Bougie Career Advice

I just spent 6 months job hunting. A lot of that time was spent on the popular job networking site, LinkedIn. It’s basically Facebook for working professionals. It is somehow not less political. It is full of career advice. Most of this advice isn’t from people I actually know, but I see it because people in my network like or comment.

I’ve compiled all the advice I’ve read over the last 6 months, and I’ve come up with the perfect formula for success: be as privileged as the person giving the advice, and do what you love; lean in; lean out; find a balance; work smarter; work harder; say no; say yes; network; build a brand; be authentic.

If this sounds hollow, it’s because it is, and that is most of the advice LinkedIn has to offer people who are job hunting or seeking career development.

Here is my real advice: form a union in your field to demand better wages and benefits. Advocate for universal healthcare, a wage ratio, high taxes on the rich, a 32-hour work week, and adequate paid family leave for all genders.

Barring that, you will probably spend your life doing jobs that allow you to select only a couple of the above items and making trade-offs on everything else that will be somewhat unsatisfying in a variety of ways. Even if you find a way to do a job you love, you will probably struggle with medical debt, saving for retirement, and having enough money to grow your family. If you are a woman, gender-non-conforming, disabled, or a person of color, you will deal with the added tribulations of workplace and lifeplace discrimination at just about every point, so you might not even have time to think about retirement or a promotion. Instead, you’ll repeatedly prove yourself while someone else takes credit or your contribution goes totally unnoticed. Or you will spend most of your life with no idea how to get past service industry jobs because of sub-par or incomplete education, red-lining, and diminished opportunity for everyone in your professional and social sphere.

These things aren’t about being more hard-working or cracking a secret code; they are about human dignity and social good. When we live in a society where wealth isn’t consolidated into a few billionaires and millionaires, when race, sex, and gender presentation isn’t a deciding factor to career success (let alone life expectancy), then you can talk to me about how I need to work harder or smarter or be more balanced or lean in or out.

Until then, the only code I’m interested in cracking is how to actually level the playing field so everyone has a chance to think about what brings them joy and then go do it.

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