In Praise of Salaried Employment
“The laborer’s day ends with the going down of the sun, and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit, independent of his labor; but his employer, who speculates from month to month, has no respite from one end of the year to the other.” Thoreau
Several months ago I wrote about something I hadn’t done in nearly 20 years: Apply for a job. In that post, I promised an update on what happened. Here’s what I’d planned to write:
“I was offered the job, and I accepted it …
Now, you may well wonder why a successful company seller and teacher of entrepreneurship would, in the midst of writing a three-month thread exhorting others to go solo or become more entrepreneurial in their work lives, suddenly become a university employee.
Let me explain.
First, this job is all about my lifework over the past 24 years. Never has a job seem to so well-suited to my interests and skills.
Second, I wanted to reengage in a community. For the past five years I’ve been writing, teaching, investing, and working on a new publishing-related venture. But aside from the periodic bursts of interaction each new class brings, these activities involve working either alone or with one, or occasionally two, other people. I like working solo, but I’m no hermit. I miss the community of the workplace. I love the work-at home-or coffee-shop work style, but I’m also feeling the need to be part of a larger community—and to have a place with my name on the door, where I can go to be part of something bigger, and where I can help others.
Third, my work is computer- and data-intensive, and can be done just about anywhere quiet where one can think, write, research, or compute. That’s fine, but it means I work a lot from home, library, and coffee shops, and tend to exercise the same skills over and over. I want to go to a place that requires new and different behaviors, where colleagues are available for face-to-face chats—and where my name’s on the door (or at least a mailbox).
Fourth, it’s a half-time job, so it leaves room for doctoral studies and my venture, which fortunately is something I can work on rather than in. Teachers should be practitioners, and I want to keep practicing. But the experience of applying, interviewing for, and accepting this job has renewed my appreciation for salaried employment.
Which is a good thing, because let’s face it: Most people are better off working as salaried employees rather than entrepreneurs.
A company is a community, and we all need community. Being a solo or small businessperson can be lonely and socially isolating (I think the most satisfied entrepreneurs are those who succeed in building companies big enough to become true work communities). Telecommuting or otherwise working alone sounds like a dream to those stuck in cubicles, but there’s a dark side, too (see reader Sarah’s Five Ways to turn Telecommuting into a Nightmare for a hilarious but provocative take on the work-at-home lifestyle).
Financially, too, it’s tough to beat a steady income for building wealth. While entrepreneurship can lead to outsized rewards, slow and steady saving and investing is the most reliable path to prosperity for most workers. Ignore financial news and sock away as much salary as you can.
A salaried job provides emotional stability along with financial security. The truth is that most people are happier and better off being employees. A workplace provides community, a belonging-place, camaraderie. At worst, it’s a place to commiserate with coworkers; at best, a place where lifelong friendships grow …”
I didn’t get the job.
Though I became one of three finalists, another candidate received and accepted the offer.
I was disappointed. I’d been confident of success, and had good reason to be so. Nevertheless, I had to face a bitter lesson life teaches over and over again: There’s always someone smarter, stronger, and more qualified.
So I’ll remain self-employed, and trod steadily toward my goal of becoming a half-time, salaried university professor. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to sing the praises of both entrepreneurship and salaried employment.
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