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Jobs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

According to the Daily Beast, the 20 "most useless jobs", based on current demand and starting salary are (with the most useless on the top):

Fashion Design
Child Development and Family Science
Mechanical Engineering Technology
Human Resources
Art History
Fine Arts
Animal Science

No one typing on a lightweight plastic keyboard these days, with their words appearing before them on an inexpensive liquid-crystal display, could say that chemistry is a useless job; in fact, without most of the jobs on the list, our world and our society would be a dull, drab, gray, drudging bore. Yet based on demand, those jobs which make our society more than a soviet-style factory are now less in demand than ever.

The economy is probably largely responsible for this. As any schoolteacher knows, when a district looks to trim budgets, programs like music, art, theatre, creative writing and other "nonessentials" are the first to feel the sharpened blade of the axe. Similarly, in the business world, things that don't turn a quick profit are generally sidelined "until the economy improves." But therein lies a fatal error, because many of the "profitable" jobs stem ultimately from the minds of those in the creative fields. Bean-counters may be in high demand, and a good accountant is critical to the bottom line of an enterprise, but they generally don't tend to think outside the box.

So what makes a "good" job? A recent article in Salon considers the questions - their main points, (summarized by Newser), read like a page from the Communist Manifesto:

  • Unions: We often call manufacturing jobs “good” ones, but that wasn’t the case until they were unionized. Service-sector jobs, meanwhile, are often seen as "bad" jobs, but they might see huge benefits from unionization.
  • Employer-provided benefits: Sounds like a feature of a good job, and both unions and large corporations support them. But on the other hand, progressives prefer “universal, portable government programs like Social Security and Medicare that are identical and available to all citizens.”
  • Wages: The question of wages is essential to defining a good job, but the definition of a good wage has changed over time. What is a “living wage” today—one that allows an individual to support a family, or one that effectively allows each individual to support one child, while a spouse supports another?
  • Full- or part-time? We value full-time work for its association with good benefits, thus making it a seemingly essential part of a good job. But if the government took care of benefits, would full-time jobs be so important?

Apparently, Salon thinks a good job is one where your employer and your government takes care of your every need - a philosophy echoed by about half of our population, based on election results.

So what is a good job? In the end, that's going to be decided by the individual, because everyone's needs are different. Job satisfaction is probably the biggest indicator - I know many people who work for much less money than they could make elsewhere, and are perfectly happy - because working elsewhere would be Hell. Too many hours, insufferable working conditions, too much stress, asshole bosses, ignorant co-worker - all are factors which lead people to feel like their working conditions don't move them forward.

For me, there are some basics.
  1. You love what you do. This is number one. Those who go to work and feel like it's not work are among the fortunate. Sometimes these kinds of jobs have to be created rather than found.
  2. You feel fairly compensated for your time. Some people may actually be OK with a minimum wage job - others would not be. It's going to be different with every person. I do feel like the federal minimum is insufficient to allow a single wage-earner to support a family, but I'm not a good enough economist to argue the pros and cons of that situation.
  3. A safe workplace. This one is critical. If you're afraid of abusive corporate policies, abusive bosses or abusive co-workers, that's a job you should get out of with all deliberate speed. Don't even think of trying to change your corporate culture, because most of them are far too entrenched for a single individual to make a difference.

Beyond that, it's all negotiable. Benefits are a must for some, not so much for others. Some folks are much better than others with making their dollars stretch to the maximum, and people have different feelings for what life owes them or does not.

As for me, provided I had the skills, I would think any of the above 20 professions could be immensely satisfying, and beneficial to humanity as a whole. If you ask me, the Daily Beast got it all wrong.

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May. 3rd, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
Those are called the most useless degrees. I knew something was wrong with your wording when I got to English. (Pretty surprised that that and psychology aren't near the top, even if my BA in English helped me toward my current job, to which your three basics apply.)


The Old Wolf

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