[VIEWPOINT] Get Ready to Start Afresh

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[VIEWPOINT] Get Ready to Start Afresh

We Still Have 20 or 30 Years Ahead of Us; Preparing for a New Life is Unavoidable
by Lee Si-hyung

These are the times that try men's souls, especially office workers'. Bogged down by enough troubles as it is, they are facing the threat of layoffs again. Sleep is elusive and it is hard to concentrate on work as they face the prospect that their company will fold up.

Why did I choose this path and this company of all companies? Many office workers are probably asking such questions.

So what are they to do? Prepare to begin anew, that's what. Those working in the jobs they hate or are incompetent at, but are trudging along because they have no other choice, have to make extra efforts. The finish line is far, far away. In their current state, they are likely to drop out of the race midway. Not because of overwork, but because of the sense of defeat that overtakes you when you continue to do something you hate, you will get seriously ill.

Those who do not really loathe their jobs, but find them tedious; those whose performance has been mediocre so far; those who believe their current jobs have no future, and hanging onto them would benefit no one; those working for companies that constantly terrorize their employees with threats of layoffs and restructuring?hese people had better brace themselves to make a hard choice.

You feel helpless with rage. You devoted your entire youth to the company and now it orders you to leave. You feel betrayed and compelled to put up a strenuous fight.

You have to release the pent-up fury by expressing these thoughts. You have to be compensated for staking your life on your company. You also have to be cunning by preparing to start afresh.

Gone is the era of a lifelong job for the office worker who works loyally for his company at the sacrifice of everything else. Not many companies will remain in business that long anyway. Did any insolvent company last long just because its labor union tried to prevent the inevitable, as the union members of many companies are doing today? You might try to delude yourself that the government won't let a mammoth organization fall on its face, but you better believe it will.

No company in any part of the world can compete without employment flexibility. The proof is there in the harsh reality that we are experiencing.

Although painful, our mentality has to shift gears to meet the demands of the times. Companies have to be flexible, resilient and mobile to survive in this age of globalization. We have to abandon the fantasy of a job for life. Instead, we have to be transformed into an agile employee capable of undertaking any duty at any time, anywhere.

The future society will be characterized by constant changes. The traditional concept of a Korean company is slowly vanishing. Virtually every Korean company of some repute in business today has changed in every aspect, save for its name.

A company or a person cannot compete without globalizing. Globalization does not necessarily mean being proficient in English, but our consciousness at least has to change to meet global norms.

To maintain employability, we have to acquire the necessary skills and qualifications. There is one particular trap to be wary of: the defeatist attitude of questioning the feasibility of beginning anew at our age.

We are living in an era where many of us can look forward to living to 100. Those in their 60s are still in their prime. Many septuagenarians and octogenarians are also hale and hearty.

This is why some advanced countries believe 75 is the ideal age for retirement. Even then, labor productivity can be just as high as it is in young people, or sometimes higher, because of the older persons' wisdom and experience. They cannot, of course, compete against the young in a foot race, but they are just as capable as their much younger counterparts not only in mental labor, but also in physical labor.

The average age of Korea's rural population exceeds 70, but productivity is rising. Perseverance is the key to farm work, and there are machines for the physically demanding tasks.

The human body was designed to endure seven or eight times the workload it ordinarily performs. We can still function normally, even when our physical strength diminishes by half. Only about 6 percent of the people in the first phase of old age fail to lead a normal life due to senile infirmities. Thus some even believe one should retire at 80.

I hope I have stated enough reasons why we should never fear to take up something new, no matter at what age. We still have 20 or 30 years ahead of us, even if we retire in our mid-50s. I am not urging you readers to get ready for a new life just because it sounds good, but because it is unavoidable. Your current difficulty could be bliss in disguise. You will find yourself getting excited at your transformation. Only then can you become a truly employable office worker.

The writer is a psychiatrist at Kang Buk Samsung Medical Center.
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