Slow-Paced Careers

The American workplace simply isn’t cut out for stress-free, slow-paced living. Yes, you can argue that how you perceive and respond to stress plays a big role in how a job feels, but it is unlikely that you’ll find a slow-placed, low-stress career working for somebody other than yourself.

Employers, by their very nature have needs, and as their employee, it is your job to take care of those needs. They are not paying you to take care of your needs. They are not paying you to move at your pace and enjoy life on your terms. Companies are set up to serve the needs of the owners and/or investors, etc. You and I, my dear readers, are just the cork in the wheel of big business.

Think about it: if you are the manager of a company, does it really matter if your employee needs to take a day off because her car breaks down? And her kids got sick? And her kids got her sick? And a relative passed away? And her menstrual cramps hurt so badly it renders her incapable of working for a couple of days? No, you just need her to come into work because you have to answer to the higher-ups. You need someone who will do the job, regardless of what’s happening at home. Business is so impersonal, that if an employee has too many personal problems, she will be let go for not prioritizing her commitment to the job.

How many times have you heard bosses say, “Check your personal problems at the door?” If you are going through a divorce, is your boss’s request truly realistic?  Regardless, the business just needs somebody who will work like an unemotional machine that just needs to be oiled a couple times a day (15-30 minute lunch breaks, anyone?)

I remember working a variety of different customer service jobs and the feeling was this: if you want to earn more money or get a promotion, you must come-in early, stay late, work through lunch and come in on your days off to prove your dedication. You had to forgo all needs in your personal life if you want to get ahead in your career. That is not a slow-paced career.
Now, if the job is your company, you care about the company’s needs. Sure, there are limitations, because of client obligations, but you can always delegate…

A slow-paced career to me, is working when you want to, and not working when you don’t or can’t. It’s not always that simple when you own your own company, but you have significantly more flexibility when you can decide to work between 7am-9am (or 7pm-9pm), in your pajamas, from your couch. When you own your own company, you are the boss. By that virtue alone you can eliminate people and situations that cause frequent stress. Do you have a client that stresses you out? Break-up with them. You don’t need their business. That energy could be better spent finding new, less stressful clients. Do you have employees who are lazy, annoying, or poor communicators? Let them go.

Furthermore, you don’t have to prioritize your “business” over the rest of your life. You don’t have to convince anyone of  your dedication to the company by working unpaid overtime. The business is your baby, of course you love it, but if you need a personal day, you can take one; you can organize your schedule around the way you work. Also, you don’t have to run your company like a mega-corporation. You can create a work-life balance for your employees and provide a slow-paced and low-stress environment.

Now as important as it is to me to own and run my own business (aka do what I love), I’m in a financial situation where I need to work for somebody else. Thus, I find jobs that fit within the parameters of what I enjoy doing.   I like working with kids; I like reading and talking about literature, so I’m going to teach English a high school in the fall. It’s not really a “slow-paced career,” but I’ll have some flexibility as to how I run my classroom so that it suits my needs.

Anyway, I recently found out that the school where I work pays an extra $5000 a year for teaching an extra class period and not taking a planning period. I don’t know if it’s optional or not, but if it is, that money is incredibly tempting if you start to think about what it could pay for. Nonetheless, I think it’s foolish to take the extra money over the extra time. (I nearly always pick time over money.) See, by taking the planning period, there’s an extra 5 hours per week (where you have to be at school either way) to grade papers, create lesson plans, and deal with all the other administrative stuff that comes with being a teacher. If you don’t take the planning period, you end up spending those 5 hours teaching and making more work for yourself, i.e. more papers to grade. That’s a total of 180 hours during the course of the school year that will move into your personal time. Yes, you might need the money to pay for some things, or support a one-income household, but forgoing planning period will burn you out so quickly. You could get sick and have to spend the extra cash on medical bills for a stress-related illness. I think there are ways to cut expenses so you don’t need that money. In the end, you’ll have more time for yourself.

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Don’t you realize, the whole point of having a job is so you can buy stuff to keep your employer in business. Why do you think we got extra tax refund money the last few years? So we could “stimulate the economy” by buying stuff.

You may not benefit your company directly with your expenditures, but your spending will find a way to benefit them. For instance, lets say you work as an claims adjuster for a car insurance company. The money you earn there seems as if it can in no way benefit your company. However, you bought a car didn’t you? You are required by law to insure it, aren’t you?

Buying things keeps us permanently enslaved to our jobs. I’m always looking for a way that I could live exclusively off of part-time income. Unfortunately, my student loans won’t allow me to do that (a story for another time). But the money I’m not spending on an iPhone (or iPhone data/cell plan) and lavish television services, saves me money at the end of the month. Imagine what I would add to my expenses if I had a car payment?

I guess I just want to conclude by saying this: There is no one fits all solution to a slow-paced / low-stress career working the night shift as a security job. For others that might mean substitute teaching (no papers to grade).  A slow-paced career may mean not taking on more than you can handle in your present position. For me, that means working for myself and choosing “writer/editor/blogger” as my career.

What slow-paced job do you have? How do you keep your current job from becoming too stressful? 

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