Sunday Times column: I don’t want a job for life — being fickle and impatient suits me just fine


They say be brave in a recession. And we are. We’re taking our chances while we work out what we want

You can try talking to my brother about the job-market black hole, but he won’t know what you’re on about. A tech genius embedded in London’s Silicon Roundabout, he has endless stories about the job offers he and his geeky programming mates are inundated with. Recruiters are so keen to employ them, they practically resort to stalking tactics: turning up at their workplaces; calling their mobiles; tweeting them. One of his friends was even approached by a recruitment company via the dating site OkCupid.

When my brother lost his job recently, I worried. He laughed: “There are loads of other companies out there I can work for.” And there were. Start-ups pop up constantly in tech valley. New businesses are born out of apps, and new apps out of some crazy idea that seems improbable (such as Borrow My Doggy, a website matching dog owners with dog walkers that has gone from an idea to a 10-man team in a year).

And yet, as quickly as many of these companies appear on our iPhones, they’re gone. Not so much an e-commerce bubble as teardrops barely forming. The Harvard Business School lecturer Shikhar Ghosh has estimated that three in four start-ups collapse. But the techies applying to work at these companies don’t mind. They’re happy to try their luck.

Nobody wants a job for life now, any more than they want to be stuck with a marriage, a house or a haircut for life. We’re happy flirting with possibilities. Last week my friend breezed: “I’ll be a journalist in my twenties, a businesswoman in my thirties, then trade property in my forties.” (Don’tcha love the arrogance of youth?)

I have friends who are retraining, swapping jobs, flitting between industries and countries with no plans to stop. Some juggle two or three careers at once: there’s A, a guitarist turned hairdresser; J, a teacher turned film-maker; D, a classics teacher turned accountant. I know M, an underwear model trying to become a journalist, and O, who left journalism to become a barrister. And M, who has wavered between art critic, furniture designer, website programmer, music app developer and occasional lush. We’re like Jobcentre versions of the TV-presenter-model-Vogue-contributor Alexa Chung.

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