IT Employment

Longing to escape from corporate world is not unusual

Every day it seems they debut a new reality show about some high-risk, non-corporate line of work. What is it about these shows that draw us?

There's an interesting phenomenon going on with television programming that goes beyond reality-based entertainment. Have you noticed the increased amount of shows devoted to blue-collar jobs? There are shows about exterminators, fishermen, ice road truckers, loggers, etc. And I think I know why people are attracted to these kinds of shows.

I would venture to guess that a good part of the audience for these shows are people mired in the drudgery and politics of the corporate world. And they're not watching the shows for escapism in the typical sense (i.e., "My life could be worse. Look at the danger these people face.").

I think the corporate drones, amidst their day-to-day dealings with office politics and management egos and Machiavellian co-workers, are thinking, "Wow, driving a semi carrying tons of steel construction beams up a steep, winding, ice-covered mountain road with zero visibility. Must be nice."

Don't get me wrong; the jobs profiled in those reality shows are perilous and carry their own kind of stress. But the jobs are simpler in that the outcome is more black and white, and the stress is not as insipid as, say, managing ones career in the shark tank of the corporate world. Make a dumb mistake on a crab boat in the middle of the Bering Sea, and the result is fairly straightforward. But in the corporate world of passive-aggressive management types, mistakes and ramifications from those mistakes aren't quite as clear.

I read somewhere that it's not an uncommon fantasy for people to want to walk away from their current lives and start over in some small town in the middle of nowhere, serving up pattie melts in a roadside diner. What about you? Have you ever fantasized about just getting off the treadmill?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

60 comments
AV .
AV .

I love working with computers, but there isn't anything else I love about working in a corporate atmosphere 9 to 5. Theres too many sharks in the pool. Its a very regimented environment. You need to dress a certain way. There isn't enough flexibility and WAY too many politics. It wears you down, but corporate environments DO have a lot of cool technology. Sure, I'd like to walk away from my corporate job but I can't picture myself serving up pattie melts instead. I don't think I can give computers up totally. Maybe I can work for a smaller place with a lot less responsibility. AV

gdeles
gdeles

I long for the days when I was a simple COBOL programmer and miracle worker. People apprecieated me for my special skills. Now as a Project Manager it is an endless string of no win scenarios with project that were doomed long before I joined.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

The advantage of being a truck driver is once you leave the yard it's harder for the boss to be a micromanager. So you make the decisions and take the responsibility. As long as the job gets done. The disadvantage? You never quite make as much as you thought you would. Politics? If the dispatcher doesn't like you, you don't get the good runs. If you pissed off the mechanic, he takes his time fixing your truck, or you end up driving a real piece of junk. The grass is always greener... That said dreaming doesn't hurt. Sometimes with a little forethought and planning you can make them come true.

tomfair
tomfair

To get the true (and really funny) story of "getting out of the rat race", read Prioleau Alexander's book "You Want Fries With That?" (get it at Amazon or B&N)

bdean
bdean

That last pharagraph sounds like a good plan to me sometimes.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Smaller place = a whole lot more responsibility. Not only in how you dress, but in that what you do or don't do can get everybody thrown out of their jobs.

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Bring back card decks and coax cables.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Do I detect a little bit of Scotty in you? :)

lnevers
lnevers

I used to work for a smallish computer company going out to other businesses to work on their systems. If you think the corporate world is stressful try small business. Every call is an emergency that you have to find time in your already overbooked schedule to deal with. If a server crashes your entire week can be wrecked. I used to say that every day is Monday............. Now I work for a school district and every day is Thursday afternoon. I have learned blacksmithing as a hobby and have recently taken up golf after being a rock climber and kayaker for years. If you don't like where you are in life, make a change! You may not be able to make the big change that you dream of but even small ones can make a huge difference in your quality of life!

beechC23
beechC23

Alas, if you drive a big rig for a big rig company, the boss has a great tool to micromanage you, the GPS. The boss can know how long and often you stop to eat, go to the bathroom, take the scenic route, exceed the speed limit, sleep, etc. Me? I want to chuck it all and fly medevacs in the African bush (at least I already have the pilot's license!)

o.moreau
o.moreau

Vous ne voulez pas devenir un mercenaire quand m?me ? Go to work for those private compnies in Irak like Blackwater, it's just as bad !

