Thursday, 11 August 2011

All dressed up and no where to go

On a weekly visit to the pub to catch up with old school friends, the ugly topic of work rears it's inevitable head. A diverse group, we encompass most of the directions that are typical of graduates today. The recession has put a stop to our feeling of invincibility. Raised by parents who told us we could achieve anything and sent to private school where teachers were paid to coax us to achieve 'our full potential', we are now faced with the reality that despite our certified brilliance, life is not going to be a picnic. 


At 18 I was one of thousands to be told to aim high, apply for Russell Group University's; that the promise of a 2:1 was mine. That dream job would be mine, it would pay me a fortune and my lifestyle would be more than comfortable. Labour had worked hard to promote the benefits of further education, and across the board, students were achieving record high results. The only trouble is, with everyone achieving highly, employers and University's were hard pressed to distinguish one fresh faced teen from another. Fear not, however, for the introduction of A*s was invented to cure this. 

Only then the recession struck. Though we had the promise of a better educated calibre of young adults, we had no where for these young adults to work. As employment constricted, university students were left to compete for positions they could have taken as a school leaver. My peers are working on unpaid intern-ships, as shop assistants, food service assistants and barmen. Some have chosen further education. A handful of the lucky ones have secured averagely paid starter jobs in industries they despise. One or two have actually managed to secure jobs equal to their qualifications that will engage them and that offer them career development. They are the lucky minority. I say lucky, because all of the above have applied for similar positions, all of the above deserve similar positions but  there just aren't enough opportunities. Boy do these differences in our working status create tensions; feelings of frustration and jealousy vs relief and security. 

Having spoken to adults in their 30s onwards, I have concluded that a university education should have been sold to my generation as that - an education. It could be the ticket to a better job as certainly there is no denying that for many roles a 2:1 or above is now a necessary requirement to apply. But there are just no guarantees. I urge those young people who are frightened by looming fees of £9,000 to attend University regardless. The debt is a phantom.  The experience of self reliance and however cliché, the broadening of the mind are priceless attributes. These years will shape your life. 

As we are destined for the rental market for the foreseeable future due to the slump in the housing market, why save for a deposit when you could be out living your own life independently? Many risk the terrible trap of living at home for years - there is never going to BE a right time to move out, you simply have to budget correctly. Several people have looked at me, having moved out and still remaining unemployed as totally reckless. I did it because it suits my personal circumstances. 

I was unprepared for the feelings of listlessness, frustration and bizarre loss of confidence - why did no one want to employ me? I'm not a bad person, I said to myself, I worked hard academically and in employment since I was 16. I was frankly overjoyed on securing a position as a receptionist, purely because I needed cash for my obscene debts. Quickly the elation at finding employment was doused by the depression. Then I realised that it was my responsibility to make a change in my circumstances. I took up yoga and volunteering to give my day to day life another meaning. I saved until I had enough money to be able to fund travelling abroad. It struck me that there was never going to be another time in my life when I would be able to travel freely and selfishly without the bother of a mortgage, holiday leave and children. I saved until I had enough money to be able to move out upon my return from the Far East. 

Having returned from travelling, I have come back to reality, back to a flat in London, ready to take on the job market alongside the other 951,000 under 25s out of work, a record high since records began.
And so here the graduates stand, educated and clinging to our dreams; all dressed up and no where to go. 

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