What happens after the Great Resignation? Career advice from Simone de Beauvoir – The Irish Times

Summer vacation is a time to take a break and take stock. They are an invitation to embark on a new project, to renew a relationship or to consider a professional retraining.

Well-being at work received increased attention during the so-called great quitting of the Covid pandemic. But quitting smoking isn’t an end in itself and the academic who predicted The Great Resignation cited research suggesting employee wellbeing can plummet after a job change.

According to a study by the What Works Center for Wellbeing in the UK, quitting an unsatisfying job gives a “mental health boost”, but it “seems to be short-lived and has totally or largely disappeared a year later”.

So if you’re feeling unstable at work or in conflict with your chosen path in life, what should you do?

Simone de Beauvoir may have some useful advice. The French philosopher implored readers to avoid quick fixes to existential angst and instead told people to take their freedom seriously. It means risking the mistake of a lifetime, cutting yourself off from other possibilities, and agreeing to find rest only in death. “The Lot of Being Torn [déchirement] is the ransom of… presence in the world,” she wrote bluntly.

Beauvoir’s ideas have been brilliantly brought to life by Skye Cleary in a new book How to Be You: Simone de Beauvoir and the Art of Authentic Living (Ebury Press), the perfect accompaniment, complete with sunscreen and towel, for introspective people heading to the beach this summer. Cleary, a New York-based Australian (who has a maternal great-grandfather from Co Cork), has a varied resume – she served in the army reserves in Australia and worked as a trader on Wall Street before become a philosophy teacher. She explains in more detail as this week’s Unthinkable guest.

How can Beauvoir help me decide what to do in life?

Skye Cleary: “Beauvoir won’t tell you exactly what to do, but Beauvoir gives you some pointers.

“Asking the question is a brilliant start. Beauvoir writes: “Let’s not shrink from this questioning, because beyond the distress it may cause in us, it will destroy some of our shackles and open us up to new truths.

“It’s uncomfortable, even anxiety-provoking, not knowing what to do. Authentic living is a process of welcoming discomfort, remaining curious, perhaps even learning to love ambiguity, for that is the space where we shed old habits and conceive of new possibilities.

“Create your essence. There is no true “you” that you must reveal to be happy. The core of the existential idea “existence precedes essence” means that we exist first and then it is up to us to shape ourselves – our essence. Guiding our lives authentically is an artistic process. And it’s collaborative because our lives take on meaning through our engagement with others and the world.

“Unravel the facts of your life from the myths. Avalanches of mystifications point us down predetermined paths, like women into caregiving roles and men into STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths] careers or leadership positions based on what is supposedly “natural”. But Beauvoir argued that the masculine and feminine nature are mystifications.

“The immutable facts of our lives include birth, the bodies we find ourselves in, and the existence of other people, but these facts do not dictate what we should do with our lives. Authenticity is a process of exercise of our freedom and transcendence beyond our facts in an open future towards objectives that we have chosen.

You highlight the strength of her writing and how she promotes a rebellious spirit. Do you have to rebel against something to be authentic?

“Ideally, there would be nothing to rebel against. Beauvoir said she dreams of every person becoming “pure transparent freedom.” In Beauvoir’s utopia, the oppressed would rebel, the oppressors would cease to oppress, domination would be abolished, and we would all authentically move towards an open future. Relationships would be based on friendship, not subjugation. Other people will sometimes be obstacles to our goals, but not oppressors. But the human condition is such that there will always be something to rebel against.

“We may still need to rebel against internal shackles, such as fear, self-doubt, or the desire for approval. As long as oppression persists, rebellion is vital because, writes Beauvoir, “justice cannot can ever be created in injustice”.

Committing to a project can be daunting. How does Beauvoir help us overcome the fear of making a mistake or the anxiety of taking a path we will later regret?

“Anxiety is a fact of human experience. We are thrown into this world and must make it our life. We are condemned to be free. And with freedom comes responsibility for our actions. But we cannot choose everything because there are social, political and other architectures that frame our situations.

“Engaging in a meaningful way can be overwhelming because the world is chaotic, fraught with tension and teeming with a myriad of paradoxes. We cannot predict the outcome of our actions or inactions. Often we fail. All of this is very disturbing.

“From an existential point of view, we are the sum of our past actions and mistakes, but they do not absolutely define our future. Living authentically requires us to come to terms with our past, to reflect on our current way of being, and to focus on become. One can live authentically only by committing oneself to life, that is, by committing oneself. Beauvoir says: “I only take shape and exist if I first throw myself into the world by loving, by doing. And that can be exhilarating.

Tell us about your own “great quit”: what prompted you to leave the financial services industry in your late twenties and get into philosophy?

“The ecstasy of a good exchange could not make up for the intense and relentless stress. Technology has changed the way markets work. The work did not seem significant. I wanted more from life than staring at flashing numbers on a screen. During my MBA, some of my professors addressed existentialism in courses in the philosophy and psychology of management, organizational behavior and entrepreneurship. Beauvoir’s writing fascinated me.

“At that time, I also read Tête-à-Tête by Hazel Rowley, which is the biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. They asked me similar questions about how to deal with the tension between what we want for ourselves and what others want for us, how to think about freedom and duty, and how to live when life is so full of suffering. . Although existential philosophers don’t have all the answers, they give us a framework and a language to think about the big questions and tensions in life.

Are there times when you wonder ‘what if?’ If you had remained a trader, would you have been able to live authentically?

“It is possible, even if thinking so much about authenticity would have been more difficult because philosophical reflection takes time. But an authentic life invites us to recognize our freedom, or lack thereof; accept responsibility for these decisions; be lucid about the context in which we exist; reflect on our impact on others and on the world around us; working to open up possibilities for ourselves and for others; and leap bravely into the future.

“None of this necessarily depends on the type of job you have.”

How to Be You: Simone de Beauvoir and Skye Cleary’s Authentic Art of Living is published by Ebury Press (£18.99)