Freeing the Wage Slaves

Every summer we take on a few university students here at the office. It’s a boring summer job, but it pays a lot better than most summer jobs students can get. One guy has come back every summer throughout his entire university career.

His passion is sports and he took a degree program in some sort of sports psychology thing. He plays a lot of sports and had volunteered his sports psychology services to a lot of athletes over the years. He graduated this spring, with his master’s.

And now ….. he’s being bridged in as a permanent federal public servant in our unit.

“Are you crazy?” I asked him. “What happened to your passion? All that work you put into the sports psychology thing? Your dream job of helping athletes achieve their maximum potential?”

“Ya,” he said sheepishly. “I talked to my parents (who are both public servants) and decided that it would be too difficult to find a job in my field.

I’m very disappointed. He was such a bright lad. So full of life. Such a brilliant future ahead of him. So much potential. And now…..pfft!

XUP Jr. has never had the slightest interest in the federal public service — or in any kind of office job. I’m glad. She wants to be an entrepreneur; be her own boss. I’m thrilled. Probably that makes me an irresponsible parent for not at least trying to guide my child into a safe, secure career choice. I don’t know.

Self-employment is very risky and there’s no pension or security of any kind.. But I think the time to take risks is when you’re young. And if she starts now to sock away a bit of her income every month, she’ll have a tidy sum when she gets older.

Anyway, I think the whole environment of the public service and all those other so-called secure workplaces is going to change drastically over the next 10 to 20 years. It’s just not sustainable with an ever-aging population.

This year, the government took away our severance pay this year and the union let them. This will mean big savings in the long run. I think our pensions are next. They’ll start chipping away at the pensions – increase employee contributions, increase years-of-service eligibility. At the same time, the public service will continue to be reduced until there are only a few administrators left in each department and all the work will be done by independent contractors.

And I think a lot of other businesses will have to follow suit. Keeping employees on payroll, contributing to their benefits and paying them a pension after they retire is really expensive.  Not to mention all the headaches associated with a stable of full-time, permanent employees.

So, it seems to me that being self-employed is the way to go. And, as more and more of the population becomes self-employed, more organizations will have to spring up to afford group medical and dental benefits to the self-employed – maybe even group pension schemes and income insurance. Who knows?

I’ve known several people who were made redundant from their safe, secure jobs.  When they weren’t able to find another job, they ended up creating their own jobs in order to earn a living. Now they all say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them.

So, I think if I was a young person today just starting out, I’d risk it, wouldn’t you?

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19 responses to “Freeing the Wage Slaves

  1. I just wish I had the guts to become self employed… In the meantime I just fool myself by believing that blogging will help me accomplish that. Pffft!

    Welcome back Ma’am…

  2. Hell yes!

    Not that I’m in any secure government pensioned job. It’s as secure as any job can be I think, but I have to scratch together my own pension. The “security” is nice I suppose but the sometimes it’s so boring it drives me batshit crazy. Course I suppose it would be the same if I were self employed…

    Huh. I thought there was a point to this comment.

    The kid shouldn’t listen to his parents so much and I’m glad you’re back.

  3. Hmph.

    Yet one more example of the baby-boomers getting the cream of the crop (benefits, pension and job security).

    And by the next generation comes around, the well runs dry, and they’re screwed.

    This is why I’m against giving Seniors discounts at Tim Hortons. (Unless they’re a Veteran).

  4. I’m going self-employed when I make the move to Canada in June. Nervous about being able to make enough to support 4 people, but am looking forward to it to.

  5. Mr. G. – It’s tough when you have kids to think about. That’s why I’m still stuck here. But perhaps when I retire, I can take a few risks?? Thanks for the welcome.

    Jazz – I think I can find your point. I don’t think self-employment could possibly be as boring as being a corporate drone. Just all that stress from worrying about your next dollar would certainly keep things interesting.

    Friar – Yes, the next generation is certainly screwed in many respects, but they also have a lot more options available to them than we did. The Senior’s Discount question is a whole other blog post. If it makes you feel any better, I think we’re going to end up getting totally screwed on the whole senior’s perks thing. It’s just not going to be feasible to have us all riding around on buses for almost free or drinking discount coffee or buying cheap toiletries on Tuesdays. And there aren’t going to be enough tax dollars to even sustain the old age pensions as far as I can see. We’d better make sure we have lots of cash stashed under our mattresses.

  6. Sean – Oh boy! I wish you well. It’s a very brave move, but one that could pay off handsomely if done right.

  7. Ever since I was a young lad of 14, I dreamed of being a gigolo.
    I studied the works of the great gigolos. Knew the theories of the classic and neo-classic gigolos. Hell, I even passed the brutal entrance exams (GSATS)!
    It was my intent to follow my dream until I got involved in politics. Politics, like the public service, kills aspirations. It is the dream masher.
    And, of course, after politics was my entry into the public service. And my dreams of being a gigolo. A respected member of society. An entrepreneur. They died forever.
    Pity me.

  8. I think there will always be people looking for bosses and bosses looking for employees. for one, not everyone has the temperment to self-boss; it requires a lot of dedication, energy, and vision. I dont think I could do it! And also, at some point, if a business does really well, it becomes too big for one person or two to handle, and thus begins the division of responsibility, and PRESTO, thus is born the want-ad. :)

    But what I really want to say, is that poor kid really needs to tell off his parents and go after his dream. thats a sad story.

