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What is or will be a good job?

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A couple of months ago, Rob posted this in response to the governance fiasco at the University of Kentucky:

If you’re considering a career in academia… please stop considering it. The demographic cliff, the adjunctification of faculty, the destruction of faculty voice within the university… these trends have made the job untenable in the medium and long term. From this point forward I will not even consider writing a letter of recommendation for a student to pursue a Ph.D., unless I can be assured that they are seeking and are likely to find a position in government or industry. Academia is the deadest of dead ends.

At the moment I’m feeling extremely sympathetic to this view, but my wife asked me a good question in response, which was: compared to what?

It’s certainly true that working conditions for academics in general, even the most privileged among us (such as me) are getting markedly worse for all sorts of reasons. And this point doesn’t even touch on the difficulty of entering the profession in the first place, at least if one insists on luxuries such as a living wage. But what about other professions?

Lawyer: No comment necessary

Doctor: All I hear from doctors is how much worse their jobs are getting.

Nurse: Same

Engineer: Sounds pretty good maybe?

Architect: Sounds good in theory, but I’ve heard most jobs are hard to get, not very creative, and only a few superstars make real money.

Journalist: My niece asked me to ask a prominent journalist friend of mine if she would give her some advice about getting into journalism. He generously wrote her an extensive and thoughtful note, that could have been edited down to one word: Don’t.

Soulless corporate drone: OK there may be some question begging going on. Kids please use that phrase responsibly.

Something obviously creative and self-actualizing, like being a professional musician: Always difficult, now trending toward nearly impossible.

Non-professional work: I hear a lot of people saying go get a job in a trade with a good union. Hmmm.

I do have a serious question here, and it’s this: Would you like to see your kid(s), actual or hypothetical, dedicate their lives to what you do? Why or why not? And to the extent the answer is no, what would you like to see them do instead?

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