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November 25, 2014



> Leaving Goldman Sachs to work for charity or in teaching is perfectly feasible. Moving in the opposite direction is far harder.

Yes getting the job offer is easier. In reality though you can't because you will have loads of debt.

As you note, your advice is going to send the UK to hell in a handbasket. It's a classic case of prisoner's dilemma. It makes sense for one child in isolation to go into banking because they are the person skimming off all the wealth creation. If everybody does it who creates the wealth?

The system is broken. Here is what I realised in my late 20s:

* you can't change the system but you can change the system you are in

Kids: emigrate. The UK is going down, hard. Just walk away, there is nothing you can do. Go, don't look back.

Once you realise this you are back in control.


Didn't you work in banking, make loads of money, then downsize to pursue more rewarding work in middle-age? In other words, your advice to the young is "Be like me"?

That makes sense. We're bound to biased towards our own decisions and life choices being the best. A priest would probably advise a career in the church, a soldier a career in the forces.

My own advise would probably be to enjoy your twenties and don't work too hard.


I should add my other principle would be: try not to feed the beast.

Either: emigrate and deny the rentiers *or* opt out of the UK debt love-in. Easier said than done as they are using repression to farm the young.

It's hard. Remember if you go into banking you are farming the other young people on the tube are going to work so you can be a rentier.

George Carty

Ben, which countries would you suggest for young people considering emigration?

It seems like the main reason why young people are increasingly squeezed (an ageing population) is a factor pretty much everywhere outside the most benighted parts of the Third World...


I'm in Quebec. I think most Western countries would be better. Germany also. Only the UK has the pernicious mix of hating the young, rampant financialisation, crushing class pressure, an advanced stage establishment (where corruption is codified into the law) and post-empire depression / pathos. No political parties represent them. Older voters in the main have no qualms about the status quo and simply treat the young as the new Irish - stupid/lazy.

The UK is totally confused. Lost between former glory and humdrum monotony, doubling down on finance to keep relevance which of course is destroying it faster.

It's the worst mix for the young. There is a better life out there kids - don't listen to older people in the UK. They are wrong.


Are you placing too much weight on earning "as much as they can" and not enough on "as soon as they can"? Maybe start earning at 18 with no student debt, now that there are loads of graduates to compete with. An 18 yr old setting their sights on being a banker in 4 yrs time is betting on long odds, a bit like a 13 yr old planning to be a footballer.


Luke - spot on. Also if you do "get into finance" you are stuck in London forever. Your skills are not transferable as few other countries need their young farming.

An Alien Visitor

"The lower strata of the middle class" says Rick "sink gradually into the proletariat."

This, of course, should be viewed as excellent news, as it means these overpaid tossers are facing the sort of competition that sunk the miners and the Posties. I am still awaiting an answer as to why in the age of the computer we need any finance workers whatsoever?

I mean if a computer can replace a postman, then why can't a computer, which is designed to calculate after all, replace every single fuckwit (from top to bottom)in the finance industry/sector - public and private?


I was advised to 'be a one-off, there is no pay scale for one-offs'. Not a bad strategy but risky. Then there is fishes-and-ponds, start as small fish in big pond then as big fish in small pond and so on up the ladder. A neighbour worked his entire career in local govt, how he stood the boredom and idiocy I don't know, but now he's retired on mega bucks. - hare and tortoise. Max out whilst young seems good, a VHDL engineer on contract does well but a young person's game like programming. Whatever trade be on the lookout when to jump ship before age and fashion catch up with you. An HGV licence or similar might be useful, lights up the CV even at Goldman Sachs and could add some Yin to your Yang, might even come in useful.

All useful but ultimately selfish strategies, good for the few that scramble up the heap but most will suffer the middle class decline. An alternative might be countercultural, crime does look as if it pays, not shoplifting but much higher up the chain. An area neglected by the more staid middle classes but one does hear of dubious accountants and international dealers in this and that. No university courses yet but opportunities I am sure for the enterprising. Not bad training for the upper echelons of finance either - though do try to stay out of prison, prison is not necessarily fatal to a high level career but it does mark one out a bit.

Dave Timoney

@AAV, the introduction of IT into banking did not make bankers redundant but increased their number and pay. This is because technology enabled the massive expansion of opportunities (derivatives, hedging, faster trading etc). Consequently, there was a larger host that could support many more parasites.

Similarly, commercial finance (i.e. accountancy, auditing etc) has automated away a lot of clerical roles, but it has used technology to create a whole raft of new parasitical roles: management accounts, internal compliance, systems accountancy (can't count, don't understand systems) etc.

