Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter, is a tremendous resource that I wish I’d had as a kid growing up and thinking about what I wanted to be one day. For me, as it is with many people, the job market from my perspective as a high schooler was simply College. It had nothing to do with actual jobs. And when I was queried about what I’d do with my college degree? I’d just shrug and rattle off the usual suspects: teacher, activist, artist, etc.
And, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this line of thinking or focusing on these (great!) jobs as possible careers, it was an incredibly limited view of the world and all that it can offer young, creative minds.
Thank goodness for books like Gig! Now, we don’t normally plug specific books here, but this one caught our eye as especially useful for both students and parents who may be dreading or just plain avoiding the topic of college majors and job opportunities altogether. This book is one of those rare finds that not only discusses unusual and “usual” jobs, but which actually provides honest (sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking) first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work these jobs from people who have been working them for years. As soon as I came across this book, I knew it was perfect for both students (of all ages) and parents as a tool to not only expand their thinking of their own potential but of the potential of jobs/careers that are not often thought of or considered desirable (such as long-distance truck driving or hatter work).
But, of course, more than jobs–this is a book of passions. Finding and practicing one’s passion in a career can be hard to accomplish–after all, it’s hard enough to even recognize the face(s) of one’s “true” passion(s) (especially at so early a stage in life as high school or college). This book includes narratives of some workers who are thrilled with their work and of others who are consistently disappointed in it. What’s most impressive, however, is that these narratives don’t leave things at “I don’t like it” or “It’s great!” These narratives truly explore the ins-and-outs of different careers and why they’d work for some and be nightmares for others. If you’re looking for nuanced views of wild and varied jobs, then this is definitely a book to check out.
Even Ira Glass (the guy with one of the coolest jobs in the U.S. as host of This American Life), raved that Gig was “…surprising and entertaining and makes the world seem like a bigger and more interesting place. Gig manages to document everyday life and give pure narrative pleasure at the same time. One feels proud to live in the same country as the people in this book.”
And, having read the book and felt both relief and envy at the many tales captured within, I couldn’t agree more. In other words, it’s a book that can help students begin learning about careers that require and don’t require college degrees, jobs that could take them all over the world, jobs that they may have misjudged for better or worse, and jobs that they may have never even known existed.
As Andrew Ross, Director of the American Studies Program at New York University, said of Gig: “In the age of advanced spin, this book accomplishes a very rare thing. It actually lets workers speak for themselves. . . . The result makes for a fascinating read.”
So, if you’re having trouble getting your students/kids excited about college or their career potential (or considering a new career move for yourself whether you’re a parent or child), this book is definitely a great way to spark a more nuanced and thoughtful conversation regarding the whole wild craze of career building and job searching.