Most (and least) meaningful jobs
April 10, 2016 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Payscale asked a couple of million workers whether their jobs made the world a better place, and presented the results by job category. 24/7 Wall St. provided the specific job titles for the 20 most meaningful and 16 least meaningful jobs from the same data. Payscale provided the list of job titles whose workers are most likely to think that they're actively making the world worse.
posted by clawsoon (73 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I find that last link depressing. These people are mostly not making the world a worse place, and where their companies are it's not in any way that should make the workers feel bad. Fast Food makes a lot of people happy but also has some health issues, but people will eat unhealthy food anyway where it's available even if McDonald's isn't there. It's people making that choice, not the companies.

And sanitation workers!? Are you kidding me? Life would be much worse if people didn't clean up all our garbage, folks. You are heroes.

Now, SEO folks...different story. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 8:09 PM on April 10, 2016 [28 favorites]


I'm a number 15 on the useless list. Anyone want some shiny plastic TV show discs? Please buy my shiny petroleum-based polycarbonate discs with television shows on them.

In all fairness, my job definitely does not improve the world, but it makes a large difference in how my wife and I live, so I'll continue for now, thank you.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:10 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Most of those on the list confuse me. Why would being a laundry attendant or merchandise planning manager make the world worse? I wish they had done some follow up on why people felt that way.

Search engine strategist, financial sales consultant, those I get.

I have to wonder if it was the way the questions were worded in the survey that had people conflate "I hate my job" with "my job makes the world worse."
posted by emjaybee at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2016 [16 favorites]


interesting that the top ten all deal with creating & restoring 'human capital', either our physical bodies, minds, or eternal souls.

I agree with that.

but of course the worst jobs is where the discussion should be. I guess the common thread is that they're all pretty pointless -- same thing day in and day out -- and can and should be automated.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sanitation workers, seriously, you are way more important to us than the #1 most confident in the good they do...clergy.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2016 [56 favorites]


Very surprised that postsecondary English teachers ranked so high in feeling their work meaningful. As for parking lot attendants having the least meaningful job--The Parking Lot Movie provides plenty of evidence to the contrary. (Then again it doesn't portray your typical parking lot.)
posted by Creosote at 8:19 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


24/7 Wall St, PayScale vice president of data analytics...
definitely making the world a worse place.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:21 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess the thing is that these are all a matter of people reporting about their own jobs. There are a lot of people who would say that, say, cigarette manufacturers make the world a worse place, but those people aren't cigarette manufacturers. People who are worried about the health effects of tobacco smoke tend not to get jobs in the tobacco industry.

The jobs in the self-reported "making the world a worse place" list have got to be ones where the people doing them feel like they don't have much of a choice but to keep doing them even though they're making the world a worse place. And I can empathize. I've been there. It's not pleasant.

As for the specific case of garbage truck drivers, I think it's more understandable when you consider that they see both where the garbage comes from and where it goes. They're far more aware than you or me of the degree to which they're just hiding a problem from sight.
posted by baf at 8:39 PM on April 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


You'd expect there to be a negative correlation between pay and life satisfaction. I mean, I'd work for $40,000 a year as a teacher, because a huge part of my "compensation" would be knowledge that I'm making the world better. But I'd need at least $400K to sell out and work on Wall Street.

But there's no correlation in the data. If anything, it looks like the worst career tracks for making the world a better place are actually lower paid. Huh.
posted by miyabo at 8:42 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die: "And sanitation workers!? Are you kidding me? Life would be much worse if people didn't clean up all our garbage, folks. You are heroes. "

Next time I see the only garbage truck driver I know I'm asking him about this. I can see the grind getting you down but actively making things worse? Just doesn't seem to be possible.

Of course these disagreement stems from it being self reporting. I mean if you were to ask me to name people making the world a worst place those jack offs running fake abortion clinics would be the first against the wall followed by human trafficers and e-meter operators but I'd bet 2 out of 3 of those professions think they are helping.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


On the left side of the Payscale graph, you can switch "Level of Detail" to "Job Title", and on the right side you'll note that the size of the circle represents job satisfaction (as opposed to meaning, which is shown by left-right position on the graph).

