Job: Love or Hate

I must be a very lucky or unusual person. Being a native U.S. citizen is the first (number one) reason for this awareness of luck.

I have always loved every paid “job” I have had. Perhaps because I considered them a possible occupation. My work has always defined who I am. It’s where I spent most of my time and so always made the best of the experience.

I have never been afraid to work hard or have been forced to do menial work I didn’t enjoy. Some (many?) people today seem to feel they are still limited to doing actual slave-like labor for minimal pay. Perhaps because of their ethnicity or other cultural reason. That’s too bad.

A thought about slavery.

The USA is truly the land of opportunity and that is why I used the word “lucky”, but luck or race privilege are very minor factors in (now) the 21st century USA. Not a viable crutch or an excuse, is blaming one’s unchangeable heritage as a root cause of a current miserable life and feeling oppressed.

I may have had ancestors in Germany (Europe) who worked as Nazi slave labor 75 years ago. My ancestors may have been rich aristocrats. Perhaps a few, ranking members of the Nazi party. (None are likely) But none of these scenarios  has anything to do with MY life today.

Slaves of every race existed within every ancient culture and a few recent like in Germany. It’s true history and existed, but doesn’t define my or limit anyone’s abilities today.

Yes, past doors of opportunity in the USA were closed and locked to minority citizens. But now the keys are clearly on the table and accessible to those willing to try the lock. Most doors today are no longer locked.

Enough on ethnic minority excuse.

When I imagine working low wages, to fund the life I want outside of work, then I understand. Hating work is hating who you are because of your job. It is a very depressing condition. A feeling of being “trapped” doing what you dislike. Grabbing any and every “excuse” becomes a coping mechanism to deflect the pain of personal failure and weak ambition.

Like farm hands on a southern plantation, the northern “Industrial Revolution” created a need for new workers. Many skilled trades people from Europe immigrated willingly for a new life in the USA.

But there was also a large demand for unskilled labor that wasn’t necessarily a “feel good” career or a skilled trade. At first, much of it truly was/is a form of paid manual slave-like labor. Some skills could be developed in performing the task at hand. Permitting a few ambitious to “move up the ranks” as in the military. Other folks just became “cogs in the machine.” Virtual paid slaves, working menial monotomous jobs to just receive a paycheck. 

I could see some of that in my “basic steel” industrial home town. I worked  for about 6 months in the “mobile equipment” department of one of the basic steel mills before I left school and went to the Navy. My original plan was to earn money working at the mill for tuition. It became quite clear the steel mill was not a career path for me. Even as the management was encouraging me to work and go to school part time.

The working conditions were horrendous. Some workers hiding out in “secret places” within the huge mill, not working at all. The goof-offs. Rat on them and you may never leave.

Part time school attendance was not a permited draft deferment at the time. Twelve years later, in 1977-79 three major steel mills permanently ceased operation in my home town. I know some of the reasons. Prison gang hierarchy in the labor force. Not the prime cause, but tolerated because management needed to keep the dwindling workforce as long as possible before the inevitable shutdown.

The area economy became very depressed after the shutdowns and a prime reason I originally left the area to work in Boston, a booming economy.

My experience has taken me in many different directions. College dropout, military service (6 years), Trade school graduate (5 years), Labor Trade – Journeyman steamfitter/refrigeration union member (15 years), HVAC family owned business manager  (7 years), HVAC Marketing & Corporate Manager (Lennox Industries (10 years), Owner/Manager residential and commercial roofing business (3 years), Corporate Energy Services construction manager (Schneider Electric (16 years), Retired age 66.

Many of those time periods overlap but are in consecutive order. 63 years of experience in a 47 year formal working life. My secret is I enjoyed almost every minute of that time. “Work” for me was 100% “who I was” and not time spent making a paycheck to be someone else “when off the clock.” 

In the 15 years spent as a union trade-person, I was paid on an hourly schedule (strict union wages) Even when I was working (inside to office) as a project and design engineer  in the family business. (A story for another time…) I know what “on the clock” means.

I decided that wasn’t exactly fair to my growing abilities and personal goals and made the conscious decision to move to a salaried national corporate position where I had received a salaried job offer and far better economic environmental conditions. No more clock to punch but a LOT of over time hours spent (from there-on) the rest of my career. But there were ways to enjoy those extra work hours.

I took my four member family and we left Ohio and moved to New Hampshire (Boston, MA branch office) and then 3 years later to Texas corporate home office. Eventually going back to Ohio for 3 years. Owned and operated the roofing business and was offered a partner/sales position promoting home-built (real) aircraft kits business with a business and personal friend. (Again a story for another time…)

Back home, Ohio was still a depressed ex steel-town and good roofing workers didn’t exist. Went through 60-70 hire/quitters and realized my “birth home” was NOT the place to run any business (for me). The new aircraft business was also very high risk.

Moved back to Texas to begin a very good (and solid) Energy Management occupation. I earned three professional credentials (CEM, BEP, CSDP) Last title was “Construction Services Manager.” I was the inside corporate support manager for all the national Construction & Site Managers in the field. 

That Energy Management business grew rapidly, was bought and changed names twice. It became part of a tens of Billion dollar international corporation. Yeah, it was a good life-choice. My son still works with them today. CSI _Texas USA owned, TAC – Swedish owned, Schneider Electric – French owned.

It is the willingness to make change happen and make tangible changes  or adjustments that kept me satisfied with my life’s work. I always loved what I was doing then make a change when necessary to keep the love going.

No regrets at any time.

So maybe that is because I am a lucky white (WASP) guy. I assure you it is not. I worked side by side with many (equal ability) folks of other ethnic persuasion. We displayed the same skills and job satisfaction. It’s all attitude and commitment to improve a personal situation. That’s why we could work together. It takes effort to be what you want to be. Opportunity is a door you must work to open. respect is earned the old fashioned way.

I missed a formal college degree, but I never stopped the formal learning process. The fact is I became an educator within both my corporate lives, personally creating training courses and traveling the USA delivering seminars to customers and corporate audience. 

Many “help” programs have been USA government created to assist the “underprivileged” to get to the keys to opportunity. But opportunity is not a free bus ride to a great work experience. Even for the so called “Privileged”. One must still work hard to enjoy the ride to reach the goal. Pick wisely grasshopper…

My First Door

Vietnam war and a Navy enlistment gave me a look at a much bigger picture than “staying in my old neighborhood comfort zone.”

I didn’t have the funds to continue school and a military service WAR draft was like the gun at my head. I chose enlistment and “A” school (electronics)  as a way to serve my country and reap the source of eventual education funding (GI Bill) if I was destined to return to college. I didn’t want to commit to huge education loans at 20 years of age. It was draft dodging in a honorable way.

Life is not a scripted play. It’s a journey with many options and choices. If I started over at age twenty again, the route would certainly be different. I hope it would still be just as enjoyable. Love of electronics and the first digital computers help shape my career. As well as full dedication and continued reaching for new opportunities.

Maybe it is luck of the choices I made. But they were my choices and I took the effort to enjoy the personal identity and way of life those decisions gave me. I looked forward to going to work every day.

Bottom line. If you hate your job and what it tells the world. And you only work for the paycheck and the weekend. Then it is time to take stock of who you are and what you want. Definitely time to make a change.