I write some of my posts in a place where people tend to meet for job interviews. It’s considered a neutral-enough space for both parties – no commitments whatsoever, and somehow the franchise managed to establish their brand as implicit of both urban relaxation and professionalism.

And so, the place comes across as non-threatening, and the job applicant might feel tempted to, oh I don’t know – lean back in the middle of the interview, and smile at the inquisitor, or something. But caution! For the interview strategies have not changed. Not really.

“So, how long have you held this position for?”
– “I was there for three years.”
– “Oh wow! So you really have quite some expertise in that field.”
Interviewee nods frantically.

Can you guess where I am

Can you guess where I am?

Money makes us do fascinating things. How we go out of our usual ways, just how much we are willing to compromise – are we even aware of it?

Think of the person you are early in the morning. Think of the person that doesn’t want to get up, the person your dog looks forward to seeing again at the end of the day, the person you are when you write your emails to family and friends on a Sunday.

Then you swing open that modern glass / metal door and step into the work place.
From here on, it’s gotta be Straight Back. Or else, you know, the hyaenas are going to smell you out as the weakest link in the chain!

You remain that way throughout the day, you neglect your lunch break, and nobody even notices anymore. Your coworkers frown upon your attempts to take time for yourself, your health and wellbeing. (These are still big words, and so they get thrown around a lot, but they’ve lost their meaning. Why do I say that? Because there’s a good chance you feel guilty, even when you go to the dentist to finally get that root canal taken care of.)
How dare you just slack off like that! It surely warrants staying longer that day, or going in for an hour or two on the weekend.

Now, think of who you turn back into when you leave your work place, you get in your car or on the bus / train. Your work face falls off of you. You feel tired, you get quiet for a while. You need to “recover”.
Your body hurts – and you’re only 27. That’s normal now. It has never been more normal to feel stretched beyond your capabilities, every day of the work week (and for many of us, this feeling extends into the weekends.)

Considering that most of us now share a certain version of this scenario, it’s fascinating to watch how the idea of professionalism has been stylized into an ideal of glam and glory that pretty much every industry on the planet can aspire to during their minutes off.

The 20th century invented the career.

The late 20th century, then, instilled the belief in us that there is a profession out there for each one of us that will fit our more-unique-than-ever personalities like a glove. A job that will even go beyond that, and help us express our uniqueness, one that will bring out the best in us, that will turn us into self-fulfilled human beings with a complete identity.

And with that, we took it one step further from, say, the 1950s, where a career was mostly a “reasonable” thing to pursue for any responsible person who might hope to have a family one day, and a certain degree of financial security. However, that kind of extrinsic motivation – coming from the outside, working mostly through means of peer pressure and advertisement – would quickly cease to work for the Baby Boomers, and the children they went on to have.

And so, it became necessary to create intrinsic motivators – reasons to pursue a career and strive for professionalism that one could produce by oneself, untriggered, in one’s own quiet moments. It’s easy enough to question, or even disagree with outside forces, to instead become part of the counterculture, and create opposing values. But once an idea has entered your own brain and has started to take root in there – how many of us will question those?

The 30-something lady across from me looks up from her Macbook Air, sighs, and picks up her phone.
“I think I’m just gonna buy a lottery ticket..” She shakes her head at the screen in front of her. “It’s just one of those days.”