“Our choices and responses are our only responsibility. Choice is the discipline that makes the garden of our lives bloom.” - Stephen Hanselman
The idea of jobs can be depressing, especially with news about the rising age of retirement – the idea that we have to spend the next fifty years (and the prime of our lives) working for other people. Unfortunately, unless you win the lottery - and any Push fans will know how likely that is to happen, we’ve got to work.
Personally, the idea of working a 9-5 in an office somewhere fills me with horror. On the flip side, I’m doing a History PhD, and I’ve met a lot of people to whom this sounds like a fate worse than death. We all enjoy different things, and we all get bored silly by different things.
And this is why, despite the doom and gloom regularly sweeping across the headlines regarding jobs and pensions, we are incredibly lucky. Because we all have the option to choose what career we want to have.
This wasn’t always the case. For most of history, if you weren’t born rich, then you didn’t really have many options open to you – if you were a woman, you got married and ran a household, or worked as someone’s servant. If you were a man, you did whatever your dad had done, [this is why so many common British surnames are professions; Tailor, Smith, Carter, ect – jobs, like names, were passed from father to son]. If you didn’t like this, you had few options open – and none of them pleasant. You could join an army, or you could become a bandit or pirate. Neither of these were as glamorous as Hollywood would have us believe – lots of mud, hunger, and people trying to kill you.
Even if you were lucky enough to be born rich, your choices were severely limited; rich women were rarely more than tools for marriage, and rich men were tightly bound in a web of obligations and social pressures.
The ability to choose our jobs only really came about in the 1960s. Just sixty years ago. Settled civilisations have existed for 10,000 years. This is when people transitioned from living nomadically to living in towns and began growing crops. People no longer spent all their time foraging and hunting, which allowed for the creation of other full time jobs. This means that for only 0.6% of settled human history people been able to choose their own jobs.
We are the 0.6%.
We are incredibly lucky to be born in a time with so much choice open to us – and there is a lot of choice. By 2025, the UK will have lost 5 million jobs to automation, which sounds like the complete opposite of the point I’m trying to prove, until you realise that these are the jobs that are able to be automated – the repetitive, mind-numbing jobs that offer us little challenge and no engagement. By 2025, more than 5 million new jobs will have been created, in all the sectors that can’t be automated – indeed, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills states that the UK will need 1.2 million new workers in the digital and creative sector by 2022 - [Next year!] to keep up with its growth. Estimates suggest that, by 2030, 10-50% of us will be working in jobs that haven’t been created yet.
We are all in a unique period in human history – we have the ability to choose how we wish to spend our lives, what we wish to do for a living. Embrace it. Use this time now – in school, college, university, apprenticeships, whatever – use it to develop yourself as a person; remember, employability is just your ability to be employed. You can’t develop the hard skills (the ability to do a specific thing) for jobs that don’t exist, but you can develop your soft skills, “human” skills, like communication, problem solving, and self-motivation. These are skills that are desirable in any job, and will be just as desirable in the jobs of the future. A little time and effort spent now will be like a good investment – it will have a big pay off in the future. It will allow you to have the full benefits of the career choice our society offers, and choice is the discipline that makes the gardens of our lives bloom.
I’d like to finish with a quote from Steven Erikson, my favourite author: “Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”
Guy Reynolds is a graduate of Cardiff University with a BA in Ancient History and an MA in Ancient and Medieval Warfare. Guy’s plan is to gain his doctorate and spend his life studying increasingly niche areas of history. Guy has lots of experience working with wild animals, from Falconry Centres to Wetherspoons, and he loves anything to do with books.
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