The Paradox of the Screw-up

If I had only known: I could have embraced screwing up

I have observed that in having a screw-up enter your life it is preferable to have it happen early, the earlier the better. This makes sense to me. The younger you are the more options you have in getting back on your feet. You can take 8 hours of physical labour or stand on your feet for an 8 hour shift, both of which I have done when I was so much younger. I have found, through my recent experiences, that employers are not willing to hire you full time one you are a ‘mature’ worker. I can certainly understand and except this behaviour, even if I do not like it. Although to be honest, I have serious doubts about my ability to be on my feet for 8 hours straight at this point of my life, a fact that tends to make me much more understanding. I suspect that the WCB also contributes to their caution, they see a walking claim caused by a lifetime of wear and tear on my body. So if you life tanks at an earlier age you have more options in the job market, which makes sense.

A small paradox I found was that I was and am surprised at how much of a liability experience can have. You would think that experience would be an asset in ones job search. My experience has been that it in fact works against you in the job market. There are numerous jobs out there that I have applied for that had I just been starting or only had a few years of experience I would have gotten. I have heard the statement “you’re overqualified for the position” so often I have fond thoughts of throttling the next person you issues that statement. When I tell this to people they say “Oh, they just do not want to pay you”. I certainly hope this is not true, since it does suggest some negative things about employer – employee relations. I also hope it is not true as I certainly would not expect to be paid at the level of my experience but at the level of the position – OK maybe at the higher end of the range but still in relation to the job I was doing. Still, reality is that I would have been better to be in my current state of unemployment and homelessness earlier in my career.

Sue? It just occurred to me that maybe I should sue the federal government for age discrimination. There are many programs for training or schooling those under 30, but once you are over thirty you are out of luck. That’s ageism! I should sue! Actually, this is an area that needs a little though and review. In the old economy, older workers were usually situated in a job or company and finished out their working career with that company. In our current economy, more and more older workers are finding themselves out of work late in their working lives and finding they cannot get a position in their old career/job. Unfortunately for them finding retraining or education programs is difficult. This is another argument for messing up early in life.

But the BIG paradox is that you are far better off to be a royal screw-up than you are to run into one problem later in your working life. There are programs out there that will help you is you have been on and off UI or in and out of work. For these programs it does not matter if you were laid off or fired, just that you cannot hold a job. They will pay to send you back to school for up to two years – at their expense. Now it is not easy to access these programs, not in the sense that they are trying to turn you down, but in the sense that they want to make sure you are serious and willing to do the work. Which is a good idea and a legitimate screening tool. However, there are no similar programs for people who have been good workers throughout their working life, until they ran into whatever difficulty it was that rendered them in their current circumstances. This is aggravated by the fact that as noted above, experience can be a significant barrier to finding a job. There are courses of study that I would love to pursue that, together with my background and experience, would allow me to find employment in an interesting, challenging and creative position. But sadly, as I have found ou,t there are not programs for those of us who were good workers. Sadly I failed to realize, before reaching this point in my career, that it would be far more advantageous to regularly screw-up than to do a good job.

So, as I reflect upon the Paradox of the Screw-up I can only regret that I didn’t appreciate the advantages of being a poor employee vs. the disadvantages of being a good employee. At least for purposes of getting help for schooling and career change for the purpose of becoming a sought after employee.

par·a·dox n. :

  1. One exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects
  2. That which is apparently, though not actually, inconsistent with or opposed to the known facts in any case
  3. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true
  4. An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises

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