What Is a Job: Then and Now?

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

CREDIT: Getty Images

[P1] I was surprised to find searching “What is a job?” returned almost nothing useful in several pages of results. Beyond the dictionary definition and Wikipedia definition, nothing explaining the concept usefully and meaningfully.

Jobs then
[P2] Most people cling to the old idea of a job. It begins with searching for someone to hire you by telling them how much better you are than everyone else applying for that job. You hope for an interview in which you can show off how great you meet their needs even more. If they hire you, you’ll do what they want so they’ll pay you.

The problem with the old view of jobs
[P3] In other words, you adopt their values and make yourself into a commodity–a can of corn. You hope to be the shiniest can of corn they look at, but you don’t differentiate yourself. After all, you want to look like they want you to look, just like everyone else. You’re implying: I’ll do anything you want if you’ll pay me and, sadly, living it. The message doesn’t sound dignified to me. It doesn’t make you sound like someone who deserves a high level job.

[P4] On the contrary, it sounds desperate and needy, among the least attractive properties in any context. Searching in a particular field based on your interests narrows things slightly and gives you some say in your work, but generally still to do what you’re told. You still look for tricks and gimmicks to get noticed.

Jobs now: a new view
[P5] How about this view: A job is where you do something you care about so well that other people want to pay you for doing it for them. This view suggests doing something you care about first and publicly so that people who can hire you see your value. Instead of tricks and gimmicks, you care about people’s problems, how to solve them, relationships, and meaningful things people in your communities care about.

Jobs now: how to get them
[P6] Know your interests–passions, even–and act on them in ways to deliver value to communities sharing those interests. Generally that means solving problems, which means presenting yourself as a problem-solver. Build relationships with valuable people in those communities so they see you as a problem-solver. Solve problems and maintain these relationships effectively and the valuable people will come to see you as someone who can solve their problems.

[P7] They’ll share their problems with you. There’s a technical term in business when a valuable person in a community shares his or her problems with you: a “job offer.” That person may not feel like he or she offered you a job and if you don’t know how to respond you won’t see it that way.

[P8] But it is. By the way, by “solve problems and maintain these relationships effectively” I don’t mean randomly volunteering. I mean taking initiative, meeting people, and helping people. Helpful activities might include organizing events like panels or courses, developing systems or technologies, putting people in touch with each other, and so on. Entrepreneurship is the extreme case of doing a full project on your own, but there is a spectrum of things you can do.

[P9] But, Josh, I need the money! If you desperately need money–say you’ll lose your apartment if you don’t make enough money this month–you may be unable to avoid sounding desperate and needy. You may have no alternative but to take what you can get.

[P10] When you aren’t desperate If you aren’t that desperate, not only can you find ways to contribute to communities you care about, you’ll find it rewarding. Then you can do what you love, help others, and get the opportunity to do more.

Source: https://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/what-is-a-job.html


Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
cling to (p.v) to remain devoted to or entrenched in something, often a belief or opinion
e.g. In this ever-changing world, you can’t just stubbornly cling to your old beliefs.
commodity (n) something that is bought and sold
e.g. agricultural commodities like grain and corn
dignify (v) to cause (something) to have a more serious and important quality : to give dignity or importance to (something)
e.g. She felt that formal clothing would help dignify the occasion.
needy (adj) needing a lot of attention, affection, or emotional support
e.g. emotionally needy adults
gimmick (n) a method or trick that is used to get people’s attention or to sell something
e.g. a marketing gimmick [=ploy]

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. Describe the “old view” of a job, and the “new view”. How are they different?
  3. According to the author, how do you get a job these days? Do you agree with the author?
  4. What kind of problems are you interested in solving? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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