What lies ahead.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

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

DAN ROOK­WOOD

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