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Bored at work? - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Bored at work?
You're not alone.
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verlaine From: verlaine Date: August 24th, 2004 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmph - I wish prospective employers would recognise this phenomenon. The number of times I've been asked in interview "But we don't understand, why did you stop working as a web developer"? Even despite the fact that two companies folded around me in the space of six months in an immensely stressful way, I'm still invariably met with looks of incomprehension and mistrust when I say I thought I'd rather do something else.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 24th, 2004 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
What strikes me as odd is the perceived virtue -- and I use the word deliberately, because it feels more like a moral issue than anything else -- of staying in one line of work for as long as possible.

Now obviously if one wants to get to the highest-paid and/or most-respected positions in a given career one will probably have to stay in that career for a long time to achieve this. But why is it perceived as "better" to become an expert in one field than to become employably and/or enjoyably competent in a number of different fields? Why is winning perceived as more important than playing?

Personally I would rather just be good at something and enjoy doing it -- and, if I find that I don't enjoy something after a reasonable amount of time, move on and do something else -- than be Head Honcho of anything. I'd rather have a job which helps other people to win (if they want) or just get on with things (if they want) than a job which sets me above other people. Does that make me odd?

And why would employers rather have somebody who stayed in a job they hated for 5 years than somebody who was honest enough to admit they weren't enjoying what they were doing and proactive enough to go and do something about it? I don't want to work for an employer who thinks inertia is a desirable quality in an employee.

I wonder if a lot of it boils down to the worryingly prevalent idea that changing one's mind -- let alone admitting one made a mistake -- is a sign of weakness.

ewx From: ewx Date: August 24th, 2004 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Intermittent career change seems to produce interesting and effective people, judging by examples I've encountered over the years, and I don't think I'm the only person to have noticed this - verlaine must have poor luck in interviewers.

I'm just not sure what I'd do other than be a software developer...

hairyears From: hairyears Date: August 24th, 2004 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Here's some suggestions off the uncensored HairyEars CV:

Previous careers: failed medical student, civil engineer, silver service waiter, private dinner-party chef, cartoonist, speechwriter, charity fundraiser and organiser, insurance salesman, conference organiser, kamikaze pizza-delivery boy, shelf stacker, impoverished part-time student, stock controller, DIY instructor & demonstrator, layabout, programmer, database developer, Visual Basic über-anorak, seasonal caterer for a pub in Ballylynan, systems analyst, tactical developer (equity derivatives), business analyst (credit derivatives), trading systems implementation consultant.

I'm not convinced that it's produced an interesting and effective person: I have acquired an ability to be boring about a broad range of topics. On the other hand, I do get stuff done.

If you're implying that the 'Golden Graduate' single-career types are rather dull, and not terribly effective outside a carefully-defined environment, then we are entirely in agreement.

ewx From: ewx Date: August 24th, 2004 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not suggesting anything at all about people who stick to a single career!
j4 From: j4 Date: August 24th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, you mentioned that intermittent career change seems to produce interesting and effective people. If sticking to a single career produces exactly the same effects, then there doesn't seem to be much tying the effect to the choice of career; and if you simply haven't observed any people who have stuck to the same career, then your data are insufficient to suggest causality between intermittent career change and interestingness/effectiveness.

This comment brought to you by Pedantic Point-Missing UK.
ewx From: ewx Date: August 24th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Pedantic Point-Missing UK

I'm getting cam.misc flashbacks already.

What I mean is that people who I know to have chopped and changed have in high proportion had these various positive qualities, which while present in other people too don't seem to be so highly visible. But the set of chop-and-changers I know to be such is very small and "other people" is very large, so obviously any statistician would laugh me out of the room, assuming they hadn't realized I knew perfectly well I was making a subjective statement. Or possibly even then.

Pedantry aside, or that bit of pedantry aside, even with realistic sample sizes, more objective data collection (regarding these subjective qualities of people, *cough*) etc, there'd still be no evidence of causation (i.e. interesting and effective people inherently tending to change career would explain the results too).

sion_a From: sion_a Date: August 24th, 2004 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
It's the massive inertia of the "one job for life" philosophy -- people (as an institution) haven't caught up with it no longer being relevant. (And it's no longer relevant because of (a) a more mobile workforce, (b) a fewer proportion of jobs requiring highly specialised training and a correspondingly non-specialised workforce, and (c) employers not being able to guarantee job security in return for loyalty.)
hairyears From: hairyears Date: August 24th, 2004 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)

employers not being able to guarantee job security in return for loyalty.)

