Friday, November 5, 2010

Jobs I Should Have: Picturesque Hermit

Somewhere around the 18th Century, wealthy European landowners got into a style of naturalistic decoration for their property. They would improve on the natural groves, fields and waterways by leveling them and installing their own groves, fields and waterways.

They also embraced the fashion of adding completely useless buildings called "follies." These buildings, often fake ruins or replicas of exotic buildings from elsewhere in the world. Sometimes they replicated buildings of the mythical "good-old days" when the woods were filled with fairy-tale towers and mysterious cottages.

And the man who really had it all would not only have a mysterious cottage built in the woods on his property, he'd hire a mysterious hermit to go live in it.

Personally, I think this could be a pretty good job match for me. I'd be pretty happy with a cottage out in the woods, for one thing, especially if I could pack it with books and musical instruments to pass the time (and there was usually a decent salary that came with these jobs, as well as the room and board). I can grow out my beard pretty well, and get some nice shaggy hair going, no problem, and I'm pretty comfortable walking around barefoot three seasons out of four. If my employer would agree to appropriate educational arrangements, I could bring my daughter with me too (she'd have to grow out the haircut to something a bit more Rapunzel-ish, of course) and I could enlist her in talking to birds and having cryptic conversations with wayfaring strangers, or whatever it is that Mysterious Hermits' Daughters (tm) are supposed to do.

All in all, I think it's a pretty good career choice. I could certainly use the fresh air and wood-chopping exercise, and really a couple years of heavy reading and music practice (maybe building my own instrument with hand tools, woodcarving seems a respectably hermit-esque occupation) could only do me good.

So if anyone has a large plot of land with a cottage that needs a hermit, please let me know. Kind-Hearted Salt of the Earth is the default offering, but prices for Sage Adviser, Generically Spiritual Visionary, Forlorn Misanthrope and Crazy Old Coot are negotiable. I will, however, require a significant bonus if you want Devout Ascetic, the chair is a bit uncomfortable.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Death of the Renaissance Man

Jobs and job hunting are still very much on my mind these days (thought I had a steady day job, but things are not working out in the "I want to get paid on time" department). As usual, though, history and historical characters are also on my mind.

I've been reading Bill Bryson's At Home, which is, superficially at least, a study of the history and culture surrounding the house and its various rooms. Like any decent history book though (as opposed to, say, a high school history textbook), At Home uses the specifics of the various changes the house has made over time to illustrate the changes in society and technology that went with them.

One of the things that struck me about many of the notable figures in this history is that many of them spent a large part of their life moving from career to career before finally accomplishing what put their names in the history books. Some of them then had found their calling, others kept on jumping around, trying their considerable talents at whatever new idea caught their interest. History's great innovators were all job hoppers.

Contrast that with today, in the age of super-specialization, background check and instant searches, where employers see too broad a range of experiences on a resume and think "well, he's never going to stick with anything, we'll pass on him." True, in many cases the job hunter may be a feckless twerp who can't actually hold a job for a month straight, but he may also be a creative and passionate innovator who is looking for the right opportunity. The job market being what it is, the prospective boss may never know, and our next Einstein or Joseph Paxton may be getting stuck flipping burgers or trying to sell handmade jewelry on Etsy.

This isn't to say that employers should have no regard for the past, but it might be a bit foolish to think a temp job at the mall or four-year-old Myspace post will tell you what you need to know about the person who could be your new greatest asset.