Harvard Graduates in the Mail Room

Illustration by Mattias Adolfsson for the New York Time

This article in the New York Times speaks a lot to what Nick Wilson and Rosalind Gill have been discussing in their lectures about cultural work. The author writes about the phenomenon in Hollywood (that can be seen across the CCIs) of the well-educated graduate forced to do low-pay drudgery work for years before being allowed access to opportunities for something better:

Even professions that can’t offer as much in the way of riches operate as a lottery system. Academia, nonprofit groups, book publishers and public-radio production companies also put their new recruits through various forms of low-paid hazing, holding out the promise of, well, more low pay but in a job that provides, for some, something more important than money: satisfaction. In the language of economics, these people are consuming their potential wages in happiness.

In her lecture this week, Professor Gill called us ‘Generation I’ : Generation Internship. More than our parents, and more than our peers in other sectors, we CCI grads will have to prove ourselves in these industries most likely by enduring long periods of unpaid labour – when we do finally get paid, our salaries probably will be low, but the promise is that the work will be engaging, inspiring and rewarding, if not financially so. NB: This situation favours those who can afford to go without salaries – potentially creating a serious lack of socio-economic diversity in the CCIs. This promise of rewarding work is incredibly appealing, but here’s hoping that employers aren’t merely taking advantage of grads desperate to get that necessary foot in the door.


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