A long career and a happy one

long career

Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times solicits questions from her readers. She posts them, asks her readers to send in responses, and then weaves the whole thing into a column two weeks later.

A recent question went something like this: “I’m around thirty, and I’m very happy with what I’m doing. All my friends are looking for newer, higher-level positions, and are telling me that I’m crazy for wanting to stay put. Question: am I doing the wrong thing?”

This is an excellent question to put to someone like me, who’s been with his current employer since 1987, and has held his current position since 1999.

Answer: why not stay in your current job, if you’re happy?

But this is what will really happen if (like me) you stick with one job for the long haul:

For a while, while you’re new, you’ll see your contemporaries come and go. Some will stick around, but most will move on. (I’m assuming you’re under forty. If you’re over forty and starting a new job, probably you have different ideas. But read on.)

After about ten years, you’ll become part of the wallpaper: no one will notice you. You’re now a drone. No one will worry too much about offending you, because – why would they? You’re not gonna quit. (This can be a difficult phase. You will have the sense that people are looking down on you. And you know what? Some of them will look down on you. You are now, to use another Lucy Kellaway term, a “bumbler.”)

Then, around twenty years into your tenure, you will begin to notice that people are giving you a kind of peculiar respect. You’ve been there since forever, and everyone knows that. You can make things happen. You know who to talk to, and whom to call. You have faced a variety of crises, and not a single one of them came close to killing you.

Your personal appearance will be a little weathered, probably. But you will go on and on. Sto lat, as they say on your birthday in Poland: “a hundred years.”

And now, the last verse of a poem by Elinor Wylie (d. 1929):

In masks outrageous and austere

The years go by in single file;

But none has merited my fear,

And none has quite escaped my smile.

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

3 Responses to A long career and a happy one

  1. Oh, what a wonderful verse from our Elinor!

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