Some of these supernumerary roles will in turn disappear as the balloon continues to descend and more bodies have to be chucked over board, but the corporate mafia will never disappear entirely because it is protected by corporate law.


FATElbow - yes it's the legal barriers that do it.

Where is globalisation for lawyers? The Law Society/Bar is basically a union for lawyers which also keeps supply below demand to keep prices high.

Let's have top-down globalisation. We can offshore trinket makers jobs only when all higher paid jobs are fully "competitive" starting with lawyers and the judiciary. I'm betting it will never make it down to the pleb level.


Some advice to me (30s) from 75 year old retiree, who'd enjoyed an enviable career: Cambridge, Shell, Harvard BS, successful head-hunter. The advice was this: "you will probably need to work until you are 75, maybe until you drop. Therefore make sure you do something you enjoy. You will only find what you enjoy by doing lots of different things. Don't feel you need to be in your chosen career until age 45-50. But pick up lots of useful skills along the way".

I deal with bankers quite a bit. I find that they aren't particularly skilled (or informed), but mask this by talking really quickly. I am not joking here. A bit like Maasai where red blankets and sloans where signet rings, bankers talk really fucking quickly as some sort of tribal signifier.


Emigration is the only solution. Germany, Scandinavia, anywhere but UK...


The main decline in jobs has been in the traditional middle-class professions, where removing regulations means there’s more competition. But that doesn’t mean the end of all middle-class jobs. There are still a substantial number of jobs where the middle-class advantages of cultural capital and better academic education are important and which can’t be off-shored or done by robots easily. Two classic ones, for example, are dispensing pharmacist (because people still want brief face-to-face consultations and not everyone wants to Skype) and civil engineering (because you’re building a bridge in Oxfordshire, not Mumbai). Similarly, any editorial work that requires native English speakers is hard to offshore, because of national differences in English.

There are also all kind of jobs available in providing high-end goods and services to the prosperous and middle class people can often benefit from their “professionalism” and get more positive customer responses. Bourdieu’s classic example was those in the art market, but there’s also now the artisanal food market. And my brother is doing well as a forestry contractor: he may be small scale, but because he’s intelligent and well-spoken, he’s got a head-start in getting jobs from the prosperous local landowners.

And finally, there are the jobs in the new industries. People with expertise in designing distance learning courses, for example, have a skill that’s likely to survive. As for my daughter (aged 12), her current career dreams involve designing robot dragons and I feel there’s definitely a future in that.


Magistrate: If you think that's not depressing then wow. Services to toffs. Kids if you didn't heed my post draw your own conclusions from this one and emigrate!

Or be a wood chopper for a lord!

Icarus Green

This is an interesting discussion. I don't think the situation is quite as bad as people are making out above in the UK. It may be bad compared to the trente glorieuses before neoliberalism reared its ugly head but its still a lot better than most other countries.

While opportunity has been closed for average run of the mill intelligence people from lower social backgrounds to get into professions, opportunities have grown quite a bit for women, homosexuals, minorities and people with disabilities, although more work needs to be done.

If you want to get money as fast as possible then finance, law, and healthcare are your best bets.

Can't disagree with Chris - make as much money as possible being a corporate bot then its time to start your real career - whether that be setting up a business, charity, journalism, thinktank, etc

Bill Posters

Can all you guys emigrating post up where you are living. I need a new place to rent or buy. I have to move frequently. I need a fair bit of off street parking for my white van and some large windows (preferably upvc) at the front of the property to hang my England flags. Nothing too upmarket I work in the outdoor advertising media industry.

As far as career advice goes the outdoor advertising media industry has been in long term decline, but we are expecting a bit more work in the run up to May 2015. You have to be able work on ladders in all weathers and be quick on your feet. There are some legal hassles in the business.

I have lived abroad in the past the best advice I can give is get used to drinking tea with UHT or long life milk before you go. You can usually get a good supply of English type Tea bags through customs in most countries. The trouble is the supply of semi skimmed pasteurised milk (green top). In many countries this does not exist. Trouble with the cows or the grass abroad I guess. If you ask for tea somewhere and they offer you a cold fizzy drink from a can it is a sure sign of trouble get on the next plane home.

Best of luck with your new lives abroad.

An Alien Visitor

Bill - Don't forget the bottled water!

I am even beginning to wonder why we have any service sector workers let alone the tossers in finance, why do we still have supermarket checkout people when in theory you could scan a good into your mobile phone and if it asks you purchase or not and you say purchase it could automatically deduct the value from your bank account. If we truly geared the technology to meeting society's needs I reckon I would only have to work 10 hours a week.


