Worker Contentment: Facing the Realities of Today's Workplace

Article excerpt

Is it possible for graduating students to have a traditional career in the new millennium? How should they prepare for their careers when workers are being forced to take jobs they don't really want, and stay longer in jobs they don't really like just to have a job? This article proposes a holistic approach to career education that gives hope to students and their ability to have and enjoy their best career without depending on employers to make them happy.

Preparing students to enter the workforce has historically involved narrowing their career choices and enhancing their marketability with polished resumes, custom cover letters, and expert interview skills. Throughout this learning process students are conditioned to expect that in return for their investment in education, plus their good labor and loyalties on the job, employers will make them satisfied with wages, benefits, training, and so forth. Employers reinforce this expectation by leveraging the idea of job satisfaction as the principal carrot to attract, motivate and retain workers. This enduring approach to employment and career seems reasonable until an examination of new workplace realities reveals gaps in education that can't be filled by apprenticeships or internships. Missing is the development of a student's mental and emotional abilities to compete for fewer jobs, and to persevere despite undesirable jobs and circumstances that employers can't, or won't make satisfying.

It's surprising how students are still being conditioned to expect job satisfaction when employers are not committed to making workers satisfied. Over the past two decades employers have been criticized by the media, unions and the government for mistreating workers due to layoffs, eliminating jobs and benefits, freezing and reducing wages, and for scandals involving mismanagement, greed and corruption. These actions have contributed to record unemployment, disillusionment and dissatisfaction, and the lack of loyalty among workers who question the feasibility of having the type of career they originally imagined and were prepared for.

Management experts have observed that the employment relationship has become contractual, fragile, and short-lived. Downsizings have resulted in some people having far too much work and stress, while increasing numbers have no work at all. According to the February issue of the Pew Report, nearly 37 percent of Millennials are unemployed, which is the highest share among this age group in more than three decades. As a result, people are taking jobs they don't really want and staying longer in jobs they don't really like just to have a job. Millions of unemployed and employed workers arc suffering in fear and with little hope of a better future, except to reinvent themselves and their careers. The January 18 issue of BusinessWeek put it this way: "The workforce is now comprised of permanently temporary workers who are disposable."

These are the realities that new job-seekers entering the workforce are facing at the start of their careers, and they will continue to face throughout their careers. For career education to be relevant it should go beyond the traditional employment tips and tools that are freely available from thousands of Internet sites, and address the dynamics of managing a career amidst these new workplace realities. Rather than cause students to expect job satisfaction, give them a whole new employment mindset to achieve and maintain career contentment, with or without job satisfaction.

Employment Mindset

Curriculum that prepares a student's mindset for career focuses on employment from a holistic perspective that involves his or her core beliefs, clear intentions or purposes, performance enhancing emotions, and his or her resolved abilities and etiquette to establish relationships and achieve results. Because people act on their emotions caused by what they think, and because a person's career is not performed in a vacuum, his or her mindset is an important indicator of healthy self-esteem, non-negative thinking, self-motivation, propensity to engage naturally with work and other people, and his or her enduring resilience to persevere and maintain performance despite circumstances. …