Finding good work for life

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Something in the paper grabbed my attention this morning. It was a list of prognostications for 2016. The columnist who published it reported that retirement is becoming a thing of the past. According to the experts, the last person to retire with government benefits has already been born.

What? My grandbabies are the last of a dying breed? Future humanity will not get social security? It sounds like a scare tactic from a campaigning politician until one considers our government’s flair for mismanagement. Then it sounds plausible. With people living longer and unemployment numbers rising, it’s obvious that the social security program will dry up one day. The working class just might have to work until its dying breath.

If that’s the case, let’s make sure to land jobs we like. By that, I mean occupations for which we have plenty of skill AND passion. Easier said than done, right? I took a poll amongst friends. It was not a very scientific survey but it makes my point. My findings reveal that the number of people out there who absolutely love what they do is not huge. Our children are doing better at making that happen than we did at their age. They are more interested in finding work they like than in finding jobs that cover the mortgage. Many of them don’t even have a mortgage.

Like my nephew, Michael. He is someone who has found his calling in New York City, no less. You know what they say. “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”. Michael recently updated me on his road to success. An actor from the age of ten, this man chose a college based on its outstanding theatre arts department but by the time he took the stage for his diploma, he was tired of playing the lead. Having applauded his performances for so long, I grieved his change of heart. All those years of training down the drain. Then Michael informed me that he wasn’t abandoning the industry. He simply wanted to switch gears. He changed his goal from stage acting to voice acting.

The voice work industry has exploded in the last decade. With radio and television commercials on the air every few minutes and video games in most homes, there is plenty of work to be had. Still, it’s a highly competitive business. It seems anyone with a decent set of vocal chords has attempted to break into it at some point or another. I know because I’m one of them. It takes more than natural talent. It takes a work ethic that is strong as steel and a willingness to hang in there.

When Michael realized how hard it would be, he found a job as a technician at Apple with flexible hours and good benefits. That would ensure paying his bills while also staying available for auditions. The tech work was steady. It took pressure off while he pursued his dream. It took a couple of years to get accepted by a reputable New York agency. During that time, the work was unpredictable. All things considered, the process took more patience than he thought he had. He often wondered if he would ever get there.

Little by little, the words appeared on his bedroom wall. “You are going to make it as a voiceover artist.” Okay, it wasn’t handwriting on a wall but rather calls from an agent that spelled things out for him. It’s been seven years now. He hasn’t quit his day job yet, but he is getting close. The young man is doing the work he loves and making good money. That is saying something.

This year, instead of New Year Resolutions, I’ll make a couple of lists. One that reminds me what I’m good at and the other of what I love to do. I’m pretty sure my dream job – teaching, writing, and public speaking – can be found at the intersection of my heart’s desire and my greatest gifts. Ah, yes. That sounds like something I could do (happily) for the rest of my life no matter how long I live. Happy New Year!