Friday, February 5, 2010

Getting out of the box of your job (or joblessness)

I think that more and more of us will need to live without jobs. Lots of research & statistics tell us this. This could be a good thing. While there won't be as many jobs, we still need to work and take care of each other.

I left my full-time job a year and a half ago. Since then, I've been a lot happier, learned a lot, done some good work, and made enough money (though less money than before).

Without a full-time job, my work has often had a different relationship with money:
  • My family sometimes does work as a barter. Right now a friend is fixing our bathtub. As part of his payment, my wife will take photos of his family.
  • I sometimes do work as marketing. I make presentations about spirituality and leadership. I tell people they can hire me as a consultant for their organization.
  • I do work because I love what I'm doing and/or I love who I am doing the work with and for. I organized a forum about faith and organizations because I'm passionate about that topic.
  • I do work because someone around me needs something. I have the flexibility to take someone in my faith community to the hospital.
  • I do work that builds relationships and social capital. I help a friend make a web-site. That friend connects me to an organization that contracts with me for strategic planning.
  • I do work to learn. I co-facilitate a discernment group at a church, and I learn new ways groups can deepen personally and improve the church at the same time.
  • I do work because I think God is asking me to do it. I facilitate a spirituality group at a treatment center.
  • And, yes, I do work to earn money. I do some projects through paying contracts. Sometimes I might ask for donations to support projects I'm doing.
Of course, I can sometimes naively not pay enough attention to earning money. It is also possible to passively wait for just the right job before we use our talents and creativity to meet the needs around us. At this point in time the United States especially needs the talents and creativity of the millions of people who are unemployed and underemployed--both to meet the immediate needs around us and for the innovation needed to develop a sustainable, just society.

A range of groups are pioneering how to draw on this broader range of motivations for work. The free classes offered by Exco College are an example here in the Twin Cities. The millions of people who write for Wikipedia are an example on a larger scale. These groups are tapping into a growing group of freelance entrepreneurs who give for reasons other than money.

We all come at this dynamic with different kinds of privileges and challenges. I had the luxury of being able to choose to leave my job. On the other hand, I have learned the most about creatively and faithfully serving those around us from a friend of mine who was recently homeless and has been unable to find paying work for a long time.

How are you getting out of the box of your job (or out of your unemployment) to offer what is most needed around you?