Making or getting a job

In the way of things as soon as I started to think about self-designed jobs several relevant items flung themselves into my path. Once I read that this sort of event is called 'reticular activation', for example, when you read a word you haven't seen before and look it up you then see it constantly ever after and can't imagine why you didn't notice it before.

The topic of self-designed jobs came my way as I was working on my conference presentation – The Future of Work for The Economist Talent Management Summit and in particular the three types of work that Robert Reich talks about in his book The Work of Nations. He describes three types – routine, person to person, and symbolic analytic (knowledge work). Someone suggested a fourth category to me of 'artisan' which I go along with.

And then I read the Fast Company piece by Baratunde Thurston 'Kids Incorporated' . He remarked that he 'met the 16-year-old son of noted South African businessman Andile Ngcaba. He and his dad were on a break from their tour of U.S. colleges; Ngcaba wanted his computer-programmer son to see what full-grown developers do at hackathons. (Important lesson: We eat Korean food and drink beer.)
As we talked, the young Ngcaba told me he met a person at a school who kept talking about how graduates get jobs. "And I thought, What is this obsession with getting a job? You make a job!"

Making a job might be the future of work. Think about it. I feel that making a job is not the same as having an idea and then finding venture capital in an entrepreneurial type way. Making a job seems more like a gradual evolution from something that is seeded somehow in a person's interests and hobbies, and generates from that.

Exploring this idea with various people over the last few days I heard several delightful stories. Like the person who taught people with learning difficulties and then realized that one of their major hurdles was negotiating public transport. She now does full-time (paid) work as a travel trainer and advocate for travel training for people with learning disabilities.

This same person has twinned herself with a Nigerian school for children with learning disabilities. She's raised money for bunk beds, bedding, equipment and so on. Essentially making herself a second job.

A participant at the conference told me that he is moving to Switzerland as his wife has got a job there. He is not sure what he is going to do himself, but he has various interests he thinks he might work with and see where they go. He identified with the phrase 'making a job' when he heard me talk about it – it's something he's rather excited about.

Then today I was watching the Crossover dance company rehearsing for a performance they're going to do. It's a multigenerational company established by Cecilia McFarlane who 'formed the company in 2003 and is the artistic director. She is an Oxford based independent dance artist with an international reputation for her work in the community.' Formerly she was a Senior Lecturer in Arts in the Community, Coventry University – a 'real' job that I'm assuming she 'got'. Out of this she has become an independent – having made herself a different job. Perhaps in response to retirement or redundancy – though that is surmise.

Talking with a friend we were saying how difficult it is to make a job within the existing framework of organizations. Jobs are framed by job descriptions, performance management systems, reporting lines, grades/levels/entitlements, reward structures and so on. This leads to several issues, among them – lack of accountability (it's not in my job description'), failure to connect things going wrong or right and act on the findings e.g. Staffordshire NHS, and inertia in the face of change – a classic is the lag of organizational IT compared with consumer IT.

If people had more autonomy to make their own jobs in organizations then there might be more engagement? I just read an article on employee engagement that that offers 'Ten Vital Steps' to 'rev up' employee engagement. None of them are to do with encouraging employees to make their own jobs within an organization.

Have you made your own job within an organization? Do you think that the future of work is making a job or getting a job (within or without an organization)? Let me know.

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