Civil Society and Your Career

After a long hiatus the PLG of Vancouver reconvened one Monday evening in a teeny-tiny apartment over red wine and vodka sodas. Reason for our absence has had a lot to do with finishing the program at SLAIS and there are only so many times one can blog about how “we got really drunk and cried together about how there are no jobs.” The rarity of finding work (from public libraries to …well…anything) has presented itself more and more troublesome.

Recently I started a contract at the Museum of Vancouver digitizing the Olympic Legacy Collection, which replaced the mental anguish of working night shifts at a detox centre. Changing institutional settings is something that has been on my mind, especially when reflecting upon how dire the job market actually is for everyone – in our case recent graduates. There is so much promise when you start a graduate program, and the PLG of Vancouver always kept level headed – or perpetually misanthropic. From the beginning the seed had been planted: you might start off wanting to be an academic librarian, but you might change your aspirational disposition. How much of that is purely a condition of necessity? It’s not because I want to be public librarian, it’s because they just offered me a job.

In the cataloguing room the volunteer workers and I joke about how museum work is becoming a “volunteer profession”; regardless of the situation at hand I’m weary of how the institution not only is dependent on unpaid labour, but how the labourer is often led to believe in paying their dues through volunteer work.  Although it can be an invaluable experience, so was paying the credits for a professional experience.

Unpaid labour comes with a value set bestowed and brandished upon the labourer: dedication, willingness, and desperation. I’m talking specifically about the type of labouring that is meant to lead up to the golden ticket – your career. The point is the concept of “career” has drastically changed, and the superficial understanding of the Protestent work ethic still persists: if you work hard you will be rewarded. But the reward looks like more volunteer work when really we just need to pay our rent on time. You need to work harder for nothing.

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