My job, my self?

85% of 2030 jobs don't exist yet - statistic

In his article How to find a career that actually fits you? Tim Urban raises a crucial point regarding how important jobs are to us :

« Identity. In our childhoods, people ask us about our career plans by asking us what we want to bewhen we grow up. When we grow up, we tell people about our careers by telling them what we are. We don’t say, “I practice law”—we say, “I am a lawyer.”


For him to grammatically merge work and identity shows how early in life we are taught to link our occupation to our work. In this case, there is no surprise to see how set aside – if not marginalised – from society when unemployed or “temporary out of the job market”. Hélène Rougier, a French researcher, dwells into this opposition between what she calls the “professionals” and the others in an essay focusing on the relationship work and self might have.


When I finished reading this Wait But Why article, I felt like a new world had opened to me. I felt like I had finally grasped why so many of my friends and fellow co-students were obsessed by getting jobs that did not really appeal to their gut but rather to their social egos. By this, I refer to jobs that seem to hold a strong form of prestige – more or less related to income and the tough candidate selection which makes you appear as one of the “happy few”. But of those jobs, I feel like few actually have a positive impact on society – for example, consulting doesn’t bring any social value to me.


And knowing that many of us will be working new jobs tomorrow (as a reminder: 85% of 2030 jobs don’t exist yet), I am currently wondering how relevant are schools to help us grow in a professional way. This all the more intriguing since with internet, self-learning has never been more easy (through MOOCs, videos, newsletters and other snackable content). But maybe it’s value lies somewhere else.

Learning hard-skills is a thing, acquiring the specific social codes related to your specific professional environment is another. Interning is just another way to familiarise yourself with your future environment. Bernard Zarca explores this in an essay focusing on corporations. Indeed, each profession has its own slang, dress-code and apprenticeship teaches to the aspiring worker the right attitude/code to adopt. 

As an example, my experience in the startup world now has me being quite familiar with the people I meet, wear my comfy combo jean/tshirt/sneakers even to a job interview… and has me blank when hearing my consultant friends referring to ” being staffed on a mission” or “due dills”.

Maybe in this case the role of colleges is (and will be) to create social pods – by specialisations -, offering the right environment for students to start socialising with their and future coworkers. 


All in all I am not that much surprised to see how much value we pour into our job. After all, we work almost 90 000 hours in our lives (on the high end). Furthermore, the workplace becomes one of our primary place of socialisation. To me, the trick is that our job shouldn’t be only defining activity in our lives. If is it, then it can definitely lead to strong depression if we are to withdraw from this place. This can also explain why choosing the right path stresses us out so much when growing up.

What do you think about this topic?

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