From a headhunter friend of mine : interesting read...room for some self reflection?

  > >FRONT PAGE - WEEKEND FT: Tribal workers
> >
> >Today's generation of high-earning professionals maintain that
> >their personal fulfilment comes from their jobs and the hours
> >they work. They should grow up, says Thomas Barlow
> >
> >A friend of mine recently met a young American woman who was
> >studying on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. She already had two
> >degrees from top US universities, had worked as a lawyer and as a
> >social worker in the US, and somewhere along the way had acquired
> >a black belt in kung fu.
> >
> >Now, however, her course at Oxford was coming to an end and she
> >was thoroughly angst-ridden about what to do next.
> >
> >Her problem was no ordinary one. She couldn't decide whether she
> >should make a lot of money as a corporate lawyer/management
> >consultant, devote herself to charity work helping battered wives
> >in disadvantaged communities, or go to Hollywood to work as a stunt
> >double in kung fu films.
> >
> >What most struck my friend was not the disparity of this woman's
> >choices, but the earnestness and bad grace with which she
> >ruminated on them. It was almost as though she begrudged her own talents,
> >opportunities and freedom - as though the world had treated her
> >unkindly by forcing her to make such a hard choice.
> >
> >Her case is symptomatic of our times. In recent years, there has
> >grown up a culture of discontent among the highly educated young,
> something
> >that seems to flare up, especially, when people reach their late 20s and
> >early 30s.
> >
> >It arises not from frustration caused by lack of opportunity, as may have
> >been true in the past, but from an excess of possibilities.
> >
> >Most theories of adult developmental psychology have a special
> >category for those in their late 20s and early 30s. Whereas the early to
> >mid-20s are seen as a time to establish one's mode of living, the late
> 20s
> >to early 30s are often considered a period of reappraisal.
> >
> >In a society where people marry and have children young, where
> >financial burdens accumulate early, and where job markets are inflexible,
> >such reappraisals may not last long. But when people manage to remain
> >free of financial or family burdens, and where the perceived
> >opportunities for alternative careers are many, the reappraisal is likely
> >to be angst-ridden and long lasting.
> >
> >Among no social group is this more true than the modern, international,
> >professional elite: that tribe of young bankers, lawyers, consultants and
> >managers for whom financial, familial, personal, corporate and
> >(increasingly) national ties have become irrelevant.
> >
> >Often they grew up in one country, were educated in another, and are
> >now working in a third. They are independent, well paid, and enriched by
> >experiences that many of their parents could only dream of. Yet, by their
> >late 20s, many carry a sense of disappointment: that for all their
> >opportunities,
> >freedoms and achievements, life has not delivered quite what they had
> >hoped.
> >
> >At the heart of this disillusionment lies a new attitude towards work.
> >The idea has grown up, in recent years, that work should not be just a
> >means to an end a way to make money, support a family, or gain social
> >prestige - but should provide a rich and fulfilling experience in and of
> >itself.
> >
> >Jobs are no longer just jobs; they are lifestyle options.
> >
> >Recruiters at financial companies, consultancies and law firms have
> >promoted this conception of work. Job advertisements promise
> >challenge, wide experiences, opportunities for travel and relentless
> >personal development.
> >
> >Michael is a 33-year-old management consultant who has bought into
> >this vision of late-20th century work. Intelligent and well-educated -
> >with three degrees, including a doctorate - he works in Munich, and has
> >a "stable, long-distance relationship" with a woman living in
> >California. He takes 140 flights a year and works an average of 80 hours
> a
> >week.  Some weeks he works more than 100 hours.
> >
> >When asked if he likes his job, he will say: "I enjoy what I'm doing in
> >terms of the intellectual challenges."
> >
> >Although he earns a lot, he doesn't spend much. He rents a small
> apartment,
> >though he is rarely there, and has accumulated very few possessions.
> >
> >He justifies the long hours not in terms of wealth-acquisition, but
> solely
> >as part of a "learning experience".
> >
> >This attitude to work has several interesting implications, mostly to do
> >with the shifting balance between work and non-work, employment and
> >leisure.
> >
> >Because fulfilling and engrossing work - the sort that is thought to
> >provide the most intense learning experience - often requires long hours
> >or captivates the imagination for long periods of time, it is easy to
> slip
> >into the idea that the converse is also true: that just by working long
> >hours, one is also engaging in fulfilling and engrossing work.
> >
> >This leads to the popular fallacy that you can measure the value of your
> >job and, therefore, the amount you are learning from it) by the amount of
> >time you spend on it. And, incidentally, when a premium is placed on
> >learning rather than earning, people are particularly susceptible to this
> >form of self-deceit.
> >
> >Thus, whereas in the past, when people in their 20s or 30s spoke
> >disparagingly about nine-to-five jobs it was invariably because they
> >were seen as too routine, too unimaginative, or too bourgeois.  Now, it
> is
> >simply because they don't contain enough hours.
> >
> >Young professionals have not suddenly developed a distaste for leisure,
> >but they have solidly bought into the belief that a 45-hour week
> >necessarily signifies an unfulfilling job.
