Hitch your wagon to a star
It's a Canadian rite of passage to complain about your job. You work hard, so who's to say you can't whine about it? Yet is your gig as a lawyer really that bad? How about as a government clerk, or bank teller or plumber?
While your job might stink from time to time, it probably doesn't have you pulling out your hair as much as you lead people to believe. So, which careers are the most taxing? To come up with a list, MSN contacted several human resource reps and job placement agencies to uncover some of the most stressful jobs in Canada. Let the debate begin.
* Hours worked data provided by various sources including Statistics Canada, Toronto Fire, CareerCast.com and Manpower Canada.
Hours worked per week: 30
When considering the stress levels of commercial pilots, don't scoff at how many hours they work. As Byrne Luft, VP of Marketing at Manpower Canada, points out, often pilots are only paid for the hours they spend in the air. So, while a modern pilot has to worry about the safety of 300 passengers and threats of terrorism, their paycheques only reflect a small fraction of the time they're actually on the job. Add to that crippling industry cutbacks and a ban on working salary-boosting overtime hours, and it's understandable that pilots taking to the skies are under a lot of stress.
Hours worked per week: 47.5
Taxi drivers, like pilots, are responsible for the safety of their passengers — often as many as 100 per day. And for cabbies, there is no substitute for hard work. "It's going to take long hours for you to make a good living as a [taxi] driver," says Luft, noting that many cabbies will work 14-15 hour days. "Imagine the traffic, too. I don't think there's a person on the planet that likes traffic." Unemployment is also relatively high within the fraternity of taxi drivers, with some estimates pegging the number of out-of-work cabbies as high as 14 per cent.
Hours worked per week: 40
The stress of being a newspaper or magazine photographer is twofold, according to Peter Harris, content manager at Workopolis. For one, oftentimes photojournalists will be witness to the worst of the worst — crime scenes, murders, all elements of human tragedy. And, if the cumulative, career-long effect of that exposure wasn't enough, there is the pressure of capturing a split-second moment with your lens. "At the end of the day, you have to get the picture," says Harris. "That's your job, and you never know if you're going to get it or not." A struggling print industry has also put unwanted strains on already-stressed photojournalists.
Hours worked per week: 42*
As Manpower's Luft puts it, firefighting is simply one of those thankless jobs. "The misconception with firefighters is that they sit in a hall waiting for the bell to ring," he says. "If they're not training, they're doing much more than just firefighting. They're seeing a lot of action." Indeed, the dangers of firefighting don't need to be repeated - on average, about six firefighters are killed in Canada each year — but the logistics of the profession only add to the stress that each day you report to work could be your last. "They work odd hours and are on call at all times," says Harris, of Workopolis. "Even when there is no fire, it's always hanging over your head. You never know when an emergency is going to come."
* 24-hour shift work involved.
Hours worked per week: 55
Corporate execs are often left off lists like these because of their handsome compensation. Yet, while the annual salaries of CEOs are indeed large, so is the stress that accompanies their work. "You ever hear the phrase, 'It's very lonely at the top of the food chain, but the lunches are good' It's very true," says Luft. "You really have a huge weight on your shoulders, having to respond to shareholders and drive the performance of an organization." Many headhunters also submit that, while the job of corporate executive is often earned through hard work and skill, there are no guarantees: The profession has one of the highest levels of competition within any occupation.
Hours worked per week: 36*
Like in many careers today, nurses have to deal with the constant threat of cutbacks, a variable that offers little stability in a hectic profession. "Job [in]security always causes stress levels to increase," says Harris. Yet, due to crushing workloads and the requirement to do more with less, Canadian nurses now experience one of the highest burnout rates in the world. According to a recent study, the burnout rate for young nursing graduates was a whopping 58 per cent, a measurement that's backed up by Statistics Canada figures. The StatsCan study also found that the same number (58 per cent) of registered nurses reported high levels of stress in their work, a figure that rises to 67 per cent among nurse supervisors.
* In addition, nurses often work one extra twelve-hour shift every other week.
Hours worked per week: 50
Look no further than any Internet search of "Rahim Jaffer," "Rod Blagojevich" or "Eliot Spitzer" to illustrate the stresses of being a politician. But what about the men and women behind the scenes? By Luft's count, there may be no more taxing job on earth than that performed by, for example, the assistants to the ministers of parliament, or aides working closely with active politicians. "I know many of them don't make it past six months on the job," he says. "It's not for the weak at heart. You're sleeping four hours a night, and I know some politicians have their assistants up at 4 a.m. reading every newspaper around. Think about that, having to debrief your [boss] on every relevant issue of the day. This stuff causes extremely high burnout rates."
Real estate agent
Hours worked per week: 47.5
By almost any measure, real estate is the career that never sleeps. "The profession gives you absolutely no time off," says Luft. "You always have to be near your phone, constantly making connections, constantly being 'on.' Everyone's your client or potential client." Realtors are also forced to cope with an extremely competitive industry, difficult to deal with at any times, but especially challenging given the recent collapse in the global real estate market. And then there is the compensation. Most careers will pay your bills, for better or worse. But in real estate? "It's a profession that gives you no pay unless you make a sale," says Luft. Now that's pressure.