What’s your preference: a dirty job or a bullshit job?
No one would want to have to choose between the two. But dirty jobs actually have some positive surprises. That’s Mike Row’s experience in any case. Mike is the presenter of Dirty Jobs, a US television series where each program follows the livelihood of, for example, a sewer worker, salt miner, shrimp fisherman, or sheep castrator. These somewhat unattractive experiments turned Mike’s conception of work on its head.
As he watched people doing the jobs nobody wants, Mike became aware of his own prejudices when he took their place for a day:
- Doing a dirty job and loving your profession are not mutually exclusive. Mike met enthusiastic individuals who try to improve their ways of working and who, in their daily work, reach a state of “flow”, or intense absorption like athletes and artists.
- Dirty work gives people a feeling of satisfaction and of being useful, when the result of their work is directly visible and has a positive impact and makes a positive contribution. Unblocking a sewer or replacing faulty network cables immediately improves the lives of lots of people!
- Dirty work also lends itself to innovation and creativity. When a farmer realized he could sell cow dung at a higher price than milk, he developed a new channel to promote it.
Although dirty jobs are marginalized and rarely acknowledged, it turns out they have more value in the eyes of the people who perform them than bullshit jobs.
by Mike Row (TED Talk, December 2008).