We are bad at predicting what will make us happy, so the best way to pick a career is to study people to see if you like what their life is like. If you do, then try their career.

This is not very efficient, though. I mean, you can’t study that many people. So New York Magazine’s Watching the Clock is a gift for all you career searchers. You can read a minute-by-minute account of each person’s day.

Of course, it’s an account of their best day. No one reports anything like “1:36 pm put head on desk and worried about failure.” But still, you can learn a lot from reading about how someone really spends their day.

Also, you can learn about yourself by watching how you read the pages — you will read carefully what seems like the most fun to you. When I read, for example, I went first to the publicist, and relished every minute of his day. I even took pleasure the relentless pitching he did, within this piece, for his client, Bombay Sapphire. I skimmed the location scout’s day, and the contractor’s day. I read five scattered words about the chef’s day and they were all about food (who eats porchetta anyway?) and I couldn’t bring myself to read anymore. So no cooking school for me. Ever.

What if you like reading all of the profiles equally? Maybe you should be a librarian.

4 replies
  1. MFR
    MFR says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Good article, but did you see their work day in hours at the bottom? 12 hours! Even 16 hours! When do they have time to vacuum or clean their bathrooms?

    I guess they have not been reading your column.

    Mauri

  2. lisa
    lisa says:

    Mauri,

    I think after reading Penelope’s insights, even though perhaps not intentional, you will realize that most people have no life, so they work 12 or 16 hours. Don’t worry, if you have a life, and like one of these careers, I bet the balance will enable you to be productive enough to accomplish what they do in less than 12 hours a day.

  3. Dave
    Dave says:

    The New York Magazine article was really interesting, but I was struck by how much “downtime” these people had where they were in transit or busy checking their stock portfolios. I do a lot more in 8 hours than any of these people do in 12-16. Of course, I found time to post this! They should do some profiles of deskbound workers.

  4. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think the reason New York Magazine doesn’t profile desk-bound workers is that the desk-bound are not seen as the people with glamorous jobs.

    That said, I do most of my work at a desk either on the computer or on the phone. And when I get invited to go to glamorous parties (so that I will write about them, of course) I cringe. I’m much more interested in being at a desk.

    So, I’m with you, Dave. I’d like to hear how the desk-bound spend their time.

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