It’s safe to say that it’s a worrying time. Actually that’s probably a pitiful understatement, but it’ll do for now. It’s entirely understandable that in such a worrying time, with job security at an absolute premium, people should clutch to jobs like a drowning man to a straw. After all, in the current economy, if you have a job that looks like it will be stable and secure for the foreseeable future it makes sense to hang on to it, right?
A Job For Life?
Well… maybe. The days of a job-for-life have rather disappeared, though. For my parents’ generation, the job-for-life was a thing, at least if you were a white male. My dad joined the police in 1965 knowing that if he wanted, he could stay there until he retired (and he did). The old orthodoxy was that you signed up with an employer and barring catastrophe you would retire at 65, get your gold watch and go home to tend to the roses. Whether you joined the civil service, the police, the NHS, a bank, an insurance company or private industry, that was the deal.
It started unravelling in nationalised industries first. From the end of WW2 through to the end of the 70s, the instinctive government reaction to major business failing was to nationalise it – take it over, in other words. Coal, rail transport, steelmaking, car making, shipbuilding, bus travel and telephone services were all under state ownership at some point in the UK, for better or worse. So even if you worked for a company that was on its uppers, if it was big enough there was a reasonable chance the government would step in and save it rather than let the jobless figures shoot up. The repeated catastrophic failures of British Leyland and the implacable opposition of the Thatcher government to state ownership put paid to that (apart from banks, apparently, but that’s a whole other blog post), and a lot of people in what they thought were jobs-for-life in places like coalmines and car factories ended up out of work.
At around the same time, a lot of big office-based corporations realised that if they became a bit less British and a bit more American (and by extension, ruthless), the people at the top and the shareholders could make a LOT more money. Mergers, hostile takeovers and downsizing meant that jobs previously thought unassailable were disappearing as the world moved on – there a lot fewer bank managers, these days. Even if you work for the government, directly or indirectly, cuts in police numbers, the armed services and the NHS have meant significantly fewer people have a JFL these days.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on all our lives and some of us are forced to look for other employment, that little essay’s probably not much comfort. Sorry about that. But here’s the good news. If you have a side-hustle that you’re passionate about, enjoy and are good at, now could be a great time to make that your new career. Here’s a few thoughts on how and why…