On the conflicting nature of work: part 2 + some advice

As you may or may not know – or care to know – I am currently an Anthropology student in my 2nd year. Of course, that inevitably means that much discussion and focus is now starting to turn to….CAREERS. Yes. The dreaded C word. As compared to some of my quantitatively-minded peers studying Economics, Finance, Accounting and the rest, many of us Anthropology students  aren’t typically inclined towards, or attracted to the prospect of working in a rigid corporate environment. I speak for some here, not all. I would say that the main reason being is that, thanks to Marx, we fear alienation. Seriously.

I’ve previously discussed my fear of losing a sense of self within my work/ future career path(s) as I’ve fairly recently come to realise just how much I value having a degree of creative freedom in my chosen job.

At this point, I think the most crucial element in job-hunting/ prospecting is to find what you’re driven by; that’s the first thing. However there is a second element to this: you must also be honest with yourself. I’ve gauged that the reason why some of my friends and I feel conflicted is because we tend to meld the abstract, ideological and faceless perception of a certain industry or job, with its practical actualities. We don’t separate the two identities, and therefore we tend to think that going for a certain job which, on the surface, seems to contradict our values, means ‘selling out’,without completely understanding what a job entails, when removed from its stereotype. I still feel this way.

I do think though, that some value lies with experimentation; trial and error. Of course, I’m not saying, nor do I believe, that you’re values should be compromised in favour o a particular job. I’m merely stating the importance of thinking outside the box, and trying new things. This is an indispensable piece of advice that my mentor has equipped me with, which will no doubt serve me well over the next few years.

For anyone currently in the same position, here’s what I’m thinking: I’ve decided to go with the mindset of ‘I can’t decide what to do’ as opposed to thinking ‘i don’t know what to do’ – the former implies choice, something which I tend to take for granted, whereas the latter alludes to a lack of awareness of the opportunities surrounding me. There are an incredible amount of options out there – not all will necessarily be open to me – but I’m curious by nature, and I intend to fully explore what is on offer.

Long story short, I attended an informative ‘Careers in Anthropology’ session on Tuesday, and I’d like to share some advice that I picked up from the panelists in case anyone out there needed it:

– If you’re still at university/ school/ college or any educational institution: take advantage of the free courses on offer! If you have interests in a particular subject you’re not studying, audit some of the lectures for a module you have an interest in. Also, check out the IT department for free courses and training in software (note to self).

– Visit your/a careers office! In most cases, they will give you better advice than you anticipate.

– Get some work experience, even if it’s in a cafe. Here’s a shameless plug: I work in retail at the weekends. It’s not all fun and games, but it helps you meet new people (obviously) and hey, most skills are transferable these days. Something that one of the panelists mentioned yesterday evening was that, it is important to pursue and concentrate on your academic ability however, so not neglect to build on your social skills as well.

– Build on your language skills: Again, if you’re at university, you can take a module in most commonly spoken languages. If not, there are numerous online courses and relatively inexpensive evening classes that will do the trick. If you’re based in London, see Birkbeck and CityLit.

– If you’re wanting to do a PhD, consider taking a break after your undergrad/ masters. (another note to self).

– If you don’t see an opportunity, dig anyway. Email, phone, do the social media stuff if that’s what you’re into, and ask people if you can talk to them! Arrange a coffee, or a meeting, and discuss your ideas. A conversation is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.

I hope that helps! All thanks and praises should be directed to the wise, knowledgeable and anthropologically-minded panelists. It was an inspiring event with a lot of knowledge to soak up.

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Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

Much of the charm of a building lies in the way that it makes you feel; the different spaces in which we find ourselves evoke different reactions within us that go unnoticed or which we do not attribute to the space around us. However, our relationship with buildings is a symbiotic one in which materials and bodies constantly interact with and transform one another.

This notion lies at the heart of the current ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’ exhibition, at the RA in London until April 6th. It explores the importance of the spaces around us: how natural elements such as light, wind, and sight engage our senses and emotions, how buildings affect our thoughts, and engage all parts of us both internally and externally. Body and soul.

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Right from the start of the exhibition (independent of the direction in which you choose to begin) I felt compelled to interact with the space around me. I immediately felt self-conscious in amongst the structure, materials, colours, heights, and even sounds of each section. Each space seemed so radically different from the last, and completely unexpected.

Each room was modelled to different degrees upon the architectural styles of each designer, all 6 of which hail from different parts of the world including Japan, Burkina Faso and Ireland. Each had a different sensory appeal and inspirations.

