As I sit at my job, I think itâ€™s all right. The job itself is actually pretty good, yet I canâ€™t help but wonder, is this it? I know Iâ€™m doing it for the pay and the experience now, because I know Iâ€™m young and have many opportunities ahead of me and I just need the experience first, before I can move on. Then I look at my colleagues, some of whom are the same age as me, but most of whom are older, have worked here for a longtime, maybe have kids or are about to have kids and I wonder what they think. I donâ€™t see passion in their faces or hear it in their voices; many of them work 6 or 7 long days every week and I wonder why they do it, especially when they seem so listless. They clearly arenâ€™t here for the experience, so I wonder if they are ok with the situation or if theyâ€™re (secretly) hoping for something better, or is it simply part of their mindset (rooted in Chinese culture) to just suffer through their boring jobs to provide a better future for their children.
In the past few months here, Iâ€™ve started exploring the attitudes toward work, entrepreneurship, and employment situations across cultures. What keeps people forcing themselves to get up and go to the same dreaded job every morning?
For example, my Dutch friend, Maarten, works in a large, well-respected Dutch company in Shanghai. He has commented to me that the Chinese employees that he works with are about as listless as my colleagues, but yet, in the mindset of many Chinese, having a secure, well-paid job at a big foreign company like that is the career goal in life. Despite the fact that these employees have attained the perhaps ultimate goal, they seem as bored in their jobs as anyone else. In fact, many of them (as reported to me) waste most of the day chatting on the Internet. Likewise, if we had Internet, I believe my colleagues would likely do the same thing. If youâ€™re that bored with your job, is it really worth the security? Shouldnâ€™t work challenge you, interest you, and make you believe youâ€™re working toward a larger goal?
In Europe, much as Maarten described the goal being in China, people seek an employment contract with a big European company. This situation provides security because European employment contracts are hard to cancel. It also offers good pay and the possibility for advancement. If you have a good job, with the security in Europe, and are possibly on the management track, you have no reason to seek an alternative. You have the rest of your working career, including nearly 3months of paid holiday per year, already planned out for you. You have attained the ideal situation. Thereâ€™s no reason to look further.
In the US, on the other hand, even if someone has a well-paid job, though by no means nearly as secure as those in Europe, nor with nearly as much vacation time, they often do wonder, is this it? They may look for a new job, with a better position, a higher salary, more responsibility. They wouldnâ€™t be content to be just secure. Or, as is the American ideal, they may consider entrepreneurship. They may decide to take their skills and knowledge and experiences and go out on their own, to start their own venture. Entrepreneurship is the driving force of the American economy and small businesses are also the countryâ€™s largest employer. In this regard, the US is very different from Europe, with its risk-taking, pioneering, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Now back to Chinaâ€¦where, between these two extremes, is China? In my experience, China is far more entrepreneurial than Europe. Some people start businesses at a young age and others, like many Americans, also get bored in their jobs and after saving enough opt, too, for the entrepreneurial route. Iâ€™m not sure that China is quite as driven by the appeal of starting your own business as Americans, but nonetheless the interest is certainly there.
So, then, what has happened to my colleagues and to Maartenâ€™s colleagues? Are they too much a product of the Cultural Revolution, where they fear any success may be instantly stripped from them? But then, how has China produced so many extremely successful entrepreneurs in the last 15years, including the worldâ€™s wealthiest woman? Itâ€™s more likely they havenâ€™t been exposed to the concept enough to consider it a possibility. And also possibly, that theyâ€™re willing to tolerate boredom 8hours a day in exchange for security, or in the case of the managers, long hours and hard work just for the sake of providing a secure life and steady income. And for some, they may not have the resources and capabilities to take a risk and go out on their own. Itâ€™s not a simple question to answer. Perhaps itâ€™s the same thing that keeps many Americans stuck in boring jobs with mediocre payâ€¦but what is it?
As for me, I certainly donâ€™t plan to be â€˜stuck in a boring job with mediocre payâ€™ my whole life. Thereâ€™s far too much life to live and world to see for me to be willing to spend 8+ hours a day working for someone else. I just hope my own businesses will make progress fast so that I can be working for myself sooner rather than later. On that note, its time to put some effort into China Resources ASAPâ€¦