Advice for School Leavers

From the Philosophies of Karl Marx


Leaving school, you are faced with a huge choice; what will you do next? While some may choose to pursue further education, others may move straight into the workforce or other pursuits. Those who start work can quickly find themselves dissatisfied, stuck in unskilled jobs that function only as a means of earning money. This pamphlet is your guide to avoiding this fate, and instead pursuing something that you will find true happiness in. It is based off the theories of Karl Marx, who had five key philosophies concerning the value of work.

The Philosophies of Karl Marx, Applied to You

1. We Find Satisfaction in Externalisation

The first of Marx's theories says that for our work to be satisfying, it must allow us to reflect ourselves in the things we create. Our work must let us make things that document our personalities and our lives. For you, this theory suggests that hands-on or creative pursuits will bring you the most satisfaction. Some possible pursuits that fit this philosophy include taking a creative or trade-based course, or beginning a career in an area such as writing or art.

2. We Need a Greater Purpose

Marx also says that the efforts of our work should add up over time, rather than making a difference only in the short term. We need long term goals or ideals to work towards, or our work is nothing but a pastime. So as you come to the end of your schooling, start to think about what you want to achieve in life. Do you want to help cure a particular disease? Improve education in third world countries? Whatever it is, choose further education and work that provide concrete steps towards these goals.

3. Work Needs to be Meaningful

According to Marx, work needs to be meaningful in the greater context of society. To do so, it needs to either decrease the pain or increase the joy of others. If no-one cares about what you are doing - if it isn't making any real difference in their life - then it is not worthwhile. This suggests that arbitrary jobs hold no value, and you should instead pursue ones that bring something new and special to society. If you choose to enter the workforce directly, jobs that fulfil this aim include humanitarian work and important government-centred jobs such as teaching. If instead you pursue further study, make sure the knowledge you acquire is not knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but rather teaches you directly how to make a difference in the world.

4. We are Generalists

It seems today that work is centred around establishing a career, a job in one specialised area that we pursue for the entirety of our working lives. However, Marx believes that this specialisation is only a tool to make the economy more efficient, and at heart we would rather pursue a variety of jobs across different areas. So don't settle on one career path too early - take some time to experience a variety of different jobs, study a variety of different things. Life is long, and you will have time later to settle.

5. Work Isn't Everything

Marx also argues that in a perfect society, we wouldn't need to work. In fact, he says that even today many people do not need to. Rather than looking at unemployment / lack of direction as a burden, you should embrace it. As long as you can support yourself, feel free to spend time studying, traveling and experiencing other things outside of work.