Plenty of summer jobs and internships are ending this week. In the ideal case, the trainee is left with relevant job experience, a reference, a nice nest egg from the salary, and an overall feeling of satisfaction. The trainee can feel content for having started the job.
In the worst case, none of these exist, but instead the trainee, having worked all summer, has the start of a burnout and a red-hot hatred towards the whole working life, leaving the trainee asking why they took the job in the first place.
Unfortunately, both options are equally possible, and one can never know beforehand which one occurs.
However, most often work is just work: sometimes pleasant, sometimes boring, at times a bit tiring, often just pretty nice.
Work is a source of joy and sadness, anxiety and contentment for the modern people. Some have been given an insufferable amount of work (because the previous round of cooperation negotiations resulted in half the employees being axed), while some struggle to find a job regardless of constantly trying. (Except telemarketing, those places are always hiring!)
Work, employment, and especially unemployment have been hot topics under the current government. According to the latest statistic (21st of August) from Statistics Finland, the employment rate in our country has risen to 71.9 percent. Without a doubt this is good news, even though all kinds of speculations and doubts have been raised where these new jobs have appeared from.
Unemployment has a negative effect on national economy. Still, work is also a question of morality: people feel work is something one must do to be a good person; an actual, valuable part of the society.
I noticed the effect this way of thinking has when I was left unemployed for the first time after graduation. Not only was it unpleasant to make do with a meagre sum of money, the feeling of worthlessness and futility was also hard. No one needed me in anything, so I was not worth a thing.
The gloominess was only interrupted by brief periods of employment: if I was going to have a freelancing gig or a temping in a newspaper, I could once again breathe in the morning.
The importance of work is of course undisputed: it secures one’s livelihood, and at best cases it offers meaningful and significant feelings, pleasant fellow workers, occupational health services, and a meaningful way of spending eight hours of one’s day.
Of course, not all work has to be really special, stimulate one’s intellectuality, and look good in a resume. Sometimes work is just work, and it is done to receive salary. And that is enough.
Those who have a job, go sometimes to the other extreme and do only work and nothing else. Work takes over one’s life completely, and every hour is spent on working, apart from sleeping and eating.
Being entirely drawn into work is both a possibility and a danger. Significant, fun, and rewarding work is something one can do regardless of the hours, being completely exhausted, and ignoring one’s well-being. One must have the strength to carry on, as the work is pleasing in the end.
This is something I have run into in other places as well: in studies, in associations and positions of trust, in voluntary work, and in bands.
Sacrificing oneself and giving up everything for the sake of work feels good at first, but only up to a certain point. After that, the results are usually fatigue, cynicism, disgust, and eventually bitterness, in a varying order.
Therefore, a reminder for all the heroic workers: even though your job (or your degree, your work in an organisation, the voluntary work you do, or your band) feels like the most important thing in the world, do not let it grow larger than you, and do not let it be the only thing that defines your identity.
Because if you are suddenly left without it, what is then left of you?
This is a wisdom I have tried to teach to myself. When I have drowsily poured my usual cup of coffee in the morning, our office secretary Riitta has given me an excellent piece of advice. She recommended me to pour some water into a glass, and then place my finger in the water.
If a hole remains in the water when I pull out my finger, I am irreplaceable in my work.
Otherwise, I am not.
Translation: Kalle Parviainen.