Got a Bullshit Job? Write About It!

Image source: Anonymous Art of Revolution

Do you think you put long hours for nothing important? Do you have to do more administrative work than you would ever like? Do you often dream for a more exciting, adventurous work, but can’t make the move for various reasons? In short, do you think your current job match the qualifications of being a bullshit job?

If you said yes to any of the above questions, do not despair. There is an effective cure to it: writing about your work. Although there is no guarantee that it can help you earn more or work less hours (though it might), but the cure could safely promise that your work could become less of a boredom, and there is even a probability that you will become excited by it. Perhaps you can realize that yours in not really a bullshit job, just a job that is not yet well-examined. if there are enough people within your profession sharing their misery with one another about the job and how it can be improved, then your job can be meaningful as well.

So, if you want to write about your work, what specifically you should write about? My suggestions are as the following. First of all, what not to write: Do not just write about how painful the job is to you personally, everybody knows about it and it does not make a good read. Obviously, do not write detailed case studies of your projects as well; it might not be a good idea to share such information to the outside world. On what to write, I hope the following list of my suggestions can provide some ideas:

  1. Unique things about your work that other jobs do not have.
  2. Extreme behaviors of people you have met or unlikely situation you have encountered.
  3. Problems commonly afflicting people in the profession. Not your personal problems, but those that you think affect most people, with solutions if you have some.
  4. Big picture of the state of the sector or industry. This is not the domain of the C-levels only, even an associate or manager can get some insights when he or she changes the viewpoint.
  5. Thought-provoking ideas, both big/radical or small
  6. Funny quirks or simple tricks to get the job done faster or with better quality.
  7. Call out common unethical behaviors that you have seen. Most people probably do not realize these because they might be too embedded in current common practices.
  8. Find new analogies or metaphors to help people think about the job in a new way.
  9. Respond to opinions of others about key issues on your field. You can agree or disagree, but you have to do it in a respectful way while offering your own insights.
  10. Relevancy of the jobs to the society. What happen to the world if your jobs cease to exist? Will AI robots take it over? How many lives or livelihoods actually depend on me? Or, are there any future progress that not going to happen if I do not exist?

Whatever you decide to write about, there are few mistakes that I notice many amateur writers (including me) commit too often:

  • Not using own voice but emulating other writers. Obviously, you chose this line of work because you think this is the best or most exciting (at least when you started), so show your excitement through your own words.
  • Writing in formal ways, with jargon-laden corporate-speak or academic-speak. This happens a lot especially if the writer’s main job is actually involving writing, e.g., academics, technical writer, public relations officers.
  • Not leaving any rooms for readers to think by trying to present all the problems or provide all the solutions yourself.
  • Thinking that your ideas and opinions are not good or original enough. We have a tendency to discount the originality of our initial ideas, assuming that others are thinking the same way we are. This is untrue and there is a research that proves just that.
  • Delay publishing because the article is not perfect yet. You are not a professional writer. People are OK with that. Yes, you should continuously learn to improve your writing skills, but do not lose your shirt about it.
  • Worrying about the responses you might get. They are trolls out there, but most people will appreciate your sincerity. The worst you would get is nobody responding to your article and that is not a very hurtful feedback.
  • Trying to reach out to as many people as possible. You should rather focus to connect with a few people rather than worrying about readership. If your profession is rather niche, you will have few fans only and it is all right. I recently came across this piece about art and making connection here, you should just check it out as it is very relevant to this point.
  • Forcing to write when you are not in the mood. There should be absolutely no obligation to write a certain volume every day or week. However, be consistent and try to not go on hiatus for an extended period of time. If you are to busy to take time to reflect and write, then you are not allocating your time in the right way
  • Writing/blogging because you want to network or build a profile for the next job change. People can see through that, so do it only because you love the process of thinking and sharing. The best way to sell your insights and expertise is by not doing “selling” at all.

After publishing ~20 articles in Medium about what my industry and my work, I found that the act of writing is not just about conveying your knowledge to other people. Writing is mostly helping you to clarify the messy thinking process going on your head and, in the process, helping you to do a better job. Writing is therapeutic for me, just like other forms of art like poetry or painting, and it has been immensely rewarding process that I hope could also work for you.

During a global pandemic situation like today, it is easy for all of us to think that some of us get to stay home because our jobs are considered “non-essential”. This is a wrong mindset to have. Our jobs might not be essential today, but they can be essential for the planet and the human race in the long run. There is this fabled story about a janitor’s exchange with President Kennedy during the early days of NASA: “What do you do?” the president supposedly asked the man with a broom during a visit to Cape Canaveral. “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” Nowadays, although the connection between our work and its impact might not always be explicit, but it is in our power to make the connections. Writing is the easiest and most effective way to unearth such connections. If you have not done so, it is time to give it a try.