I was riding the bus to work recently when I noticed an advertisement recruiting job applicants for Convergys, a company that runs call centres. The ad read, “I want some career stability.”
If you want to understand what human beings crave, study advertising. Often there’s a disconnect between the product being advertised and the particular craving that is shown being satisfied. Our genuine cravings are for things that cannot be directly sold as a commodity (friendship, love, respect, peace of mind, etc.). The way to make money is to imply a link between buying one’s product and fulfilling these intangible desires of our innermost being.
In this case, the message seemed clear and direct: Work for us, get security and stability in your life. What you might not know, though, is that Convergys has recently shut down two call centres in this province (one in September, the other in December), throwing about 500 people out of work.
Yup. There is definitely a disconnect.
The point is, our wants are very revealing. The fact that we desire something means we don’t have it, or we have it and fear losing it. (If we had it and felt secure, we would take it for granted and never think about it. That’s how humans are.) And advertising has its finger on the pulse of our discontent.
Now here’s an idea. If desiring something can alert us to how unreliable it is, then we should stop banking on it. Instead of seeking stability, which neither Convergys nor any other employer can give us and in any case will always be a temporary condition, we should buy stock in instability. Instability has a future. There will always be a career in preparing to be flexible in the face of change.
A woman I know once complained to me about how her neighbourhood in a suburb of a large American city was changing. She was white, and all her neighbours were now Hispanic. She hated that she couldn’t understand a word of what was spoken around her at any of the familiar store or restaurants. All she heard was (to her) impenetrable gibberish.
Here’s the thing. She can continue to hope that the universe will adapt to her preferences, and be miserable. Or she can learn a little Spanish.
I’m not saying change isn’t sometimes painful. I’m saying that it is inevitable. I’m also saying that we have choices. Whether it’s our career or our neighbourhood, we are not victims if we choose not to be, if we are always learning, and if we are willing to do a little work.