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Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: introduction

The Careers Advice I Never Received

I needed this careers advice when I was sixteen. I needed it when leaving university, and again aged thirty, since I did not understand it until then. Such advice is not available at school, which focuses on just one way of living, that of the full-time career job, and so is of limited use. Not only of limited use, but also demoralising: it gives you a distorted view of the working life of adults, and of the possibilities open to you.

A sixteen-year-old needs advice beyond how to obtain a nine-to-five, full-time job with benefits and pension. They need to know that there are other alternatives: that there is a working life that allows you enough spare time to use your genuine capabilities, and discover the pleasure in using these capabilities. In my experience it is people with this kind of life who are happier. So here is some careers advice addressed to the sixteen-year-old me.

The full-time career is not the only future available to you. When asked the age-old question, ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’, the answer you presently think correct actually answers the question, ‘what work are you going to do to earn money to eat?’ The question you ought to answer is, ‘if left to your own devices, what do you most dream of doing?’ Not to earn money, just to do for its own sake because this is where your genuine capabilities and interests lie.

This is advice on how to live according to the second question. In twenty years time you won’t have what your school would call a career. You will have part-time work for which you’re paid enough money to live as you need to, leaving you enough time to investigate the activities in which you are really interested.

This advice is not available at school because the teachers giving the advice only know about career jobs, since they are working in one themselves. This limited vision, together with the academic bias of school, will combine to make you (that is, me) think your genuine capabilities and interests are not important. And then, years later, when you work in an office, you find you spend seven and more hours a day thinking, ‘I was not born to do this.’

This is not advice for everyone. Some people are content to do a full-time career job. But many are not and, tragically, end up in a full-time, well-paid career and do not understand why they are miserable. But if you are that miserable person, it’s not too late. You can act on this advice any time. Read on below…

next: Part 1 – The Vast Majority of Full-time Career Jobs are Dull and Unrewarding
Part 2 – Rewarding Jobs Are So Highly Prized They Are Unrewarding
Part 3 – The Pleasure of Creative Work is Not Found in a ‘Creative’ Career
Part 4 – Full-time Careers Leave no Time for Your Own Creative Work
Part 5 – Time Spent Earning Money Comes Second to Your Own Creative Work
Part 6 – The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important
Part 7 – University is Not Essential For a Fulfilling Life
Part 8 – Learn to Live Cheaply If You Desire Spare Time for Real Work
Part 9 – The Pleasure of Creative Ideas