I think my answer from the jump would be no it isn’t. Do I want to work in one for the rest of my life? Probably not. Do I think it’s mediocre if someone does? Not at all. Is there anything wrong with someone choosing to pursue a 9-5 career for a majority of their life? Absolutely not.
I feel like there’s a stigma around working a 9-5, as if all 9-5s are the same. For some people, the term equates to mediocrity. There’s also this common stereotype of ‘oh you work a 9-5, that’s boring, what else do you do’. Immediately the person being questioned is faced with this view, that their life is somewhat ordinary and dull, and that they should be doing something ‘more‘.
This attitude is more so apparent with a lot of millennials. I can’t ignore that ‘working your way up in a company‘ is no longer an accepted norm especially with millennials. There’s this desire to be more than just someone who does a 9-5, and they seek work with a greater purpose where they can make ‘an impact’ Which I don’t disagree with for the record. Freelancing and self employment are on the rise more than ever. They desire to have multiple streams of income, and be doing more than the average to keep up with this ‘fast pace, lavish‘ lifestyle, partly provoked by the exponential growth of social media. The modern day millennial wants to exceed beyond the system that pushes them into a life of routine and a fixed monthly income. While I share this mentality, I also don’t judge those who are content with just working their 9-5 job.
Millennial: individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century.
Me personally, I probably don’t want to employed by someone else for the rest of life. I aspire to be self employed one day, make my own money, and be doing something that I love, that I’m truly passionate about and be able to have full control and freedom to use my own ideas and creativity. With that choice comes a greater self discipline and risk as opposed to the security and sense of stability that a 9-5 seemingly offers.
I’ve accepted that working a 9-5 may be the means to get me to that desire to be self employed one day. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m just not brave enough to break away from this path that has been instilled in me from a very young age. But who’s to say that the ‘job in the city‘ that I do pursue isn’t one that I will actually enjoy and give me the experience and knowledge I need to be self employed. The networking opportunities as well could also help me in pursuit of this dream, as well as give me that financial ability to invest in other potential streams of income. It’s not easy to say to myself ‘okay I quit, I’m not getting a job, I’m going to go start my own business’ maybe not to others, but to me that’s a calculated decision to make and not one of impulse.
However, I’m aware that many others don’t share the same desires as me. They are content with working a 9-5, enjoy the set working hours and enjoy the stable income. Some people might just enjoy working Monday to Friday and then having weekends off. Others may work a 9-5 because they don’t have another choice and this is their only way of survival, and may not have the desire to take the risks to work for themselves. I think bracketing the term ‘9-5’ with ‘mediocrity’ is a very distorted perspective.
From my view, the opinion shouldn’t be ‘working a 9-5 is mediocre’, and but perhaps ‘working a 9-5 in a mediocre job’ is the issue. The two are very different. Even then I believe ‘mediocrity’ is subjective.
Not all 9-5’s are boring jobs or routine work. And that’s a stereotype that comes with the term. In my experiences of working in the city and all the individuals I’ve come across, there’s a proportion of those people who actually enjoy what they do and you can always tell when someone genuinely enjoys being at work.
I won’t be naive and say I haven’t met people who hate the jobs they do, feel worthless, feel limited in reaching their full potential and dislike the routine lifestyle. They loathe the long hours and the dull, repetitious tasks, to the point where they dread coming into work. A lot of what factors into that as well is the working environment and the people they work with.
If that’s the case, then I believe that you should definitely not be sacrificing your happiness and sanity just for a pay cheque at the end of the month. It’s easier said than done, but it’s probably time you find another job that you actually enjoy and get out of the one which is stripping you of your livelihood. Sometimes you might have to just take that plunge, take the risk and quit your job in pursuit of your true passions. That might mean living on a budget, making compromises or losing money at first but sometimes there’s no success without sacrifices.
Having said that, some people stay in 9-5s, especially ones they don’t enjoy, because they have bills to pay and can’t afford to quit their job in pursuit of their greater passions. Although risk taking is an important part of life and ideally everyone should be doing something their passionate about, the reality is some people can’t afford to take that risk and to me that doesn’t make them mediocre or their choices mediocre. If you are fortunate enough to be making money doing what you love, that is a blessing in itself, but to judge others because they’ve chosen to work a 9-5 I think is unfair. Your idea of average is not someone else’s idea of average.
Not everyone is a creative and can be a singer, actor, dancer, entertainer. Not everyone has the passion to own their own business and work for themselves. Not everyone has that entrepreneurial spirit. In reality, some are happy being employed by someone else.
A lot of people work very hard to get a degree and qualifications in order to excel in their career and get a good job in the city. Whether this decision was influenced by their parents, teachers or environment, who knows, but the point is, they work hard to get ‘the‘ job they want even if it means doing some boring/dull ones in the process.
Someone’s desire might be to become ‘the Head of Finance’ for a major corporation or become a Partner at one of the ‘Big Four’ Accounting firms, or they might aspire to be the CEO of a major financial institution one day, and these are all ‘9-5’ jobs but are they mediocre?
I honestly think it’s a ‘each to your own‘ debate. One choice isn’t better than the other. The person who owns their own business, where profits are boundless isn’t better than the next person who works a 9-5 on a 50k salary. It really just depends on your preference when it comes to lifestyle. Do you enjoy routine and having a stable income? Or do you enjoy having creative freedom and don’t mind the volatility of income that you might experience being self employed? In some cases people do both. Nowadays you see people do a 9-5 and also pursue their passions on the side. Some people quit their 9-5 completely to pursue their passion full time. It really just depends on your appetite for risk.
What if someone genuinely aspires to an accountant? Or business consultant? These are your ‘9-5’ careers and some people have amazing careers in these industries, in my opinion. What if someone’s dream is to work in a major corporation? Who are we to judge or deem their dream average? For me it’s a bit simplistic to say a 9-5 is mediocre and living a life where you’re employed and have a fixed income is not necessarily average. There’s a difference between doing a 9-5 you enjoy and doing one that is soul crushing. Not all 9-5s are the same.
I think the greater issue with 9-5s are the companies themselves. With the increase in millennials quitting their jobs and choosing work that is of greater flexibility, purpose and impact, this is costing the common employer. I read an article on Forbes recently which said the following:
With 87% of companies reporting a cost of between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each lost Millennial employee, industries need to start paying attention to structural changes. Reports and studies seem to indicate three roots to Millennials’ discontent and the resulting upheaval: the drives for flexibility, purposeful labor and economic security.
I do think many employers need to reform their working environment, so that is one of more flexibility, freedom, and encouragement that the work being done is of value and importance to the company. At the end of the day firms need people to do their 9-5s. One day when I own my own business I will also need to employ others. Without change and reform in these companies to cater to the needs and desires of the millennial workforce, this could be detrimental in the long run.
Maybe my view on 9-5s is a clouded one because I am someone who has been driven and encouraged to go down the traditional route of going to university and then finding a good, well paid job. As I grow older I’m starting to realise that’s not what I solely want to do. Being stuck in a full time job for 30+ years just doesn’t appeal to me anymore, but it could appeal to someone else and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
With all jobs, 9-5, self employment, freelancing – there are risks and no job is ever 100% secure, so I believe everyone should just follow their own path. Those who are not in 9-5s or don’t desire to stay in one shouldn’t look down upon someone who is.