Professor works to explain how people define a ‘real job’

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — How people define what makes a “real job” continues to shift as more young adults pursue entrepreneurial careers, says a Purdue University organizational communication expert.

“Thousands of years ago, philosophers like Aristotle and Plato said that working for another person’s profit was deplorable,” says Robin Patric Clair, professor of communication. “Over time that perception shifted, and just a few decades ago, the perceived ideal job was at a corporation. Now, the trend may be shifting again.”

Why Work? is available from Purdue University Press via Amazon.com

Why Work? is available from Purdue University Press via Amazon.com

Cultural, historical, economic, political and psychological factors influence how people define a real job, says Clair, co-author of “Why Work: The Perceptions of a ‘Real Job’ and the Rhetoric of Work through the Ages.”

“Defining a real job may seem obvious to some people – a profession that means good pay, promotion possibilities and working in an office. But people may not realize that how they talk about a career, profession or job has a tremendous amount of influence on its meaning,” she says. “Discounting any career or occupation as less than a real job can have significant outcomes, such as dissuading a student who wants to be a full-time stay-at-home parent or join the Peace Corps.

“In addition, judging people according to their job may influence interpersonal relationships or antagonize class or occupational differences.”

“Why Work: The Perceptions of a ‘Real Job’ and the Rhetoric of Work through the Ages” was published in January. Clair co-authored the book with four former undergraduate students: Megan McConnell, Stephanie Bell, Kyle Hackbarth and Stephanie Mathes.

Clair is now studying globalization issues, especially those associated with sweatshop labor.

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