Stepping Off the Career Ladder

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I am certain that I have mentioned in few posts that I always battled with indecisive idiosyncrasy. When you are as indecisive as I am, options can be daunting. When you are young and inexperienced, options are really frightening. Why… because with no clear strategy on how to tackle whatever options given to you, it can hold you back. Where careers are concerned this can be taxing. Hence why I am always in need of second opinions.

In recent months I have learnt that stepping off the career ladder is equally as important as stepping on it and progressing through it. Sometimes it is more progressive to take some time out and evaluate whether the rat race is at all for you.

Why is that? Read me out…

At the age of 21 I found myself with an undergraduate degree that I didn’t have a clue what to do with. That is the problem in my opinion with generalist degrees that can be applied to any setting. But that was precisely what attracted me to my degree… that I wouldn’t be tied to one specific career path…that I could explore others with it.

Exploration with no real strategy is equivalent to walking blind on the edge of a treacherous road. Not only are you clueless about what’s to come but worse you are ill equipped to deal with any mishaps that may arise.

Of course, there was a catalogue of opinions from career advisors, family, friends, neighbour’s dog, to total strangers. They all had opinions!

Opinions on how one should pursue a career in Policing just because they studied Criminology or become a Social Worker because they studied Sociology!! At least that was from those who remotely understood what Criminology or Sociology entailed. The rest were just baffled by both subjects and more so as to why anyone would pursue it.

I studied society and why people engaged in criminality, surely there is some credibility in that, no?!

By the time I graduated I found myself amidst a global recession. From the comfort of hindsight, it wasn’t as bad. At the very least, It gave me the chance to enhance my academic pursuits. I would have lost track of it if I was off to my first graduate job in my prescribed field that would have supposedly put me on the career ladder.

That is not to say that I didn’t work, of course I did; I never knew anything but to work. In fact I managed to hold onto a full time job whilst doing my Masters. This time I knew what I wanted to get out of it, both academically and professionally, where I wanted to go with it: International Development. So I embarked on a yearlong course in International and European Human Rights Law.

By the end of it, we were still amidst a global recession, so securing a job in that field was almost impossible. I was tempted to take the academic route and pursue my passion for academia and study for a PhD.

Of course I received all sorts of illogical protests- from the sublime to the ridiculous. There were the ones who staunchly believed that PhD’s were meant to be done when you are in your forties. My personal favourite was that I would somehow put myself out of reach from the regular men and miss out on marriage.

I am all for defying the odds and refuting age old institutions. The feminist in me saw a fruitful future with a herd of cats… I don’t even like cats, they unnerve me!

The problem with doing a PhD then is that it would have made me more overqualified for the jobs I wanted than I already was; or so the recruiters were telling me.

The second problem with that option is that come three years’ time I would find myself in the same situation my 21 year old self was: inexperienced yet overqualified. This graduate job market is a minefield for the unwary.

So I took the time out to explore various career paths and gauge what my indecisive self really wanted to do rather than getting trapped into a lifetime of a 9-5 that I wasn’t really keen in.

The greatest advise I got in my career thus far is that if plan A fails, have a plan B, C and D; if need be!

So here I am now embarking on a three years full time PhD course whilst laying the foundations for what I hope to be a global research enterprise and of course doing this little old thing called writing!

P.s I was told that I could procreate and have multiple babies in the course of three years instead… I think I’ll happily take on the challenge of studying human behaviour as opposed to making them….


Enough about me, What is your career story?




I sit in my cosy little office with its bright LED lights that cause my eyes to flinch and flicker too many times than I would have liked and I slowly begin to ponder over my journey to getting here. I purposefully chose to sit at the desk adjacent to the radiator with a window above it. My body temperature tends to be on the colder side of the thermometer so I need to keep warm at all times.

The window on the other hand serves a dual purpose. During the rare occasions where my body is too warm or there is too much bodily heat generating in the office than the small room can take the window serves as a ventilation. Its second purpose and perhaps one of more pertinence than the first is using it as a portal of escape. Too often in my 9-5 I find myself languorously starring at the window and dreaming of pastures new.