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

Actually, as I recall, the Legion teaches you the French you need. And, you can walk out of the Legion with a new, French, name and passport. Or, at least that's how it used to work, which is why so many people trying to escape something out in the world would sign up for the Legion. It really was a chance to reinvent themselves!

techrepreader
techrepreader

I was working as a medical nuclear physicist(programming in assembler and Fortran) had a friend who ran a small mission and aid organisation I did a trip to India with him and loved it so I resigned and spent 12 years working in the developing world helping people. I met my wife (another aussie) working in a province in the Phillipines and we travelled and worked together till our first son was born 3years later. Eventually I was 44 years old, a wife two kids, no pension, hardly any income so I had to go back into the work force. That was 11 years ago. I still manage to get overseas on short term projects occasionally. I look at it like this I had my retirement when I could make the most of it. I have spent time in 38 countries met incredible people and had experiences that no amount of money can buy. Things are going pretty well for us now financially so I am pretty sure we can go and do it all again when I retire. One fond memory is being in Uganda in the back of a big trick with about twenty Africans driving along looking over a valley at sunset. The Ugandans started to sing with the usual four or five part harmony (like the start of the Lion King ) I sat and watched the sun going down with Mt Elgon ( 14,000 ft extinct volcano ) in the background and small villages dotting the hillside in front of us - it was awesome.

GSG
GSG

OK, while I love to cook, if I'm going to dream about escaping from this island of cannibals, I'm going to dream about winning the lottery, not becomming a cook in a diner! Not $250 bazillion dollars, but a modest $5 million or so. Enough to live out the rest of my life with no money worries, either because of not enough, or too much. And, I can take that trip I've always dreamed of, but could never afford. I refuse to fly ever again (since I really don't want to crash in a giant fireball), so to take my dream trip to England, Scotland, Ireland, I'd need to pay for a nice slow boat. That gets quite expensive.

MUnruh23
MUnruh23

If I were alone in the world, I think would move to Kalispell or Missoula, Montana. I've never even BEEN to Montana (I've spent lots of time in Colorado and Wyoming, however), but I've seen the pictures. And I'd get a job that didn't pay that much (but I wouldn't NEED that much), and enjoy the scenery and spend time being outdoors, and I'd just read my books during the (long, I'm guessing) winters. But with 4 kids, I'm thinking I'll just keep trying to hang on by the skin of my fingernails. Caught up in layoffs of 8,000 a couple of years ago, unemployed for a year, got a job (pays a fair amount less), that company has now been acquired and is about to lay off thousands. Oh, well, at least the economy's doing well - I'm SURE I'll have no trouble finding a job. I think of the monster.com ads from a few years back: "When I grow up, I want to work hard for 20 years, and then get tossed aside, so I can then just spend the rest of my 'career' trying to piece together enough of an income stream to not have to run through my 401k."

gbb0330
gbb0330

What would it be like to open my own computer repair shop, sell gaming rigs, do IT support for a few local small businesses. i know i wont be making any money, but not having to work for the man makes it somewhat desirable.

georgemhenson
georgemhenson

I think we all are longing for the simple life.

kenl_27541
kenl_27541

....until I realized..yeah, these guys are pulling in 30-40k (or more) for a single trip but wow what bone-numbingly hard and tiring work that is, not to mention the prospect of never coming back. So now my escapist fantasy is working as a self-employed avionics mechanic on general aviation aircraft. Less dangerous and a little more realistic...

PegsLacey
PegsLacey

I agree that the last paragraph is very appealing to me on most days.

franklinharbin
franklinharbin

The saying, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, jump the fence and the view's the same from the other side.

AV .
AV .

