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Jamal Walker
May 11, 2018

But, what do you actually do?

but what do you do?

“But what do you actually do!” I remember hearing what looked like a four-year-old girl say to whom looked like her very smartly dressed dad.

Being as nosey (I prefer the term inquisitive) as I am, I sat on a train to London Euston and overheard a conversation I will never forget between what looked like a four-year-old and her dad. I was coming back from my university at the time, and I was in Milton Keynes I think. The girl was asking her Dad about his job. He told her he was an investment banker. The father sat on the train for ages conversing back and forth with his daughter about what he did for a living, and after every exchange, the daughter looked more confused. Similarly, the father did too!

He explained how he was responsible for raising capital for corporations and government bodies; she replied: “but how.” He then tried to explain that he would assist with mergers and acquisitions as well as provide advice on derivatives. Despite the disinterested look on his face, he even tried to break this down into more comprehensible language for his daughter. To no surprise she looked at him with a bemused expression and bombarded him with more questions like, “but, what do you actually do?”. Then a look came across his face that struck me; it was a blend of confusion and embarrassment. He then embraced her and said, “I can’t really explain it, it’s complicated.“

That experience made me think about a lot of things, do we honestly understand the jobs we do? Are we happy doing our job? I feel as though a lot of our beliefs about work come from the information we are taught in school. Schools that teach us to study, study and study. Schools that teach us that once we get good grades, we can attract top employers and class ourselves “successful” led me to my final question, how can we make the education system more sustainable so the youth don’t grow up with a distorted view of the working world?

Based solely on my experiences I feel as though volumes of people are growing up unsure of what they are doing and what they want to do, I reckon this is partially caused by the fact that we live in a society that places pressures on us by setting milestones that we don’t understand. Societal pressures irk me, they really do. Especially social constructs that infect individuals into buying into a superficial world. I remember growing up with this false sense of security that after university everything would fall into place, but it doesn’t. Because I wasn’t prepared for that reality, moments of doubt crept in. It is okay to have doubts; it means you are conscious and not passively comforting your ego or insecurities about certain realities that you are trying to run from. Doubt is in fact, a great way of reflecting and critically evaluating yourself.

Sometimes I feel we are taught to believe that we can study 3/4 years and come out of university with a job waiting for us on our doorstep. Once we realise that that isn’t the case we panic, we rush, we feel inadequate and question ourselves. These are just my views, but what do you guys think?

Sometimes that ignorance leads us to places we don’t want to be, doing things we don’t like or understand just to form meaning and explanations about ideals we are TOLD we are supposed to have.

Disclaimer: The man on that train may have really loved his job, and maybe it is difficult to explain the finance industry to a four-year-old, but I think there is something powerful in the reactions his face presented and the fact he told her “it’s complicated.”

WHY? Why is it complicated and what are we doing to untangle the “complications” of preparing the next generation for the real world. There is something significant about loving what you do and not being afraid to learn (via constant mistakes) and actually make sense of your career path or calling. Stop and think for a second, what do you do? Do you do what your job suggests? And if not why?

I guess watching the father and daughter, subconsciously reminded me of how it felt to be confused by something that people claim is so simple. It isn’t. I feel as though many of us have been that little girl or boy at some stage.

The reason I write this is that time is not at our discretion; it’s constantly on the move. One day that four-year-old is going to have her own four-year-old who’s going to have questions about the makeup of the world and how he or she fits in it. Especially as he/she begins their academic journey, they’re going to need answers, guidance and the freedom to express themselves.

Credit to the four-year-old though, she has a bright career ahead of her in interrogation interviews or journalism — assuming that’s what she “actually wants to do.”

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