I have a Boring Job!

Actually I don’t. Well, at least I don’t think it’s boring – and that’s all that matters.

But I have to admit – to the rest of the world, jobs done by tax lawyers, accountants and actuaries are considered to be boring jobs done by boring people. I mean, which would you rather admit to – being an airline pilot or a tax lawyer?

I used to be self conscious about this when I was young and green, and first starting out in the business. However, as I’ve got older, I’ve realized that the only thing that matters is whether you like what you’re doing. If you do, then there’s absolutely no need to apologise for it. As Nobel Prize physicist Richard Feynman once said: “What do you care what other people think?”

Why tax is interesting

This is actually not the right question. The question should really be “Why do I find tax interesting?” Because I’m quite prepared to accept that not everyone will share my enthusiasm.

It’s hard to give an explanation – but perhaps a picture will give you some idea. This is part of an advice we sometimes give as to how to sell a business. Instead of selling directly, we use an intermediate company. This is the way in which companies like Vodafone can claim large tax breaks when they buy Cable & Wireless.

Business Sale Hive Down

The ability to come up with this sort of idea is like solving a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to match the pieces up to complete a whole picture. It’s not just numbers – not just filling in tax returns (now that would be boring). It’s a lot more than that.

And not all glamorous jobs are really glamorous

Gordon Gekko - Photo by Ilona Gaynor on Flickr

Gordon Gekko – Photo by Ilona Gaynor on Flickr

Yes it’s true. Take corporate law. This really is the glamorous end of the legal spectrum. To many, the word “corporate” conjures up images of Wall Street, and Gordon Gekko – a jetsetter, always on the phone, yelling and screaming about how “We gotta close the deal damnit.” High powered lunches. Trophy wife. High powered hookers. Hmm…

This is what I’ve seen when I’ve watched my corporate colleagues.

Reams and reams of documentation. Having to go through hundreds and hundreds of clauses in a business contract. Check them off one by one – then send to the other side of the transaction with your comments and amendments, telling them what is and what isn’t acceptable. Then the lawyer from the other side will go through those same hundreds and hundreds of clauses, mark up the document and send it back.

And then the lawyer from our side will go through the same…no, before they do that, they have to print the thing – yes, print it out. Which holds up the queue, including my three or four pages of whatever it is I’m working on. Having retrieved their copy, they then go though the same exercise – make further amendments and then send it back to the other side who…and so on.

This is not an easy job by the way. It isn’t just a question of keeping a high level of concentration. You have to be able to both read and interpret each clause that’s being negotiated and understand why it’s there and why the other side want to make changes – and are these changes good for your client? And you have to be able to see this in the context of the transaction as a whole. In other words, you have to see the whole wood as well as each individual tree.

But by golly, it must be boring. I’ve often felt so when watching my corporate colleagues – of course, they may well find it fun and I have no problem with that. It’s just that I know that I would find it boring. I just couldn’t do it day in, day out.

I have a lot more to say on glamorous jobs, but I’m going to stop for now.

However, before I leave, I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning. However boring other people might find your job description, the most important thing is that you like what you do. If you’re happy, then nothing else matters.

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