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The Definition Of A “Real Job” Is Expanding
The phrase “real job,” is an agreed upon socially constructed expression, implying a
structured job with employee benefits and set wages along with time. Given that one-third
of the U.S. workforce is working on a freelance or contract basis and growing, what are
their thoughts when they hear the term “real job?” Are their efforts any less real? The
expression potentially undermines and disavows the value of another work style option.
This expression “real job” was frequently used by many of the freelancers in my project and
even the author Daniel Pink of Free Agent Nation uses the metaphor when describing his
inability to successfully balance work and family:
“Our family tends to fall on the integrator side of the continuum. Or to relabel
Nippert-Eng’s categories, we don’t balance work and family trade them off against
each other. Instead, we’re preindustrial. As our offices demonstrate and our
daughter understood, we blend work and family. The reason we don’t balance is
simple. We tried it -- and failed miserably. For more than a year, my wife, Jessica,
and I had two real jobs and one real child” (Pink, 2001, p. 185-186).
This metaphor “real job” is so commonplace that we don’t recognize how ingrained it is in
our work lexicon. Vivian Burr, a social constructionist, suggests that an examination of our
taken-for-granted rhetoric “may help us to work towards occupying positions in discourses
which are less personally damaging” (Burr, 1995, p. 151). In Constructing Worlds
Together, the impact of an assumptive narrative is explored:
As you can appreciate, the use of metaphors is enormously important in breaking up
our sense of the taken-for-granted. First, when we shift from a conventional to an
unconventional form of constructing meaning, we open different possibilities for
deliberation and action. For example, if two people are engaged in an angry
exchange of opinions, to call it an ‘argument’ in Western culture suggests that there
should be a winner and loser. If we call it a ‘dance’ we call attention to the way
people are interdependent. The term also suggests that they could step out of their
particular pattern and that they are not obliged to dance this way. Second, when our
attention is drawn to the metaphoric basis of the way we talk and act, we come to
appreciate that our actions could be ‘otherwise.’ Awareness of metaphors frees us to
live another way. (Gergen, K., Schrader, S, & Gergen, M., 2009, p. 90)
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