Lately those pastures concentrated on the acquisition of new employment elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong it is not as if though I dislike my current employment but rather like everything in life ,the grass is somehow always a tad bit greener on the other side (with a lesser need for pesticides I would imagine). I have fear of being too content that I would let thirty years go by with me being in this very same position. My colleagues are a constant reminder and an embodiment of that last affirmation.

The one year itch is seemingly gripping more workers at the beginning of their career ladder than it ever did. Take me for example; I have been in my current employment for just over a year. To begin with I found it fascinating, challenging and on par with what I studied and where I want to go with my career. But as I reached the six months mark I started becoming disillusioned with what this employment had to offer or the lack of it. Come the one year anniversary and I had mastered the knack of it all.

I was the go-to person for all the tricks of the trade – you know the type of stuff that they don’t put in the employee’s handbook. Such as which direction should envelopes/ labels be fed into the printers? It wasn’t long before I also mastered the dark art that is practised within the walls of every office across the globe: how to look busy when caught up in tedious bureaucracy that doesn’t and SHOULD NOT require a whole team to spend all day doing what a child (okay maybe not a child because we don’t want insurance and social services on our case too) one adult can do in a minute or so. David Graeber’s analysis of bullshit jobs comes to mind.

It’s a Sisyphean ordeal consisting of bureaucratic shambles and narcissistic co-workers with endless delusions of grandeur that I had to tolerate in the past year which triggered it all for me. The job in itself is fine but the people I cross paths with on a daily basis not so. If someone gave me a dime for every time I uttered the word “shambolic” in this past year to describe this situation I would have been well-heeled . To my amusement and bemusement alike the word started trending in the office, so much so that it even made it into one or two resignation letters. Unbeknown to me I started a spring of the descriptive word format to conjure up the organizational tyranny we were experiencing! Who needs bombs to start a revolution when you have brilliant words like “shambolic”, eh? Words are always cheaper ammunition. I digress.

What is wrong with being content I hear you ask? I mean there is nothing wrong with being content. But when contentment becomes synonymous with “just fine” then it makes you want to naturally (and maybe not so naturally because some of us need a shove every now and then) strive for more than just fine, something of the highest possible excellence lavished with superlatives. However, if “just fine” is what you are happy with then by all means that is fine.

One job for life’ is now well and truly something of the past. And that is not because we are any more ambitious than those of yester years. If anything holding on to the same job till retirement takes a lot of commitment and will. The obvious recession debacle that we find ourselves in makes it hard for people like me and my contemporaries to protract the same job for that lengthy period of time. For starters you would be lucky to find a job, FULL STOP and when you do do then it is a struggle to find any organisation that would want your services (skilled or otherwise) for any longer than six to twelve months.

A friend of mine said to me not long ago that he is struggling to keep his resume succinct. Thanks to the numerous contracted jobs he had to do over the course of the last year alone his resume is now in the danger of spilling over into the no go zone, frowned upon three/four page territory. And trust me no employer has the time to be looking at a resume that long. Not to mention the fact that having that many short contracted jobs gives a potential employer the incorrect impression that you have commitment issues. Problems of a first world country! To quote a colleague “It is decadence”!

Even when some of us land a job that would put up with us for infinite years of employment, we soon start looking elsewhere. Already unsatisfied and thirsty for more we start the job application process before the coffee stains and the biscuit crumbs had a chance to settle on our desks and keyboards.

Whilst I confess that I don’t particularly have any scientific explanation as to why this may be, however, I get the inkling that we are pre conditioned to being too dissatisfied too quickly. This consumerist attitude has now seeped into the wonderful world of work. It is no longer about what you can bring to a job it is more about what you can get out of it; what extra life perks can it give you so you would not be itching to get out of it sooner than you got in.

Free business trips, various gadgets that begin with the first person pronoun (hint: it is the ninth alphabet of the English language), 24 hours gym on site, flexible hours. Scrap that how about working from home, hmm? Actually scrap that too how about zero hour contract?