Too often than not I am bombarded with the message that being entrepreneurs is what every young and old man and woman should pursue. It is a pinnacle of one’s career or even life. There is an implicit message hovering out there that dropping out of college and building your own startup or business is cool and worth your sweat, hardship and blood and tears. Suddenly everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk, or Kevin Systrom, or other household names of entrepreneurship. These self-made men and women are unbeatable geniuses because of their grit and luck.
In the meantime, I have been also inundated with the disillusional impression that the gig economy is what the world is now requiring badly to overcome high rate of unemployability. I have seen some of those desperate young men with bachelor’s degrees are turning to the informal sector. They are just unlucky with their job search. Or they may be too picky. Or they simply do not fit in any corporate environment. Or their skills are not needed by those companies or government agencies. You can find these unfortunate educated workforce among the online ojek or taxi fleets in Jakarta. Instead of getting too unrealistic with ideal job expectation, they get real with the world, trying to make money out of their spare time and unused energy of youth.
As the gig economy gives much room to the rise of freelancers, I have also seen and experienced myself how fragile life can be if you are freelancers. The freedom you adore and religiously defend against everything else can become a boomerang that hits and hurts you back.
Working as a freelancer usually is dubbed as a professional path that offers a high level of freedom and flexibility and mobility and prospect of increasing income. Bid farewell to office hours and work desks and office politics! But guess what? Digital gig economy is in fact bad for our well being, as one study of Oxford University suggested . The reasons are many but the most prominent are the poor quality working conditions; long, irregular and anti-social hours which can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion; and insane workloads and super tight deadlines that even Superman cannot meet. A Thai movie titled “Heart Attack” (2015) accurately depicts the misery of working as a freelancer. Yun, the protagonist, is told as a 30-year-young man who works on a freelance basis. He works so hard he almost completely sacrificed even his own well being. He almost died of a sudden heart attack, kudos to a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and sleepless working pattern.
Can Life as a ‘Corporate Slave’ be Fulfilling?
That question arises as I watched k-drama “Misaeng”, which in Korean translates to “Incomplete Life”. But as I think over and over again, is a life as a corporate worker always incomplete, mundane and boring?
My hunch is it is considered to be so because there are many people see this type of life as ordinary experience. It is part of their everyday life and they cannot see something special, fresh or inspiring in it. Why should you watch an entertainment product that reminds you of those bad bosses, hateful coworkers, or unforgiving office politics that you have always despised throughout work days? Isn’t it better to watch something else other than ordinary materials as an alternative of entertainment theme?
But as much as many people hate the life of typical corporate slaves, there are still many life lessons — and meaningfulness — that you may find from it.
It Is All about Human Relationship
The “e-mail attitude” sends out an impression that you can work on your own anywhere anytime in your own work field and position. Write and things will get done.
Yet, the thing is that wouldn’t always be what happens.You can send emails and get feedback and problems still persist.
Even if you work in a team in a startup that works at home and you cannot see them in person every single day, the relationship factor still matters a lot.
To perform well, you need to build relationships. E-mails cannot replace them.
Working as entrepreneurs or freelancers is often glorified as prestige.
Entrepreneurs are usually highly paid and get the reputation of being the most daring, shrewd, and competitive of all. They shape the world and contribute to the advancement of human race.
Meanwhile, freelancers are ‘free birds’ who are [seemingly] dependent of big companies. They are free from the pressure of tycoons and shareholders who own these corporations. Freelancers are their own employers. They decide with whom to work, how much they get paid, how much workload they can handle.
But I apologize for bursting the bubble, as these may not be true at all.
I’ve seen some entrepreneurs are highly paid and extremely depressed and suicidal as well. Their work life balance is plumetting, taking sanity as its toll. And though it seems they have achieved things others cannot, they also have to sacrifice more than others.
Freelancing is always considered the best lifestyle and career path too but don’t we know that it is a crushing choice of profession as well? A freelancer has no certain time frame for work, meaning they can even work on weekends, robbing their well being as well. And if clients demand work to get done in a very short time, s/he cannot say no. Because money is what s/he needs badly!
Life of Corporate Workers can Be Meaningful
Life as corporate workers can be meaningful, too. I believe humans are entitled to giving meaning to everything they experience or have or not lack.
By saying this I am by no means saying that working as a corporate worker is the best career path one must choose. But trust me, it is not worse than entrepreneurs’ and freelancers’ life.
Corporate workers contribute to the economy, too. They work hard to help entrepreneurs realize their visions. Thus, they also contribute to the civilization.
Corporate workers can also gain freedom, too. They can resign whenever they want if they find their employers incongruous with their beliefs.
Corporate workers are also the bridge between their employers and freelancers. They articulate their superiors’ aspiration into explanation digestible to freelancers.
So, do you still think the life of corporate workers meaningless? Think again. (*/)