August 24th, 2004



I dreamed that I had lost my Switch card, and in the dream I went through all that panicky feeling one goes through when one loses such things, and then found the card.

I then dreamed that I had lost it again, and not only had the panic again but also the feelings of "maybe I'll miraculously find it again like last time" which eventually are replaced by "no, this time I really have lost it" and so on.

I only discovered the second loss when I was trying to pay for cake, in a shop that looked suspiciously like Starbucks. The bill was £4.75, and I managed to find the cash but the card had definitely gone, though I did search for it in my bag.

The most notable thing about this dream was the vividness of small physical details. The way my wallet was slightly saggy at the place where the Switch card would be, with the pieces of paper and other cards which are usually behind it (and held in by it) starting to fall out, because the wallet has stretched to accommodate the enormous quantity of stuff I carry around in it. The feeling of the two £2 coins I found with which to pay for the cake, and the rummaging around in my wallet to find the other coins, and initially mistaking a Swiss 20c coin (or similarly small denomination) for the 5p (I'm still carrying loads of Swiss change around in my wallet).
  • Current Mood

Job for life

The Subject: field is intended to give everybody an Iggy Pop earworm, the way Sainsbury's "Bag for life" always does to me.


Apropos of the article I pointed at in my previous post, addedentry says, "Some of us make bad judgments [sic]. And this is news?"

No, it's not really news. (This is the slow news season, remember, where the fact that some people can run and jump higher than others is supposed to count as exciting international news.) It's mildly interesting, though, that more people seem to be willing/able to change their job when they realise that they've made a bad judgement.

Also, your "some of us" seems to be "more than half of us":
Half of more than 1,000 graduates interviewed admitted that, rather than planning their choice of profession, they fell into careers which many found unsatisfactory within just two years.
Okay, it's a small sample size, but I'd be surprised if it was grossly unrepresentative. The impression given is not that people are "making bad judgements" but that they're not really thinking about it at all -- just falling into the first available job/career. That's slightly more interesting than the -- as you point out -- unremarkable fact that people make bad decisions sometimes.

Why are people not thinking about their jobs/careers? Is it because the idea of a "career for life" is so discredited now that people see no need to think in the longer term about their choice of job? That there are so many more opportunities for adult education that people know they can retrain if they want to, hence there's less need to get it right first time? That there's so much cross-pollination between fields of work that it's more likely -- perhaps even more desirable -- that people should move sideways as much as upwards? Or that fewer jobs have the kind of simple career structure where you can move directly upwards?

Is it that there are more jobs which are sufficiently boring, unchallenging, dead-end, unfocussed, ill-thought-out[1] that nobody could really be expected to do them for longer than a couple of years?

Is it that the ridiculous plurality of choice that we have on a day-to-day basis has destroyed our ability to make a definite choice? Are we paralysed by the range of options open to us, so that we end up falling into something chosen out of desperation, in a panicky need to choose something before time runs out?

teleute raises an interesting question about whether young graduates' expectations are unrealistically high; instinct tells me that there's probably some truth in this, that in this culture of "rights" there are probably people who think they have a "right" to have a job which never involves any mundane work, or any difficult or unpleasant tasks.

Also, the trend in education seems to be towards teaching in the specific rather than the general (so people are less likely to learn to work out how to deal with specifics they haven't previously encountered), teaching practical skills rather than theory; I wonder how many people feel resentment that they weren't "taught" how to find a good job, or how to make a mediocre job into a good job, how to make decisions about their life and work to achieve them, or even simply how to get along with other people? In another article one young teacher comments on her PGCE course: "writing essays about the post-compulsory sector is very different to actually working in it. There are quite a few nitty-gritty things you have to work out for yourself, like managing relationships with other staff." One wonders if this was her first experience of having to work something out for herself.

Something is deeply wrong with education today. minkboylove has ranted about this better than I could ever manage, but it's not clear what the solution is, or even (my inner pessimist mutters) whether there is a solution. How do we "de-junk" the spurious choices which only serve to make us dissatisfied with our lives, how do we get "back to basics" in a useful way? How do we produce a society where "education" is for life, not just for exam-time ... or election-time? How do we reclaim the buzzwords of reform as words with meanings?

[1] I say "ill-thought-out" because it strikes me that a lot of jobs in the field of <mumble>information</mumble> have come about partly by accident, have just grown up between the cracks like weeds; and, like weeds, their growth potential is ultimately limited by the paving-stones around them (not to mention the Big Boss with the can of weedkiller). They started out being secretarial/clerical jobs, and have grown into "web" jobs ... because "putting stuff on the web" is a bit like typing, and that's what secretaries do, right?