Meaning of Work Assignment
Read chapter 12, “Writing About People: The Interview,” in William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Choose a person to interview about his or her job. If possible, consider interviewing someone in an occupation you find interesting. Be sure to explain to the individual that, although the interview will be used for a class project, you will disguise his or her identity to maintain anonymity. Ask permission to use quotations from the interview in your paper.
The interview questions should be open ended. Along with your own questions, consider including these:
• What is a typical day like at your job?
• What do you like and dislike about your job?
• If you could do it over, would you choose the same job? Why or why not?
• Would you want your children to choose a similar profession? What is your reason?
• What about your job gives you the most satisfaction? The most dissatisfaction?
• Describe an ideal job. What characteristics would it have?
• What role does your job play in your life? What meaning does work have for you?
If the individual agrees, you may want to use a voice recorder to record the interview. If not, be sure to take good notes. After the interview, transcribe the recording and/or develop a transcript of the interview from your notes.
Choose 10 interviews from Studs Terkel’s Working to read. While reading, analyze each interview and search for similarities and differences among the individuals interviewed, as well as your interviewee. Using the 10 interviews that you read and the transcript of your own interview, consider the following questions:
• How does the meaning of work differ among the individuals?
• What similarities exist in regard to the meaning of work among the individuals?
• After analyzing the interviews in Working and your own interview, what do you feel most people expect, want, and need from their jobs?
• Did anything surprise you about the interview you conducted? Did the interview change your view of the individual’s occupation?
• Were your interviewee’s perceptions of work similar or different from the interviews you read in Working? Explain.
• What did you learn about work from reading the interviews in Terkel’s Working?
Write a 7–10 page paper (12 pt, Times New Roman, double spaced) describing the results of your analyses and interview. The footnotes and bibliography should be in Chicago format and will not be included in the page count.
Although there are a number of ways you can structure your paper, it should include the following components:
• Introduction. Briefly outline the points you plan to make in the body of your paper.
• Body. In paragraph form, address the questions listed above. Do not hesitate to make liberal use of quotations from Terkel’s interviewees as well as the individual you interviewed. Quotations will help you make your points.
• Conclusion. Summarize your analysis. What did you learn about work from this the assignment?
• Appendices (Do not count toward the page limit)
- Appendix A: Include a table detailing the 10 interviews you selected from Working. Provide the name of the interviewee, his or her occupation, and the relevant page numbers.
- Appendix B: Include an abridged transcript of the interview you conducted. For example, this could be three representative questions with answers from the interviewee.

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What do an accounting instructor, a hotel receptionist, a company union president, a barber, a bar pianist, an external auditor, a nonprofit organizer, a baseball player, a proofreader, a baby nurse, and a memorial counselor have in common? To meaningfully answer this question may prove difficult, while to address a different question regarding the group’s individual differences may be easy. Working a job is among a few things that the aforementioned share together, but even the different sets of tasks they need to accomplish adds more to their individual uniqueness.
In this paper, working experience is the main area of discussion, which will be explored in eleven various contexts; as many as the interviewees whose accounts of several aspects of their jobs are used to arrive at insightful discussions on topics like the similarities and differences of perceived meaning for working, common expectations, wants, and needs from their jobs by a diverse set of employees (industry-wise), secrets of unrelated types of jobs as opposed to their stereotypes, and general tips about the life of typical workers in their workplace.
It is wise to start this paper on the multiplicity of perceived meaning for working. Particularly, the perceived similarities and differences of the meaning of work will be gleaned from an interview conducted with an accounting instructor, Gabriel, and select interviews documented by Studs Terkel in his book, Working.
Gabriel, the accounting instructor interviewee, has taught several Accounting and business-related subjects to students in two different academic institutions for almost two years, and has worked in different companies in various capacities as an accountant prior to starting his teaching career. He determined the ability to contribute to students’ intellectual development as his meaning for working. When comparing this with the analyzed interview transcripts from Terkel’s book, majority of the other professionals also identified their individual ability to add value to an outside party (people or organizations) through their products and/or services as their main source of inspiration to get and keep a job. The nonprofit organizer, Bill Talcott, derived meaning by enabling people whom he considered ‘put down by the system, left out;’ so that they find their voice and speak out through the organizations he helped them create. The president of Lordstown Local, UAW, a labor union in General...

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