quitting my job. I still love what I do. But I also realized that I don’t need to have a job that requires me to be in an office or wear business attire to feel like I have a career. I don’t need a desk or an office or my own stapler, hole-puncher, stapler remover and a holder for all my pens to feel like I have a “real job”.
The reason why I love what I do so much is because construction is not about sitting behind a desk all day long. Sure, you have to sit at the desk sometimes, you have to keep your head down and power through lots of technical stuff, but you also have to go out to the project sites. You need to meet with all kinds of different people. You need to negotiate. You need to stay on top of 1,000 different items. You need to go to lunches, conferences, events, pre-bids, pre-con’s, board meetings, community meetings and so much more. But even more than that, I would be totally cool with a job that had ZERO office environment and didn’t need me in professional dress to do my job.
I know a lot of people, expecially women, can think that they do not have a career unless they have a ‘nice’ office job with a business casual dress code and a tame working environment. I think those mundane little things that make up a normal office job can be comforting, but it can lull you into a sense of security. We’re definitely getting paychecks around here, you think, we have AC and a kitchen and timesheet software! And that’s probably true, the professional firm is not going anywhere. But I am more interested in the slightly scruffier jobs with bigger potential.
There are plenty of non-office related jobs that pay well, are interesting and challenging and have huge potential to teach you business and operations skills you’d never learn in an office. One of my side businesses involves working in a warehouse. I can’t tell you how much I love being at the warehouse. I am fascinated by all the activity going on around me. I operated the forklift the other day (I just asked if I could try it out and nobody thought to say no). I had carne asada with homemade tortillas courtesy of the other workers. AND I am learning so many practical aspects of running a business that I don’t see in my professional job where most or all of the details are neatly handled for me behind the scenes: where someone else processes payroll, orders lunch, or deals with collecting accounts receivable. Of course, there are greater risks associated with work outside an office, especially physical risks when you work with machinery or in a hazardous environment.
I am interested in both owning businesses and being a professional. But professional to me doesn’t mean I’m wearing a suit and treating clients to a long lunch. I am not opposed to all that stuff (though it does get old), but I think being a professional in a field means taking yourself to the next level and to pushing yourself to be above and beyond what others are doing in your industry. And I just don’t think that’s going to happen in a neat little cubicle, with my files neatly arranged just so and my pens and highlighters waiting for me to mark-up the next document coming across my desk.
I prefer work that involves some kind of physical tasks. I want to use my brain, absolutely, but I think my ideal jobs require constant problem-solving, stuff like:
- On-Site construction manager (my job doesn’t include a lot of on-site work right now)
That kind of job may not be very aspirational, but I think it will get you a lot further than a job that looks and sounds good on paper, but does little to provide you with actual skills you can take to a new position, firm, industry or your own business. This isn’t exactly a Stiff vs. Suit debate, because the types of work I prefer are definitely more Suit than Stiff. Basically, I want to be a strategic operations person in a field that’s less traditional for women: construction, shipping, or my secret dream, waste management. Yes. It’s true. My dream jobs include working for Waste Management. Is that weird? I thought everyone wanted to work for waste management. It sounds so awesome!
What do you think? What makes a job interesting and rewarding to you? Do you like professional jobs where you need to be dressed up and refrain from cursing in front of clients? Or do you enjoy a job that Mike Rowe would feature on Dirty Jobs? I want to know!