Philip Whiteley's Blog

June 29, 2011

Of interns, smoking and the X Factor

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 8:16 am

What connects interns, health advice on smoking and drinking, the talent show singers Mary Byrne and Andy Abraham, and statistics on migrant workers in the UK?

Answer: themes in a book that I wrote, of course. There follows a plug.

Internships are increasingly a device for the offspring of well-connected individuals to secure the plum jobs, including those as government ministers and advisers, many of whom set targets for health outcomes and reduced intake of legal recreational drugs, but who, never having had a regular day job, don’t understand how much regular workers may value the cigarette break or pub session. Other such gilded individuals become entertainers and broadcasters, who look down on unfashionable jobs, poke fun at those who seek to break away, such as Mary ‘Tesco’ Byrne and Andy ‘the binman’ Abraham, thus encouraging a climate in which regular work – often all that is left for families unable to afford internships – and the (indirect) opportunities it may offer through evening courses and promotion, is mocked, encouraging a view that it may be preferable to live off benefits and enter talent shows, leaving nearly nine out of ten jobs created to go to migrants (according to Frank Field MP, quoted on 19 June).

Meet the New Boss traces the creation of the demonization of Work as either a devouring beast or a monstrous bore, in thousands of songs, novels and situation comedies. It does not allege a conspiracy; more a piling up of cynical opinions that have become popular with the accidental influence of politicians and other celebrities with little or no actual experience of proper work.

What options are left, for the 99 per cent of us who don’t have famous parents, an inheritance, outstanding sporting talent or an amazing singing voice? How do we make decisions on what to do with our days, and how to earn a living? Do we want a career, or just a day job? What is the difference, and how do we find out which profession suits us?

The ‘day job’ can indeed offer tedium, hazard and monotonous labour, but it can also offer opportunities, camaraderie and even fun (occasionally). What is less obvious is that showbiz and sport can involve heartache, boredom, frustration and humiliation. Maybe we need a more grown-up view of the strange world of work. The simple things you see are all complicated, as Roger Daltrey once sang.

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