I get notifications from time to time from LinkedIn, a professional networking site, that someone has celebrated 25 years at their job and I should congratulate them.
Anybody that lasts at their job for that long needs to be felicitated, especially in today’s job market where employment is tough to find and where Artificial Intelligence is taking over from weekend-loving humans.
Just between you and me, working for 25 years is no big achievement; I worked 18 years in a newspaper in Saudi Arabia and did not feel a thing. There was also no such term as “burnout” in those ‘olden days’.
At that time, there was excellent lifework balance outside the office, though it had another name, such as “family time”, and you had to spend your free time with your wife and your brats. (Nobody had yet thought up the term, ‘Me Time’). There were no huge traffic jams in those good old days and commuting was a cinch, though from time to time we heard that someone in sales was in hospital because of some speeding kid on the highway.
It was fun living in the cosmopolitan city, where you got the best of everything and the rent and the children’s school fees were affordable. (Schools were very exciting places; you would hear breathless reports from other parents that the school treasurer had ‘absconded’ with millions of riyals and is now happily living somewhere in a tiny village, with his wife, seven children, mother-in-law and dozens of relatives).
When your wife called to tell you to pick up some groceries on the way back, you really looked forward to shopping at Panda Market.
The job of a journo was not really a challenge as nobody knew what a journalist did. Thankfully, there was no digital media at that time and no 24/7 news that drives people a little crazy in the head.
No one to quote
Very rarely things happened after office hours and there was no chasing stories in the middle of the night or being called to work on Friday, as the paper was not published on Fridays.
The only tough thing about a reporter’s job was finding someone to quote. “Please sit down, can I get you tea, the manager will see you when he is free,” says the secretary with a wicked look on his face. Then after hours and hours of waiting and after reading all the ancient magazines on the table about pressure pipes and hydraulics, you realise that the manager has disappeared from the back exit.
There were no sleep experts telling you that you were killing yourself spending late nights on social media. In fact, you could barely keep your eyes open after watching the local channels on TV, especially after watching the news. The sleep you got after that was a beautiful, dreamless state of coma.
There were also no productivity experts telling you that you should spend three to four years in a job, learning everything about it and honing your skills and then moving on before you begin to rust.
In those days, nobody in the company wanted you to leave and would give you another title to tempt you to stay. From ‘Office Manager’, you would become ‘Overlord of the Realm’, and when you happily traipsed to HR and ask how much more you would be paid with the added responsibility, the evil man would tell you that your title has changed but your position in life has not.
And when you told your boss about a job offer you have, he would laugh.
There was no LinkedIn in those days and the only way you would hear there was a job opening some place was from your wife who knew everything about what is happening with the neighbours and in the city.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi