When salary becomes the sole measure of a job

Yang Mengchen
Different careers place specific demand on personalities and dispositions. The worth of a profession is definitely not dictated by such external factors as pay.
Yang Mengchen

After surviving several rounds of screening, tests, and interviews, 135 lucky candidates were finally accepted, as assembly line workers at China Tobacco Henan Industrial Co. Ltd., a state-owned company.

What's remarkable about these new recruits is that they all seem a bit overqualified: all college graduates, and over 30 percent of them with master's degrees. Many were from the so-called "elite" universities.

The seeming incongruity between the nature of the job – the rather basic ritual of tobacco processing, rolling and packing – and their credentials could be rationalized by some simple facts. The average annual pay for employees in its parent company, China National Tobacco Corporation, is 186,700 yuan (US$28,882) for 2019, according to Ministry of Finance. And as a state-owned enterprise the jobs are eminently stable. Thus successful candidates seem to have the best of both worlds.

Yes, there are whispers about those disciplines these workers have studied long and hard – but why do they embrace these esoteric specialties in the first place? Recently I conducted a bit of investigation on my own initiative, sounding some of my acquaintances as to their aspirations and ambitions, particularly the kind of job they would find desirable.

Shi Mindong is a second-year graduate student studying for master's degree in Traffic and Transportation Engineering at Shanghai University of Engineering Science. When asked why he entered the program, his answer was that it is getting very difficult for college graduate to find job. Asked what kind of job he would prefer upon graduation, he cited state-owned enterprises, for its stability and the general workload, after comparing notes with fellow classmates.

I proceeded to interview more.

Education student Huang Xiaofeng, who had been on an exchange program at Shanghai International Studies University, will graduate from University of Waikato in New Zealand this year. He aspired to work in an office building which requires wearing a formal suit and tie in its dress code. When pushed further to explain, he simply could not proffer a logical rationalization.

But my feeling is that many of my peers value more a job's perception in the mind of others more than its substance. A few of them might care about meaning of a job, which is quickly eclipsed by more down-to-earth considerations.

One of my high school classmates surnamed Wang envied the spare time enjoyed by a gate keeper on his campus.

He once saw a gatekeeper reciting German words from a notebook, and he was really touched by this application totally for self-satisfaction. However, his admiration is conditional. He allegedly would consider janitor as a job after 50, after making enough money.

Another classmate of mine surnamed Shen was in consulting as an intern. He was attracted by the high pay in consulting, though the opportunity to learn is an added inducement, particularly important in the fast-changing consulting field.

To be honest, I myself am not in a position to moralize on such issues.

Although I am a sophomore majoring in journalism, I am yet undecided about my future job. I have received quite a few suggestions from many relatives who, upon hearing about my studying at SISU, invariably commented that "Oh, for a girl, it would be quite good for you to work as a civil servant or a teacher."

They might have given their advice from decades of their own social experience, but their advice failed to dissipate my doubts over the proper choice of a future career. I still entertain hope to become a journalist, for that's why I am studying journalism.

In my opinion, different careers place specific demand on personalities and dispositions. For instance, those who choose to work as a civil servant should evince a passion to serve the people, where as a strong desire to impart knowledge and instruct would be part of the qualifications for a teacher.

The worth of a profession is definitely not dictated by such external factors as pay.

Special Reports