Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reality, Meet Fiction: Careers

Someone working 40 hours per week (standard here in the U.S.) spends approximately one quarter of their time at work, meaning that it's a substantial pull on their time. Their life at work affects their outlook, their income (and thus living conditions), habits, perspective on life, personal hygiene, schedule, and more.

people, coffee, working
Credit to Pexels; Eric Bailey
Some jobs are considered "good" jobs--whether because of pay, flexibility, or other benefits. Other jobs may be considered "bad" jobs or have a stigma attached to them, sometimes in spite of good pay. For example, here in the U.S. we have a "skills gap" where fewer and fewer young people are entering into the skilled trades--such as welding and electrical work. As the group of workers in these jobs approaches retirement, there's a real demand for the jobs.These jobs pay fairly well--especially when considering the lower educational investment cost for them--but are often seen as less desirable. The educational system has also shifted to preparing students for four-year college degrees, rather than vocational school, further exacerbating the problem. (Check out this article from Forbes if you'd like to learn more).

Jobs also have health risks and unique hazards associated with them. For example, many men and women who worked in factories have hearing loss or lung problems associated with their jobs.

If you're basing your Fantasy story in historical reality, remember that the majority of your population will (most likely) be employed in agricultural work. These societies also tended to be more rigorously structured and stratified into distinct social classes.

However, that doesn't mean that you can't have fun with your historically-based characters. Is there a stigma attached to being a wizard? What are the occupational hazards for being a bard? Is there a guild that shopkeepers have to belong to in order to keep their business open?

And, since it's fantasy, you can always change up the rules. What if magic beans take care of themselves, allowing for more specialization in society and less time being spent on agriculture? What if farmers are held in high esteem, instead of being looked down upon?

I think careers are where steam punk could be really fun as a genre. Blending old-style technology and new concepts could be interesting.

What jobs are available to your futuristic characters? Are they like the Jetsons, where they only have to work a few hours a day? Are there masses of unemployed people looking for jobs because machines do most of the work? Do people have more leisure time?

Do people who work with their hands seem less intelligent? What jobs are held in high esteem? Are there "rival" jobs created as one type of job replaces another?

Fun Facts
-Many hatters (hat-makers) in the 1800's suffered from mercury poisoning (which can cause neurological problems) as a result of their work. This may have given rise to the phrase, "As mad as a hatter".
-The Discovery Channel had an entire show called Dirty Jobs devoted to disgusting and undesirable jobs that are necessary for society to function. It makes for some great inspiration.
-In the middle ages, one guild for shoemakers required that nails be pounded into the bottom of a show only three times. Pounding in a nail more times was possible cause for dismissal from the guild.


  1. This is really interesting! Great post!

    1. Thanks! Any topics you'd like to see a post on?


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