There are some interesting outliers when you dig into it that way. Obstetricians and gynecologists show the lowest job satisfaction (62%) of the highly paid healthcare practitioners, but they still find their jobs meaningful (79%). Actuaries are very satisfied with their jobs (80%), but only 36% of them report high job meaning. Gaming supervisors, despite showing up on the least meaningful jobs list (20%), are pretty satisfied with their jobs (77%). They're certainly more satisfied than computer software engineers (57%), who, in addition to their so-so job satisfaction, don't find their work very meaningful (29%).
posted by clawsoon at 9:07 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Full job list.
posted by clawsoon at 9:15 PM on April 10, 2016


I create listicles.
posted by notyou at 9:21 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fantastic. The top 20 list is a really instructive picture of what "meaning" looks like.
posted by Miko at 9:23 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Payscale provided the list of job titles whose workers are most likely to think that they're actively making the world worse.

Something has really gone wrong in this list. Valets may hate their jobs, but there is no rational reason why their jobs 'make the world a worse place'. What the hell have warehouse pickers ever done to hurt anyone? And, as mentioned above, garbage collectors are unsung heroes.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


As baf mentions, it could be that they see that they're being told to dump the waste in a landfill, and they can directly see how the pollution and toxins are destroying the environment. Same as fast food workers: while it's not their fault, it's not hard to feel the weight of responsibility for it. Kind of like I felt when I was selling liquor to people who clearly had an alcohol problem, but as long as they weren't intoxicated when they came into the store we had to sell it to them.

I think one of the goals of leadership is to help people see meaning in their job, and that means indoctrinating everyone with the same vision. For example, Bob in tax department spends 75 hours a week for a month at year end close and gives up his public holidays and weekends trying to reconcile all the duties paid across all the imported components that his factory uses so they can file their taxes correctly for that year. If all he sees is that he's trying to make X = Y then indeed his job feels meaningless. There's a first level of meaning, where his boss can tell him that they're sitting in the office on a Sunday to make sure that the factory complies with federal law so it keeps running, so that all the blue collar line workers below them can continue coming to work on the factory floor and have a job to feed their families. The next level of meaning is where he believes he's part of a larger team that creates awesome automobiles, that are clean, efficient and environmentally friendly: have the best safety standards that save lives, and are simply a joy and pleasure to drive.
posted by xdvesper at 9:28 PM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have to wonder if it was the way the questions were worded in the survey that had people conflate "I hate my job" with "my job makes the world worse."

The Methodology page:

% Who Believe Their Job Makes the World a Worse Place: This is the percentage of respondents with the given job who answered "My job makes the world a worse place" to the question, "Does your job make the world a better place?".
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:35 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


High on the meaningful list: epidemiologists

"So, what do you do for a living?"
"Subdue the third horseman of the apocalypse. You?"
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:36 PM on April 10, 2016 [31 favorites]


There are two religiously-oriented jobs in the top five. I wonder what percentage of responders were from the US, and how a mainly-European survey would compare.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:39 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Given the high burnout rate among teachers, I guess what we're seeing is the attitudes of the survivors. (I personally believe that many aspects of K-12 and higher education actively make the world worse.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:42 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sanitation workers, seriously, you are way more important to us than the #1 most confident in the good they do...clergy.

Oh, man, clergy...don't get me started. Walking alongside people in crisis situations, supporting mental health for people who don't have access to therapists, creating volunteer programs for disadvantaged people, stocking food pantries for people desperate for a meal, plus delving deep into ancient languages and cultures to provide meaningful messages to congregants in their various religious traditions. And then they expect an average of $40-50k/year with no more training than a bachelor's degree and an 84-hour Master of Divinity. I hate those guys.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:42 PM on April 10, 2016 [68 favorites]


I kind of want to ask which jobs metafilter thinks make the world worse, but I suspect the answer to that will turn the thread into a bike regurgitating hatefest.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:47 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a search engine strategist myself, I make the world a better place. It's all about ensuring web standards are followed when building or updating a website. Who doesn't want to see relevant search results? If you think SEM = web spam you are still living in 2008 :)
posted by My Dad at 9:49 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wintersweet, what I noticed was that while jobs in education show up several times on, for example, the Wall Street 24/7 list, the only teaching jobs are post-secondary English and kindergarten teachers. The other two or three entries are actually about educational administrators, I think is very telling.
posted by mishafletch at 10:33 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


So the top three jobs are all based on complete and utter delusion about their use to the world?

