Big fish in a small pond

I started back at work yesterday after three weeks off. As I parked my car I groaned at the thought of being back at work but within about ten minutes I was thinking, "Oh, that's right, I love this job."

I do love my job but I was surprised the other day to hear what a friend thinks about it. She knew me back when I was working in the insurance industry and earning quite a bit more than I am now. In those days I was in a job with some responsibility and influence but I was still just part of the machine. I left that job to go to uni and eventually ended up where I work now, which is very different in a variety of ways and also pays about $18,000pa less than the other job. My friend's email to me asked me whether I regret leaving the insurance job, particularly in view of the pay differential. I replied with an emphatic 'no', because the job satisfaction and environment in my current job far outweigh the money factor; and although it now takes me a long time to save up for any major purchases, I'm certainly making enough to eat and pay bills and have the occasional treat - and I'm happy with that. Her response to me was, "I thought that's what you'd say. I knew you'd be happier being the big wheel there than being a small fish in a big pond."

I'm not entirely sure how she meant that response to be taken but I was kind of offended. She seems to have missed the point. My job enjoyment doesn't stem from the fact that I am a "big wheel" (which I'm not because my role consists almost entirely of providing assistance to the people who are the real 'big wheels'). My job enjoyment stems from the fact that I am in a supportive environment where we all respect and care for each other. When I had to take three days off work because I had a bad reaction to an antidepressant I had phone calls and messages from everyone at work (and from my boss's wife) and they all asked if there was anything they could do to help me, like bring a meal around. If I'd had the bad reaction while at my previous job they would have said, "Make sure you get a medical certificate." And for that matter I would never have told them it was an antidepressant that had caused the reaction because I couldn't trust them not to hold it against me in some way.

People talk about work/life balance - as though 'work' is separate from 'life' - and about the importance of job satisfaction but I'm starting to think that most people don't mean it. Or perhaps it's that job satisfaction has become tied up with money, like we can only be satisfied at work if we're earning X dollars. I would have no objections to earning more money but I've come to realise lately that I really don't want money if it comes with the stresses and lack of support - the facelessness - inherent in the types of jobs I used to have.

It's not at all about being the big wheel. It's about being a person and not a resource. That makes all the difference.


Dee from Downunder said...

You are right, being a person is more important. I left a pretty good paying job after having my first child, but the environment was not a happy one. A friend still works there, despite how she hates it, as she would not get the same pay rate if she were to try somewhere else, not that she's driven by money, more that she is relying on that rate of pay to live. So she stays in a job she hates, with all the hidden stresses eating away at her.

Givinya De Elba said...

Your friend's comment was a bit funny hey? You're so right - if you're making ends meet, what is the POINT of earning more money? If you don't need the extra money and that job would give you much less satisfaction, then you're much better off now.

Femina said...

Don't get me wrong - if they OFFERED me an extra $18K I wouldn't turn it down! :) It's pretty unlikely though so I don't think I need to worry about struggling with materialism. I do recognise that I'm very fortunate to be in a position where I can take a job at the lower end of the scale and not have to worry about paying a mortgage or feeding anyone but me. Sometimes I struggle a bit (the new couch and the new washing machine will remain a dim and distant vision for at least another year) but mostly I'm happy to pay the necessities... and blog a lot, because it's fun AND free!

I've been in the workforce for 20 years, off and on, and until this job I had no idea what it was like to work in a job that I really REALLY enjoy. It's not that I hated the other jobs - well, some of them I did, but mostly they were just okay. I assumed that unless you have a real CALLING for something, work is just a thing you do until you retire. For many people that's the way it is, and that may be the case for me again in the future, so for now I'll just enjoy what I have.

Hippomanic Jen said...

I'm glad you enjoy your work, and the pay meets your needs, even if it does take that little bit longer for those big purchases.

It's nice to meet someone who has decided that there is more to life than the extra money they could earn. I guess I did a similar thing (although had never thought of it that way) - I could earn more if I lived in the city. I don't want to live in the city and so work for myself in the town where my Mum & Dad and Grandparents live.

And I wouldn't turn down the extra $18K if I was offered it either.

Lilly's Life said...

You said it - being a person and not a resource. When we are on our death bed we certainly are not going to miss the money or what it buys us. Just the relationships we make and you cannot do that properly if you are really unhappy in your job or working too long hours. Besides stress manifests itself in all strange physical and emotional problems. You are the sensible one. And you dont need to explain it to people other than saing you are happy.

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dr maya vale said...

One of my favourite books uses several mottos to encapsulate the themes that run through them - one is: "Enough is as good as a feast". Aside from the obvious lefty, utopian, Communist feel to the idea, I interpret it to mean that it's about retraining ourselves away from being rampant consumers and thus identify ourselves in other ways. Job satisfaction and enjoying life within your means are just two ways that that works out.

Of course, faith in Christ, well, is there a better feast to be at? Why settle for a comfortable life when you can be happy, and why settle for happiness when you can have joy?

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