Does your protagonist like his/her job? Are they considering a career change? One of the duties of my former position with an aboriginal employment and training organisation was assisting individuals with making career changes. So, yes, finding the right job or sticking my protagonist in a job he/she hates is important to me, because our jobs are a big part of our lives and affect us in good and bad ways. As a former colleague said, “We spend more time with these people than with our own families.”
I always stressed to clients the importance of their jobs, whether a CEO or the custodian who cleans the CEO’s office. Without a great custodian keeping the CEO’s office in immaculate condition, the CEO or the CEO’s staff would be burdened with cleaning during the day.
What about when the CEO leaves at quitting time? She’s tired. Hubby is out of town on business so he can’t start dinner. She doesn’t feel like cooking either, so on her way home she stops at a drive-thru to pick up a quick meal. There are people cooking that meal she’ll pick up. How about the dry-cleaners who’ll clean her office clothes? Then there are the mechanics who ensure her car is in working order for the commute, or the bus drivers who pick her up and takes her to work. Her hairdresser keeps Ms. CEO’s coif in immaculate condition while providing an ear as Ms. CEO unwinds, babbling about work-related stress.
She needs these very important people doing very important jobs, just as they need her. Without people filling these jobs, we’d be shit out of luck, wouldn’t we? How about the wonderful hotel staff who keep business conferences running smoothly? Without them, we’d be having potluck at the chair’s house.
So when I pick a job for my protagonist, I find what best suits or doesn’t suit this character.
In my WIP Fire and Water, Gabriel is making a BIG career change—even a life change. He’s hanging up his microphone and finally putting his teaching degree to use by relocating from Southern Ontario to work at an under-staffed school in a remote Ojibway community in Northwestern Ontario. He has no choice because his inheritance is being held by his mother and siblings until he commits to what his deceased father deemed a “respectable and real” job. As for Jesse, the other protagonist, he is the primary grades teacher. One can well imagine the culture shock Gabriel faces, while attempting to grasp his new nine to five position after only knowing music for thirteen years. He has a three month probationary period to pass and needs Jesse’s help.
What about you? How do you decide on a profession for your characters? Is their job key to the plot or not?