That’s Not Merit

At the end of 2021 I had to start looking for a job. My contract wasn’t going to be renewed due to ongoing budget cuts.


I want to talk about one particular interview. This was within the Australian university sector, the same sector I was in at the time. 


I had an interview where a lot of the job was assessing and changing internal systems. Lots of local knowledge to work through with stakeholders, historical or  “legacy” things to work through – exactly what I had already done on a project in the role I was leaving.


The interview went well. The panel seemed to understand the value in the related projects I had just completed, the job was new and I would be able to “make it my own” to a degree… so I should have ranked pretty highly on the candidate list. 


Universities use “merit” as the basis for their applications. You could write an entire thesis on the problems with merit. Here I want to highlight one example of where it fails. 


I did not get the job, and the main piece of feedback I received was that I didn’t seem to have a career plan. 


My goals when looking for a job are to do good work with nice people. I do not have linear career goals. They don’t interest me. My values are different to climbing a ladder. 


How does my view of career goals disqualify me? My choices of goals and my personal values are not wrong.


My goals are not “merit”. Goals have nothing to do with my skills and ability to do a job. 


Related reading: Career Privilege

2 Replies to “That’s Not Merit”

  1. What nonsense! Agree totally with your analysis of this situation Vanessa. Personally, I’ve never had career goals. My path has taken me up, down, and sideways in terms of level of position and associated pay. My career goal has therefore been to pursue jobs that interest me regardless of pay or level. It sure has paid off. May a wonderful opportunity be waiting for you Vanessa!

  2. […] interesting. I agree the way merit is used in practice doesn’t work. The article kind of implies removing merit will add to diversity. Which is good. In […]

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