When we dropped Mollie off in Cambridge for the start of term I got to meet her best friend’s parents for the first time. As the dad and I started chatting it became apparent that we actually worked in very similar, or at least related, fields. We hadn’t realised this until we met and it occurred to us that neither of our daughters had been able to explain to the other what we did!
People not being able to describe what I do is not new. I face that all the time. In fact when it comes to filling in forms I struggle myself! I usually say something about being a writer and public speaker or consultant, but none of those feels quite right. I suppose in essence what I do is try to be interesting and relevant and then I’m very lucky that people find enough reason to pay me to pass on my ideas and thoughts.
I marvel at the fact that even nearly 13 years after leaving the BBC I am still able to do that. In fact I’m about to travel to Canada, the United States, and Dubai in the next three months. But nonetheless there are gaps. Work doesn’t always come in a steady flow. I get caught in the trap of wondering whether I should be “marketing” myself more, spending more time networking, all the things that everybody else seems to do but which I find difficult and uncomfortable. The thought of getting a real job again doesn’t appeal. I love my lifestyle. But it isn’t easy. Nagging doubt is a constant companion.
This sense of being in never never land is something that I guess more people are going to have to get used to as the structures and stability of “real jobs” begin to diminish in society. People talk about the gig economy as if that was another established, structured, similarly stable way of going about things. But often it is not. It is harder than that. It raises more existential challenges.
As more and more “knowledge work” jobs are replaced by technology we are going to have to do a lot of work as a society to help people adapt to this very different lifestyle. Not all of them will find it easy.