Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#129 - Generally Speaking in a World of Specifics

There is an old saying, "jack of all trades, master of none." At one time, that meant a person could do a number of things fairly well but was not an expert at any one of those things.

Over time, though, I think a slight negative connotation crept into the subtext of that old phrase, an implication that such a person perhaps wasn't worth as much to society as someone who possessed expertise is a specific field, such as medicine or science.

I have been recalling that phrase, one I often used to describe myself and my abilities, over the last several days as I prepare for the very real possibility of having to find a new job. The company I worked for sold my division, and the new owners are busy reorganizing the division and redefining how things are done, both of which are good for the company but not necessarily as good for all of its employees.

As a result, some of the jobs in my division are being eliminated, while others are being moved to a different state. That means some good people will find themselves on the outside looking in.

In my current position, being something of a generalist, a "jack of all trades," if you will, is a good thing. Being able to do a number of things reasonably well makes you a bit more valued.

However, in looking at some recent job openings, I am increasingly convinced that we live in a specialized world. Most, if not all of the opening require a specific skill or combination of skills, even for lower-paying or entry-level positions. Other qualities that might ensure an ability to do the job well (critical thinking skills, ability to work independently or as part of a team, etc.) are ignored if the applicant does not possess the specific expertise sought.

While specific expertise is quite useful in, say, a physician or a lawyer, it seems less necessary in areas such as sales or general labor. Yet I see more and more calls for specific skills, no matter how low paying the position.

I have worked for any length of time in only two areas in my life: broadcast journalism and data entry/pricing. I have been out of journalism for 20 years and likely could not go back even if I wanted to. I have worked for my current employer for almost eight years, spending time in Accounts Payable and in a division office working with beer and wine distributors and entering pricing.

I believe I have other skills that seldom get a chance to be used: critical thinking, analytical skills, writing skills, and more. Yet these skills may remain untapped as long as the positions where such things might be put to use require specific expertise I do not possess.

Generally speaking, there should be places in the working world for people who possess broad knowledge and abilities, people who do not conveniently fit into a specific niche, the square pegs who do not fit the round holes. Specifically speaking, there should be a place for me. Now I just need to find it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

#128 - Bang, Bang You Shot Me Down

First, let me say I have never owned a gun, and I have no desire to ever own a gun. Next, let me say I have no interest in having all guns outlawed, nor do I have any interest in having all weaponry legal for private ownership.

I have fired a gun on a couple of occasions, even hitting what I was aiming at on the second of those. I understand the attraction of guns and of owning them. Even though I do not hunt, I think I understand the allure of tracking and bagging your prey.

I think I even understand the desire of some to have a gun in the house for protection. At the same time, I understand my own limitations which come up somewhere way short of being able to have a gun in my home.

What I do not understand is the twisted logic of some of those screaming the loudest in the current and latest chapter of the debate over gun control. Perhaps if they could simply listen to themselves they would see how ridiculous they sound.

Case in point: the people who argue that guns don't kill people, people kill people and then argue against universal background checks to perhaps keep guns out of the hands of some of these people. These are the checks that might keep a few of people from killing other people because they would no longer be able to walk into a gun show, spend a few minutes looking around, then walk out having bought a gun because the seller was not required to check them out in any way, shape, or form.

Many of these same people argue against firearm education and safety training, as if it's my God-given right to be a fool with a gun, accidentally shoot myself and perhaps shoot someone else in the process. After all, what's a little collateral damage between friends (Dick Cheney, anyone?)

We require renewable licenses to drive a car and open a business. Schools now offer drivers education, and some religious faiths provide instruction prior to marriage. You have to take a test before getting a driver's license, but there is no such requirement for buying or owning a gun.

The most vocal gun advocates all but scream that such requirements will lead to only criminals having guns or that they won't stop criminals from having guns. What a load of horse manure. If your sole argument is that having a law won't stop people from breaking it, why have any laws or limits? Why not simply have anarchy?

Among other things, laws provide societal boundaries and help life move in an orderly fashion. No, speed limits and traffic signals don't keep some people from speeding or from running red lights. But they do help to minimize those things and make roads a little safer for everyone else.

Universal background checks, firearms training, renewable gun registrations won't keep determined criminals from getting guns, but I believe they will help to minimize such occurrences and perhaps allow for better tracking of weapons used to commit crimes. And they may help to keep things a little bit safer for the rest of us.

Let me end as I started. I don't own a gun and have no desire to own a gun. If you want to own a gun, fine, that is your Second Amendment right. But remember that the Second Amendment includes the words "well regulated." All I ask is that gun ownership finally be "well regulated" instead of the haphazard mess we now have.

If you want to own a gun, make sure you are qualified to have a gun, and that requires a little more than simply having the money to pay for one. Get adequate training in firearm use and safety. We might both rest a bit easier.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

#127 - The Times They Are a Changin'

First off, apologies to Bob Dylan. Not that he reads this blog, but his famous song of the 1960s (and album of the same name) seemed a nice point from which to launch into a discussion of change.

I recently finished reading what, for me, was a very profound book by Neale Donald Walsch called "When Everything Changes, Change Everything". Among other things, the book talks about changing the way one thinks about and reacts to change and by doing so actually influencing future changes in one's life.

The book also makes the argument that all change is for the better, even change that seems deeply disastrous at the time of its occurrence. Walsch refers back to his own life experiences of breaking his neck, losing his job, and becoming homeless, events which at the time were traumatic but which, in retrospect, he says were the best things to ever happen to him.

Walsch takes this argument to its logical conclusion, stating that change is life and arguing that life without change is not only boring, it is impossible. According to Walsch, change happens whether we want it or not. We cannot stop change, but we can control how we think about it.

There is much more worth reading in this book, but Walsch's thoughts on change were very timely in my life. Recently, the company I work for decided to sell off some of its assets, including the division I work for. Naturally, that has a number of people wondering, even worried about the future of their jobs. I am not one of them.

The division I work for is being split into two separate divisions, one remaining here in Boise, Idaho, the other located in Portland, Oregon. Because of my area of responsibility, the likelihood on paper is that my position will move to Portland. It might happen; it might not. Whether it does or does not, however, is out of my control.

What is in my control is how I react to, think about, and even prepare for that possibility. I choose not to let it govern my every waking hour and thought. At some point in the near future, I'll likely begin polishing my resume' and start looking for another opportunity somewhere.

I have no doubt that, should the need arise, I will find another job somewhere. I feel confident in my ability to respond to and even thrive through any changes in this area that might occur. Because the world around me isn't the only thing changing.