- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

Evelyn Buitrago was laid off from her high-paying consulting job at Accenture in Miami in September. But she is happy to have more time to spend with her family and is looking for more personally fulfilling work, most likely at a lower salary.
Peter, who did not want his last name used, left his lucrative position as a stock analyst on Wall Street this spring so he could have more time to travel out West and tend to his personal life.
Rachel Feldman quit her time-consuming career as a health care consultant with a six-figure salary so she could spend more time with her daughter. Using her savings, she opened an art gallery in the Crystal City section of Arlington.
These workers have found that their jobs and lifestyles are being transformed to varying degrees by profound changes arising from the recession last year, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Enron scandal.
All three events called into question the quest for lucrative jobs and easy money that became the hallmark of the economic boom and bull market in the 1990s.
Polls show that Americans increasingly want to find time for family and friends first, even if it means earning less money.
The all-consuming, high-tech dream jobs of the 1990s came with stock options that promised to make even clerical workers millionaires, but workers today are putting greater emphasis on achieving emotional gratification and social improvement.
The three defining events of last year are ushering in a new era for American workers, said John Challenger, president of Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
"The recession marked the end of the last era. People now are looking for jobs with more meaning, more time to be with their children and not traveling all the time," he said, noting that many professionals were traveling on September 11 and had trouble returning home because air service was suspended for several days.
"For many, September 11 was a wake-up call. There is greater willingness to accept lower pay if it means greater flexibility to balance work and family," he said.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks, a poll by American Demographics magazine found that 77 percent of Americans wanted to spend more time with their families, while only 19 percent thought making a lot of money was important.
More recently, 70 percent of those interviewed in a Ranstad North America poll said family was the priority, up from 54 percent in 2000, when the economic boom was peaking.
The recession since March 2001, which prompted mass layoffs and the loss of nearly 1.8 million jobs nationwide, accelerated the change of attitude, Mr. Challenger said.
"The heavy job losses may have eroded loyalty to large organizations and cultivated the idea that personal satisfaction is more important than higher pay," he said.
Reflecting the trend, the number of job seekers at the end of last year who were willing to work for lower pay rose to a 15-year high, he said.
Miss Buitrago, 25, lost her job in a fourth round of layoffs at Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, the week before the terrorist attacks. She has been unable to find a position in Miami offering the same salary.
Because she wants to stay near her family in South Florida, Miss Buitrago says she is willing to accept a job at lower pay and is leaning toward a researcher position, which she says would be more fulfilling than a job involving much "schmoozing," like her last one.
"I'm not expecting the same salary," she said, noting that she made enough at Accenture to build a cushion of savings on which she is living. "I'd rather have less stress, more time and less money."
Mrs. Feldman also has made financial sacrifices since leaving her high-paying consulting job at the Lewin Group and opening her art boutique in November. The single mother made her decision before the terrorist attacks, but events have validated her new focus on being with her daughter.
"I have no regrets," she said. "The thought of having to travel is terrifying. I've been incredibly relieved I don't have to travel anymore."
Many former executives and managers are making major career changes or starting new businesses, Mr. Challenger said, and more people are working at smaller firms out of a desire for a more flexible and familial work environment.

