Tag Archives: economy

Fun Is Fine Because It’s Fun

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

The ever indomitable MagenCubed had a great comment on Twitter about how we often feel we’re not allowed to have fun. That writing, art, everything fun has to have Some Deeper Meaning, or Some Potential Profit. I have to agree with her, the idea that our fun must somehow Become A Big Thing seems very pathological and way, way too common.

Sure, I write on how people can use their hobbies on the job, but as I’ve often stated know the value of your hobbies and just fun is fine. I feel it’s best we’re honest and clear on our interests, and part of that is to say something like “shut up I’m playing Overwatch to goof off, go away.”

It seems everything has to be monetized. Or therapeutic. Or advance our careers. Or it has to have some meaning beyond what it is. I actually remember when it wasn’t this way! Really!

So I began asking why. What happened? I think there’s five factors affecting turning fun into work.

The longest trend is simply our culture, which idolizes work and productivity and earning money. The idea that somehow if we’re not making money or planning to make money or working real hard something is wrong. It’s sort of an unholy fusion of American Capitalism, Protestant Work Ethic, and a fetishization things having to be “useful.”

Secondly, in the last few years, we’ve also seen the increase of the gig economy, from contractors to Uber drivers. This kind of economy is one without permanent employment or reliable income, and thus one is always hustling and scrambling. It’s too easy to have that attitude leak into our hobbies, and in many cases the “permanent hustle” leads us to constantly worry about tradeoffs of profitable versus unprofitable time.

Third, even when employment is reliable, it doesn’t seem too reliable in the last few years. There’s always the temptation to add a second stream of income, or just see if one can monetize a hobby. How many of us are worried that one corporate acquisition is going to kill our jobs, and isn’t the temptation there to have some cover . . .

Fourth, with all the other crap we have going on, it seems that we think that art or tv or whatever has to have some Great Healing Purpose or Deep Personal Exploration. It’s as if something can’t be good for us because we enjoy it. It has to be some deep thing that transforms us utterly or has some great deep meaning. Also, of course, this justifies us not making money at it – we’re pursuing something Great And IMportant.

Finally, we’ve also created so many tools and options, from Patreon to self-publishing, it’s easy to try and monetize any work. It’s not much effort to shave the serial numbers off of fanfic and hit up Kindle or Draft2Digital. Sure you like art, but it couldn’t hurt to try a Pateron, could it? It’s so easy to try and monetize we may try it before we ask if it’s a good idea.

Our culture, our economy, the push to have deep healing meaning, and the ease with which we can try to monetize hobbies is a powerful combination. I think it’s left us constantly worried we’re not working, and turning fun into work just in case – and because we can.

So no matter, have fun. Fun is it’s own purpose. Fun is fine. Fun is good. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just have fun.

Even me. Now and then people like me need to be told “back off, I’m goofing off.”

Steven Savage

Career Thoughts Late 2017

I haven’t done a career post in awhile. I’ve been focused on my worldbuidling books and expanding my repetoire, but I’m still the Geek Job Guru, and it’s time I do a bit more of that.

So with 2017 stumbling along, from political chicanery to security issues to media scandals, let’s talk the career landscape so far. It’s . . . weird.

Economy:

  • The stock market is humming along, but in the midst of political chaos, assorted scandals, and growing social and economic issues. In short, I don’t trust it, and expect a soft landing at best, or a steep (but not radical) decline in the next year or two.
  • Political uncertainty with our current administration can balloon out of control very quickly, especially in cases of military action or impeachment. It’s pretty hard to prepare for this, but you’ll want to. For instance, I have a few “economic emergency plans” in place just in case.
  • With all of the above, I think some economic downturn is simply unavoidable. The question is how severe it will be and how long it will last.

Speaking of Economic Emergency Plans:

  • As much as I like making Plan A work, it’s good to think ahead on your plan for an economic downturn both local, national, and global. This is because we might get one. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but it’s good to have a basic one so you don’t have to worry about it.

Where To Work

  • As much as I love the Bay Area, our housing issues are starting to impact recruiting. I consider this place a good area to move, but urge caution and careful research. I think we’ve got another 2 or so years of this so if you move here – keep this in mind.
  • Amazon’s big plan to make a new HQ is probably going to create a rush, but based on what they said, I wouldn’t expect it to be in a truly major area (Boston, Chicago, etc.). It’d be more a secondary or tertiary city. I also don’t consider it a guarantee of stimulating the economy.
  • My usual recruiting pings seem to be coming from all over lately, I haven’t noticed any trends except “all over.”
  • One big warning is that if you do move, treat it as permanent. You never know and I don’t trust current stability – make sure you’re in a place that can take economic downturns.
  • The bloom is very much off the Tech Company rose after the endless waves of scandals. This doesn’t mean these aren’t good places to work or good options, and people are still investing in some strange ideas. I take it more that we’re seeing things come back to oft-painful reality.
  • Side note on tech companies – considering the scandals we’ve seen from harassment to promoting propaganda, consider that there’s probably more to come by the odds. Adjust expectations appropriately.

