I’m sometimes asked to write letters of recommendation for students applying for summer internships.

An internship, Wikipedia tells me, is "job training for white collar or professional careers". I only ever sport a white collar at weddings and funerals so I thought I’d better look that expression up too. Apparently "White-collar work is performed in an office, cubicle, or other administrative setting".

How depressing that some of my students are spending their summers undertaking perhaps unpaid work to train for a life in a cubicle, or other administrative setting. I’m happy to learn that nearly all of my jobs, before I started teaching at universities, according to Wikipedia’s classifications, were blue- or even pink-collar.

A colleague tells me that students now talk about "curating" their careers. Sure enough, a quick Google search reveals essays using that term by "Career and Life Coaches", advising young people to make a "Memorable Personal Brand".

Immediately I want to ask Martin Heidegger’s challenging question in his perhaps unfathomable essay, The Origin of the Work of Art: "Well, then, the works themselves are located and hang in collections and exhibitions. But are they themselves, in this context, are they the works they are, or are they, rather, objects of the art business?"

The German philosopher’s answer to his own question is: "The works are no longer what they were." He sees that once works of art have been curated, "Their former self-sufficiency has deserted them".

My defiant younger self, seeking his self-sufficiency on this earth, would have boldly declared to any career coach that to attempt to 'curate’ your own career is tantamount to making yourself an object of the world’s business; it is to deny your true ‘work-being’, or something like that.

Now that my CV charts, or rather attempts to disguise, all the false starts and wrong turns of my academic career so far, I like to look half-fondly back at the jobs that I do not list on that document and to recall too the great works of literature I was reading at the time.

I feel great nostalgia for the summer when I worked 12 or even 14 hour shifts at the largely refrigerated Tesco’s Distribution Centre in Chepstow, somehow managing to read Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King during my very few leisure hours.

I pine for the golden days when I helped to demolish the Kwik Save in Lydney while reading, sometimes even on the roof of the condemned supermarket, W. B. Yeats’s Autobiographies and the prophetic and lyrical parts of the Holy Scriptures, William Wordsworth’s "grand storehouses of the enthusiastic and meditative Imagination".

How can I forget the July I spent manning the dishwasher behind the cafe at Blenheim Palace, even earning a food hygiene certificate, while sampling John Donne, George Herbert and Shakespeare in my spare time?

Or the early summer months when I did my best to pretend that I wasn’t working in the Sports Department of Foyles Bookshop so that I could read the whole of Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems there? But I can’t work out now if my six months in a cubicle with raucous Irish girls, making telephone calls for Vhi Healthcare in Dublin (while reading most of Heidegger) should be classed after all as pink- or white-collar work.

I would say that we hit the pubs afterwards very much with blue collars on.