I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how work has changed over the past several years. When I was growing up in the 1980’s, society was still in the mindset that “setting yourself up for success” meant graduating from high school, going to university to get a degree, then finding a good, stable, secure full time job with regular hours and good benefits. Worse, women were still (yes, even in the 80’s) expected to finish school, work for a while, find a husband, put their career on hold, have a bunch of kids, then try to “reintegrate” to the workforce after 10 or 12 years.

If that was the secret to success, then I suppose I’ve failed miserably.

OK, I did graduate high school. But I decided on community college instead of university, since they couldn’t teach me how to make TV shows at university. I got a job after college, but the pay was crappy, the benefits were just okay, and the hours were anything but regular. During those early days of my career, the elusive husband I was supposed to nab was nowhere to be found. In fact, I would wait till I was 34 years old to finally tie the knot (Does that make me an old maid?). As for having a bunch of babies, well, I look around me and nope – don’t see any babies. Therefore, no reason to put said career on hold, I guess.

The one area where I suppose I did succeed (in the 80’s definition of success) is that after my first job, I came to my senses. I proceeded to have a string of jobs that were 9-5, Monday to Friday, corporate grind type jobs, with good pay and good benefits. Naturally, the rebel in me wanted nothing more than to bust out of that grind and do my own thing. As time went on, I came to a very profound realization.

I really do believe that the way people look at work is changing. The lines between what is considered “work” and what is considered “outside interests” are blurring.

***THIS JUST IN***

As I was writing this, I came across this morning’s video post by Chris Brogan on work vs. play. I just want to be clear – what I’m referring to here is not really work vs. play. I think work vs. play is different than work vs. outside interests. First, go watch his video, because Chris is a smarty pants and he makes a really great point. Then come back and I’ll explain myself.

You’re back. Good! :-)

When I was doing the corporate grind thing, I worked hard and cared about the work I was doing (most of the time), even enjoyed it (some of the time), but there was a definite line between my “job” and my “outside interests”. In fact, I worked really hard to keep my personal interests personal and my work stuff at work. I thought that work/life balance was all about that separation. I’ve realized that this was a serious error in my thinking.

Perhaps things are different now because I work for myself. I’m no longer held to a particular schedule, I get to choose the projects I work on, and I have had the freedom to choose and to be able to nurture relationships with people that are based on both friendship and professional ties. But what I’ve noticed, over the past several months, is that my To Do list contains a lot of crossover between what one would consider “personal interest” and what is “work”.

For all the hours and hours of work I do on paying gigs, I’m finding that I’m doing more and more work on things that don’t pay. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve helped shoot a music video, helped to edit some protest/awareness videos, and agreed to help produce a new technology podcast. I’ve talked with friends about playing music more, perhaps at open stages, maybe even a gig someday. I’ve also written a pile of blog posts. All of these things are work to me. Sure, they don’t have a monetary payoff, but who says that work has to bring in money all the time? Isn’t it possible that some work can be done for the pure experience and enjoyment?

I also lump networking into this mix. Back when I was working for other companies, I used to get paid to go to networking events, conferences and meetings. Now that I’m self-employed, I don’t really get paid to go out to meetups, meet people for coffee, or attend Social Media Breakfasts. But I do it anyway. It’s right there, on my To Do list. It’s part of work – a very important part.

The truth is, what constitutes “work” for me really has changed. I’m no longer bound by “I must do THIS so I can get paid THIS.” I guess that is what makes what I do for a living so much fun. At times, I think my work IS play. And vice versa, I suppose!

Sure, in the old-time definition of having a successful career, I guess I really have not “made it”. But what I have done is carved my own path to success. It’s been hard work; I’d even say harder work than the old fashioned way of doing things. But I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way.

How has work changed for you?