«I don't think the situation is quite as bad as people are making out above in the UK.»

Tell that to the people in Bolton or Sunderland... Lots of "English" people look at the landladies of the mini-manors making good money with their tax-free capital gains or their rents from immigrants living four to a room, but that happens only in the South East.

Since Thatcher decided to smash to big industries of the North because they were much infected by labor unionism there has been no real revival.

The Tory political class is preparing, given that Scottish oil is about to run out, to let the South outside London also wither, as the credit boom needed to pump money into house price increases and endless renovations is not sustainable without the oil windfall.

The Tories seem to think that will leave only London afloat as a larger version of Hong Kong or Bermuda, a money laundering entrepôt and haven for the international tax evading and criminal elites, surrounded by a vast reservation of derelict towns and villages supplying cheap servants.

That's the Boris Johnson plan, of a modern day "Athens" of a few wealthy citizens served by hordes of immigrant metic servants doing the banausic work for very little pay, and it is also the UKIP plan, and both want London outside the EU to avoid regulation of financial services by honest germans and to keep away the spectre of having to cooperate with the tax authorities of the countries of potential clients of the City.

It is the dream of a plantation economy, and it is enthusiastically endorsed by the Thatcherite "Blow you! I am allright Jack" middle classes who delude themselves that they will be in the plantation's master class, and dream that they will never have again to say "cheap hired help is so hard to find today".


«That's the Boris Johnson plan, of a modern day "Athens" of a few wealthy citizens served by hordes of immigrant metic servants doing the banausic work for very little pay,»



«While opportunity has been closed for average run of the mill intelligence people from lower social backgrounds to get into professions, opportunities have grown quite a bit for women, homosexuals, minorities and people with disabilities,»

As always it seems easy to ignore the existence of the country beyond the South East, places where opportunities has been destroyed for everybody, save for a few token oiks (some called "Dillow") and minorities and disabled etc. to "prove" that there discrimination is not 100%, and who are "called up" to the South East as prized tokenistas.

PS I have omitted women and homosexuals because as long as they have a "good" background they don't suffer from mere tokenism, they get wherever they want.


«If you think that's not depressing then wow. Services to toffs.x

Before WWII something like 20-40% of people were house servants (depending on historical period).

And the landladies of the mini-manors want those times back, with themselves "upstairs" and "downstairs" the oiks from the North or even better the cheaper ones from Romania or the cheapest and most deferential wallahs from Burma or Kenya.

What the Tories (and their supporters in the leafy suburbs of so-called "Middle England") want is to revert history as described in "The Macmillan Diaries" vol 2 (1965):

«I am taking a course of Henry James! What a world – how quiet and peaceful and happy it was for the “upper and upper-middle classes”. Now it’s a nightmare. Happily, it’s a much better world for the masses, as has been brought home to me most forcibly in writing the history of the inter-war years.»


A simple question: why is someone independently providing forestry management services to toffs (and yes, it's a lot more complicated than just chopping wood) degrading, but independently providing legal services to toffs isn't? Because the most profitable areas for small solicitors always used to be private client work, which is mostly working for toffs.

I think one of the big changes in society we're seeing is not just the downskilling of traditional white collar jobs, but the upskilling of blue collar service jobs. A lot of jobs now with some manual component, such as car mechanic, fitness instructor or brewer now can potentially also involve a lot more technical/scientific content than before. It's not clear now that if you're looking for a skill to develop that you're automatically economically better off with a purely desk-based one than a combination of practical and intellectual skills (aside from the idea of "shopcraft as soulcraft" (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2009/05/heidegger_and_the_art_of_motorcycle_maintenance.html).


I am coming back to this post because I was wondering whether anybody else pointed out the most direct translation of what our blogger's advice is, here paraphrased by myself:

"You can't change the system, you can only play it, and if you are very lucky and/or have sharp elbows you may be able to win the lottery of getting one of the few good jobs left open to outsiders, and if you do become part of that small minority you will be able to retire early and live an "upstairs" style as if you had been born into the gentlefolk".

It is very traditional English advice...

BTW, curiously "The Economist" was giving the same advice (indirectly) a while ago while inviting the government to "save the City" by handing out a lot of welfare to banks and bankers (usual quote):

«Britain will one day wake up to discover that it has lost one of the world's most successful business clusters, and the best hope the next generation has of earning a decent living.»

Of course that applies mostly to the heirs of insider "gentlefolk". But as our blogger argues there are a few places open to really lucky and/or sharp elbowed outsiders.

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