I’m often told by people that they would love to have my job. What they see is that I spend my summers outdoors, I get to do a lot of interesting things, and I even get to live “out in the field” during that time. Honestly? I love my job, but I also recognize that what people see from the “outside looking in” is not what the job is.
This is what people think my job is:
Yes, I do get to do all those things. Just not very often. A lot of my time is spent right here:
The people who think it’s “great” that I “get to work outdoors in the summer!” say that when the weather is nice and sunny. Yes, it’s great … then. But I also have to work outdoors when it’s cold, windy, raining, snowing, or when the black flies are out in full force. The days you get to decide to “stay in,” or gripe about on your way to your office are the days that I still have to be outside.
Those who decide to try to get into the field find that out the hard way when they take the step of becoming an assistant supervisor. You have to go through that position if you want to move up, because it’s also a “training position.” Which is why the assistant’s position is referred as the “make or break slot,” and yes, we break a lot of them. This year I “broke” an assistant. He was highly qualified, a hard worker, ex-military, and smart. The sort of person who is a “star candidate.” He lasted 2 months.
What he found out was that the job that looked “great” from the outside was actually much more difficult than he thought, and that while you’re in the field, your personal life takes a hit. There are the large number of laws, regulations, and policies you’re expected to learn and apply. It’s a lot of information – back when we had it on paper it amounted to two full 3″ binders – to master. Going along with that are several computer reporting systems and a sizable number of paper forms. There’s a lot of scrambling trying to put all the pieces together, and it’s not easy. Along with that is the time you’re going to be spending dealing with various government agencies, advocacy groups, the public, and supervising seasonal workers.
Most of the people decide after a year that it’s “not for them,” and they move on. Others decide to “stay put,” and no, it’s not a bad thing. A good assistant makes a supervisor’s job far easier. The nice thing about the assistant slot is that you can always pass the buck to the supervisor. Some decide they want to take the next step, and become “the boss” themselves.
It’s why I’m amused when people say they’d love to have my job. Everyone wants it, until the day they have it. I’d love to have the job they think I have. It’s just not the one I do have.