Thursday, March 12, 2009

Extract: Your Niece's Speech Night (Elliot Perlman)

Why did I start with them? Why do any of us choose one company over another as an employer? The money? At the beginning they all offer more or less the same, and no one knows how it will go after that. I guess it is often not so much your prospects at a particular firm, because these are essentially unknowable, but whether people will think you have done well to get the job there, that determines your choice. That was largely it in my case. It was really the prestige. They gave good letterhead.

But you know what can happen. You work their hours and sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. Usually you can't tell how it is going so you give it just a bit longer. You set yourself a deadline to be somewhere or something by a certain time but you don't tell anyone, so you can shift the parameters and no one knows whether you have failed. If they throw more money at you, you upgrade your car and get a bigger mortgage. That's how they keep you. You are not the same person anymore. Immaculately dressed over a skin irritation and chronically time deprived, you have jettisoned all those interests you talked about at your first interview all those years ago. You have deadlines to meet or budgets to fulfill and you're not going anywhere, unless or until you find yourself microeconomically reformed and slumped catatonic in the ergonomically designed chair of some employment consultant talking about the possibility of taking up painting again. Until then you are getting in earlier and leaving later, never finding the time to stop and smell the Prozac.

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