A Job For Life
12 November 2001
Her eyes glazed over then looked away over my shoulder. Her mouth pulled back into a tight-lipped toothy almost-grin, and she spoke in a high-pitched voice that sounded of near panic. At that point I didn't see her in front of me but just another one of us who had sold her soul at a wholesale price, and was convinced she got a good deal. She really wanted to believe it, and she nearly did. But Lucifer always laughs lasts in that sort of thing.
"It is a really good job really. I mean you get to do all sorts of different things. And don't forget the money - the money is definitely good."
Money is never good nor is it evil. Money is just a number given to the value of something. It's what people can do with it that can be good or evil. And with this job the commodity their selling to other companies, and paying her and me for, is life.
People say you can't put a price on human life. Well, I know exactly how much mine cost - ten thousand pounds. For that same amount, you can get a fairly run-down four bedroom semi-detached in South Yorkshire for your dogs, or a nearly new 'State Blue' five-door Ford Focus 1.8 zetec.
And we come in our droves to try and join this 'elite group', this 'great opportunity', this 'ultimate job'. They lure us with promises of creative, stimulating work, the wide variety of possible roles, all the while ensuring that you feel like if only you get this job, you will truly be a dynamic, quick-minded, brilliant spark in the corporate world, ready to take on any problem that may face you. Modern day adventurer, standing astride the prow of the good ship H.M.S. Corporate Success. Whatever that means.
And then there's the money, of course. Lots of it.
So we all fight for this job, get it, and then spend the months before the impending start date answering the question from Uncles and Aunts "So, what is it exactly you'll be doing?" with a big, fat "Erm, I don't know, really." And this is why:
If they said from the outset "When you do finally join us, you could be doing anything. We have lots of projects, all of which need to be staffed, and since we don't know anything about you, you're first project will pretty much be assigned on a fairly random basis. Once you've done that, then we'll know more about what you can do, and hopefully then we'll be able to find you roles that suit your needs and desires but probably not", then that would be putting a pleasant sounding gloss on it, but would almost truthful.
What they really should say is "Congratulations and welcome to our army of monkey-slaves. From now until we sack you or you quit, you will do our bidding and nothing else. We will make you so tired that your social life will evaporate. But we will give you a fair old amount of dosh on the way to your spiritual and emotional ruin." Still want the ultimate job?
And an monkey-slave army is what they are. A very big army, with lots of money, and more BMWs, Porsche Boxters and Audi TTs than you can shake a PowerPoint presentation at.
In the modern economy there is not a perfectly flexible labour market. In a perfect labour market, any person who was good at a particular thing could be hired by a company to do it, and then got rid of (note that 'perfect' is purely from the firm's, not the labourer's, point of view). Some clever dick noticed that while normal companies can't do this, a huge army of well-educated, enthusiastic and committed slave-monkeys can. The only problem the head of the army has is to make sure he's got the right number of monkeys and he sells lots of work to keep them all busy and chargeable.
So I now sit there all day in a smelly office on a client site, fiddling about with computers all day trying to make things work so that the project will be done and over and I can move on to the next one which will be just same same, but different. I've had jobs before, and I recently noticed what the difference between my old job and my new job was: The people at my old job liked doing what they did. The people at my current one don't.
We're all in the same boat - not liking our jobs, but being paid a lot to not like them. Some people can manage by just lying back and thinking of the money, going to the shops every weekend and owning sixteen jackets and a sporty car. But they still live with their parents. Others, like the girl I was talking to earlier, convince themselves that they're working that hard because they really enjoy their work. Others are resentful, but too lazy to do anything as they watch their old friends slip away into the distance. The company will make it up to you by providing social events aplenty where you can meet loads of people, the same as you, who you can drink with, befriend, fuck and marry.
They slowly take over your life until you too will defend them with a thin-lipped smile when someone like me moans about how terrible this job is. There isn't much you can do. Who wants to quit when the job market's so tight? And it's a lot of money, which is always good.
Money isn't good or bad. It's what they do with it that's evil.