Staying Mobile

  • I’ve seen a increase in recruiters looking for people willing to move around for temporary assignments. I’m mixed on this idea since it can lead you all over the place, affect your lifestyle and social life, and perhaps even health. But it might be good as filler.

 

Career Options

  • After the issues with Equifax, you can believe security is going to be an issue in jobs. I’d suggest playing that up if you have the experience and keeping an eye out for opportunities. This is a place to build a permanent career – that hasn’t changed, it’s just more urgent.
  • I’ve recently been introduced to a less-seen world of change control and training and business analysis. This is a fascinating area you may want to check out – because it’s omnipresent and it’s evolving. I’ve also noticed Analyst work is big for both starting careers and bringing them to a conclusion.
  • I’m seeing more and more people doing side projects quite openly, like my books or Seventh Sanctum. If you have one and can make it public, go for it.
  • As for what jobs people should do or train for – that’s something I’m honestly not sure of now. All I can say is do your research.

Job Searches

  • There seems to be a lot of talent mismatch out there with people, companies, etc. This is actually a warning as desperate people may hire wrong.  I think it may be getting worse.
  • On top of the above, I’m seeing more specific recruitment attempts – at times incredibly specific in ridiculous ways. These jobs then stay open forever. Applying for them if you don’t fit enough is probably a waste of time.
  • Recruiters are getting a lot more aggressive the last few months based on what I’ve seen. That may be good, but can be annoying, can lead to a bad mismatch. Also a few companies are outsourcing recruiting and these recruiters are kinda clueless.
  • Pay rates seem very stagnant as of late, possibly regressing, at least based on personal experience. You may need to be aggressive – and I suspect this is part of further problems (above). People want to deal with mismatches cheap and fast.

 

The entire economy and job market seems to somehow be moving forward erratically while also being in a holding pattern. So if you have any input, I’d appreciate it.

– Steve

Ready For The Next Economic Bump – And For Those Who Aren’t?

So no I don’t think we really “recovered” from the Great Recession.  Some of us did.  Some of us didn’t.  Some people’s lives are getting worse.

And though I don’t expect another dot-com bubble, there’s plenty to be concerned about.  I’m concerned about student debt, about income inequality, about whatever Putin is up to in Russia, about the climate.  Narrowing this down to economic issues, we’ve got enough going on that at some point we can expect another big bump in the economic road.

Another recession.  Another thing akin to the housing market collapse if not quite as bad – general slowdown, the student loan debt issue spiking early, more middle east trouble.  There’s enough problems we can expect something.

There’s two factors to consider here.

First, we all have to be ready, because I think the next bump, the next recession is a “when” not an “if.”  There’s too many threats to economic stability to ignore, let alone the fact that there’s always cycles of up and down.  Everyone should have a plan to:

  1. Save enough money to survive a downturn (I figure minimum going six months with no salary whatsoerver).
  2. Be able to relocate if needed with relative ease if needed – or work elsewhere for awhile.
  3. Have a few branching possibilities for their life and career.

It’s not survivalism (which I don’t support, survivalism has a way of being a self-fulfilling prophecy), it’s just having that plan in your pocket just in case.  You may never need it, but having one helps.

But the other factor?

Secondly, how many people won’t have a plan for the above or can’t.

That’s actually a bigger concern.  After the Great Recession wore people out, destroyed savings, disrupted lives, I’m concerned a lot of people simply can’t survive another recession, as previous experience has left them without the savings, with debt, and with low income – an issue that has been discussed for years.  Note discussed, not much has been done.

So when we hit the next economic bump, how many people won’t be able to make it?

That’s a real issue that’s hard to plan for.  If the American economy hits a bad streak, it could devastate a lot of the population.  That may mean the next economic downturn is going to have a lot more severe consequences by the fact so many people are living less stable lives.

And . . . it’s hard to plan for that.  It’s hard to get a grasp of how bad it is for people, how vulnerable they are – and what it means for any economic downturn.  Your survival plan, my survival plan, for a recession may not be as effective when so many people’s lives become much worse. Any recession could be worse than past data predicts because our socio-economic foundations are much weaker.

It’s also a reminder that part of your life plan, your career plan, of just being a good citizen is to be aware of these issues and vote on them.

I’d still make plans for the future, to be ready for that bump.  Just remember it may be a lot bumpier, so make wise choices . . .

  • Steve