Here we go again

Once again in my life, I find myself looking for work, and I’m not entirely sure in which direction to look. I once again face the issue of being “over-qualified”, while still trying to work out what I am actually qualified to do. I find I still don’t have a “passion for customer service” or any deep affinity with or desire to work in the likes of the recruitment industry (and as before, I’m not prepared to lie about such things).

Obviously I’m seeking to be flexible, and part of me would be happy with any paid employment that I could be confident I could perform reasonably well in. But I also find myself at present longing for something else. I want, at least at present, to leave academia behind. I want to leave theory behind, and any other writing or research which is unattached from reality. I want to get out of my own head (and anyone else’s). I want to actually do or build something real. At the same time, so many jobs out there don’t seem to actually accomplish all that much, whether that be basic retail work or the various graduate jobs at the big accountancy firms. What vital societal functions, however small, do they accomplish? What do they actually build?

I feel – and perhaps I’m romanticising it all too much – that I really miss the existence of a frontier. An opportunity to find and build something new, for whoever was willing to take the risks, pay the price and work hard. Sure, living conditions were undoubtedly pretty horrible, and the work involved likely tedious and hard (I have no illusions that, say, planting a new farmstead was either easy or especially thrilling – most work throughout human history hasn’t been). What might be accomplished might be quite small in the great scheme of things: a settlement, a village, a farm or even just a house. But it was building something real and new that hadn’t been there before, something that actually exists. While I will take whatever work I can get, part of me is filled with a restlessness desire to push back some frontier and build something new, but I cannot see where any frontier is. I don’t want to add to the pile of useless sales executives or whatever that western society is already full of. I want to explore the unknown, I want to plan cities out of nothing, I want to build mag-lev lines across Greenland, I want to build a great state out of a small city. These are perhaps foolish desires. But it’d be nice to find some work, however small and tedious, that would allow me to find something new, or build something that is real, or which makes some real contribution – however small – to the world around me.


Why do you want to work here?

I find myself still seeking work, still waiting for a decision on my Phd application and still dealing with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the DWP, all of which is infuriating and vexing to the soul. I find the lack of reciprocity disturbing and the bureaucratic desire to reduce everything down to boxes stifling, all of which are worthy of comment at some point.

However, one thing I’ve found my attention drawn to is the myriad ways that honesty is discouraged and dishonesty encouraged, something best encapsulated in the above question that nearly all employers ask. Virtually all employers ask prospective employees why they want to work there, but peculiarly, they don’t want to hear the real answer – namely that the prospective employee needs a job. Rather the prospective employee is expected to manufacture some answer about their great desire to work in that particular role, or for that particular company – an answer that is true in a few cases, but certainly not a majority. If you’re Tate & Lyle, people are not coming to work for you because of the appeal of your corporate culture. Yet employers evidently don’t want to, and choose not to hear this, and prefer to hear some elaborate fiction.

Thus, at the very beginning of the relationship between an employer and employee, dishonesty is made part of the foundation of their working relationship. And yet few seem to find it disturbing that our society chooses to establish its working relations on falsehood. I can’t presume to know the full consequences of this on our society, but it surely can’t be a surprise when elsewhere in working environments – bank debts, hospital scandals and so on – unwelcome truths are hidden away, since that pattern is established at the very beginning.