Climbing to the top demands strength, whether it is to the top of Mount Everest or to the top of your career. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Hey, money makers, leave the kids alone.

This is the thrust of George Monbiot’s recent rant in the Guardian about City Firms seducing grads into a doomed life of making money and ruining their lives.  He argues that at this vulnerable point when they’ve got their lives in front of them they should get some protection from “lovebombing of the kind that cults use.  They sponsor sports teams and debating societies, throw parties, offer meals and drinks, send handwritten letters, use student ambassadors to offer friendship and support. They persuade undergraduates that even if they don’t see themselves as consultants or bankers (few do), these jobs are stepping stones to the careers they really want.”

 

They sell their soul in George’s experience for the promise of a lucrative career.

 

It’s an interesting argument and one that has been much shared on social media.  The evidence is that many people in fact regret their career choices.  A Management Today survey says that three quarters of workers have some regrets.  Reports of which careers give more happiness can be contradictory.  The Guardian report from April of this year lists Engineers, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors and Gardeners as the top 5 most satisfactory careers, though a Forbes report claims that Doctors are bitter often about their choice of career and many wish they’d picked a different profession.

 

Of course graduates are under pressure to choose after investing so much in their own education.  To suggest that they are in danger of being seduced by an evil empire seems however massively to underestimate their intelligence and independence.

 

There’s an argument that your first job is just a stepping stone.  Especially now, when new jobs are being invented at high frequency, (there weren’t many programmatic practitioners 5 years ago) so old ideas about career ladders are redundant.  A smooth career trajectory might not lead to greatness.  Anna Wintour, famously fired early in her career, believes that it’s important to have setbacks because that’s the reality of life, of any career.

 

There are those who have a true vocation in life and will sacrifice everything to accomplish their dreams.  There are others who get huge satisfaction from being as good as they can at what they do every day. Behavioural economics experiments (for instance the well known Hawthorne Effect) show that if you give people the sense that they can control aspects of their job then they will be happier.  I’d add to this, real joy in work comes from taking that self determination for yourself, knowing that the only person who can give you a good or bad day at work is you and what you make of the events around you. So just maybe it doesn’t matter that much what job you take when you graduate.  What matters is what you make of it, good or bad.  No Faustian pact necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

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