Britpop: Career identity, transitions and non-linear thinking.



It’s been as near as dammit 20 years since the rise of Britpop swept all before it and launched itself onto a grateful and well received world (ok, you can tell I’m nostalgic). So in wanting to mark this milestone I thought why not blog about it!   I’m not doubting my initial curiosity in this genre may well have been due to timing and the fact I had started going out to bars and clubs with friends and this stuff was being played.  So rather than go all NME and pretentious and critique why I listened to this music so much – we called it Indie by the way not Britpop – let’s just leave it simple.  I loved it because  the bands were cool, the music sounded original (I know, I know) and it all seemed so relevant and terribly important.  It was as much about defining my own identity and projecting it as it was about enjoying the music.  It felt like being part of a club or tribe much the in the same way as football supporters follow “their” team.  N.B. anyone who says they follow two club teams, is not a “proper” football supporter as this is sacrilege and widely frowned upon in the football supporting fraternity; take note.

So stumbling, as you do, through the social media quagmire I happened upon an article written by Mark Nicholls on the rocksucker website called “Britpop: Who are they now” (interesting it was who rather than where).

Where – or who in this case – are they now articles spring up all the time across various media channels and can be fascinating, uplifting and depressing in equal measure.  Let me explain. Pro footballer retires from the game and ends up in a downward spiral of substance misuse becoming a shadow of their former self.  That’s depressing.  Pro footballer retires from the game, becomes a coach and leads his (or her) boyhood/girlhood team to glory in the FA cup.  That’s uplifting.

The article mentions all bands I used to like, even to some slight embarrassment Menswear.  Here is a brief synopsis of the person, band and what they are doing now.  There really are some surprises.

Then. Alan Leach, the drummer with Shed Seven

Now. Successful entrepreneur, with a mobile pub quiz app called SpeedQuizzing.

Then. Debbie Smith, Echobelly guitarist.

Now.DJ and also works in a record shop.

Then. Mat Osman, bassist with Suede.

Now. Still a bassist with Suede but also writes for established UK newspapers and is is the London editor of the email magazine le cool.

Then. Johnny Dean, singer, Menswear.

Now. Rumoured to work in a mobile phone shop but nobody knows for sure.

Then. Justine Frischmann, singer, Elastica

Now. Internationally acclaimed Artist

Probably my favourite is Alex James the bassist from Blur.

Then.  The bassist from Blur.

Now. A real portfolio career.  The bassist from  Blur,  journalist and tv presenter and award winning artisan cheese maker.  (you could argue Blur were making cheese long before Alex started down this path).

So we have some uplifting (Internationally acclaimed artist), some depressing (Johnny Dean, phone shop worker?) and some fascinating (Alex James, journalist and tv presenter and award winning artisan cheese maker).

The labels we give to ourselves and are given by others all form part of our identity and shape how our career may develop as well as how we manage the transitions we then encounter. So rather than write about identity and transition, when David Winter does a far better job than I could do in his brilliant blog I thought I would focus on one key point.  Linearity.  Many (not all) of the students I see often view career as sequential very often leading towards a singular goal.  So for example, school, college, uni, graduate job.  Of course this also links to some of the metaphors we use such as “ladder” when discussing our career. I think when I was younger I used to view career in the same way.  Bill Law might suggest this was as a result of community interaction (my parents influence) and he may be correct.

But more and more theoretical evidence suggests that careers are and should be viewed in non-linear and less predictable ways. From the textbooks think happenstance, chaos, portfolio and boundary-less careers to name a few.  Some of this change is environmental in the way that the labour market is shifting and will continue to shift in new directions (I blogged about that here) but some of this must also be due to the social cognitive process of how we view career and what we think it should hold for each of us.

Thinking and acting in more non-linear terms can help each of us in navigating our career and manage change.  I do worry how much linear thinking is challenged in schools and college in today’s educational system. A large part of higher education and my role is helping students become prepared for the unexpected and not to try and exert and expect total control over their career.  There are too many variables.

So going back to my much loved indie movement of twenty years ago and the career transitions that have taken place of its protagonists it is a gentle reminder of how both non-linear and divergent life really is.   You know what I really quite like it like that.



3 thoughts on “Britpop: Career identity, transitions and non-linear thinking.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d seen Menswear had reformed with Johnny Dean, but really grateful for the shout out to the Britpop revival show, will certainly take a look.

  1. Pingback: What can Oasis lyrics teach us about careers? | ADBE Employability

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