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Autumn – happy expectations or a stressful flying start?

During the summer we will publish popular articles from the Alumni Network newsletter, Lundensaren. This week you will get some useful advice on how to have a happy start at work after the summer holidays.

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Text: Britta Collberg

Autumn can be a time of new beginnings and happy expectations, as it is for children on their way to their first day at school. For others, it means throwing oneself back into the struggle for work and recognition with a gnawing sense of inadequacy.

“Both relationships and employment are less stable in our time. We have to try to maintain a feeling for what is important in life”, says sociologist at Lund University Bo Isenberg.

He himself recently returned to work, has held a few introductory lectures and feels satisfied with his efforts.

“I have made a difference by listening to the new students’ questions and explaining to them what sociologists do. On other days, it is not equally clear what I have achieved, and then I feel more insecure.”

He shares that feeling of insecurity with a growing number of people. Sociologists study social change and they observe that society is changing fast, becoming more complex and harder to fathom.

“Terms of employment change, companies get bought up and move. Nowadays, even large parts of the middle class live with uncertain employment and abstract or shifting work duties. People feel replaceable and lack control over their lives.”

Meanwhile, we are expected to interpret change as something positive, thereby demonstrating our flexibility and enterprising spirit.

“The picture isn’t all black and white. Of course there is much that has improved. Gender equality for example – that is a revolution that has happened, to the benefit of all parties”, says Bo Isenberg, who was recently on parental leave himself with his little daughter.

He likes to read to his daughter in the evenings, but sometimes he does check his work emails as well…

“I believe that many people feel they risk missing something if they completely shut down. It can make it more difficult for them to assert themselves at work; colleagues today are competitors to a high degree.”

“In order for change to be positive, you have to feel that you can influence it yourself, but increasing numbers of people are forced to be flexible to conditions imposed by others”, says Bo Isenberg. They don’t recognise themselves in the political rhetoric on freedom of choice. In disappointment, some turn their backs on a reality that is increasingly complex and hard to grasp, becoming drawn to simplistic solutions. Politically, we see this on both the right and the left. It is comprehensible, but dangerous. Bo Isenberg would also like to see more honest public debate about everyone not having the same chances: class, gender, ethnicity and skin colour play a role and the gaps widen.

“We can discuss freedom of choice on a philosophical level, but we cannot get away from the social factors which control and limit choice in reality. A career like Zlatan’s, with Zlatan’s social background, is not the rule but the exception.”

Reboot or flying start? What can we do to avoid losing ourselves in this frenetic rate of change?

Bo Isenberg gives advice from the heart:
“Get a dog! Dogs understand what’s important in life: being close, having fun, eating … Then it also becomes easier to say ’no thanks’ to all of life’s impositions: I have to go home and take the dog for a walk”.

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