From: Nicholas Hayden
Subject: A meditation on finding the right job
As I have passed through the first two decades of my life, entering the latter years of my twenties, it has struck me that the generations who lived before us have been able to retain entirely different outlooks on their lives because of the opportunities that were accessible to them in their collective youth. If you were born in, or before the 90s, it’s likely you have parents who believe that you can achieve virtually any goal, so long as you work hard enough.
In theory, this should be the case; if you commit yourself to a role or project, and give your best efforts, you should be able to excel and advance. It is rarely taken into account, however, that getting into a creative profession in the current cultural and economic climate is markedly more difficult today. Our parents’ generation was probably the last that could decide on a whim to follow their dreams and move to the city with $40 in their pockets (as Madonna did). To be able to follow your passions as a creative, you generally now need a masters, a second language, and parents with a second home somewhere conveniently metropolitan.
If you have those advantages as a springboard, that’s fine - but what does it say for the trajectory of the creative industries, whose stimuli and output we all constantly consume in our own thirsts for inspiration?
I used to read i-D Magazine religiously. I did so for the content, the tone, the freshness - but stopped almost immediately following Terry Jones’ departure as editor-in-chief. This is the point at which the magazine was absorbed by Vice Media, and the also the milestone at which, arguably, the magazine started to pander most obviously to a certain kind of market to get attention. The wider allegory I’m drawing attention to is that i-D represented a kind of freedom and rebellion that we haven’t sustained into today. Now you have to get 20 masters degrees and then fight like you’re in a blood sport to get on a graduate scheme. And then, once you have reached that coveted position, you have the impending dismay of most of the positions being completely lacking in creativity or originality. You are part of a formula to get more social media traction, to chart “influencer” activity, to create shock value so that more people will watch your YouTube channel (thank you Buzzfeed).
If you are someone who craves, indeed needs to be stimulated by creating and building things, how do you find a place in the modern workforce? Another blockade is the unfortunate stereotype of someone who craves creative challenges and variety, assumed to be somehow simply not working hard enough. This archetype holds that if your preference isn’t to work in an office everyday, to do the same thing every day, you are being childish or unrealistic.
I recently disclosed to my elder brother that my job was becoming an issue because of the level of stress involved and his response was “every job is stressful.” My mother and father shared his viewpoint.
There is a fine line between a job in which you have some level of interest or passion that has stressful elements, and the general assumption that every single role you will have is going to be unpleasant. Yet it seems the more I look around, that expectation seems to be the consensus. Look at everyone on your commute to work - does anyone look satisfied?
I’m being hyperbolic here given how horrific the logistics of a morning commute are, but the example is an indicator nonetheless. People don’t look that happy on the way home either. Most people have resigned to spending eight or nine hours of their day, most days, doing something they don’t really care about.
If so much stress is inevitable in the workplace, you might as well invest it in something you do care about. As Janet Jackson told us in What have you done for me lately; “you’ve got one life to live.” Perhaps the answer is to work out what you really want to see happen in the world - not in C.V language, and not in the prose of your Instagram captions, just in your mind or secret journal - and work backwards from there. The ingenuity of the creative industry’s output will slowly dim if built on disingenuous stories and sisyphean vocation.
- Nicholas Hayden