How I Became Unemployable
I live in a city with two tales. One is a personal fiction, the other an impersonal reality. To say that I prefer the first is to dwell in the hermit’s hut, safe from worldly fact and fancy alike. To recognize that the second is in fact wherein I actually live is to also, oddly, save myself from ignominy. For while the fiction allows me to imagine that I’m simply too good, or too bad, for said world, the reality saves me from blaming myself that I’m more simply the wrong person for the right job. Well, any job.
I was a professor for a quarter century. I taught at every level of the North American post-secondary system save that of the community college. I ended up at an R1 and as a department chair for five years. I won two university-wide teaching awards and was nominated for four others. I won over a hundred thousand dollars in publication awards. I made a comfortable six figures and had, in my opinion, the easiest job in the world. That others – many others – must have had the sense that being a professor was rather the narrowest job in that same world became apparent only when it was too late. For it turned out that when I decided I wanted to do something else with the remainder of my life I was warned vehemently against such rashness by my friends and colleagues.
I thought their cautions merely affectionate rather than realistically desperate. Surely I have many ‘transferrable skills’? I have a lengthy résumé, I have years of executive management experience, more years of project management, and I had become an internationally recognized scholar in education, health, and aesthetics. What could possibly go wrong? My wife and I jumped the academic ship and our hurricane-resistant lifeboats immediately turned into flimsy life-rings. Over the next three years I applied to four hundred jobs, and my wife struggled to begin an entirely new career. It took her five years to succeed and in the meanwhile I got all of four interviews; one in a hundred. All I can say is ‘thank god for PRIFs’, as I never found another job of any kind. My wife is now a very successful senior financial advisor, so the once gendered tables have also been turned. The nub of the reality was that I had no recognizable skills. That careers are highly streamed. That an aging Gen-X’er has no role in the contemporary workplace.
But the fiction was what got me through to the other side of the reality. That it was my work as a philosopher that barred me from a public life of any kind. I was, in a word, a dangerous person. Anyone to whom nothing is sacred is, by definition, public enemy number one. Anyone whose vocation it is to critically examine society’s most cherished possessions – its values – in another age might well have been burned. Anyone who bites off the very hand that provides safe succor to think at all deserves nothing at all from the cultural weald. My fifty-one books – thus far – qualify me for the dinosaur graveyard. Where’s my OC? If Marc-Andre Hamelin has been dubbed a ‘national treasure’, then why not I? However phantasmagorical this other tale could become, it eventually allowed me to encounter, quite by chance, a growing group of young creative minds who, along with myself, started a private venture. I’m now the CEO and Creative Director of a video game software corporation and I enjoy it immensely. So you can keep your public policy jobs, your private consultants gigs, and your OCs to boot; this thinker and writer has gone radically digital in an age wherein the future is not plastics, but rather is as fluidly plastic as oneself must be in order to carry on in an ever-changing world. That, in the end, was the reality that the fiction was able to recreate.
G.V. Loewen is the author of over fifty books in ethics, education, health, aesthetics and social theory, and more recently, fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades. And though not actively seeking employment, if you require a real-time Mycroft Holmes in your organization, please feel free to contact him.