Friday 5 April 2019

Career advice

I have had more than a few people ask me for career advice over the years; but I have never been able to be much help, I don't think. I can think of many reasons why such a person should Not do such a job, but almost never can I give any positive advice, because I can seldom think of any job worth doing.

Most of my career I was 'an academic' - paid by a university to do some combination of teaching, research and scholarship. Initially this suited me very well. The university ethos was natural and spontaneous to me, I had very positive feelings about the institution and my subject(s); and the actual job offered greater freedom than any other I knew.

The situation combined hope, potential and a fair degree of actual encouragement. And I was good at it. This was fortunate, because I don't know what else I was fitted to get paid-for in life, other than be some kind of academic. 

By the time I retired from ill health; the institution and therefore the job had utterly transformed to the point that I was in constant danger of being sacked.

If I had complied fully with expectations, even from twenty years ago, academia would have been as unfree as any ordinary bureaucratic or office job. My chronic non-compliance had gone from being tolerated (even grudgingly respected as an assertion of principle) to impossible. 

That process took about thirty years - and over the past thirty years all jobs that I know of, of every kind, in all institutions, have undergone a similar trend. Pretty much all middle class jobs are now qualitatively the same - they are bureaucratic, under omni-surveillance and micro-managed - indeed all jobs are parts of the same, linked system of Global administration.

Everyone is - mostly - a managed-manager; and the distinctive element of the jobs is shrinking and becoming more routine, standard, procedural.

There used to be a fair bit of active resistance to this trend, but now there is none. Even passive heel-dragging inertial negativity is negligible.

So choice of career does not much matter, beyond counsels of expediency.

If you are seriously interested in anything other than being a manager, then don't expect to do it at work; do it as a hobby.

Indeed, it is better Not to try and make a job from your passion - from that which deeply-motivates you. Because then it will almost-certainly be corrupted into generic, externally-managed units.

It has been sad to watch this corruption happen to pretty much everybody in academia, mostly sooner rather than later; and if you try to get paid for doing what you love, then the same will almost certainly happen to you.


Francis Berger said...

That's the most honest and best career advice anyone can offer in our current job market. Interestingly enough, I have been thinking about this topic for a few days now. The circumstances you describe are, sadly, very accurate.

Today's jobs require you to be completely "on board" with the ruling PC ideology, which is continuously reinforced through "lifelong learning" and "implicit bias training" workshops and programs. A mere whiff of disagreement is usually enough to start the pressure campaign, which inevitably ends in a resignation or a termination. Today's workplaces truly are bureaucratic, ideology-driven hellholes.

I spent more than a decade as a secondary school teacher - I left the career because I knew I would eventually be sacked for non-conformity. Luckily, I have found a situation now where I do not have to deal with this kind of thing at all.

Yet people conform to bureaucracy because they are in debt, have bills to pay, must eat, etc. In my humble opinion, the contemporary workplace is where bureaucratic evil ultimately triumphs most effectively because it has people over a barrel, so to speak.

Perhaps more traditional trades type of work like carpentry, plumbing, bricklaying, etc., can offer a sanctuary?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Francis - Although the degree of totalitarian bureaucracy varies (and we need to remember that what we are talking about just-is totalitarianism); but the trends are the same everywhere, so far as I know.

e.g. The man that maintains the gas boiler nowadays spends half the time doing so; but the other half (which I can tell he hates doing) filling-in very long forms and asking me standard-routine questions for checklists (some of which are indirect marketing).

David Balfour said...

As far as I can tell, small is still beautiful! I have met self-employed professionals such as wedding photographers, independent coffee shop owners and B&B owners in rural locations, who 'seem' to have found a satisfying way out from the 'rat-race.' I hope there is a way 'off-the-barrell' at any rate, as my attempts at finding a satisfying mainstream career 'helping people' in response to my tendency to feel spontaneously drawn ideologically and temperamentally to a certain kind of role that I imagined would be in line with that; well, I am sorry to say that I am now thoroughly disillusioned about any hope of that ever happening. My job pays my bills so I can raise a family and that is its main accomplishment. There are moments of satisfaction from the human contact with patients and people from different ages and walks of life - in general though, this is crushed by the plodding, mind-numbing and stultifying beaurocracy of the health care system i work within.

dearieme said...

Freelance assassin might be fun.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

This hasn't been my experience at all, but perhaps that's because I only ever did blue-collar work in the West. All my "middle class" jobs have been in Asia, and of course now I am self-employed.

My family members who stayed in America haven't been so lucky, except one brother who is also self-employed. I'm shocked at how quickly and thoroughly those in academia have become "converged."

My father made a long and highly successful career in a large corporation without ever once accepting a managerial position, but I think that's becoming a less and less feasible career path, even for those with my father's outstanding technical abilities.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm I survived only because I avoided managerial roles,to which I am temperamally unsuited,anyway.

Bruce Charlton said...