(I say this as someone who has both a divinity and english degree . . . please hire me)
posted by R.F.Simpson at 10:38 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Answering no to the question, "Does your job make the world a better place?" does not mean you think your job is actively making the world a worse place; I suspect most of these people simply feel their job has little positive impact. Sanitation workers, for example, don't make the world a better place, but they sure as hell prevent it from getting worse.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:41 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was surprised at the garbage truck drivers, too, but I guess I can see it now. It's got to be depressing, feeling like you're dumping all that volume of shit in the landfill. You could tell yourself it's not YOU making all that garbage, you're just the delivery person. But I bet that's easier said than done, and it would wear you down when you see it first hand every day.

Hell, I feel guilty at the transfer station with my small carload of stuff, when I see the enormous pile I'm adding to, and that's just today's waste.
posted by ctmf at 10:53 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


This makes me want to see a whole opinion matrix in which every profession rates how meaningful every other profession is-- which professions have inflates egos, and which ones underrate themselves.
posted by Pyry at 10:59 PM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


IMHO, this list is virtually useless, unless you report why these people think their jobs are making the world worse off. Just because a person has an opinion doesn't mean that it is rock solid evidence.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:33 PM on April 10, 2016


I don't think being a tax accountant really makes the world worse, but I will say I'm mostly awake at 2:30 in the morning on April 11 because of stress related to the fact that I am currently working 7-day weeks in order to make people happy who make substantially more than I do, who I know are both cheating on their taxes and usually in some way engaging in sketchy business practices. Hopefully this will be the last year for it, for me, because I feel like an enabler. I have come to wish they'd start auditing people seriously again. I just want a job at some point where my whole function is not to put more money in the hands of people who behave like Disney villains.
posted by Sequence at 11:45 PM on April 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


These people are mostly not making the world a worse place, and where their companies are it's not in any way that should make the workers feel bad.

This is what I found tragically funny about the list. People who are only incidentally connected to 'bad things' via their job apparently feel surprising guilt or awareness. Meanwhile, Joe-the-Engineer in Austin designs cluster bombs for Raytheon and would probably admit to thinking he makes the world a better place, no doubt using some interesting mental gymnastics to justify it.

I wonder if they skipped polling some demographics in order to avoid backlash were the results to have bad optics. Wallstreet folk; hedge fund employees and brokers, weapons designers, bank loan division workers, repo men, lots of realistically useless management types, the people who run casinos, prison staff who perform the executions, those are the kind of people whose answers I'd be interested in hearing. Mostly for the aforementioned mental gymnastics that would positively influence the numbers.
posted by constantinescharity at 12:36 AM on April 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I will speak for the "merchandise planning manager" vote. You spend your working hours dwelling on how to "create moments" or "develop connections" or "engage customers" through manipulated dioramas and manicured environments, a process that can be downright dehumanizing. It only gets more nihilistic as new lines of products or reboots of old brands continuously roll over you, and frenzied shopping seasons fling you from one stress to another. Throw in obscene amounts of packaging waste and thrown away products, race-to-the-bottom labor schemes, and a time horizon that is never allowed to go beyond a few months, and it's no surprise that some of us feel like we are part of an industry doing more than its fair share in enfeebling the citizenry and degrading the planet.
posted by Snowden at 12:50 AM on April 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Clergy as #1???

I guess they would uniformly think that they are making the world a better place. It would be more instructive to see how people rank jobs in terms of importance when given a list of 50. Methinks that clergy wouldn't be in the top place. I do expect that medical professionals would still be up there though.
posted by koolkat at 12:58 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was surprised to find chiropractors at sixth place on the list of meaningful jobs. Then I remembered it was self reported.
posted by hat_eater at 12:59 AM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh, man, clergy...don't get me started. Walking alongside people in crisis situations, supporting mental health for people who don't have access to therapists, creating volunteer programs for disadvantaged people, stocking food pantries for people desperate for a meal, plus delving deep into ancient languages and cultures to provide meaningful messages to congregants in their various religious traditions. And then they expect an average of $40-50k/year with no more training than a bachelor's degree and an 84-hour Master of Divinity. I hate those guys.

No wonder people decide to start their own megachurches and televangelist empires.

% Who Believe Their Job Makes the World a Worse Place: This is the percentage of respondents with the given job who answered "My job makes the world a worse place" to the question, "Does your job make the world a better place?".

Seeing the warehouse pickers and valet parkers on the list in particular made me wonder if there is an element of "my job is shitty and I get treated badly" in the responses, even though the question was apparently simply worded. The top twenty list was much less surprising, though I thought it odd that for college professors only the literature professors scored so highly; I would have thought other fields would have similar sentiments.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:53 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


...made me wonder if there is an element of "my job is shitty and I get treated badly" in the responses...