  9. Having done both (Self employed for 9 years, now a civil servant) I can tell you that they each have some very definite plusses and minuses to both. I don’t miss fighting for contracts, impenetrable RFPs, wondering if I will have work etc… On the other hand, I do miss taking 6 weeks off at a stretch, starting at 10 AM or taking a long lunch when it is sunny out. And grocery shopping in the middle of the day when the store is empty. I loved that.

    In all seriousness, life as a self-employed consultant can often be extremely tedious because you are hired to be an expert at one thing. SO after a while that one thing gets in our head and can get tiring.

  10. I have drifted in and out of self-employment for many years. There are benefits to being self-employed, but there’s a level of bullshit that is often overlooked as well. Honestly, I can’t say if being self-employed is “better” than having a regular job, but it is different.

    I’ve got a “regular” sort of job now, and I’m happy. Back in 1998 I was self-employed and I was happy. In between, happy went up and down and self-emplloyment went away and came back.

    What I can say is that you have to find something that you like doing. Work is soul-destroying if you don’t like it whether you’re in a regular job or self-employed.

  11. Oh I totally agree with you. My stepson is going to do the same thing the young man in your office is doing if he doesn’t have some great epiphany. He’s been brought up seeing there as being two options in life – the steady reliability of the civil service office job, or the reliability of a labour job. He’s been groomed academically since day one to make the white collar civil service job a breeze and I have actually heard his mother say “You don’t want to be the plumber your friends call do you???”

    In the meantime I have good friends who are FLEEING the civil service right now. In their early 40′s they are finally seeing that the private sector values them more, and taking the leap. Not a single one has regretted it.

  12. That is so disappointing that he went through all that trouble and expense of earning a degree in a field that he was passionate about and then doesn’t even make the effort to make a go of it. I hope he keeps on volunteering and has an open mind to possibly use his talents in something other than drudgery. If he waits too long he will need to start over and will lose any contacts he has made already.
    Sadly, no job is a guarantee of security or financial gain any more, so you should enjoy what you are doing first, then go for the bill paying jobs second if necessary.

  13. I’m glad you’re back!

    I wish I had the guts to be self-employed. I think about it often, but I don’t have a solid plan worked out yet (yet being the operative word). The days of job security are over and I finally realized that I’d rather do what I love than clock in and out of a job that I barely like.

  14. Rachel -You have a point. There will always be bosses and people who work for them – especially in the blue collar/retail type sector. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of public service and big business. But who knows. As for the “kid” telling his parents off…the guy is in his mid to late 20s now and pretty smart.. I don’t think he’d do anything just because they told him to.

    Chris – I always thought being a consultant was the worst of both worlds. On the one hand you have to scramble for contracts — always out there selling yourself, writing proposals, wondering where your next dollar is coming from. On the other hand you still have “bosses” who tell you what to do and how to do it. But then again, as you say you do have the freedom to take time off when you want it, set your own schedule and have the possibility of a much higher income than working for a regular salary.

    Squid – Absolutely the key is to do something you love first and foremost. I don’t think there are too many people who can actually say that they make their living each and every day doing something they love. Lots of people like their job; some people even claim to love their job – but they’d all rather be barbequing in the back yard than doing it.Do you know anyone who loves their job so much they can’t wait to get up in the morning to get at it? That there’s nothing they’d rather be doing?

    LGS – I think you’re right. Maybe he’ll see the light before it’s too late.

    Mudmama – The civil service is the valhalla of careers for a lot of people — especially people who aren’t civil servants. And for some of the old-timers. There are plenty of old timers I work with who got lucky and landed a job with the government right out of high school. They’ve got 30 years of service in; have no real qualifications – just a shitload of on-the-job experience. They’ve generally stuck to the same job all those years, have never taken advantage of the educational opportunites the job affords, have never applied for any competitions, are usually very active in the union. Those people are going to smack their kids five ways to Sunday if they don’t follow in their footsteps and get themselves a nice secure civil service job. And, yes, in many ways I feel very lucky to have this job, too. I stuck with it because I had a kid to raise alone and I couldn’t have asked for a more flexible employer, better benefits and opportuntiies than I’ve had here. If I hadn’t had a kid, I know for sure, I wouldn’t have stayed with the public service. I don’t know where I would have ended up — probably nowhere good!! So, my point is that it’s not the worst job in the world and for many people in various circumstances it’s the best choice they can make. But, for a young person with a good education and no ties? Why not see what else is out there first.

    Violetsky – I hope so. I figure he’s got a couple of years before his degree becomes irrelevant in the job market. But, I fear once you start accumulating pensionable years and grow accustomed to the salary and benefits and moderate pace of the public service, it’s extremely difficult to give that up for the uncertainty of anything else. I suspect he’s here for life.

    Mo – Hi nice to hear from you again, too!! I agree completely. So are you thinking of taking the plunge into self-employment soon?

  15. I’ve definitely been putting a lot of thought into it. I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough to do it, but then again, it’s easy to waffle a bit because I do have a job. I’m sure if I didn’t, I’d work my butt off to make sure I was successful.

  16. I was self-employed as a consultant for about 12 years and really loved it. However, you have to be far more organized and disciplined when you work for yourself. I liked consulting because it was full of new challenges and different people to interact with for each gig. Plus, if you really can’t stand someone you work with you just have to finish up the project and move on. And because you are the hired ‘expert’ you don’t really have a boss-boss because they are needing you for something that they can’t do on their own (at least in my case), so they listen to you way more than if you were someone working for them, I always found that to be true anyway. There are lots of advantages to it, but also some drawbacks, like finding your own healthcare and retirement plans. But those things are easily overcome and finding solutions gives you a chance to find out things you’d never even sort of understand in a ‘regular’ job.

    Yup, I’m all about self-employment :-)