“Phi Beta Slackers”

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Sep 29, 2011 in , , | No Comments

A term to describe those who hop between several jobs, grad schools and fellowships.

They might appear to have their act together, but in actuality, they haven’t got a clue, according to Po Bronson’s bestseller, What Should I Do With My Life?, where he coins the phrase “Phi Beta Slackers”. The author states, “And while slackers are not lazy by nature–they actually want to work, just not at the wrong thing or for the wrong reason–Phi Beta Slackers have a great gift for the world, if they can figure out what it is, or defuse whatever is holding them back.”

Impressing Other Hamsters

Phi Beta Slackers usually rack up several years of job experience, a lot of student debt with higher ed degrees, yet are still completely uncertain about what to do with their lives. Choices and abilities not in short supply, the author suggests the main issue with this group is, “They could make such a difference in the world if they could only stop trying to impress each other, stop trying to prove themselves.” An interesting observation. What this group has to do is: find out what to do with their experience and degrees to be productive members of society. Basically, they must get off the hamster wheel they’ve placed themselves on (or placed on by parents or peers) most likely back in high school or the beginning of college.

The Safe Place

Many slackers have top grades, awards and great job opportunities. What they lack is the ability to leave that “safe” place they think they occupy. The author points out in his book that slackers have been on a high of sorts, for a long time via the excitement generated by job-hopping, academic accomplishments, and more. They continue to chase the elusive high and in the process feel empty and lost. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, read on…

It’s All About Commitment

One slacker interviewee in the book states, “You have to realize you have to select something and make it work for you. I can’t just keep looking for that perfect job–there isn’t a perfect job that’s going to marry these things I’ve done and make me happy. It’s going to come from me, inside, and from committing to something.” Key word here is committing.

According to Mr. Bronson, the relevant question to ask is this: “To what can I devote my life?” Usually, it’s something that benefits others, “makes a difference”, fills you with the kind of pride you can’t get any other way. It’s real–not manufactured to impress others.

New Directions

If you’re uncertain where to begin, your first steps should lead you to a quiet place inside yourself where the answers are waiting to be discovered. Pick up Mr. Bronson’s book, it may inspire a new direction. Whatever you do, don’t continue down the frustrating Phi Beta Slacker path much longer. It leads to a dead end. 


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