On Bullshit Jobs

by Julian Schmidli

A few weeks ago I got a job offer. The kind of shiny-new-job that is supposed to save journalism. Except that it won’t. Because no one has a clou what they’re talking about. You see, there is a gap between the generation of the bosses (in their 40ies or 50ies) and the innovators (in their 20ies or 30ies). A gap in thinking, in values, in entitlement. The best of my peers want to do great work. Help build something that lasts. They go the extra-mile to create something brilliant, in a fast and efficient way.

Instead they get stuck with bullshit.

Bosses tend to design jobs with adventurous job-descriptions. They mix skills you won’t find in a real person. For the applicants, all there is left is pretending to somehow fit into the description – by pure bullshittery. They spin their CVs, restyle their references, hope for the charade to work. And then sit at their newly polished desk and wonder, if they will get caught.

I addressed my doubts. Demanded changes in the job-description. Instead they increased my salary. Would you rather have a better salary than a well designed job? I don’t.

The anthropologist David Graeber recently published a self-declared «Work Rant»: «On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs». In this essay, Graeber describes hell as a «collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at.» He describes the idea, what would happen, if certain kinds of jobs suddenly vanished. Were it nurses, garbage collectors, mechanics – the results would be immediate. But, as Graeber writes, «it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.»

Maybe this is a question to ask when you get the next job-offer: Will you be part of the sense-makers or part of the bullshitters?

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