You might have more responsibility, but the network is less complex. The thing I like least about my new job is the inclusion of the phone system and all the PDA's in addition to the network administration. I've learned more about VOIP and telecommunications than I ever wanted to know. I can do it, but don't really want to. I need a different take on IT. Maybe not consulting, but a niche job. AV

maclovin
maclovin

20 people, and I'm the only IT guy...All servers are my responsibility, no matter what time or day/night/week/year. I get the phone calls, period. I handle everything, All (MS/My/Postgre)SQL, Web Design/E-Commerce Setup/Mantenance/Tape Backups, etc...the list goes on and on and on. Problem with the smaller environments is less pay available. Yet, the same exact visibility seems to stay intact, and the general attitude towards the person not letting people "work" on Facebook.

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

Working in a small office has a lot more responsibility. You are now responsible for anything and everything that has anything remotely to do with computers or electronics. Oh and the phone system is yours too. You get to be the help desk, install servers, be a DBA, be an Exchange expert, be a network expert, write some programs and create and maintain the web site and of course backup and recovery. All that for usually less pay than you make in the big companies, All that being said...I wouldn't trade it for any other job.

reisen55
reisen55

The money stress is almost suicidal in nature and I would have rather stayed corporate in so many ways it is no longer funny. Do not think that all the independent chaps on this board have it easy. We don't, not at all.

mdhealy
mdhealy

A few years ago I read somewhere in the EU countries for some years every big truck has been required by law to have an airliner-type black box with tamper-evident seals so only the authorities can open it. It records time, speedometer reading, etc., to enforce safety regulations. The drivers of course hate it.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

times have changed. Someday the trucks will drive themselves. Maybe load & unload themselves. Flying sounds cool, but don't they already install some form of GPS nowadays?

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

It might not be a good idea, but at least they aren't as unscrupulous as groups like Blackwater. I realize that's not saying much, but my point stands. Plus, I would imagine there would be times when working in a corporate environment is like being pressed into service on a pirate ship. I'd rather take the mercenary route, than the pirate route.

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

the most common language of the Foreign Legion was German.

ChrisTheta
ChrisTheta

This seems like a workplace escape fantasy from the 1950s - is there still a French Foreign Legion now that Colonialism is dead?

adamblevins
adamblevins

I think about this all day, every weekday, even during my commute! In my dream world, I am a famous writer (in real life I write as a hobby). My beautiful, well light, traditional house is comfortable and soothing, and has a view of the river... or maybe an ocean. No commuting is needed, because in my small community I can walk to everything. Streets are lined with trees and the town is loaded with parks and green spaces. I play Frisbee golf every Wed. with friends, and my family are happy and healthy. No cubes, no daily staff meeting to run, no office politics....

rball
rball

Having run a repair shop / consulting business in the downtown area of a small town for many years, I'm now very thankful to be employed full-time working for someone else. The stress of running everything, wondering if I'll clear enough to cover my expenses, not having health insurance, the insane hours, bookkeeping, just so I don't have to 'work for the man' really wasn't worth it in the end.

JamesRL
JamesRL

When I was unemployed, there was a computer shop for sale for a price I could have paid out of my severnce. If my wife worked in a stable job, I probably would have gone for it. James

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

If you opened your own computer repair shop, depending on gender, wouldn't you then be "the man"? What would you do if you started to backtalk yourself? It all gets kind of confusing to me.

jsdutcher
jsdutcher

I would LOVE to work on Myth Busters, their job is the BEST...plus they can blow things up!!!!

interpoI
interpoI

I would love to ride around with Lisa Kelly on Ice Road Truckers. That would be a dream job there!

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Or as Erma Bombeck used to say, "The grass is greener over the septic tank."

o.moreau
o.moreau

You are right, it's not greener on the other side. But at least you are somewhere else and the old boring stuff is gone...

santeewelding
santeewelding

Someone who grew up and unfolded in Scituate, Massachusetts. "West" meant western Massachusetts, where, if you were not careful, you would fall off the edge of the earth. I thought, too, there were cowboys there in that faraway place.

AV .
AV .

