What lies ahead.
and go do pretty much anything else instead. I think they thought of me as quite supercilious. And they might have had a point. Anyway, that was then. Now, every time I go back to London, me and my old work pals convene at a curry house to reminisce over a plate of indeterminate, if eye-wateringly fery, slop doused by lager. Good times. If ever you want a check for how things are going in life, reunions provide a useful comparison gauge. I’m not just talking about where people appear on the scales of fatness, baldness and oldness, but also professional advancement. There were eight of us around the table, aged 27 to 37, and only one, Ted, still works at the media company where we met. Back in the day, Ted tinkered about on the web version of the print magazine the rest of us worked for, repackaging articles we wrote, sprinkling them with SEO magic so they’d spring up on Google. We love Ted and we used to call him ‘Ted Dwarf’ because he was, and still is, a) small; b) called Ted; and c) a web geek. And it’s a well-known fact all web geeks love the TV sci-f comedy Red Dwarf. Thing is, in the subsequent fve years, the other seven of us have also become web geeks of varying sorts. We’ve each inevitably moved into the digital world we used to ridicule. But Ted’s well ahead. He used to smile benignly when we laughed at him. But who’s laughing now? Ted is in charge of all the websites in the whole publishing company and is bitcoining it in. The geek has inherited the earth, and has bought a nice riverside apartment as a result. At one point, mid-curry, Alex, who’s recently moved jobs, started dealing out his new business card like a Vegas croupier. And before you know it, we’re all at it, recreating the famous American Psycho scene, comparing fonts and card stock and dick size. All except Jamie, who’s keeping his cards, literally and metaphorically, close to his chest. Alex knows why. “Show them!” he snorts. And so, weakened by peer pressure and Tiger beers, he reluctantly produces his business card – a minimalist yellow triangle telling the world he’s a ‘digital strategy ninja’. I nearly spit out my drink. Ted frisbees a poppadum across the restaurant, like a throwing star. There’s general uproar and much hilarity and eight more beers. Which brings me to a wider point – have you noticed how over the past few years, people keep arriving in the offce with baffing-sounding job titles and you’ve no idea what they do? And have you noticed how there’s a whole raft of these new job titles and departments that didn’t exist fve years ago? And isn’t it funny how many people seem to have metamorphosed into ‘creatives’ with zany job titles like guru and alchemist and ninja? You’re not a master; you’re a manager. You’re not an overlord; you’re a director. You’re not a maven; you’re a researcher. You’re not a magician; you’re quite possibly an idiot. I recently met a guy from an online betting company whose job title is chief mischief maker. Two things immediately sprang to mind – 1. What a stroker. 2. Good luck putting that on a CV. Advertising companies, small creative agencies and ‘disruptive’ start-ups are the main culprits of this trendy nonsense that’s making a mockery of a million Linkedin profles. However, larger, more established companies, like the one I used to work for, are also soiling their pants about being left behind by ‘digital natives’ (whoever they are) and so are panic-hiring millennials to future-proof themselves. But, in fact, the old corporate dinosaurs are in danger of making themselves extinct. Now’s a great time to be digitally savvy because so many key decision makers are not – and that knowledge gap can be exploited. These confused executives evidently have little idea what millennials do, what they can do, and what they should be doing. And yet they are handing out jobs with made-up titles, descriptions and salaries to a generation of people whose primary objective is to usurp them. Some of these new employees are undoubtedly whizz kids way ahead of the curve who’ll get frustrated that no one else in their company shares their vision for Version 3.0. Others are chancers – the Emperor’s New Creatives – who think if they can baffe The Suits with enough TLAS (three-letter acronyms, obvs) and meaningless tech-speak, they can wing it for a year or so while actually playing Minecraft and swigging Red Bull. “A lot changes in fve years,” said Jamie as we bade our farewells. Indeed it does. Five years ago, the company I now work for didn’t exist. What do you see yourself doing in fve years time? It’s a classic interview question, but such is the rapid pace of change in today’s workplace, that it’s virtually impossible to answer. Our grandfathers’ generation had the security of jobs for life – and none of them called themselves a ninja. Or a warrior. They put in a solid 45-year shift before signing off with a carriage clock and a steady pension, job done. It sounds pretty boring by today’s standards. The average worker in 2016 will have 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their career, or so says Forbes. That’s partly because we prioritise fulflment over stability, but also because the road ahead is uncertain and continually changing – being pieced together like a satnav map with spotty wi-f. What will I be doing in fve years time? I’ve absolutely no idea. But I suspect I’ll still be lacing Ted’s Rogan Josh with extra-hot chillies while he’s not looking. Because some things never change. n