So I haven’t written in an AWFULLY long time and I decided to write this as it really resonates with a post I did before I went to university about ambition and find what you love and do it, but upon embarking into the city of success, London (or not so much) I truly had these feelings. That there was opportunity abound and it was for everyone.
I’m fast approaching the final throes of University in my penultimate semester of my politics degree. This brings to mind many emotions. I’ll list a few
Petrified, nauseous, anxious, sad, confused.
Now, one would expect I would feel excited and thrilled at the prospect of entering “the real world”, about not being bound to the drudgery of the education system and so on. However, at this moment in time I can link none of these emotions to the event of finishing University. I say this not because of the fond memories, awesome parties and overdraft without responsibility but instead the prospect of struggling (as everyone but the lucky few has to, I appreciate that) for employment and the cessation of constant learning, which has been amazing in itself. However, instead of these emotions of elation I’m feeling crushed and suffocated by the expectations of how established we are supposed to already be for the working world and the meagre age of 21. This is in terms of Internships, financial considerations for further education, and not to mention examples of our leadership abilities, ability to cope under pressure, name a situation when you’ve led a group of people out of a burning building… and these are only a few of the questions you’ll be expected to answer in an interview for a pretty basic Intern scheme anywhere in London, by the way! Employers must know you’ve been test run.
One can accuse me of being bitter, so be it, but I am not. I’ve done my fair share of volunteering, interning and hard work, but I can’t help but feel the standard we are expected be at right now is dizzying. And how much clout should these menial positions we scramble over each other to get REALLY hold? An individual with promise no longer can truly envisage a future with promise and although there is the age-old claim that if you work hard enough, you will achieve what you want, the fact of the matter is there isn’t the quantity of Internships and opportunities to match the quantity of individuals with promise, and without this how an earth do you display in an interview, likely to be for another unpaid position, that you have been tried and tested to do administrative tasks in an office, regardless of the fact the education system is likely to have given us these much sought after competencies already. Our very social interactions, membership in clubs and abilities to pursue hobbies and finish a degree, as I had previously been mistaken about, hold some weight but nowhere near what is expected. Internships are very much a privilege in themselves, in the sense of having that extra experience somehow already to obtain them, and the financial stability to sustain yourself working in an unpaid capacity, as most of them usually warrant as a prerequisite as a result of being largely unpaid. But so long as students agree to fill these positions, there will be no incentive for companies or organisations to finance their student office lackeys, often working hours outlined as voluntary but with a covert expectation that you match the working week of any of their paid employees both in work load and hours for fear of not getting that gleaming gold dust reference.
For one who is a go-getter, it is difficult to summon an image right now of the getting aspect, as I have struggled all summer to update my work experience through numerous interviews for non-paid charitable positions and having little success. Instead I worked 45 hour weeks in a restaurant just to stay in London on the off chance something may come up, and while I recognise this was my choice the pressure I felt to stay and compete incessantly was overwhelming. Furthermore, I was often applying for positions I had no real passion for, which I fear will result in a generation of young people doing jobs “just because” for fear of not remaining competitive. Jobs and Internships are means to ends, but how much is expected before these ends materialise. Of course the world is not easy, but passion has been largely eradicated from the graduate world. The mantra of get by, keep your head down and eventually…just maybe…you’ll find a position which brings you actual joy. Get that CV gleaming young 20 something. You can play later.
More importantly, while we are all racing and striving, being involved in anything from voluntary organisations in leadership positions or student publishing outlets, there is a joy of being involved and knowing it MAY add to your employability (who even knows what the criteria is for valuable experience now), but also a sense of lost fleeting youth for an undoubtable existing proportion who are just…scared? You should love your job, but should a job be all you are and your whole life a culmination of making that job happen. I know few who are involved in straining volunteer roles with an actual job in mind of which they see as their absolute life vocation which is worth blood, sweat and tears. For those who don’t know what they want in life really, nor see a definite path for themselves, it’s a dualism of am I doing this to keep options open, or am I contributing a sizeable proportion of my time to creating a means to an end for myself and in the process perhaps missing out on being young.
These are the student careerists, and there is no resentment or criticism of them, but a pause for thought that the expectations of “The Panel” has created a generation fixated on achievement without real aim, essentially a generational loss of passion in some instances. I may be missing a large part of the picture, and I’m sure someone will correct me if I am, but how much would you give for someone to tell you you’re enough?