When there are no outcomes (visible or not) of your work

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Since this is a blog about being able to see the results of your work, I thought I would post this interesting article by an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, on the rise of what he calls “bullshit jobs.” I would say that perhaps these are jobs in which the workers don’t see any outcome, or at least little socially beneficial outcome, from what they do at work for 40 or more hours per week, as opposed to say, garbage collectors or MTA construction workers or farmers, or even teachers.

Even though my presumption here is that teaching does not yield adequate “visible outcomes” for me, now that I have sufficient distance from that profession, I would say it does produce some results, though perhaps much more infrequently and of a totally different nature than I had expected. For example, as a teacher, you do sometimes see the students respond to your care, whereas few, if any, will remember that calcite dissolves in acid. (Though when I learned that a few years ago as a third-grade teacher, I couldn’t imagine how anyone would forget. And yet, the only thing I think my students remembered of that science curriculum is that water beads on wax paper, which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. I probably should’ve turned that into a lesson on surface tension or something.)

I wouldn’t rule out teaching as a possible route in the future, but I don’t mean elementary school or even high school — if I ever venture into teaching again it should probably be to adults. I simply can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do with 20-30 young humans who would rather not be there, trapped in a room with you all day, or even for 40 minutes. I am just not that kind of manager.


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