> >
> >Jane, a 29-year-old corporate lawyer who works in the City of London,
> >tells a story about working on a deal with another lawyer, a young man
> >in his early 30s. At about 3am, he leant over the boardroom desk and
> >said: Isn't this great? This is when I really love my job."
> >
> >What most struck her about the remark was that the work was irrelevant
> >(she says it was actually rather boring); her colleague simply liked the
> >idea of working late. "It's as though he was validated, or making his
> life
> >important by this," she says.
> >
> >Unfortunately, when people can convince themselves that all they need
> >do in order to lead fulfilled and happy lives is to work long hours, they
> >can quickly start to lose reasons for their existence.
> >
> >As they start to think of their employment as a lifestyle, fulfilling and
> >rewarding of itself - and in which the reward is proportional to hours
> >worked - people rapidly begin to substitute work for other aspects of
> >their lives.
> >
> >Michael, the management consultant, is a good example of this
> >phenomenon. He is prepared to trade (his word) not just goods and time
> >for the experience afforded by his work, but also a substantial measure
> >of commitment in his personal relationships. In a few months, he is being
> >transferred to San Francisco, where he will move in with his girlfriend.
> >But he's not sure that living in the same house is actually going to
> >change the amount of time he spends on his relationship. "Once I move
> >over, my time involvement on my relationship will not change
> significantly.
> >My job takes up most of my time and pretty much dominates what I do,
> >when, where and how I do it," he says.
> >
> >Moreover, the reluctance to commit time to a relationship because they
> >are learning so much, and having such an intense and fulfilling time at
> >work is compounded, for some young professionals, by a reluctance to
> >have a long-term relationship at all. Today, by the time someone reaches
> >30, they could easily have had three or four jobs in as many different
> >cities - which is not, as it is often portrayed, a function of an
> insecure
> >global job-market, but of choice.
> >
> >Robert is 30 years old. He has three degrees and has worked on three
> >continents. He is currently working for the United Nations in Geneva. For
> >him, the most significant deterrent when deciding whether to enter into a
> >relationship is the likely transient nature of the rest of his life.
> >
> >"What is the point in investing all this emotional energy and exposing
> >myself in a relationship, if I am leaving in two months, or if I do not
> >know what I am doing next year?" he says.
> >
> >Such is the character of the modern, international professional, at least
> >throughout his or her 20s. Spare time, goods and relationships, these are
> >all willingly traded for the exigencies of work. Nothing is valued so
> >highly as accumulated experience. Nothing is neglected so much as
> >commitment.
> >
> >With this work ethic - or perhaps one should call it a professional
> >development ethic" - becoming so powerful, the globally mobile
> >generation now in its late 20s and early 30s has garnered considerable
> >professional success.
> >
> >At what point, though, does the experience-seeking end? Kathryn is a
> >successful American academic, 29, who bucked the trend of her
> >generation: she recently turned her life round for someone else.  She
> >moved to the UK, specifically, to be with a man, a decision that
> >she says few of her contemporaries understood.
> >
> >"We're not meant to say: 'I made this decision for this person.  Today,
> >you're meant to do things for yourself. If you're willing to make
> >sacrifices for others - especially if you're a woman - that's seen as a
> >kind of weakness. I wonder, though, is doing things for yourself really
> >empowerment, or is liberty a kind of trap?" she says.
> >
> >For many, it is a trap that is difficult to break out of, not least
> because
> >they are so caught up in a culture of professional development.  And
> >spoilt for choice, some like the American Rhodes Scholar no doubt
> >become paralysed by their opportunities, unable to do much else in their
> >lives, because they are so determined not to let a single one of their
> >chances slip.
> >
> >If that means minimal personal commitments well into their 30s, so be it.
> >"Loneliness is better than boredom" is Jane's philosophy. And, although
> >she knows "a lot of professional single women who would give it all up if
> >they met a "rich man to marry", she remains far more concerned herself
> >about finding fulfilment at work.
> >
> >"I am constantly questioning whether I am doing the right thing here,"
> >she says. "There's an eternal search for a more challenging and
> >satisfying option, a better lifestyle. You always feel you're not doing
> the
> >right thing, always feel as if you should be striving for another
> >goal," she says.
> >
> >Jane, Michael, Robert and Kathryn grew up as part of a generation with
> >fewer social constraints determining their futures than has been true for
> >probably any other generation in history. They were taught at school that
> >when they grew up they could "do anything", "be anything". It was an
> >idea that was reinforced by popular culture, in films, books and
> >television.
> >
> >The notion that one can do anything is clearly liberating. But life
> without
> >constraints has also proved a recipe for endless searching, endless
> >questioning of aspirations. It has made this generation obsessed
> >with self-development and determined, for as long as possible, to
> minimise
> >personal commitments in order to maximise the options open to them.
> >
> >One might see this as a sign of extended adolescence. Eventually,
> >they will be forced to realise that living is as much about closing
> >possibilities as it is about creating them.
> >
>
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