As millennials, we know more people than ever who do not work a straight 9-5 (or 8-4, or 7-3) job. Whether they be artists, freelancers, tailors, or successful professionals setting their own schedule, new media hails them as having ‘freed us from the 9-5’.
Through college and for several months after, I worked. And I worked a lot. While not 9-5 all the time, I had glimpses of what that life looks like, and I’m here to tell you that it need not be the soul-sucking evil it’s often portrayed as. I had a great time this summer, and I’ve had a great time working other 9-5 jobs, but I’ve also had a terrible time. Here, though, are a few reasons why the 9-5 isn’t dead, won’t die for a long time, and shouldn’t be killed.
A generation of freelancers runs the risk of turning into a generation of introverts. I enjoy being around people, but on the balance, I consider myself an introvert. However, working with others in social jobs where we all depend on one another the past few years has helped me gain a ton of social skills, and connect with people you otherwise wouldn’t–I just met my girlfriend working on a resort this summer.
At work, you connect with your coworkers, and not just because you’re both miserable. At the resort I worked at, we had closed the driveway for sledding for 50 guests or so when one of our coworkers heard that her daughter had gone into a diabetic coma. We were able to make sure she got away quickly and as she was waiting at the bottom of the driveway, I got to give her a hug and let her know I was there for her–If I could watch her daughters, if I could do anything for her.
I went to a Liberal Arts College for three years and with a BA, still learned much less than I have in that time while working. Without necessarily intending to, and just working summers and part time during school, I’ve learned a good deal about the natural history of my area, Italian charcuterie, shotguns, archery, rock climbing and ziplines, and it has bettered my sense of presentation–both how to present myself and my work to guests, customers, or clients–a skill particularly prescient for freelance work.
When you work in a particular organization for a while, you get to learn how work is done there, how it could get done better, and how to make good changes in a group of people. I’ve had managers who were highly effective, and managers who could not bring out the best in their people–and I’ve learned from that, how to have high expectations and still be humane about it, how to use authority without abusing it.
You also get a feeling for the place, and develop a strong bond of affection for the small rituals. Working at an incredibly hectic deli taught me how to really enjoy a cup of coffee and the newspaper, and working at a resort taught me to really enjoy making a kid smile at work. Sometimes the best satisfactions aren’t the ones that occur in social isolation–sometimes it’s a good conversation over lunch, and sometimes it’s a bellyacher of a joke that does more for you than an hour of yoga.
Am I happy that I have a choice as to how to earn a living? Yes, without a doubt–and I’m trying my hand at freelancing now, between a few seasonal jobs. But I also don’t think that we ought to demonize something that rose our parents to the upper middle class and allowed us the chance to freelance. I also don’t think we give enough credit to careers–they are not merely an economic means of earning a way, but also a path to connect with people, root down, empower yourself, and make the world better. In that way, freelancing–which purports to free us from our career–may boil us down to our jobs.