Return to Career
“Productive work” does not mean the blind performance of the motions of some job. It means the conscious, rational pursuit of a productive career. In popular usage, the term “career” is applied only to the more ambitious types of work; but, in fact, it applies to all work: it denotes a man’s attitude toward his work.
The difference between a career-man and a job-holder is as follows: a career-man regards his work as constant progress, as a constant upward motion from one achievement to another, higher one, driven by the constant expansion of his mind, his knowledge, his ability, his creative ingenuity, never stopping to stagnate on any level. A job-holder regards his work as a punishment imposed on him by the incomprehensible malevolence of reality or of society, which, somehow, does not let him exist without effort; so his policy is to go through the least amount of motions demanded of him by somebody and to stay put in any job or drift off to another, wherever chance, circumstances or relatives might happen to push him.
In this sense, a man of limited ability who rises by his own purposeful effort from unskilled laborer to shop-foreman, is a career-man in the proper, ethical meaning of the word—while an intelligent man who stagnates in the role of a company president, using one-tenth of his potential ability, is a mere job-holder. And so is a parasite posturing in a job too big for his ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability that is ethically relevant in this issue, but the full, purposeful use of his ability.