In The Four Purposes of Life (2011), Dan Millman identifies a cluster of key criteria for developing a career:
- “Do I find the work satisfying?”
- “Can I make good money?”
- “Does it provide a useful service?”
Some might add factors such as work-life balance, geographic location, and the like, but overall, I’d say that Millman’s three criteria are useful guideposts for most people. And during much of the last half of the 20th century, as America’s post-WWII economy went into high gear and fueled the nation’s growing middle class, having some choice over one’s vocation became a realistic option. Against the backdrop of a robust economy and labor market, people could start thinking about work as being more than a source of income.
Today, however, the scarcity of good jobs is limiting our vistas considerably. Especially for those who have struggled with layoffs and unemployment, finding work that “merely” pays the bills understandably outpaces job satisfaction and notions of service as individual priorities. Millions are just trying to get by.
True, the world doesn’t “owe” anyone a satisfying job that pays well — at least in an individually entitled sense. But we are being ill-served by a labor market that has deteriorated to a point where securing even an okay job is proving difficult for so many. Instead, let’s embrace, as a worthy aspiration, the idea of decent work for all, rather than being quietly resigned to the dog-eat-dog era unfolding before us.