« Their morals and ours | Main | Gender inequality & overconfidence »

November 10, 2010


Cliff Tolputt

A bird in the hand?

Cliff Tolputt

Or, with Christmas approaching, a hand in the bird (stuff it man!).


Your advice seems practical but rather sad.

No one writes books about Heroic Bankers or accountants. Probably no one would read them.

What did you do in the war daddy?

Ans. worked in finance!

Luis Enrique

I don't know what to make of this - people have always known the private returns to working in the City are high. Are you reminding us that they still are and urging people to make choices based on private returns?

Paul Sagar

"I know of some people who have left Goldman Sachs to work for charities, but I don’t know of anyone who has gone from charity work to Goldmans."

Did you steal this from Giles Wilkes, or vice versa?

Paul Sagar

p.s. I object to the sexist implications of your title.

Women can work in the city too. OK, not many do. But stop reinforcing oppressive gender norms, maaaaan!

Luis Enrique

it's a fair point that if your life objective is to do good, you don't necessarily do much more good if you start aged 23. You might end up doing just as much good if you work 10 years in the City and pay off your mortgage first, then you can operate in the do-gooding sector without being constrained by personal finance worries. Maybe on average you'd end up doing good for longer and doing it better.


Don't do it kids. In a Maoist possible future after the next whopping crisis, 'Pig Weekly' might look a whole lot better on your CV...


There may well be a reason why very few people leave the charitable sector to go and work for Goldman Sachs which you haven't considered: many of us (I speak as someone who has spent his life in not-for-profit orgs) despise them and what they do. It may be well paid but, compared to international aid or homelessness or stuff like that, it just seem a bit, well...meaningless and empty. And, of course, very largely parasitic.

On the other hand, I know an awful of relative successful (by the standards of the sector) vol sector folk who, at a certain age, drift off into consultancy of one sort or another, though generally aimed at the not-for-profit market if only because those are the areas where their skills have been built up.


@ Paul - I dunno if I stole it from Giles; despite what Charlie says, I think it's true.
As for sexism, I'm not sure if women would be as happy working in the City,insofar as there is sexism there - hence my title.
@ Charlie - personally, I've never felt any desire to do a "meaningful" job. I'd just worry too much about doing a bad job, or being overpaid. Is it just me?



Yes, I've read you saying something similar before - about never having been interested in 'meaningful' work. So I guess you're unattracted to all the Richard Sennett stuff I find so interesting?(http://tinyurl.com/cpf4gm)

In any event, people in homelessness or internal development are not, in my experience, any more or less 'moral' or self sacrificing than anyone else. There are lots of intrinsically dull jobs to do in both sectors, that's for sure - as well as some hugely complex and challenging ones as well.

But I do think that people generally seek work in these fields precisely for the meaning the jobs offer, the sense of making a difference to something which isn't simply personal or corporate aggrandisement.

Politically speaking I am in general sympathy for your preference for worker controlled firms - but, to be frank, when I have Doubts (as the Catholics have it) about this policy prescription it is always because, in the wee small hours, I begin to worry that if the work purpose itself isn't particularly meaningful and rewarding then changing the ownership structure might not make a blind bit of difference.

So, yeah, however distant a dream it might seem for many, I do think meaningful work does matter.

Robert Allen

Beats real engineering? You could be right. Many of us commercial/city types steered our children into ‘safe’ careers, in medicine, physics, engineering, computer science ... We did this because our lives were very much seat of our pants stuff and we wished them a more secure (steady) path. I wonder, looking back, if we sold the kids short, and sold them the easy option because we were worried they couldn’t handle a competitive environment. Seat of the pants it may have been, but shit it was fun.


I turned down a job in the City in order to pursue a career in Manufacturing. You should have given me your advice twenty years ago! Its too late now!

Paul Sagar

Oh, you're clearly right that as a rational path in terms of job security and future financial prospects, it makes a lot more sense to work at Goldmans before the RSPCA.

Thing is though, you have to work at Goldmans. Surrounded by cunts. And a lot of people - like me - simply cannot deal with that as a means even to a very desirable end.

Luis Enrique


I worked in the City for 18 months. I was expecting to be surrounded by cunts. I certainly met a few, but I was surprised by how many people I liked and was retrospectively ashamed of my prejudices. My friends who work in NGOs report a fair smattering of cunts, and I could name a few in academia. I'm not suggesting the distribution of cunts is equal over professions, just that you may have overestimated the relative concentration in the City.


I'm a 37-year-old redundant subeditor. What should I do?


"I know of some people who have left Goldman Sachs to work for charities, but I don’t know of anyone who has gone from charity work to Goldmans."

Except for all the ones who punched on however much time volunteering/interning funded by the Bank of Mum & Dad to pretty up their personal statement. Strange, ISTR you writing about how unpaid work was a new form of class signalling.


Paul, Luis,
There is nothing in the world to suggest that unpleasant people are other than evenly distributed between professions and industries. Never mind City types - I'm sure there are some arms dealers who are perfectly pleasant upstanding members of their community, are kind to animals, good company for a pint and so on. Nor are people working for charities , the NHS or in academia universally nice, non ego driven types.

The question is whether purpose of those industries and profession is..well, to adapt you words, 'cuntish', or whether it some intrinsic meaning one can feel proud of on those days when one has the capacity to feel like this about any kind of work. ..

Luis Enrique

depends on what you mean by unpleasant. I can tell you the faculty common room contains a dramatically different distribution of personality types to the trading floor. I confident attributes like "good company for a pint" (however defined) and "selfish" "kind" are not distributed evenly over professions.

Tim Worstall

" I'm sure there are some arms dealers who are perfectly pleasant upstanding members of their community, are kind to animals, good company for a pint and so on."

Absolutely true: my business partner for example.

Then again, he's not exactly selling AK 47's to would be diamond miners: he sells T80s to the US govt so they can have their red v blue games out in hte desert.


There are cunts everywhere Paul, you also strike me as someone with a particularly low threshold for cuntish behaviour, so on a I'm not sure the "I don't want to work with cunts" line works (I really do like that word).

I'm working a wine tasting for a bunch of bankers imminently so if there are cunts anywhere, it'll be there. I'll report back the results of my anthropological investigation.


I had the misfortune to do my compulsory work experience as a 15 yr old in the City. What a depressing two weeks that was.

The reason I (and many other recent grads like me) would never consider it is because it is full of soulless cunts who care only about money. There's something incredibly distasteful about desiring money above all else.

Paul Sagar


You are quite possibly correct. I guess the problem is that most of the cunts i knew at university went to work in the city. Actually, at Goldmans. It may have skewed my judgement.


Language gentlemen!

All this use of the C word is low grade.

Luis Enrique

sorry Keith. Paul, I have no experience of a firm like Goldmans. They may be a different kettle of ballgames. Plus I was an analyst so insulated from masters of universe. I'm waiting to see how LO got on caught in a cnut venn diagram.


Yeah, it's low grade - but it is explicable because I suspect that most of us so freely - and probably uncharacteristically - using the 'c' word have come fresh from two lengthy and (unintentionally?) hilarious discussions of the differential usages of said word on either side of the Atlantic courtesy of Crooked Timber and of Paul S himself, on his Bad Conscience blog.

Business directory

constant contradictions of our lives :)

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad