Happy July, everyone! It’s officially time for summer fruits, hot weather, and possibly some summer getaways. And for many recent graduates, it’s also time to think about getting jobs. Be they career jobs, summer jobs, or exploratory jobs, I know several people who are turning their attention toward this topic. Two of these people are my nephews, both of whom just graduated from college. Neither of them have post-grad jobs lined up and waiting for them, and several of their friends are opting for AmeriCorps or Peace Corps. Why? Because the job scene is different than it used to be! Expectations, desires, and opportunities are not the same now than they were a generation ago. This is the topic explored in an intriguing new book called The Search by Bruce Feiler.

In this timely and important book, Bruce points out some very important truths (and some important lies). The “career path” that we’re used to hearing about (i.e. graduate from school, get a good job in which you can advance, stay there for 30 years and accrue a great retirement) was designed for a very specific population of people. Unsurprisingly, this group of people is white men, with wives at home who can take care of everything else for them. 

woman walking near wallOf course, “traditional” situations like this do still exist, but the current reality is that the workforce is now populated by a vastly more diverse group of people. And these people do not necessarily have someone at home taking care of all the rest of life’s demands! These hard-working people also have a lot of other responsibilities: children at home, ailing parents, their own health concerns, non-traditional schooling schedules, second jobs, and many other life demands.

In The Search, Bruce Feiler describes three lies about modern work, one of which is “you have a job.” Here’s a snippet from the book to whet your appetite about why this is a lie:

The old script that everybody has a job they go to during the day, then retreat to personal time at night, no longer applies to how most people approach work. No one has just one job anymore; most have up to five.

These include a main job, though by some measures fewer than half of us even have one of those anymore; a care job, like caring for children or aging relatives; and a side job that we perform for love or money.

But I also kept hearing about two other kinds of jobs so frequently that I decided to name them. One is a hope job, which is work we do that we hope leads to something else, like writing a sci novel or crocheting scarves to sell at a local boutique. More than 8 in 10 of us have a hope job, with many paying out of pocket for the privilege.

The second is a ghost job, an invisible specter that haunts us so much that it feels like a job. Nine out of 10 have a ghost job, like battling self-doubt, discrimination, mental health, or financial insecurity. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these jobs, we take advantage of this mix to find the meaning of the work we demand. Maybe we have one job we do for salary and benefits but another we do for self-expression or a sense of giving back.

In place of these three lies, Americans of all ages embrace the one truth: Only you can decide what meaning is most important to you. Only you can write your own story of success.”

As a coach, I find the concept of a ghost job to be deeply intriguing. How many of us spend a vast amount of time tending to our daily realities? How do we find balance there? This is so important to validate! Without that validation, we can drown in confusion about why we aren’t “doing better” in our lives, our jobs, and our happiness. This is no small thing!

This is just a tiny glimpse into all of the factors that are affecting our ability to “settle” into a secure financial career and feel satisfied and safe. There are many other factors, of course, and Bruce covers a lot of them. I found this book to be a fascinating and enlightening read; it felt so refreshing to have some context to the upheaval I recognize in our society. It’s a lot to navigate these days, and it takes real bravery to be honest with ourselves about how we can be happy and secure in this world.

I love the idea that “only you can write your own story of success.” This is a concept worth exploring! If you find yourself in a time of doubt, dissatisfaction, restlessness or overwhelm about your job situation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Book a complimentary, 20 minute consultation so that we can talk about your hopes and you can see if working with a coach is the right way forward for you. 

And if you’re able, read The Search! It just might be the perspective you need to kickstart your own personal career journey. I’m here to help, and in the meantime, happy exploring!