Be more cynical. Employers are not loyal to you, all this 'long term career' and 'rewarding loyal employees' stuff is a lie. The only virtue they perceive in a prospective applicant is acquiescence in the lie, and being conformist, productive, and disposable.

hairyears From: hairyears Date: August 24th, 2004 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)
...although I'm prepared to admit that a lot of the smaller outfits are more genuine. And more fun.
sion_a From: sion_a Date: August 24th, 2004 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Whether employers are loyal to the employee is irrelevant. It's not even terrible relevant if they ever were. The point is that they can no longer guarantee security even if they wanted to.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: August 24th, 2004 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

No, I'd disagree there. Loyalty makes a hell of a difference. Companies that regard their own employees with cynicism and disdain make very different decisions, and are a very different place to work in, compared to those with a healthy culture.

As for jobs security, market-driven cycles of layoffs and expensive hires are a mark of managerial disloyalty: some companies use disposable staff as a buffer, others accept cyclical profitability. Mother Merrill being the limit case of one strategy, all and any of the Canadian Banks being a pretty good example of the other.

bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: August 24th, 2004 11:38 am (UTC) (Link)
But why is it perceived as "better" to become an expert in one field than to become employably and/or enjoyably competent in a number of different fields?
It depends on perspective. I am considered 'an excellent temp' (no, really, I have bits of paper saying so ;-)) because I did bitzer jobs for so many years. I can be hired out to cover legal, medical, jargon-filled obscure university or hospital departments, whatever. No help in getting a permanent position in such areas (nor would I want to, really, I don't want to be a secretary/administrator long-term) but excellent from the POV of the agency and from my POV long-term decent contracts with a bit of meat to them were a lot better than random typing jobs that didn't last more than a week. From that perspective, playing was definitely better than winning. Being a graduate with no actual experience or very specifically-targetted experience is definitely not better than being a qualifications-not-necessary-because-of-experience all-rounder when it comes to staying in work in a shifting market. But that does rely on the employed person being willing to take on the 'temp' role, which isn't the most rewarded or status-filled job in the world. But I was considerably less bored in (most) 'temp' jobs than in two of my three most recent 'permanent' jobs. (Why they were not permanent is another issue entirely. The pleasant one could have been a jobforlife and I still kick myself occasionally for leaving, but it was a greener-grass thing...)
huskyteer From: huskyteer Date: August 24th, 2004 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't understand why you'd want to stop working as a web developer, but I try to be tolerant of it.
d_floorlandmine From: d_floorlandmine Date: August 24th, 2004 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I'm not even a recent graduate ...

Then again, I'm not sure how my degree knowledge would be relevant to many jobs - Philosophy and Politics. Would you like fries with that hypothesis?
j4 From: j4 Date: August 24th, 2004 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Hopefully your degree taught you to think, which is arguably relevant to most interesting jobs.
addedentry From: addedentry Date: August 24th, 2004 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Some of us make bad judgments. And this is news?
huskyteer From: huskyteer Date: August 24th, 2004 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
More 'some of us need to earn a crust and pay the rent while waiting for those thin-on-the-ground degree-specific jobs', shurely?
addedentry From: addedentry Date: August 24th, 2004 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
As Janet writes above, making a bad judgment isn't a sign of weakness - especially if it doesn't immediately reveal itself as a misjudgment.

The survey is a neat spin on 'Those who can't, teach ...' but it would be amusing to know how many teachers regret their choice.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 24th, 2004 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Not really. See next post.
teleute From: teleute Date: August 24th, 2004 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder how many people love their job all the time? I know that Adrian is doing what he wants to do most, but he still has days that suck. Personally I'd like to quilt for a living, but I'm sure I'd still have bad days. It may just be that with some of the younger graduates in this study, they're still too naive to have realised that no job is perfect.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: August 24th, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, that rings true. I like programming, I like the business that I'm in, and I love the trading floor. But yes, there's days that suck. Even if there weren't, I'd grumble occasionally...

...Actually, I'd grumble if you paid me to test hammocks for a dollar a minute and J4 served Martinis.

I see your point about naive graduate trainees: the reason so many of them wash out is that they will not do all the job, not just the interesting bits, and many of them just try to dig in their heels when confronted with a task that someone's got to do, and everyone's going to hate. No matter what kind of money rides on it.

ewx From: ewx Date: August 24th, 2004 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hammock testing at a dollar a minute says "lots of very bad hammocks" to me...
teleute From: teleute Date: August 24th, 2004 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it was brought home hardest to me when I was reading an article about volunteer work (specifically church work) which recommended that you should aim to enjoy about 60% of the time you give. If even volunteer work isn't expected to be a laugh-a-minute, what can we expect from our paid jobs? And I don't think that's something we realise until after college, especially in England where we get to specialise in our favourite area so soon. At least in America they are forced to do things they don't like even at college. None the less, they procrastinate even longer in choosing first a major and then a career.
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