Totally pointless

(Note: Once again, we are having problems with people not being able to comment. I apologize for the tech issue.)

What’s worse: a bad job, or a pointless job?

A London School of Economics named David Graeber wrote an article about the idea of pointless jobs. It went viral, so he turned it into a book: Bullsh*t Jobs: A Theory.

He argues that (a) many modern jobs are basically pointless, and (b) doing a pointless job carries with it a big societal or even psychological cost. He describes this kind of job as:

“a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”

That sounded too familiar for comfort. So, I asked around. Who out there has a pointless job? Um…

I worked at an automatic car wash. We were completely unneeded. ... We even had the gall to ask for tips. I made $80 in tips one night doing absolutely nothing."

--Chad Zollinger, chief editor of the Debt and Tax blogs at Best Company.


"This was a well-compensated consulting gig, and the client was a medium-sized hospital. They engaged us to help them build a Medicaid plan for very ill children. This was a pointless job because we knew that it would fail. ... My boss at the time said: 'It's like being a defense attorney and knowing your client is guilty.'"--Chris Lee, founder and career consultant, Purpose Redeemed.


"Pointless jobs were my only jobs for a few years. I worked for Countrywide Home Loans in college, ... Stuffing envelopes, opening mail, filing paper. ... I went to the office everyday wondering why in the world all of this wasn't digital." --Prudence Limphaibule, Virtuity Financial Partners.


“I used to work at an online electronics retailer analyzing lots of SEO data. It was completely pointless. I made an Excel macro that automatically processed all of the data. The entire process took around 10 minutes. I would just sit there browsing Reddit.” --Neil Andrew, founder, PPC Protect.

High paid jobs, low paid jobs — all of them, pointless jobs. I could go on and on with examples.

But, I have a better idea. This seems like a good topic for a Friday comment thread. We’ve talked about bad jobs before — so today, how about the pointless ones?

  • Let’s start with the premise: What’s worse in your opinion, a bad job or a pointless one?

  • What’s the most pointless job you ever had?

  • Was there a silver lining? Did you learn anything from it?

  • And: What’s your strategy for dealing with a pointless job?

I’ll start with the story of one of my own pointless job experiences in the comments. Actually, I could probably mine an entire column with my own work experience, but I’ll try not to hog the space.

Photo: Screen grab from “Cool Hand Luke.” Like, the part when they make Paul Newman’s character dig the hole and fill it up over and over and over? Pointless, right?