Charles Stross has a smart post titled “A Nation of Slaves” on how he differentiates a good job vs. a bad job:
There are two tests I’d apply to any job when deciding whether it’s what sociologist David Graeber terms a Bullshit Job.
Test (a): Is it good for you (the worker)?
Test (b): Is it good for other people?
A job can pass (a) but not (b) — for example a con man may enjoy milking the wallets of his victims, but their opinion of his work is going to be much less charitable. And a job can pass (b) but not (a) if it’s extremely stressful to the worker, but helps others—a medic in a busy emergency room, for example.
The best jobs pass both (a) and (b). I’m privileged. I have a “job” that used to be my hobby, many years ago, and if Scrooge McDuck left me £100M in his legacy (thereby taking care of my physical needs for the foreseeable future) I would simply re-arrange my life to allow me to carry on writing fiction. (I might change the rate of my output, or the content, due to no longer being under pressure to be commercially popular in order to earn a living—I could afford to take greater risks—but the core activity would continue.)
On the other hand, many of us are trapped in jobs that pass neither test (a) nor test (b). If Scrooge McDuck left you £100M, would you stay in your job? If the answer is “yes”, you’re one of the few, the privileged: most people would run a mile.