I have a friend whose ostensibly good at his job. He gets paid week after week, looks dead tired most of the time and constantly complains (and rightly so) about the pressures he has to handle. Recently he told me that his boss offered him working two jobs at once with only a marginal pay bonus. The fact that I didn’t hear from him the same week it happened was no longer a surprise once I knew what had happened to him.
So now, he’s moved from glumly talking about his job to coming off as a bit more desperate to leave. I don’t mean desperate in some sort of unappealing way but just to say that it’s much more obvious that he wants to leave. Also him telling me, “I’m working on my resume lately.” was a pretty big tip too.
Apparently this sort of job can be called a “super job” though I had never thought of this name. I got it from this blog post by John Spencer I found on Facebook a few months ago. Appropriately, with a friend of mine discovering his normal job has become a super job (I think it has gone back to normal recently), this is a “good” time to think about this.
Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick of what I call “super jobs” hitting my inbox. These are positions where employers try to cram multiple roles into one in order to save money. …
• A Sharepoint admin/developer (often two roles, but we’ll be nice and say one),
• A BI developer/report designer
• A data analyst
• An application support analyst
• A billing/collections analyst
• A server/network admin
• A level 2 (or 3) help desk analyst
• An inventory asset manager
Count those: that’s a minimum of eight roles for one person. EIGHT.
Each would be a full-time responsibility at a reasonably staffed company, requiring a seasoned asset manager and IT professionals with advanced skills or certifications in these very separate areas: Networking, Databases, Business Intelligence, Sharepoint, Excel, and Programming.
I know IT people who are advanced and/or certified in one of these areas.
Maybe even two or three.
But I don’t know any who are at this level in six, let alone eight.
And that’s with Spencer being “nice” and allowing a position to be one when it should be two.
I can’t say I’ve ever had the displeasure to be tasked with something akin to a “super job”. I can barely handle my retail job which asks me to split myself into two at every waking second. If I’m not at the front counter then I need to make like Tien of Dragon Ball fame and use my multi-form technique. That way I can be several feet or more from the counter, cleaning up the store and making sure it looks “better” while still tending to customers at the front.
But that’s about the closest I usually come to balancing multiple things at my job most of the time. Either because I purposefully try to limit the amount of multiclassing I do in corporate bullshit or because my job doesn’t ask me to do these kinds of ridiculous stunts. Retail in general seems to only value mild amounts of multiclassing.
On the other hand, there’s this new position at the store (I may have mentioned this before, I don’t remember) called a “Designated Hitter” which puts people into the pharmacy and the floor. This makes it so you might start your shift in the pharmacy and helping out, but once they’re done you’re back on the floor helping with the front of the store.
This isn’t too bad, since at least you’re switching from one context to another in a solid way, not multitasking. On the other hand once your brain has just finished dealing with one part of your job you go on to something that’s different. That kind of context switching is likely to make you more tired than just focusing on one job. Still, compared to the above…
I’ve been forced into doing this “super job” thing before, and I know exactly what it means: 10-12 hour days at the office, logging in every day when you get home from work, working all weekend every weekend.
You get to be awakened in the middle of the night for emergencies, and no real time off because “you’re too important to be out of contact,” so they bother you the whole time you’re away.
I had one company give me an airtime USB with the expectation that I would carry it always and pull over to work on the side of the road if called while driving around on the weekend. I wish I was kidding.
That amount of work for one person is neither reasonable nor sustainable.
Stories like this terrorize me and make me never wish an office job upon myself. I’ve thought about it from time to time, going so far as to even apply to an employer or two I had heard decent to good things about from other friends. But if one movie (even if it’s slightly overrated) did it’s job in implanting just how terrible office jobs can be it’s Office Space.
That said, I’m sure there are advantages for doing it over a retail job. Just like I am sure my job has some benefits over being stuck in a chair all day. Standing all day isn’t much better and that’s partly why I try to sit whenever I can.
I think companies know this, and they don’t care. It’s not like the days of yore, where they would bring in talented people and groom them for the future. In today’s workplace, they want to bring you in, load you down, and burn you out. And once you’re gone, or dead, they shrug and bring in the next one.
Sentiments like this sound nice, but we should admit that the past is often romanticized. Even in the “golden age” of jobs (the 50s?) “grooming” people often meant putting them under their own rule and making sure they went along with the program as obediently as possible. And the “future” of many people’s lives was being a “company man“.
And I can’t see what’s so great about that.
There’s a few other passages I could quote about the (relatively) low pay, but I’m sure at this point that wouldn’t be much of a shock to the folks who are reading this. In the end, bosses want super tough jobs with super low pay done by superhuman individuals who both don’t exist and even if they do, they’re not getting any more super as time goes on.
In fact, “super jobs” are the best way to grind out your employees and look for new ones.
New superhuman suckers.
If you enjoyed this commentary, consider donating to my Patreon!