Not on the list of vital professions: does that mean you have a bullshit job?

Goed Werk
EO/Goed Werk

Because of the corona crisis, a list of vital professions suddenly appeared: pretty confronting for some of us. Because what if your profession is missing from that list, does that mean you have a bullshit job? Definitely not, says Robert Dur, Professor of Economics of Incentives and Performances at Erasmus School of Economics. In the podcast Goed Werk (Good Work) from NPO Radio1, he explains what bullshit jobs are and how you can find out if you have a bullshit job.

A fluid term

According to Dur, a bullshit job is primarily a fluid term. ‘It's about jobs in which people feel that they do not contribute to society. Or worse: that they do more harm than good. For example, people who work in heavily polluting industries, or people who help rich people to avoid paying even more tax. So, no one can determine for someone else whether that person has a bullshit job. There are many different ways in which people derive meaning from their work’, says Dur. ‘People derive meaning from their work because it allows them to get to know themselves. That's why there are relatively few people who tell themselves they have a bullshit job.'

In addition, not everyone wants a job that is useful to society. 'There are also people who say: That's not so important to me. I'm looking for other things in my work. To earn an income, or to have fun at work. I get my meaning from my free time, volunteering for the soccer club or time with my children. Sometimes work is just a side issue,' Dur explains.

The value of status

These days many jobs have been given much nicer titles. Where you used to work in human resources, you are now a human resource manager. And where the term bookkeeper sounds dull and old-fashioned, the term accountant is something that has prestige and that you can be proud of. According to Dur, this is because people need status. ‘We humans are simply value status. Changing the title of a position does not cost a company anything, but it often makes the employee feel good. It can also give people a sense of recognition. If you treat people who put a lot of energy into their work year after year in exactly the same way as colleagues who put in far less energy, it doesn't feel good. That's why terms like 'junior' and 'senior' were created. These terms can encourage people and also make people feel recognised.'

More information

The full podcast from Goed Werk, NPO Radio1, 28 January 2021, can be found here.

Or read the article of Nederlands Dagblad, 30 January 2021, which can be downloaded above.