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Working for the “Man”

 • By: Guy Rich | Executive Manager – GMR Strategic Management

During February StatsSA announced that the youth unemployment rate had reached 58% while the official unemployment rate in South Africa was at 29%  – the highest level since the global financial crisis of 2008.  Really worrying figures if you consider South Africa as a developing country with little prospect of economic growth in the near future as forecast by those “in the know”.
A few years ago I addressed a group of students at a local university – all between the age of 19 and 21.  I asked them where they wanted to work once they had finished studying.  The overwhelming majority – over 80% – indicated that they wanted to work for government.  Why, I asked?  Because it is an easy job, good pay, security and, most of all, you don’t have to work hard.  This was the response I got.
A recent study found that most employees who have worked in the government sector for a number of years and then leave government for the private sector return to government positions within six months to a year of initially leaving.  The reason – working in the private sector is “too hard” compared to the “easy life” they had in their well-paying government positions.  The expectations, performance and required productivity are “too high”.
The same study found that employees who moved from the private sector to the public sector found the “pace of work life” a lot more relaxed and easier – a simple 8-4 job, five days a week, significant “job security” and, to a large degree, a care-free attitude.
On the contrary, highly self-motivated, productive and self-disciplined individuals who left the private sector for the public sector often didn’t last longer than six months in government.  The reason – they did not feel challenged, their prospects of promotion and advancement were slim and the “pace of life” in government was too slow and rigid for their personalities.  These individuals found themselves back in the private sector doing what they do best – being productive and working hard.
This begs the question, what is the difference between a “job” and a “career”?
If you had to distinguish between a “job” and a “career” most South Africans would say they were the same thing.  True to a certain extent although in the South African context, at the current time, a job could be seen as survivalist – something that has to be done in order to live in a society where, on a daily basis, the cost of living increases beyond ones’ ability to generate an income to live (or survive in most cases).
A career, on the other hand, is something that people choose because firstly, they enjoy doing it and secondly, they understand that it is something that they will be doing for the rest of their lives in order to generate an income to live.
Often if you enjoy what you do, you do it with enthusiasm, you have the right attitude in the workplace and you are able, with some effort, to improve yourself, your position and ultimately your place in society.  If you are working in a job simply to survive, your heart is not in it, your attitude is wrong and every day you go to work, you despise the amount of effort and time you have to put in “working for the man”.