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Home > Blog > Ticket Punching
Out of Our Minds
Friday, March 18, 2005 12:12 PM
Ticket Punching
Kevin Salwen on Business

I had breakfast this morning with a friend who works for a brutal organization. The hours are rough, the work would be fulfilling if the management ever allowed that to happen. It's a company in the creative arena yet built on productivity that reminds me of Henry Ford -- x number of people for y number of hours equals xy (+z if you whip people enough).

What's interesting about this is that my friend sees this as a ticket-punching exercise: Put in 3 years, get the credential, move to something better that fulfills the soul. He's already thinking of opportunities. (I should also note that he very much likes his immediate boss, which lessens the pain of working there.)

I remember thinking about work in that way -- pay the dues, move ahead -- for years. It was something I learned from my parents, who insisted on a no-whining policy. Loving your work was waaaay down on the list, certainly much lower than getting credentials, providing for the family, etc.

But I also thought that type of thinking was on the way out, that times were changing to more enlightened workplaces that provided the combo of money and passion. I know I could never work without that again, but is that because I'm older or because I've been through the ticket-punching mill? Or is because I've become spoiled? I'm going to have to ponder this and would welcome your ideas as I do.


8 comments

Ali - 3/22/2005 8:09:47 AM
I'd like to think of your dillemma in terms of progression; once you're happy with the direction that your life is going in and you're very comfortable with it - why would you want to switch back to join the legions of people that have yet to find their own versions of that which you have?
Robin Wolaner - 3/22/2005 12:30:30 AM
In my book I talked about my early, menial jobs. Although I never felt like a ticket-puncher, one might say that being a typist, waitress, cataloguer were not jobs to make one's heart sing. Yet I gained a lot of skills, friends, and look back on them fondly. Perhaps that is why I have little patience with just-starting-out people who complain before they deliver.
Curt Rosengren - 3/20/2005 6:54:54 PM
Kevin, I think the times they ARE a-changin', but it's kind of like steering the Queen Mary. It takes a while for that change in direction to actually happen. The inertia of many, many years of work culture is a powerful force. It's turning - and many of us can't imagine how people don't see it - but it will take time before the whole ship is pointed in the new direction.
Nicole - 3/19/2005 1:41:25 AM
Grant,

As a 21-year-old 'entry level' worker I must whole-heartedly disagree that there are no options besides ticket punching. I think that each person makes their own opportunities, and if you truly desire a job that fulfills your soul without first 'paying your dues' then there is one out there. You just have to manipulate your own world to find it.

I can't tell you how many times friends have laughed at me when I've said that 'I'm going to go out and get paid to do...' But everytime I ended up the one laughing as I loved getting paid to do what made my heart sing and they were miserable doing some menial job they despised to get through the summer.

I think the biggest key to this is, cliche as it sounds, to think outside the box. When you believe in yourself enough to look around you (and enough to not settle for less than what you desire) you will find what you didn't see before-- opportunity everywhere.
Nicole - 3/19/2005 1:41:01 AM
Grant,

As a 21-year-old 'entry level' worker I must whole-heartedly disagree that there are no options besides ticket punching. I think that each person makes their own opportunities, and if you truly desire a job that fulfills your soul without first 'paying your dues' then there is one out there. You just have to manipulate your own world to find it.

I can't tell you how many times friends have laughed at me when I've said that 'I'm going to go out and get paid to do...' But everytime I ended up the one laughing as I loved getting paid to do what made my heart sing and they were miserable doing some menial job they despised to get through the summer.

I think the biggest key to this is, cliche as it sounds, to think outside the box. When you believe in yourself enough to look around you (and enough to not settle for less than what you desire) you will find what you didn't see before-- opportunity everywhere.
Jory Des Jardins - 3/18/2005 5:53:17 PM
I was gearing up say that ticket-punching is evil, but as I look back on my career--11 years in and out of corporate tours of duty, punctuated by all-too-brief entrepreneurial respites, I understand that I would never have had the desire to do what I do now (write, mostly, full-time, on business culture and women's issues) had I not honed my skills and opinions in some thankless job. I have a VERY educated twin sister (Ph.D. in history, Harvard prof, now teaching at Baruch) who opted out of the corporate experience, but I see that, despite the amazing academic pedigree, she's been naive about the politics she's encountered outside of grad school. Having been pushed around in thankless roles, I take them as endemic to any system, like them or not, and have learned to navigate around them. I almost think she should have worked as someone's assistant for a year, just to learn how to get around gatekeepers, learn to reach influencers, and develop the contacts in other fields that can be leveraged later in a win-win situation. I've never been at a job, even a bad one, that didn't teach me something, or from where I didn't meet smart people who could help or mentor me later in my career.
Joan - 3/18/2005 5:37:46 PM
I like your observation, Kevin, that in many organizations, 'work would be fulfilling if management allowed that to happen.' I worked for Accenture for 20 years (7 years as a partner), where there is a lot of grueling and potentially thankless grunt work for the entry-level consultants. In my early years at the firm, the projects I enjoyed most were the ones in which the managers took time to explain to all of us (even, yes, the most lowly like myself) what the client was trying to achieve and what objectives of the project were. On one, I worked long days (for weeks) in a technology department, typing in line after line of test data. It wasn't at all glamorous and it felt purposeless, until my manager explained how running test scenarios reduced the chance that, in this case, a taxpayer's refund would be miscalculated once the system was operational. While the work remained dull, I felt that I was contributing to something worthy. First-line managers made the difference (for me) between passion and pissed off. I tried to remember that myself when I became one.
Grant Henninger - 3/18/2005 2:09:49 PM
Kevin-

You wouldn't ticket-punch again because you don't have to. As a recent addition to the workforce, I don't have that option. I have found that I cannot find a job that I can be passionate about at the entry level. So I either pay my dues and get my ticket punched, or I start my own company. Right now I'm paying my dues, but after two months working, I'm looking into that other option more seriously.

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