Unemployment is generally the natural state for philosophers. Indeed I advocate that ‘Philosopher’ should, for the sake of politeness at least, become the official occupation for the unemployed during the upcoming Census. But I don’t have a problem with unemployment or philosophy for that matter. I enjoy leisure and the idle life, sort of. But lacking wealthy parents or independent means, I have to work, and having acquired a skilled training in areas already saturated by eager postdoctoral thinkers and no longer supported by the government, I’ve got to think again about how I’m going to be paid for, before I bumble into a job at Subway or Data Administrator at St. Watney’s Youth Detention Centre. You may well be in a similiar position reader. Here are some options for us both then.
Mental health problems are rapidly increasing, and doctors are needed to give them strong pills and pop round and see them on ward rounds for about five minutes a week. Working with adults with life-long drug dependencies, mental health is big business and hence a stable career option. On the plus-side, psychiatry is a difficult, intense but challenging job, with the possibility perhaps of helping other people to solve their problems and regain (or gain) a basic quality of life – something generally lacking in the service sector. It requires good analytical and communication skills, and some of our most interesting thinkers – Freud, Jung, Lacan, Reich – have emerged from this trade. Whilst Counselling may wither due to spending cuts, psychiatrists are essential to overseeing mental health treatment. So when the shit hits the fan and your loved ones are losing their basic sense of reality, several years more expensive medical training might just repay themselves in a secure and interesting job, and a plentiful supply of pills.
What does the British state still own in the interests of the public in 2010? Well the railways are gone, with the exception of Network Rail; the telecoms and utilities were sold long ago. Vince Cable is very keen to flog Royal Mail, and a new report titled ‘Privatization Revisited’ by the Adam Smith Institute is calling for the Royal Mint and the Met Office to be sold cheap and net the state some wonga as well. So what’s left after this? Well there’s Channel 4 and the BBC, but these chaps are haemorrhaging staff as we speak. There is one more state-owned sector however where profits are still high, where 7-figure bonuses are translating into coked-up champagne parties on Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf, where all you need to succeed is a good tie, a dashing of pluck, an aggressive, manipulative and domineering personality, and the desire to work 24 hours a day. Yes banking is one option where they’re still hiring, be it in state-owned RBS, Lloyds or Northern Rock plc. When I worked in East London, I met ex-bankers on several occasions who spent ten years working in the city before leaving to do something mildly life-affirming. But having a soul or a reasonable quality of life are just bourgeois luxuries in our intensive global economies. Follow the money hero.
3. Call-centre administrator/supervisor/Data Liaison Assistant/tea-boy.
This is the banal truth of the matter. This is the type of work generally available, and provided you can outshine 500 other CVs, the work one is most likely to acquire. The service-sector equivalent for UK-born educated working-class and lower-middle-class ‘professionals’. The work that seemed so easy to get when you’re 15 that you consider it bourgeois, you reject it. Only after working in pubs and shops for endless years makes the piss-easy data entry world of the office shine, its halo and golden aura buffered to stainless perfection, reflecting the Primark tie of the robot you have become. This work is the soul-destroying sort, as if such talk of soul and virtue were even remotely possible and not hideously anachronistic. How many of us have not been in jobs with titles like ‘Data Liaison Assistant’, a hot drinks functionary, management lackey, PA donkey? Applying for 40 jobs through the Guardian, Reed, Secsinthecity, the Times, Jobsite, Jobs.ac.uk, Museum Jobs, National Museum Jobs even, the Bookseller, even the actual Jobcentre when one is fiercely motivated, not to mention all the casual agencies who invite you in under the ruse of some job just to add you to their books and reach their targets – have you considered a career in recruitment? Call Dave now….. And yet I will. Debt makes it inevitable, and beyond the puffed-up world of friendship and writing where the Ego seems to have its own presence, its own possibility of being important, boring old poverty brings the mediocrity back home.
4. Part-time Walking Tour guide/teacher of micro-philosophy at the London School of High-paying International Students/History-English-Media Studies-IT-Mathematics-Quadruple Science secondary school teacher (also part-time).
That last bit was pretty grim eh! I’m only sharing experiences though, not theories. This next one is the jolly outcome of going into education – aha! The nature of the Postmodern/Neo-Liberal economic market is temporary part-time work is the main order of the game, a cheap form of employment without the pesky additions of having to pay for employees to have pensions, sick leaves, holiday etc. To escape the world of administration whilst being able to afford to live requires a whole host of small part-time jobs, mainly in writing and teaching. But one earner is historical walking tours, always popular with tourists to London, and something I have expertise in, mainly spending my leisure time after all reading, drinking or walking around the City. But such tours can only be occasional, and an income could be supplemented by lecturing in English Literature and Philosophy and everything else at the Charles Dickens School of Business and English, based at 319C Holloway Road (top buzzer, ask for Adi).
International students will be the main guys paying top dollar for education, and universities are becoming increasingly desperate to attract them. I was waiting for an MRI scan actually at UCL (a paid experiment on cognitive mapping of a non-Jameson sort, and another income opportunity I’m currently considering: medical experiments, though I won’t recommend this here), and in the lobby was a young man talking to about 9-10 prospective international students. I was waiting for about twenty minutes, and I heard the young man lecture on the benefits of UCL, its cutting-edge research departments, its unique global brand status. After this worthy oration, he quizzed his band of students on where else they were considering applying to. “Sheffield”, said one. “Oh no, the course is only a short time, there is life after studying. If you go to Sheffield, no-one has heard of this place. UCL is well-known all over the world, it is like Cambridge” (though obviously better…). “Imperial”, said another. “Oh no, my friend studies here, he says he has too much work to do, he regrets not going to UCL. They have no life”. And so on. These prospective students had poor English, though I sensed some of them could detect a stuffy warm waft of manure emanating from the university’s HR and Recruitment drivers.
But this illustrates a trend. For retired or redundant individuals, gullible middle-class youth and international students, education will tailor a new range of accessible and funky micro-Philosophy courses – a helping of Plato and the good life, a dashing here of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu for any yuppies, maybe even a sprinkle of that ‘crazy syphilitic guy’ Nietzsche to taste. I need a job. Seriously, I’m considering venturing into ethics, the only area of philosophy that seems to be commercially published. And if not that, then part-time work as a Ritalin-distributing National Curriculum teacher.
5. Philosophy and History lecturer Landscape gardener Lifestyle Guru Dole Chief Inquisitor’s Assistant’s Assistant Driving Instructor Bouncer Bollocksed.
What are the other options? Because really it’s a toss-up between three and four. My working life may well be. I want to lecture and I will try for this. But who is working in a jobthey ever set out for? It pays the bills yes, but I don’t want to waste 45+ hours a week and my time and energy in something I don’t like. You don’t either. Given I’m a student now, you buy the first round and I’m grateful. Beer is a good friend. And you are my best friend. But what are we supposed to do with our lives? Chto delat?