04 May, 2016

Jobs, pay and the future

I had an interesting discussion with my youngest daughter the other day about the future, job opportunities, etc.—the kinds of things we all worry about for our kids.

My daughter was clear that she wanted a good job. ‘What constitutes a good job?’ I asked. ‘One that pays well,’ was her reply. Well, that’s a valid answer. It’s great to have a well-paid job, but is that what makes it a good job? And what about being well paid? As I tried to explain to my daughter, ‘well paid’ is  a relative concept. You may work in the public sector and be lucky enough to have  a ‘well-paid’ job. If so, your notion of ‘well paid’ will be quite different from that of someone who works in the private sector and has a ‘well-paid’ job, simply because salaries are higher in the private sector than in the public sector. ‘Yes, but as I said, my definition of a good job is one that it is well paid,’ replied my daughter, coming right back at me. She’s not a fan of shades of grey!

When you’re young and don’t have any experience of the workplace, it’s easy to think that the ride will be straightforward. Good school education. University. Good degree. A good, well-paid job should follow, shouldn’t it? But that’s not always the case, of course. It can be difficult to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder, let alone end up in a position where you are senior enough to earn a good salary. Furthermore, it’s not just a case of getting a good degree; which degree is highly significant as well. As we all know, a degree in a science or engineering subject is a much surer route to a high earning job than is a degree in the arts or humanities. My daughter would like to do something that involves writing and pointed out to me that I had said that medical writing is well paid. That’s true—it is. But what she’d failed to take on board was my additional point that in order to be a medical writer you need at least a first degree (preferably a PhD) in the life sciences. So, medical writing isn’t an accessible career for someone with a degree in English.

On second thoughts, perhaps it’s better that we’re not aware of all this stuff when we’re young. Maybe it is just best to aim for what you love, in the belief that things will come together exactly as you would wish them to. After all, there’s always the chance that they will—and, if not, maybe it’s best to save up the disappointment and negativity for later!

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