Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ideal Jobs or Work is a grim Fairytale

On occasion I have asked my students to describe the ideal job. They need to take into consideration schooling, training, hours, compensation, benefits and work conditions. Although my students are male, they also wander into female territory when describing the ideal job. Herewith some of their thoughts, and just a few of mine.

Schooling: Students are fairly unanimous in their convictions that most of their schooling is wasted time. They see no reason why they should be "forced" to take English, history, math, public speaking, science and all the other "core" or "required" courses when they are planning on becoming a __________. They believe that even the required courses in a major are too many. "No way we are ever going to use all of this" they say. Ideally they believe that a college degree should only require 60 credits, 30-40 of which are seminary or yeshiva credits.

They also believe that grades for courses should be abolished, using only "pass" or "fail," with the former preferred. "Grades foster competition" is one reason given for abolishing grades. "You focus too much on the grade and not enough on the learning" is another reason.

Training: The ideal job requires no formal training. Any practical experience necessary should be the kind that you get when you are already hired and working. Pre-job training such as internships, student teaching, and pre-certification-required hours waste time that a student would better spend "on the job." "A bright person will pick up what they need as they go along" is how they put it.

Hours: "There is no logic to having a 40-hour work week." That seems to be a unanimous conviction. The ideal job is one that takes only a few hours a day to complete. "9:00 AM is too early to start. I have to get up too early to make that starting time." Some reasons for the early rising are "I have to make a minyan that is very early and I can't get in any learning time in the morning" and "Not everyone is an early morning person. It takes me longer to get going in the early morning."

The workday also lasts too long. "Most of the stuff you need to get done on a job could be done in just a few hours. Everything else is just busywork that could be eliminated." "They give you work to do which a secretary should be doing. They're too cheap to hire enough support personnel." "They let you out of work during rush hour and so the commute gets longer. If a job had shorter hours you could get out early enough to avoid the rush." My favorite is "They don't take into consideration that frum Jews have other calls on their time and need a different working schedule. For instance, on Friday we all need to leave by 1:00 at the latest, although 12:00 would probably be better." "Yeah," another student pipes up. "We have to work on a taanis and on erev yom tov too." Conclusion: the ideal job is no more than 10-15 hours a week. It also never, ever requires overtime hours or weekend work.

Compensation: There is some debate on the ideal compensation. The accounting and finance majors have some pretty elaborate formulas they come up with for a starting salary. All agree, however, that anything under $60,000 a year to start is pretty chintzy. "Why bother going to school if that is all you are going to be getting?" the reasoning goes. They are also pretty quick to point out that raises should be automatic and at least twice a year. "Anything under 6% is an insult." They are also quick to trash "merit raises" as being at the whim of a boss, and you can't count on a boss to be fair.

Benefits: At a minimum all jobs should provide good comprehensive medical coverage, PPO not HMO, and should include dental, vision, and mental health coverage as well. Maternity coverage should be at 100%. The company should also provide at least a 401K at a minimum, with a 5% company match at a minimum. They should supply a pension plan, preferably with vesting at 6 years of employment.

Sick days should be unlimited. "How do I know how many days I'm going to need to be sick this year?" is the complaint. There should not be specific legal holidays that a company is closed. "Just give us the days to use as we want them." Vacation should begin with 4 weeks a year. They are divided on how to handle the days that need to be taken off for yomtov observance. What they do agree on is that "it is not fair" that they have to take vacation days for yomtov.

Work Conditions: Students also believe that a "good" firm will provide offices rather than cubicles for its employees. "There is no privacy in a cubicle!" they lament. One student volunteered that it is hard to concentrate on learning the Daf when he can hear everyone talking around him. It is also hard to have a private phone conversation in a cubicle. And it's difficult to play a computer game or surf the web or be on a blog when anyone could walk in on you at any time.

At a minimum offices should provide a refrigerator for employees so that they can keep their lunches and/or cholov yisroel milk cold. "Free coffee!" they all agree. Whose hashgachah is on the coffee is, however, a matter of debate. "I don't drink coffee," one student says. "It's only fair that they provide free soda for those of us who don't drink coffee."

For sure offices should provide a meeting room or some other enclosed, private space so that davening mincha could be with kavanah.

Females: Most of my students were quick to point out that males and females gravitate to different types of jobs. "Finance is a male thing," I am told. "Yeah, most girls don't go into accounting. I don't know any who have." Teaching or one of the therapy fields is what is most often suggested for females. When it is pointed out that starting salaries are far less then the $60,000 they believe is the minimum requirement for them, they are also quick to answer: "What do they need the money for? Most of them are going to quit working anyway pretty soon." One boy was being very generous: "I don't care what she does as long as it doesn't interfere with her being there for me and my kids and the house."

