Thursday, April 14, 2011

Changing jobs

So many people I know both here and in the USA are switching jobs or would like to. It’s not easy these days to get a new job in either country; there are usually hundreds of applicants for one position and the interview rate is abysmally low. Perhaps five people get called in to an interview out of fifty applicants; ten percent in other words. It may sound like a high percentage, but if you’re not one of the lucky five people, it doesn’t matter. I am so happy for the few people I know who have just found out that they will be starting new jobs and will be leaving my workplace. They deserve their new positions after years spent working hard and getting nowhere fast. Because my workplace does not really reward hard work and professional competence; it rewards other things—political savvy and a broad belief in the power of administrators and a balanced budget (a pipe dream). So again, if you’re not one of the lucky few who ‘makes’ it based on these characteristics, you don’t make it. I would need to write a book to explain why this is so; suffice it to say that if you are a doctor or a nurse or an administrator you are worth something to the hospital. If you are a scientific researcher, you are worth less these days simply because budgets have to be balanced and there is no direct ‘product’ from your work that can be measured in the same way as the hospital can measure the number of patients admitted, treated and released. The hospital wants numbers; scientists know that research takes time and that the results of research will be published eventually, but they have no control over how fast that process occurs. It can sometimes take two years to publish an article. This is not good for the bottom line of an accounting sheet. Why does it take so long? Because you can get an article rejected the first time around, also the second time around, and then perhaps it will be published on the third try. It can thus take up to one year to get an article accepted by a journal and another six months to a year before it is actually in print. Effective? No. Frustrating? Yes. Because the administrators want evidence of ‘production’ and it doesn’t go fast enough for them. We are not considered productive in the same way as a doctor or nurse would be. We are therefore expendable, and if it wasn’t for the fact that scientists working in the public sector are organized in this country, we would be the first to go, of that I have no doubt.

I know there is no such thing as the perfect job. But I know too that there are better workplaces than the one I work in; workplaces that are focused on their employees’ wellbeing, that want them to thrive and to succeed. Why is this important? Because these workplaces know that a happy motivated employee will do a good job for his or her workplace. It’s only to do the math. None of this is very complicated to figure out, and I’m surprised that more workplaces haven’t figured it out. I wish my workplace would figure it out. But I know they won’t and it’s time to just stop talking about it. I’m done, as one of my friends in New York often says. And she means it. I mean it too.

I know people in the USA who have been without a job for several years now. They have applied for food stamps in order to buy food and they ask family and friends for financial help. I know it’s not easy there to find a job or to keep it. I don’t know though if this is just the corporate world, or if this is true for the public sector as well. I don’t know how it is these days generally in the USA anymore where workplaces are concerned; I’ve been away from the country too long. I just know how it is here in Norway. A recent article stated that over fifty-five percent of workers want to retire when they are sixty-two years old. I am one of them. The article focused on the fact that most of these people are in for a shock when they find out how little their monthly pensions will actually be, and that they will find it difficult to live. I am taking steps to prepare myself for this eventuality. One of them is to sock away as much money each month as possible to make early retirement possible. Other possibilities include acknowledging that one may end up working part-time—two or three days a week. So many people tell me that I will be bored or that I will miss full-time work if I retire early. I already know that I won’t. I am looking forward to changing my life (and would love to change it now), to having time to do volunteer work, to read, to do consulting work, to write, and so many other things. I won’t be bored. Retirement could not be more boring than being stuck in a job where one is invisible, unused and unappreciated. Apparently fifty-five percent of all workers agree on one thing—by sixty-two they will have had enough of their workplaces. The problem of course is what they’re (we’re) all going to do with our newfound free time. As I said, I am making plans already. If plan A doesn’t work there will be plan B, and so forth. I am planning for retirement the way I never planned my career or my retirement investments when I was younger. But it’s never too late to start. And who knows, maybe I will be one of the lucky ones that ends my work life in a job that is fulfilling and that makes me happy--the way I felt ten to fifteen years ago about my job. Nothing beats that feeling of loving your work. But time changes things and the ways things are done, and you cannot hang onto the past or dwell there. It’s just to accept how the present is and plan from there.

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