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How long is too long when it comes to a career?

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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In Our Opinion

Please rest assured that, no, the summer did not suddenly vanish in the blink of an eye. And no, we're not in a Labor Day theme about the length of one's work life.

The topic of longevity on the job recently surfaced when the Cheney School District singled out employees and honored them for their varying degrees of service at a year-end ceremony. Some had been on the job for 40 years.

So it prompted the Cheney Free Press editorial board to ask the question: How long is too long when it comes to time spent on the job, or with a specific employer?

Just when do workers get stale and unproductive? The answer might be just as nebulous and subjective as the question.

A quick Internet search finds 92-year-old Iowa fast food worker Sara Dappen to be one of the oldest working adults. She supplements her pension with her part-time job, but said it was just as important to stay engaged in an activity as she ages.

We all know the dedicated ones in any profession who have the passion and expertise to do their jobs seemingly forever. But for everyone of those who toil endlessly and with great passion and drive, there are those need to go, or better yet maybe should have never been in a particular job in the first place.

As for the latter, it is a wonder how they got employed in the first place, let alone keep their job?

Anymore, this longevity is more likely found in the public sector where unions have constructed layers of protection and sophisticated contracts to keep ineffective workers on the job.

To be clear this is not a knock on unions. But these institutions that once paved the way for the 40-hour work week, workplace safety and regulating the ages of workers are now often painted with the brush of protection. Like rules that allow reinstatement of a worker found to have been having sex on the job.

Workers in the private sector once remained on the job for 40 years for the gold watch and the company pension. But the latter is very much a memory so that dynamic has changed greatly.

One study showed that today's college graduates might change jobs five or more times before age 30.

This is not just workplace wanderlust but rather the demands in some cases of a career that requires such rapid change.

But back to that rare longevity where the school district list that honored employees in increments of five years might be seen just a little out of context if viewed simply as time on the job.

Lost in the simple list were the lengthy and even tear-jerking testimonials given in honor of the retirees. But after the accolades were given, one could see why some people were on the job so long and it was evident they were there for good reason.

Attitude and production are the easy measuring sticks. The give and take between employee and management is a combination that can make one energized and productive, or leave a person hopelessly drained.

It's impressive to go 40 years in a specific career these days. But as long as you have the goal to make it a better place for everybody, maybe there should be no limit?

Copyright 2014 Cheney Free Press, Cheney, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 29, 2014

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