I really don't have much doubt about that. Even if it's just on the level of "It sure makes MY world a worse place," lousy jobs are going to invite that response.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Paralegals. I used to be one of those. The placement in the list and the reported meaning, satisfaction, and pay levels sound about right, though it's highly depressing that median pay hasn't changed in the time that I've been out of the profession. Also unsurprising is that despite double the median pay the lawyers that the paralegals work and genuflect for report lower job satisfaction and meaningfulness levels than their support staff (whom they mostly treat like utter garbage).
posted by blucevalo at 4:40 AM on April 11, 2016


Apparently my job is one of the least meaningful??? No. 4 - prepress. I mean, I also do some design and coding and other magazine prep work and have zero to do with any equipment other than our office printer - but still. I spend a lot of time yelling at advertisers to provide me materials that meet our specs. I work for a non-profit that's all ABOUT the betterment of the world and I also make much much more than their listed median income. I guess I'm the one-of-four that finds what they do meaningful. I've been doing this for a decade. I like my job. I think the 25 days per year of paid vacation also help though, not going to lie.
posted by Windigo at 4:58 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just want a job at some point where my whole function is not to put more money in the hands of people who behave like Disney villains.

Do they have talking animal sidekicks? DO THEY BREAK INTO SONG??!!?

Now I'm imagining Jeremy Irons or Jafar on the quarterly earnings report.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:16 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


NO ONE RELIABLY HITS THE TOP-LINE TARGET LIKE GASTON
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:19 AM on April 11, 2016 [29 favorites]


Really wondering if there's something to being a sanitation worker we don't know about. Are they secretly dumping the rubbish in wildlife refuges? Is that what they're down about?
posted by Cassettevetes at 5:23 AM on April 11, 2016


Weird, "aerospace engineer" and "weapons designer" are nowhere to be found among the meaningless and actively harmful lists. And where is Silicon Valley? I see spammer made the cut, but what about the people who write code to serve ads all day long, 80 hours a week?
posted by indubitable at 5:24 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Funny that "lawyer" is just one lumped-together category, as is "accounting/audit." That makes as much sense as having "people whose work involves standing" or something.

I tend to think of profession in terms of three things: compensation, whether I get to think and be creative, and to what extent the job is meaningful. If I can hit the first two, I'm fine. The third is a nice addition when it happens, but it's far less important than the other two.

who I know are both cheating on their taxes and usually in some way engaging in sketchy business practices.

When I was in law school I worked at a smaller CPA firm (albeit one that had some pretty big - and weirdly big, in fact - clients), and that sure described the work. I never experienced that again after I moved to different (and larger) institutions.
posted by jpe at 5:47 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


but what about the people who write code to serve ads all day long, 80 hours a week?

I work in online advertising, and my employer is a well-respected media company that I think generally does good things. I don't believe what I specifically do makes the world a better place, but it helps keep all the stuff I do believe in running. So there's that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:49 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


My limited experience is the people who do the most harmful work believe it to be the most important and meaningful thing in the world; at least that's what they'll tell you, my opinion is that they simply do not care and like the money that comes with doing a job people with a conscience can't.

My grandfather had a background in psychological operations and did PR for energy corporations; one of his campaigns was convincing people it was "good for the world" to build a new plant that had a good chance of destroying an endangered species. He also published climate change denial pieces in news outlets and would proselytize that stuff at any opportunity. His mentality was that he was doing important work for humanity, spreading the truth, providing energy for homes, and putting money in the hands of hard-working Americans.

My uncle was an environmental attorney who worked for the government and he successfully defeated my grandfather's power plant campaign. Yet these defenders of humanity in my family thought *he* was the evil one for that and were pretty merciless about it. So it's all a matter of perspective, I guess. Also, lawyers can do some good work, it's a pretty diverse profession, they're not all snakes.
posted by gehenna_lion at 6:01 AM on April 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've worked in coffee shops, in restaurants, in libraries, in archives, teaching and in research.

Serving people coffee was hard work for little pay, but I was actively making the world a better place, one cup of hot tasty caffeine at a time.

The one job that really upset me, and where I felt I was actively making the world a worse place, was medical market research. I was calling healthcare professionals, bugging them to tell me about the (super expensive) devices they used in surgery, all for the benefit of medical device manufacturers. I realise: I am one of the causes of rising health care costs.
posted by jb at 6:47 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


gehenna_lion, was your uncle your grandfather's son? If so I hope someone makes that into a film.
posted by Cassettevetes at 6:57 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


My current job is doing graphic design for the marketing department of a company that makes air compression equipment. It's very dry material. But my boss is good and I like my immediate coworker. The company treats employees relatively well. Still, I'm pretty bored. I wish I could work part time and still maintain my health insurance coverage.