To sum up: the ideal job starts at $60,000 and is at $68,000 by the end of the first year. The ideal job is no more than 10 hours a week of work. The ideal job offers 40 days a year of vacation days, not counting leaving at 12:00 noon on every Friday and erev yomtov. The ideal job offers an office with a view and with privacy from intrusion. The ideal job offers all the comforts of home, shul and yeshiva.

"Come to think of it," one student offered, "the ideal job never has me going into the office at all. I can just get on my computer and send in what I have to." This same student, by the way, does not have the Internet in his home, and doesn't plan on getting it either.

Those boys who are already working are fairly quiet during the discussion of the ideal job. The ones who have just begun working side with the ones who have not yet gone to work. The ones who have been working for a while get a strange, knowing look on their faces. As one 28-year-old put it, "They're still kids." I couldn't agree more.

Should any of you happen to find this ideal job, please let me know. I have 4,788,912 applicants for that job. Hey, I'll put my name on the top of the list.


Scraps said...

Good grief. When reality hits, I wanna watch.


Anonymous said...

And they call girls JAPs?

Anonymous said...

Be fair. Noyt all guys think this way. The frummer you get the more you might think this way. MO boys are a little more savvy about what goes on in the work world.

Anonymous said...

Not going to argue about this one. I've been working for a few years and it sure isn't like wht you describe. My friends who are still in yeshiva think work is exactly like wht yu describe. They think I was unlucky just not to find the right job. They will be different. Good luck to them, they will need it.

Anonymous said...

I'd laugh but my older brother is one of those students. He sees all of us working but he still believes that it is gonna be different for him. Course his wife is still supporting them. And my mother doesn't understand why I don't just say I want an earner but an earner who has been working for a while.

Anonymous said...

Some of your students apply to me for a job. Mostly I don't hire them because I'm supposed to be the boss, not their mother. They aren't ready to be the kind of employee I need in my company. Maybe in a few years when they have some understanding of what work is. Maybe you colleges could teach them some common sense along with all the other stuff.

Anonymous said...

One of those "brilliant talmidim" that they keep redding me couldn't understand when he wanted to go out on a date on a Wednesday at 5:30 why I couldn't just leave work early to make the date. After all it was a date. He needed to make the date early so he could still get to night seder. Why would a boy who believes that the sun and stars and earth revolve around him have common sense?

Im with the anonymous who wants the earner who has worked for a while. I don't want to be around to see the real shock when the guy first starts to work.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing we were married for a long while because my husband started to work this year and it was not fun for both of us. My hub is smart enough but it never ocured to him that work was going to be way different from yeshiva. The first few weeks he came home, barely said hello and barely ate some supper and fell right asleep. All he kept saying those first months was why didn't someone tell me it was going to be like this. We sort of did but I don't think he was really listening.

ProfK said...


I'd just like to point out to the boss who wrote that I try to instill some common sense into my students, but why would they believe me, a woman teacher in an all-male school division, when I tell them that their days of being a "prince" are coming to an end? It's only the already working students who are willing to listen with open ears. I frequently suffer from PMS--Professorial Manic Suppression--brought on by my inability--and that of the other professors in the school--to get a lot of these students to face facts.

Chaya--I can feel for you. One of my nephews went to work for the first time this September after almost 5 years of marriage. I give my niece in law a lot of credit for putting up with the non-stop griping she got.

Anonymous said...

These are some of the reasons I think a man should work, really work, before he gets married. In fact, I think in most cases, a man is not ready to be married until he has worked!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is not wrong that a boy should work already before he gets married. Let's see, 2 years in Israel after high school, full time learning and college when he gets back. He gets married and learns another 4 years. That would make him about 27 before he ever gets a job and would be the earliest he could get married. Know any yeshivas that are going to buy this ?

Anonymous said...

I think these guys are right to only want to work half days as I only work half days. That's right, I work half days. They run from 7 to 7.

Anonymous said...

And do you think it is better when a man gets so involved in his work that it takes over everything else? It's not the way frum jews are supposed to live their lives.

Orthonomics said...

Perhaps I am dating myself. But when I was headed off to work, it was said that accountants going to work for the big firms would be offered $36,000. . . and, no, that wasn't for a 10-15 hour a week job. Jobs where the pressure was less started around $30,000. Perhaps that $30K is now $40K, but the ideas that young bochurim often have about work are, well, laughable.

Now, should we let them in on the secret that when you are making that $40K, you need to find a way to spend less than that? :)