Public service on the rise
Workers also are taking more interest in government jobs, reversing a decades-long trend when government service fell out of favor. Jobs at public agencies frequently offer a greater sense of mission, as well as more security, flexibility and more time off.
The renewed interest in government work is greatest among college graduates, who are turning to public service in numbers not seen in a generation.
In the weeks after the terrorist attacks, applications by graduates tripled at Teach for America, a kind of domestic Peace Corps that trains and places graduates with non-teaching degrees for two years at impoverished rural and inner-city schools.
Jerry Hauser, chief operating officer of the teachers' group, attributes the whopping increase in applications to the recession and the September 11 attacks, with more than half the applicants saying they are redirecting their careers toward education because of the attacks.
The Peace Corps, other teaching organizations and graduate schools also have seen applications surge by 30 percent to 50 percent for similar reasons, he said.
Teach for America also received a lift from President Bush, who highlighted the organization this winter in calling on all Americans to devote two years over their lifetimes to public service. His administration has instituted a "Call to Service" campaign aimed at drafting college graduates into federal government work.
"This is a generation that feels truly connected to their nation, and many of these students are looking for opportunities to make a difference," said Max Stier, president of the Washington-based Partnership for Public Service, a private coalition co-sponsoring the government-employment campaign.
Stuart Greenbaum, dean of the business school at Washington University in St. Louis, has noticed the increased altruism among students. But he cautions not to overinterpret their renewed interest in public service.
"Many of the nation's college grads this year want to pursue a career in which they can make a difference in society, but they also want to make a buck," he said.
Other analysts note that graduates, no matter the ideological reasons, naturally are gravitating toward jobs that are most available because jobs in technology and business have all but dried up since the beginning of the recession.
As it happens, the jobs that have become more desirable are also those that have been the most plentiful during the recession.
While jobs in industry and technology disappeared by the thousands, more than 323,100 jobs opened in education last year, health care businesses added 308,000 jobs, and social-service jobs expanded by 129,000, according to the Labor Department.
Interest in many of these jobs has picked up, but some continue to go begging. Nursing and retirement homes continue to report severe worker shortages, despite the prospects for increased employment, with the looming retirement of the baby boomers, according to the department.
But the availability of these service jobs has been and will continue to be a powerful inducement, particularly for entry-level workers just joining the labor force, analysts said.
The drama Americans witnessed after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center presented a more positive inducement to join the government.
The heroism of New York's firefighters, hundreds of whom died trying to rescue people from the collapsing towers, raised visibility and respect for such public-service jobs.
The self-sacrifice of the firefighters in the face of death put to shame "the emptiness of the dot-com era, when people jumped from company to company with absolutely no loyalty, like free agents," Mr. Challenger said.

Looking for meaning, security
The trend away from highly paid but often stressful and emotionally empty jobs began with the dot-com failures in 2000 and accelerated with the collapse of energy giant Enron Corp. in December in the biggest corporate scandal since the savings and loan disaster of the 1980s.
"At the end of the 1990s, everybody was trying to strike it rich, push the boundaries and be a millionaire at 27," Mr. Challenger said. That caused workers to "look the other way" when their companies sometimes crossed the ethical line in their financial statements and day-to-day practices.
All that has changed since Enron imploded after admitting it deceived investors about its finances, and its long-time auditor, Arthur Andersen LLP, was staggered after the government charged it with obstructing a securities-fraud investigation.
"A lot of people are saying: 'Enough is enough. I don't want to work for a company that's doing that,'" Mr. Challenger said.
"People were really shocked" when the scandal broke, he said. "Andersen was the bluest of the blue chips, with an 85-year history of integrity. Enron was a new-economy company that espoused new values. It was hard to understand."
Like Enron employees, many Americans have lost money in the stock market and seen their retirement portfolios shrink with the bear market stoked by the dot-com collapse, recession and the Enron scandal. They are learning increasingly that riches quickly gained can be quickly lost.
"Post-Enron, more people are looking for companies that they can trust, that have integrity," even if it means less compensation, Mr. Challenger said, adding that the scandal has given workers another reason to value safety, security and family-oriented jobs over risky ventures that promise rich rewards.
As age-old professions such as firefighting, policing and health care have gained in prestige, careers in the high-flying professions of law, politics, Wall Street finance, athletics and entertainment have dropped in the public's esteem, according to the American Demographics poll.
The Enron scandal also undermined respect for the heroes of the 1980s and 1990s: corporate executives, accountants and Wall Street analysts, who came under fire for recommending the purchase of Enron stock even as the company was failing.
The debacle continues to weigh on the stock market, curbing Americans' appetite to buy equities and reversing some of the wealth gains they enjoyed during the 1990s.
Peter decided this spring to ditch his 75-hour workweek on Wall Street, take a long vacation and begin a more low-key existence out West.
"I decided I needed a change of lifestyle," the 26-year-old said. "Moving West had always been in the back of my mind."
Peter was considering the change before the Enron scandal, recession and terrorist attacks, but those events might have been the "catalyst" to make it happen, he said.
"I realized that I would rather find myself at age 30 with a good personal life with time off for vacations, more free weekends and nights, and a more modest income than have an inflated salary and a nonexistent life outside of work," he said.

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