One job I really enjoyed was working at a local Lego store. Lego is my hobby, so I got to talk to people about Lego, help them find or choose sets, and overall it was a pleasing experience. Of course it only paid $7.50 per hour, so there's that.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2016


Very surprised that postsecondary English teachers ranked so high in feeling their work meaningful.

That one blew me away. I got out of academia after a master's degree because it felt like such a gigantic circle jerk. Possibly if I could have just taught at postsecondary level it would have felt meaningful--sharing writing and teaching students how to glean deeper meaning is great, and teaching people how to improve their writing skills is very clearly needed--but the research requirements are insane, and trying to actually get a job where you can do something meaningful (and still live like a slightly comfortable human being) is near-impossible.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:21 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Weird, "aerospace engineer" and "weapons designer" are nowhere to be found among the meaningless and actively harmful lists. And where is Silicon Valley? I see spammer made the cut, but what about the people who write code to serve ads all day long, 80 hours a week?

I would bet weapons designers probably find their work extremely meaningful. They probably have people patting their backs constantly about how they're saving soldiers' lives. The only mental gymnastics they'd have to make is to be patriotic and pro-war, which they seem extremely likely to already be if they went into that field.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:26 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


IMHO, this list is virtually useless, unless you report why these people think their jobs are making the world worse off. Just because a person has an opinion doesn't mean that it is rock solid evidence.

The point is how people feel about their jobs. The only evidence required is the expression of the worker's opinion. This list may not be what you're looking for.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:29 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would bet weapons designers probably find their work extremely meaningful. They probably have people patting their backs constantly about how they're saving soldiers' lives.

While that was certainly not my experience, I did meet some people who talked very enthusiastically about the prospect of blowing up a lot of people.
posted by indubitable at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2016


I'm also puzzled by the "making the world worse" aspect, but an additional contributor could be how fellow workers are treated (especially if you are hiring or in a supervisory role.)

On missing things like "weapon designer": If you are in a reasonably high-paying job or one with higher social status, you can find another job if you want. This means you can move out if you think you are making the world worse, or (if you like the pay and work) have more incentive to rationalize away the question of whether you are doing harm.

Also did payscale have equal access to people across professions and pay grades?
posted by mark k at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2016


Suspiciously not mentioned in the low-satisfaction ranks: the UI designers who convinced the world that a list of 36 items needed to be split across 8 pages.
posted by Mayor West at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm a paralegal and I find it very meaningful. Then again, I work for indigent clients.
posted by agregoli at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2016


"...Hairdressers, TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We're going to colonize another planet."

Ford wobbled very slightly.

"Exciting isn't it?" said the Captain.

"What, with that lot?" said Arthur.

"Ah, now don't misunderstand me," said the Captain, "we're just one of the ships in the Ark Fleet. We're the 'B' Ark you see..."
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:01 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Editors: 42% Meaning, 65% Satisfaction. Huh. As an editor, I feel my job actively makes the world better (and thus has meaning); I improve books that people read and get enjoyment and/or education from. I can certainly imagine there are people who don't think that's important, but would those people become editors? Why do fewer than half the editors surveyed find their jobs meaningful?

Can we please, please skip the religion-sucks derail this time around? Thanks!
posted by languagehat at 8:15 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why do fewer than half the editors surveyed find their jobs meaningful?

They may be lowpaid copy editors working in what are essentially copy editing factory type jobs, like I worked 16 years or so ago as a legal code supplement editor. In those work scenarios, your work is evaluated based almost solely on raw page count, with little attention or emphasis given to work quality or editorial skill.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:28 AM on April 11, 2016


Well, LH, I am refraining, and will continue to, so long as there's no more sarcasm from the other camp.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2016


Most meaningful/satisfying job I've ever had was tutoring remedial junior college students in English. Maybe it's just satisfying to a lot of people to teach others. Of course, in my case, I was getting to help people like the one guy I worked with who'd been in an accident and was in the process of rehabilitating his language skills after brain damage, which is just about the most beautiful kind of work there is if you can get it. But the pay was piffulous, because it was what they called a "student assistanceship" position that helped pay my way through college, but didn't pay enough to live on.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:38 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


> They may be lowpaid copy editors working in what are essentially copy editing factory type jobs, like I worked 16 years or so ago as a legal code supplement editor. In those work scenarios, your work is evaluated based almost solely on raw page count, with little attention or emphasis given to work quality or editorial skill.

