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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