Work and Society- ‘What do you do?’


‘Pride goes before a fall’ is the old cliché.



Today, I would say pride goes before a job. And getting a job is one of the biggest problems facing a lot of people at the moment, particularly the young. Forget all the confusing information being thrown around by politicians and broadcasters- “employment never been higher”, “2.5 million unemployed young people”, “less people claiming jobseekers allowance under this government” etc, etc. That’s all smoke and mirrors. Employment, and unemployment, is a massive issue for this society. And a major factor is PRIDE.



 I have never had a job that I was proud of.



I have never sought pride from any job that I have done.



You may be shocked by those 2 statements. If that is the case, you’ve fallen victim to one of society’s biggest, and most seductive, traps. You have to take pride in your work. It’s something that is drilled into us from birth- by friends and family, by teachers and schools, and by governments. And this creates a problem, never more evident than right now- 99% of work is nothing to be proud of.



You have to be proud of your job, because your job tells the world everything it needs to know about you. That’s how it works!



‘What do you do?’ is usually the first question a stranger asks you. Why? They don’t care about your work. And it’s not innocuous small talk- not subconsciously. It’s the easiest way to size you up. In one question, or rather one answer, you will be weighed and measured. Your means, your values, your wants and needs- all will have been established. All will have been guessed. And all will be held against you. People ask ‘what do you do?’ because people want to be impressed by what you do.



The trouble is, people are then put off doing work that won’t impress and only desperation will drive them to get such jobs. People want and think they can work at the ‘top of the ladder’, and can’t bring themselves to step on any of the rungs. And, maybe to a lesser extent, those who have been at the ‘top’, and cannot face work lower down. Such people are fodder for the mass of reality TV shows we are now deluged with. Who seek money and celebrity with no ‘real’ work. And worryingly, we now have children in schools whose only aspiration is money and fame.



My mother has always said ‘I work so that I can live, I don’t live so that I can work’. The message always stuck with me.


Work is unimportant. Work is the means to an end. It pays the bills. It provides food and shelter. Everything else is ‘window dressing’. Work is not what life is for. We should not allow ourselves to be defined by job titles. Work only needs to pay for our essential needs, so that we can pursue lives to be proud of, lives free of definition. The only problem then is what to say when someone asks- what do you do?