Saturday, 2 January 2010

'The Three Rs': Reading, Writing and ... Recession?

Is it nearly over yet? Sorry to be the whining kid in the back of the car here but, despite my A Level in Economics, my knowledge of the progress of our pitiful economy is – no thanks to conflicting opinions in the media – sadly limited. I left the country for a year in the thick of the recession, with my bags overflowing and a metaphorical “see you later, suckers” sticker attached to my forehead. I watched the Lehman Brothers collapse, the job losses and shop closures (RIP Woolworths, I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know) from a concerned but far distance, safe in the knowledge that this whole mess would be neatly concluded the moment my feet stepped back in Blighty.

So now on my reluctant return, I have grudgingly joined the lost graduates group: a sea of bewildered youngsters who’ve been promised the world but have ended up on a barren land of sparse opportunities. Jobs, if ever found, have been lost, graduate schemes cancelled and, after hearing “the world is your oyster, kiddo” pep talks for as long as we can remember, the majority of us are still unemployed and living at home. We’re a group of people overwhelmed with information but with actually very little personal guidance, a group with almost too many options but in reality not many open doors.

If you decide to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher: fair enough, it’s a well trodden path with directions at every junction. But if you want to mix it up a bit and try to go for something a little outside the box, you are well and truly on your own. For example, careers advice. Why does every career advisor want to turn me into an accountant?! Are they doing a deal on the sly with my parents? One career advisor actually told me to come back when I was less vague ... Thanks buddy, I’ll just do all the work myself and come back to you when it’s all neatly figured out, shall I? Wouldn’t want to make your job too tricky for you. And if I want this sterling careers advice as a graduate, it’ll cost me the bargainous price of £120. It’s almost as if an awkward graduation ceremony and a handshake suddenly makes me exempt from free advice, or do they assume that, despite my student loans, being a graduate now makes me well-off?

Oh, but where would I be without those generic graduate websites which, as if sensing my fundamental indecision, have crept, with added gusto, into my inbox with their emails about their soulless graduate fairs, “top notch jobs” in Coventry and their oh-so helpful daily graduate tips that tell me that despite all qualifications, personality is the be-all and end-all. Oh, great, so if I just shimmy my way into every interview, I’ll be laughing my way to my dream job then? I didn’t sign up for this, did I? Unless “post graduate confusion” was written in small print on my university prospectus.

The problem with further education is that we all leave with a sense of self entitlement. We feel like just because we rocked up to a few afternoon lectures, we’re owed a job worthy of respect and a middle class sized pay check.

So while older generations look on exasperated by us “young’uns” who’ve spent thousands on education to end up more confused than ever and mums mention that girl from down the road who was in your year at school and has got a good job/mortgage/steady boyfriend/dog (delete as applicable), we skirt around, bouncing from one idea to another, fighting tooth and nail for unpaid internships and reluctantly succumbing to the under-paid, over-worked 9-5 lifestyle. Did I mention I didn’t sign up for this?

It’s ok, it’ll all be ok. I just have to remember never to become an accountant. EVER. Read more by Selina.