Monday, November 14, 2011

John Lennon's Dictum and OWS - Part 1

John Lennon's song "Beautiful Boy" contained a line that has long resonated with me:

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

I started thinking about this after reading a comment that my cousin Gerry posted on an earlier post I'd written about the Occupy Wall Street people who are noisily bemoaning their fate in encampments all over the country. Gerry posted the following:

My BS degree is in Computer Science and my job is to help sell companies/government their data center computers -- the big ones, not the ones on your desk. Business has been steady and sometimes great for 20+ years. What is interesting is more than half the people I work with directly who also help sell these large computers were not engineers/programmers in college.

I work with folks who have degrees in English Literature, Philosophy, Theatre Arts, and other non-technical areas of study. There are techincal folks as well.

As working adults I cannot tell the classically trained engineers from those who are not -- they are all good at what they do. Those without technical degrees saw the landscape after college with lower wages and fewer jobs and decided to make a change. They found there way into better paying jobs by taking entry level tech jobs (i.e. computer operators) and working their way into this constantly growing and evolving industry.

My industry cannot find enough workers. There are over 150 open jobs at my company, waiting for candidates to fill them. There are 30+ entry level jobs, with technical training, open for anyone who can speak, write and have a willingness to work hard and learn.

Why can't these positions be filled? Do people feel entitled? Are they lazy? I don't know...
What Gerry is describing rings true. When I left my alma mater some 25 years ago, I was an English major and convinced that with my scintillating writing chops and my keen insights into the human condition, I was ready to answer the world's problems. The world was strangely unimpressed.

Over the course of my career, I found myself doing a lot of jobs that I couldn't have imagined doing when I was an undergraduate. Some of the time I had to swallow my pride and do clerical work as a temporary employee. I spent the better part of a decade working for a major Twin Cities-based retailer, using my writing skills to explain how to suggestive sell soft pretzels, while simultaneously providing instructions concerning the programming of monthly specials on cash registers. Later on, as the housing bubble inflated, I latched on with one of the largest banks in the country as a business analyst and had a ringside seat for the madness. After 20 years of such things, I finally got a chance to be a professional writer, although most of my published work is utterly anonymous.

My cousin points out what should be obvious, but apparently isn't to a lot of young people. The live you envision may not get to be the life you lead, but a good and valuable life is possible if you are willing to pursue it. Gerry lives in a very nice, but non-glamorous place, the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin. I do not know if any of the jobs his company has on offer are in New York, or Los Angeles, or any other urban venue. No one is ever going to confuse the Appleton/Neenah/Oshkosh metropolitan area for Manhattan. But the opportunity is there.

Gerry's questions are the ones we need to ask:  Why can't these positions be filled? Do people feel entitled? Are they lazy? I don't know...

I don't know, either. But we're going to talk about it in the coming days.


Gerry said...

My comment was based of the OWS behavior, and the undeniable link between these two stories.

Generations ago people looking for a better life left the rural south for better factory jobs in Milwaukee (and Detroit, etc). Now there are available jobs in the rural south, and even the folks without jobs don't want them.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The good life isn't "the sexy." It's full of routine and work and normal folk. It's kind of like vegetables: not that popular, but invaluable for "the good."

Gerry said...

WB -- your words are true.

Mr. D. - another comment or correction. A few of the folks I work with don't have college degrees -- just a high school diploma and in both cases several years in the military. Neither started anywhere near the top, but they are both now, 20+ years later, earning a good living. As WB said -- it's not sexy, but it's good.