Yeah, good point. And I realize now that as someone who made his best-ever salary copyediting pharmaceutical-advertising material, I really should have known better. My employers were definitely making the world a worse place.
posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


For those wondering about where they got the data from: If you fill out the "Find Out Exactly What You Should Be Paid" form on the sidebar, you'll discover that you eventually get to questions about job meaning and job satisfaction in relation to your current job. Presumably that's where the info is from.
posted by clawsoon at 8:55 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


They don't burst into song, but as just a broad example, there's a lot of stuff where people try to screw their employees and sometimes smaller customers out of very small sums of money, and then waste much larger sums of money on stupid stuff. It's the sort of stuff that's just... hey, you made seven figures last year, have you considered actually paying your employees the overtime they're entitled to? No? Okay, then.

One guy cancelled his only employee's health insurance--it was like $5k a year of the employer side--in the same year where he made like half a million dollars. These are the people that actually make the world worse, but as far as he's concerned, something about his life means that he deserves 1% more to spend on his antique collection more than his assistant deserves to see a doctor when she's sick. Disney villain. I think most of the people who're making the world worse think they're making it better, because they fundamentally don't think that most of the population deserves any better than they currently have it.
posted by Sequence at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a patent attorney for major software companies. Am I making the world a better place or a worse place? Fuck if I know, honestly. I think in some ways I'm helping, and in some ways I'm hurting. But we could talk about it for hours, and inevitably we'll end up discussing whether capitalism itself is the problem. So I guess it's complicated?
posted by naju at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


(Spoiler alert: capitalism totally is the problem)
posted by naju at 12:04 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


On reflection, I think the question all of us in er, ethically-ambiguous careers have to grapple with is: to what extent am I directly responsible for this, and to what extent am I a mere participant in a flawed system that everyone is similarly participating in. And also, even though I'm participating in it, is there some small good I'm doing to tilt things in a better direction? I don't think there are easy answers to these questions most of the time, and it's very tempting to make post-hoc justifications so you can sleep better at night, but also some of the justifications might genuinely be compelling.
posted by naju at 12:15 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tend to think of profession in terms of three things: compensation, whether I get to think and be creative, and to what extent the job is meaningful.

I don't know how useful I'd say the rest of his ideas were, but one thing I liked about Nelson Bolles's approach in What Color Is Your Parachute? was that it's important to think about a job along two dimensions: what the function you perform is, and what kind of organization/subject matter you deal with.

My job description is closest to "Management Analyst" - which is in the lower-middle part of the pack on the big list - but I specifically work to expedite benefits processing for immigrants to the U.S. and one of the perks of my job is getting to see a thousand-plus new citizens get naturalized each month. Hell, today I got to meet a couple of the prisoners released from Iran this year as a result of the nuclear deal.

So yes, I get that this is about the aggregate, but I'm kind of bummed to realize that Douglas Adams thinks I should be fired into the sun by association.
posted by psoas at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I suspect most of the people who think their jobs are making the world worse are the ones who are essentially getting paid to be abused by the general public.

Technically I help make people's lives better at work, but not in any way I actually enjoy doing or is personally meaningful to me. Whoopetydoo, I processed your paperwork faster. But...that's of far more value in the world than anything else I enjoy doing, so.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:18 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Interesting that professional photographers fared so poorly. It's all photoshop guilt I guess?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:11 AM on April 13, 2016


Interesting that police supervisors fared so well. I suppose they're completely indoctrinated into the us vs them mentality by then.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:15 AM on April 13, 2016


Professional photographers are in a lot of cases getting their lunch eaten by people giving stuff away which is probably leading to lower satisfaction.
posted by Mitheral at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2016


According to a professional wedding photographer that i know at my volunteer job, it's very stressful. You only have one opportunity to get shots and you're dealing with various -zillas. If you think your amateur friend can handle it, you're very wrong.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2016


Wedding photography is safer than a few of the areas (cousin Bob with a Brownie has been a "problem" for a long time and the market has adjusted). Stock photography, calendars, sports, news, and portraiture to a certain extent are all experiencing much more competition often from well equipped amateurs willing to "work" for credit.
posted by Mitheral at 3:32 PM on April 13, 2016


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