‘”So how’s John doing?'”
“Oh, he’s doing well. He’s got a ‘good job’ working in the city.'”
Although fictional, this is an exact replica of many conversations I’ve had with people over the years. It usually takes place when meeting friends, old friends I haven’t seen for a while and parents of friends etc . . . The term ‘good job’ and the message it conveys might be specific to the UK, but I’m sure every country has its equivalent.
Upon hearing this response, I used to just nod my head and issue a standard line back. Something like, ‘Oh that’s good to hear’ or ‘Great news! Where are they working?‘ However, after a while, I started to question exactly what a ‘good job working in the city’ was about. What made it so great that all a person needed to do was make a vague reference to it and I was immediately supposed to be impressed?
In the context of the conversation above, a good job usually refers to employment in banking, finance, law, accountancy or any similar profession. On paper, these are dream jobs, something we’ve been taught to revere and aspire too since our school days. However, what is the reality of these occupations? What does it mean to have one of these hallowed jobs that can fall under a catch all term designed to create instant approval?
Dig a little deeper into the ‘good job myth’ and you’ll find that there are cracks in the perfect picture that the term presents. These cracks run along two fault lines that we will now explore.
1. Lack of Satisfaction
This broad term covers three keys areas:- uninspiring work, excessive working hours and submission to corporate culture. Put all three of them together and you have a cocktail that makes you question just how ‘good’ your swanky job in the city really is. What’s good about working 50 plus hours a week and feeling stressed and tired all the time? What’s good about having to ‘play the game’ and silence your true ideas and opinions on how things should be done? And what’s good about performing the same role, day in, day out, year after year working for a company that has no greater goal than to make money?
While surveys suggest that satisfaction levels are higher amongst city type jobs compared to manual low skilled employment, they also show that those who experience the greatest satisfaction levels are the ones who are involved in something creative or that directly improve another person’s life. This is where a ‘good job’ fails. The typical ‘good job’ completely ignores the basic human (motivational) need to feel that you belong to something or that you are working towards a cause. In a ‘good job’ the cause is making money or being profitable. While such motives may breed compliance, they do not generate inspiration.
2. Questionable Ethics
I’m well aware that what I’m about to say may sound controversial and put people’s noses out of joint, but how can you have a good job when you, or the company you work for, is screwing someone over? I recently read an article* about Barclays traders who were rigging energy prices in America to make huge profits. These traders were accused of conspiring to sell electricity at a loss to drive prices down. Simultaneously, bets on falling energy prices would be placed reaping huge profits for Barclays but leading to losses of £86 million for other investors and pensions funds. What kind of a system do we live in where financially ruining another person’s life is considered a ‘good job’?
You may say that this was an isolated incident, or simply the case of a few rogue traders, but the evidence is damning. Lawyers, who defend the guilty, treat justice as a game and knowingly seek loopholes in the law. Accountants who do everything they can to help companies pay as little tax as possible leaving the ordinary taxpayer to pick up the revenue shortfall. Prestigious companies like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, through sheer greed and blind pursuit of profit, all playing a role in the global financial collapse of 2008. And the list goes on. Endless amounts of people working in companies whose doctrine of ‘profit above all else’ reaps untold misery for millions of people all over the plant. And don’t get me started on the destruction your ‘good job’ could be causing the environment!
So what do I now say when someone reels off the “So and so’s doing well. They have a good job in the city'” line? ‘
“No, what you mean is they have a well-paid job,” is my response.
You see there’s a HUGE distinction between a ‘good job’ and a ‘well-paid job’ and it’s important not to treat the two as being synonymous. A ‘good job’ may or may not reward you financially but it WILL inspire you, give you room for your creativity to shine, treat you with respect and understand that there are other areas of your life just as important as your work. A ‘well-paid job’ will reward you financially but it could well steal your time, vitality and even your soul.
* Daily Mail 02/11/12 Barclays Traders are Damned by their own emails
(Image used courtesy of Tax Credit’s photostream flickr.com)
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