Western NJ is more like Pennsy. Rural and beautiful, but you have to commute. North Jersey is a business mecca. AV

santeewelding
santeewelding

New Jersey is big enough to have a "western" part?

tfriedman1
tfriedman1

I actually had to make that exact decision. I was in the very fortunate position of having two places wanting to hire me. One was a small non-profit looking for their only "IT guy", and one was a big and growing Healthcare technology firm that needed a desktop support grunt. The corporate option had much better pay, benefits, etc. but I would be a grunt. The non-profit had less pay/benefits, but I would get to play with everything, even do some lite DBA coding.i eventually went with the corporate offer (the pay/benefits was too much to ignore), and I still wonder if I should have stuck with the smaller pay but most likely better job satisfaction.

ChrisTheta
ChrisTheta

You not only get to do everything remotely technological (the ones you mentioned, plus TVs, AV equipment, postal meters & scales, cell phones, supporting home users and setting up you CEO's home wireless network or wiring his beach house), but you can also pick up facilities work. I had 3 jobs where for some reason I was responsible for IT, plus the A/C, furnace, electrical outlets & circuit breakers, and for some reason plugged toilets!

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

You get to do and learn a lot more stuff. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. A large corporation I used to work for had three net work teams. East Coast, West Coast and Mid-west. I can't imagine working on the same thing day in and day out. Boorreeiinnggg.

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

I have a 1/2 mile comute, great benefits and I get to work on all kinds of fun projects. When I tell others about my employer the next thing they usualy want to know is -- are we hiring. That is why I say -- I wouldn't trade this job for anything. I love what I do and where I do it. I know that I am very fortunate and that makes up for the difference in pay (which isn't that great a difference really).

creativenrg11
creativenrg11

on the flip side - you get to put your hands in pretty much everything (like you said, servers, phone, DB's, exchange...) which makes for exercising a wide variety of skills and it helps reduce the droning repetition of a very pegged job. it is ironic that one could get paid more for being strictly desktop support at a larger place - but do you really want to do JUST that, day in & day out?

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

I know the independents don't have it easy, or even easier, than full-time employees. For one thing, independent consultants are *always* selling. They always, always have to be hustling for business and keeping an eye out for income. My former father-in-law is a different kind of consultant, but it's the same thing for him when it comes to business. Either there's more than he can do, or not enough. Feast or famine.

beechC23
beechC23

Yep, but so far in the putt-putts I fly, it's only for me to verify my own position, not for someone else to spy on me! Airliners are a different story though, with on-board systems like ACARS which routinely transmits position and maintenance data to home base. This has been the main source of info so far on the Air France crash in the mid-Atlantic back in June.

guy
guy

Apparently the French Foreign Legion is alive and well: http://www.legion-recrute.com/en/ And since we are talking about fantasy to see what the future holds for the foreign legion read Legion of the Damned by William Dietz.

Jiffy_Jon
Jiffy_Jon

I ran my own repair shop for many years off and on. The thing I disliked the most was that every strange office I walked into they expected me to be an expert on everything they were running. In my wonderful full time position I just keep learning, and every day the system is predictable with no huge surprises.

tbmay
tbmay

On top of everything you said, you still work for someone else. I'm an independent consultant who, up until a bit over a year ago, have always "worked for someone else." Sure the freedom seems great to begin with but there have been countless times I've wished I wouldn't have been so ambitious. It is a VERY stressful thing to do with more challenges you don't have "working for the man" than I can mention in a reasonable time frame. I has it's rewarding moments too though, and I don't want to minimize it. But it is not for someone who thinks 40 hours a week is a lot...and it is not for someone who has a low tolerance for risk.

kprince
kprince

Comfort's great - take the step though. We left the UK Corporate world and headed abroad where my wife is now her own boss and I work for a charity but know I can step out anytime. We're not pushing for the new car, latest stereo but that's fine when you've a slice of heaven to live in.

tonycopp
tonycopp

You look great in your fine walnut-toned box... I just paid my respects at the coffin of your dreams you let go..but I didn't see the passion that was so withered it had disappeared.

gbb0330
gbb0330

having your own small business it too risky. even in this economy i fell very safe with my cushy corporate job - salary, benefits, paid vacation.

gbb0330
gbb0330

being the man is not bad at all. working for the man sux. i backtalk myself all the time, its an occupational hazard.

GSG
GSG

I'd love to have the job where they tell me it's time for me to push the button. There's something so satisfying deep down about being the one responsible for making things go boom.

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