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Military Rated Most “Stressful” Job?

Usually the career and joblisting website CareerCast.com posts enlisted military among the worst jobs in the country. But they also have a list of the most “stressful” jobs in the country.

The military general (like there are a zillion of those) rolled in at number two. Firefighters, airline pilots and events coordinators round out the top five.

CareerCast determined their rankings based on job demands that seemed likely to provoke stress, including travel, growth potential, competitiveness, physical demands, hazards, environmental conditions and risk to one’s own life or to others’.

While I can see where they are coming from — long deployments, absence from family, physical danger, and responsibility for other people’s lives are all pretty darn stressful — I think these guys have it wrong.

I think the whole “risk to one’s life” thing, combined with low income and a lack of exposure to the 1 percent who actually serve in the military, clouds the issue.

Because there are worse things than stress at work.

Work related stress can be created by many factors — from poor pay to tyrannical supervisors to monotonous, uninteresting, repetitive work that bores the life out of you.

Sociologists have found that work that brings on feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness and isolation are the worst kinds of stressors.

When it comes to the military, I’m sure that in the first enlistment, there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate powerlessness, meaningless and isolation.

If that is your work life in the military, then your work life is just a job, just a paycheck. The military doesn’t pay well enough to keep you grinding away like that. So you get out.

I think what is a lot more interesting is what happens in that second or third enlistment period. Sometime in there servicemembers start connecting to other things at work.

The work starts meaning something. People start looking at their work and thinking of it as a career–a source of challenge, reward and status.

They might even start thinking of it as a calling — a meaningful, socially valuable part of the servicemember’s identity that also provides financial gain and career advancement.

In my research on long married active duty military couples, the majority identified their work as a calling. Some thought of it as a career. Very, very few thought of it as a job.

For most of these servicemembers, their work in the military meant something to them. For many, it was an inseparable part of who they are.

Sure, there was stress, But for couples in which the servicemember identified his work as a calling, there was also increased job satisfaction and increased marital satisfaction.

That counts for something. If you haven’t been in the military yourself (I haven’t) or you haven’t lived with a military member for long (I have) you probably can’t see why anyone would want a job like that—and you would be quick to put military jobs right at the top of the list of “worst” or “most stressful” jobs in the country.

But when you have witnessed someone’s work going from bill paying job to life filling calling you have to look at work in the military a little bit differently.

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.