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(Unfortunately, my camera decided to delete a few pictures, but was kind enough to let some remain.)

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I wish that a space such as this exhibition would be permanently available to the general  public – I enjoyed the whimsical and playful nature of the straw tunnel, especially the way  in which it encouraged people to interact with and build it – to leave their mark.

Overall, the exhibition was shorter than I expected, but I left feeling inspired and pensive.  The everyday, mundane aspects of each day that we take for granted, such as buildings  and the spaces which we inhabit, affect in ways greater than we realise. If only we took  the time to observe the architectural detail and beauty around us, and be inspired by it….

I hope you enjoyed the short video I made just for you 🙂

Influencers Film

I will forever be in love with this film! It covers everything from our interest in pop culture, to the importance of family, the rise of social media platforms and new ways of communicating with each other. Not to mention, a little bit of style. The visuals are so appealing; it is a beautifully edited piece of work! It has been a long-time source of inspiration: anytime I lose focus, I turn my eyes to this and it never fails to remind me of my dreams and ambitions (maybe that sounds a bit weird). Nonetheless, I hope it can do the same for you :).

On the conflicting nature of ‘work’

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/01/do_what_you_love_love_what_you_do_an_omnipresent_mantra_that_s_bad_for_work.html

I appreciate the timing of this article: it publicly sheds light on the exploitative potential of the notion that you should ‘Do What You Love’ (DWYL). While I agree with what the article concludes, in a different frame of analysis I look at the DWYL mantra as a purely aspirational one. I can identify with the majority of the working population, as a student who works to supplement my income; at the same time I am very much aware of the temporality of my weekend job. It certainly isn’t ‘what I love’,  but I acknowledge that it is necessary. In any case it certainly doesn’t detract from my ambitions.

I also agree that DWYL, as it pertains to work, can be a means of manipulation and exploitation, as Tokumitsu explains. It can certainly cause alienation and consequent disillusion – one of the dangers which I hadn’t considered.

For me, what really matters when considering ‘work’ or a future career is maintaing a degree of integrity, conviction, ‘humanness’, and a willingness to learn in whatever I pursue. One thing I am currently struggling with is coming to terms with the value ascribed to ‘corporate’ work over other career paths. This is something that constantly makes me question and doubt my values and belonging within the workforce.  In an ideal world, of course everyone would be pursuing what they love but in reality, ‘what we love’ often remains a fantasy. I’m a bit of an idealist (even if I don’t have the means to be!) so this doesn’t always sit well with me. As a result, I’m constantly asking my parents and those around me who I consider ‘older and wiser’, if they love what they do. Although many of the jobs they do aren’t inherently creative or incredibly well-paid, to some extent they feel fulfilled.

For this reason I think the idea of DWYL doesn’t always mean that your job has to be that of your dreams, but keeping a sense of self within that job can help to alleviate potential alienation. I think we should apply the proverb ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ proverb here. In other words we should critique the structural set-up of certain training and educational institutions, which adopt and encourage linear paths regarding work. Most often the focus is on training students for conventional jobs, which leads to indirectly perpetuating the cycle of ‘those who do well in the initial stages succeeding in life’, against ‘those who don’t do so well being relegated to sectors of the workforce for which they have no passion’. At any stage, we should not have to suppress who we want to be; we should not have to sacrifice our aspirations.

Get Creative

Whenever I spend long periods of time away from the routinised flow of uni life, I feel as though I uncover new things about myself. Most recently, I became conscious of the fact that anytime I do something creative, in any capacity, I feel a complete buzz and excitement. I’ve mentioned this before, but the increasing importance that writing holds for me is something that I try to cherish and nurture everyday. The ability for us to creatively express ourselves is infinitely available, it is simply up to us to tap into it. Whatever you produce does not need to be measured or judged, but it just has to be a manifestation of what you’re feeling or who you are, and unashamedly so.

I truly believe in the innate nature of creativity within each person: we are continuously being creative, even in circumstances which we would not conventionally define as such. It’s just that it takes on a different significance for some. I guess what i’m getting at here, is the importance of finding or realising that creativity should not be automatically relegated to artists professional creatives, whose work can oftentimes be constrained if it is dependent on a market. Rather, you must see that we all nurture a degree of creative ‘talent’, which, if tapped into, can release us into a dimension of inner freedom, fulfillment and exploration.