“The writer is one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do.
Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing, a forcing of what and how. We have all heard novelists testify to the fact that, beginning a new book, they are utterly baffled as to how to proceed, what should be written and how it might be written, even though they’ve done a dozen. At best there’s a slender intuition, not much greater than an itch. The anxiety attached to this situation is not inconsiderable. “Nothing to paint and nothing to paint with,” as Beckett says of Bram van Velde. The not-knowing is not simple, because it’s hedged about with prohibitions, roads that may not be taken. The more serious the artist, the more problems he takes into account and the more considerations limit his possible initiatives …”Donald Barthleme, Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews
Picture a black box with two open ends. A CV goes in one end and out the other, after some time, comes a rejection or an interview invite. If it’s a rejection you have no clue why it was rejected because the box doesn’t supply feedback so you assume, since this is probably your twentieth rejection in a row, that you’re unemployable and maybe you should just give up if only you weren’t slowly going broke. The box, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the employment system.
Thanks to a once in a century pandemic many businesses worldwide have gone bust and unemployment has soared as a natural, although distressing, consequence. In one chapter of Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann’s book Super Thinking they write about natural selection and how the model applies to society:
“Beyond biological evolution, natural selection also drives societal evolution, the process by which society changes over time. In any part of society, you can trace the path of how ideas, practices, and products have adapted to ever-changing tastes, norms, and technology.
You will live through many more societal shifts: economic cycles, waves of innovation, evolving norms and standards. With more people than ever and everyone more connected through the internet and globalization, these shifts are happening faster than in the past. You must adapt to these changing environmental pressures to be successful.”(Weinberg, Gabriel; McCann, Lauren. Super Thinking (p. 100). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.)
Right now we are living through one hell of a societal shift. It can seem inappropriate to talk about natural selection during a pandemic as the phrase is often synonymous with survival of the fittest but, in its intended context, what the model emphasises is that we always need to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in if we wish to survive and thrive. How we actually go about doing that is the tricky part because even in normal times adapting to a changing economy is not as simple or easy as it seems.
Another mental model that can shed some light inside the black box that is the employment system is first principles thinking. With first principles we question and deconstruct our assumptions until we are left with irreducible truths or facts about, in this case, earning a living in a post-pandemic world. If, for example, we question the assumption that employers should give specific feedback to us as a courtesy otherwise we remain trapped in the purgatory of unemployment we realise that they can’t. There’s just too many people applying for jobs for employers to offer specific feedback.
With assumptions like that questioned and disproven we can eventually resume our job hunt from a better, and hopefully more successful, starting point.