Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In the eye of the job-holder

Something immediately jumps out to me about the “best” and “worst” jobs of 2015.

The “best” jobs pay well and cater to the current needs of the marketplace.

The “worst” jobs are almost universally things we need to keep society from eating itself.

Lists like these have are useful as a source of comparative information of incomes, and perhaps some wider, long-term trends. But they’re not career guides. The only way they could be is if you’re chasing trends, which is a shortsighted way to go through life.

I know it’s popular these days to criticize people for not obtaining an acceptably viable degree (or for getting one at all), but every degree is worth something, because you can’t go through two, four or more years of education and training without developing thought, discipline and structure within yourself. The same is true with on-the-job experience, regardless of educational pedigree. Those skills are useful everywhere. Chasing today’s hot ticket with hopes for tomorrow is a good way to hurt yourself, because nothing is guaranteed. So do what you want to do, regardless of whether some list insists it’s “good” or “bad.”

So what was the worst job of 2015? Newspaper reporter.

Journalism, in all its forms, is a calling. Teaching is another. These are jobs people do not for pay or prestige, but because they believe in the mission. The same can’t be said for many of the “best” jobs. That’s not to say the “best” jobs are inherently bad or that journalists and teachers couldn’t stand to be paid more, but it’s an important point. We will always need people to tell us what’s going on, and to teach the next generation. People would do both even if either ceased to be a career. We should never discourage those drawn to these pursuits (assuming they’re suitable, of course). Anyway, who knows when those will be hot again? Never say never.

Business cycles are part of life. But intellectual curiosity and critical thinking will always have value.

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