“I Got My First Job”: A Collective, Embedded Turning-Point

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Rebecca RABY, Brock University, Canada
Wolfgang LEHMANN, Western University, Canada
Jane HELLEINER, Brock University, Canada
One key biographical turning point is getting a first job. Within our individualized, neoliberal context, this transitional moment is frequently framed as a marker of independence and autonomy. In this paper, we draw on interviews with Canadian young people between the ages of 11 and 17 about their first paid jobs, noting that while many of our participants focused on their individual choices, hard work and maturity, there are numerous ways that this transitional moment was a collective moment of dependencies and extensions (Lee, 2001). Processes of getting, keeping and even leaving their first jobs were deeply interwoven with advice, support and engagement from parents, siblings and peers. Our participants were also embedded in community connections, systems of transportation, discursive frameworks of ‘becoming adult’, political-economic structures of competitive individualism and material, collaborative, workplace tools and processes. Sometimes our participants noted how they were embedded in collective connections and supports, but frequently they did not: work was a step towards independent adulthood. To think about this extensive embeddedness of the individual in the moment of getting a first job, we draw on Deleuze and Guattari’s dynamic notion of assemblage (1980), especially as discussed by Lee (2001). Assemblages (and extensions) help us to displace the idea of the autonomous, independent adult and think instead about our shifting, interconnected interdependencies, not just in terms of human collectivities but systems, discourses and non-human forces.