I started out my career in social services – in a local welfare office. I found that there are generally two different types of people in that kind of job. They are extremes – and it is rare that you meet someone with elements of both in their personality.
The first is akin to Mr. Incredible’s boss in the movie. Bob is an insurance adjustor. His boss wants him to be hard and cold – stick to the rules – save money for the company. And there is a lot of pressure to do that. Keep in budget. Don’t volunteer information. Even if it could help.
I think I fell into the second category. The bleeding heart. The one who wants to give everyone a chance. There were days that I felt like sticking it to the rules. I got very angry.
Unfortunately, most of the people in the second category get changed into the first. And if they don’t, the system eats them. They can’t survive. The constant pressure to conform – and the need to attach meaning to your job – it jades you. It did me. It’s a hard lesson. Your job and applying the rules become all encompassing. Until that day you see the face of the person that you affected. The person who has to live with the outcome of your decision.
That day – I felt evil. It was like the Grinch in reverse. I felt that my heart had suddenly become three sizes too small. I was tenting my fingers like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. Running my fingers through the precious rulebook like Tolkein’s Gollum. It became a game. When I realized that the rules became more important than the person, I knew I had to get out.
And so I did.
In a similar way, although my early career also had me involved with some children’s services agencies, I was aware that my personality could not handle something that could be potentially so tragic. I was invited by members of the profession to try a career there – but declined. I knew that I didn’t have it in me to make such extreme decisions about families and children.
Thankfully, my career path took me in a completely different direction. While I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied by my career – I have made it into what I can. And it allows me a lot of flexibility as far as my family life goes. And really – I’m working so I can live my life the way I want.
Where has your career path taken you? Are you happy in your chosen field?