Descending the ladder

I was updating my CV today: an interesting experience that entails, essentially, writing an identity statement. I was proud to be the person described by the previous version, but I suspect that what it says is simply not polarized in the same direction as the filter applied by the agencies through whose web-sites I have been applying. In addressing this, I have created a new identity.
I have had some help from an ex-colleague who is so successful that he has not applied for a job for several years; agencies send him work. Mostly his suggestions were great but sometimes they really stung me. Thinking about why this is, I realised that he was proposing changes to my expression of my own identity that I did not feel comfortable with. Though those changes might make my CV more attractive for certain jobs, I didn’t feel that those were not jobs I would want to do.

“I once heard that the reason we get paid is to do jobs we don’t really want to do”, said my friend.

I was saddened.

“I’ve always hoped”, I replied, “that when I find a job I love doing, I will be so good at it that, if rewarded commensurately, I will be very well paid”

Later in the evening I said the same thing to my niece Penny, and added that I would feel proud, not ashamed, to earn so much because I know I’m worth it. I would much prefer that to earning a shameful amount as a reward for tolerating an awful job.

Penny told me a story about someone she met recently who had quit a well-paid IT job and taken a much lower paid job doing something that involved people and more regular hours. This improved her life, despite the drop in salary. Penny made the crucial observation that we speak of climbing the ladder: more challenge and more reward, as if this is the way to attain happiness. Nobody speaks of descending the ladder, like a Fireman.

I like that metaphor: if you’re a fire-um-person, you have to climb the ladder, and when you do it gets hot and dangerous. But you’re job’s not done until you descend, perhaps with a rescued child over your shoulder.
And equally, I feel I will be happy to climb when I find the job that I love. I’ll willingly take both the job-satisfaction reward AND the remuneration, because when I get that position I will be delivering value and feeling proud.


  1. mungbean Says:

    Well, if “descending the ladder” = “downshifting”, plenty of people talk about it.

    I’ve never bought into the idea of climbing a ladder in your career, because you have almost no choice of direction (or chances to “veer around wildly”), other than what’s given to you by others.

    Similarly climbing the “property ladder” — there’s an aspect there of being on something that requires drastic action to get off again, and that makes me uncomfortable. Are people really so ready to sacrifice their personal choice in the name of some kind of “success” that’s defined by someone else?

  2. Mark Says:

    Good point. Downshifting lead to some interesting web pages via wikipedia. Maybe we do talk about it. Maybe the point for Penny was that it wasn’t available within her current organisation.

  3. Tyg Says:

    How about “side-shifting” – or “getting off the ladder and clambering along the window ledges”? Definitely the way my life is feeling right now … wooooooww , better not look down, Scary!

  4. Mark Says:

    I love this image, of you scrabbling from window ledge to window ledge like Cary Grant in Charade!

  5. Alan Says:


    Thanks for sharing this personal stuff with us. Writing a CV sounds much more difficult than writing a resume… just be glad you have enough to write about to constitute a CV! Some of us are so young and inexperienced that we only wish we had the experience you had. 😉

    On another note, what’s that saying about if you were a millionaire and you didn’t need to work for money, what job would you do for free? That’s the job you should do… it sounds so cliché, but there’s more to life than money!

    Meanwhile, I’ve been delayed until late October for Tala (to fit better into the rotation of volunteers). I’ll have to shoot Mr. Kioko a note… I’ll take this time to work on my Swahili I suppose!

    Take care!

    -Alan 😀

  6. Mark Says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for keeping me posted of your movements w.r.t. Tala.

    The CV you saw is the old one, I have just uploaded the one I was doing the day I wrote this post. It’s basically the same as a Resume and from my point of view, and having had to write both during my life, they are equally hard. It’s hard, sometimes, to be prepared to sum one’s self up in as few words as fit on one or two sheets of paper.

    I am familiar with that quotation, or at least some variations on it. Steve Jobs exhorts us to do what we love. Marsha Sinetar assures us that if we do just that, the money will follow. I love this quote from historian Harold Whitman that I saw on an NVC site recently.

    Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

    It’s the “and then go and do that” bit that I am struggling with at the moment. Oh, and I’m having a little problem admitting what I really want to do.

  7. christine Says:

    Who is this Alan? Is he going to live in Tala? Good luck, my friend. Bring a sharp knife and some good balsalmic vinegar. Tala is a special place in Kenya. In this world. As is anywhere. As a painting in our home states and as you will find in that place ” This is one of the exact centres of the universe & it’s in charge of a lot of the beautiful & amazing things we’ll take for granted in the future.”

    Much love, C

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