Work Superficiality

I recently read an interesting, albeit not so surprising, article on my (90s child) generation's unprecedented levels of narcissism (three times as high for those in their 20s as those over 65). This is something that resounds with my own views, especially since moving to London and sharing flats with people also working in junior roles.

Moving in with strangers involves a lot of initial small talk: “So what do you do, where do you work and god damn it Lee, how are you so handsome?''

My response to being asked what I do is “I'm an Art Director”, which is usually met with raised eyebrows and an impressed-sounding 'oooooh!' (much to my ego's disappointment, this is usually because they don't know what it means but it sounds fancy). When they then ask me what company I work for, the eyebrows come down and an apathetic expression inevitably falls over their face as as they quickly realise I don't work somewhere they recognise.

When asked about their work, I hear something along the lines of: “I work for this massive company, which, of course you've heard of so I won't explain who they are.” There is rarely talk of what exciting challenges their work brings them or what they do on a daily basis no less.

Sadly, this has led me to come to the realisation that my generation's vanity problem has seeped into the way we approach work and has led to, at least in those that I have met, a shallow idea of what constitutes success.

When talking with my flatmates, they tend to list the 'important' well-known clients they work for. When I then talk about my clients I'm met with a deadpan expression as they look away with disinterest, simply due to the fact that I don't say I work for Coca Cola. Apparently it doesn't matter how exciting the work we're doing is, just so long as it's for a massive, well-known company.

It would seem from my experience that people are more concerned with who they've worked for and what company logos they can plaster their CVs in, rather than the work they're doing – which is exactly what my flatmate has done. He recently sent me his CV to check, and instead of reading an insightful personal statement I was blinded by company logos.

It may set me apart from those I've lived with over the past year, but who I work for isn't my top priority. It's being challenged to push myself to the best of my ability every day, to strive towards producing interesting and effective work.

If being professionally superficial and consumed by outward appearance means working for big companies, reeling off lists of giant clients to anyone who'll listen and never really looking beyond face value and deciphering what worth you bring to your employer or whether you're developing your skill set, I'm glad I've been known to wear the same shirt two days in a row.


  1. Excellent post. I wonder how much this narcissism amongst the younger generation is driven by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc?
    So many ways to be always on broadcast mode, feed your ego or say "look at me" to the outside world.
    I think this means that this superficiality you talk about extends way beyond the workplace.
    We now live in a time where people follow the herd and care what other people think about them more than ever before.
    True in advertising too where uniformity of thinking reins and agencies are genuinely shit scared to rock the boat or do stuff that is genuinely different.

  2. Leave them to it I say! All the more fun work & clients for the rest of us.

  3. I like these wordy posts. More of these please.

  4. Remember this old one - "My son works in advertising but we tell everyone he is a stripper at Madam Jo Jo's, to save the embarrassment."


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