So what did you want to be when you grew up?
While at school other children took inspiration, ideas and leaflets away from careers day, I would routinely find myself leaving the event with nothing but a clutch of free pens, branded gonks and biscuit samples from the McVities stand that always sat by the door.
Recently, almost ten years on, I attended another recruitment fair, this time at my local town hall. I was surprised by just how little had changed. By and large it was the same industries, the same giveaways (minus McVities) and the same sense of complete befuddlement.
Despite going to university and working across a number of roles, I still have no idea what jobs are available to someone with my experience. Staring blankly at men in suits, confounded by inaccessible company names and intimidated by complicated business jargon, I once again found myself walking in circles looking for someone I might know.
I think it’s fair to say I don’t have realistic expectations where careers are concerned, and I don’t think I’m alone. Whether its bloggers eschewing gainful employment in favour of unpaid internships, wannabes enduring televised humiliation with hopes of instant celebrity or anyone studying sports science at university, it’s clear that something has at some point gone amiss.
Not to come across all Daily Mail, but I genuinely believe that the media is at least partly responsible. Turn on the TV, open a newspaper or visit your local cinema and you quickly notice a disparity in the portrayal of different professions. Analysts, bankers, administrators — they’re only ever revealed to possess unrealised potential or skeletons in their closets. It’s no wonder that just about everyone who appears on reality television begins by saying they don’t want to be a DESK JOKEY in an OFFICE JOB working NINE TO FIVE. I mean, how boring!
No, nobody wants to feel like they’re wasting their time, especially at work where they should be saving the world or producing art. But while you can laugh at a child who wants to be a Jedi or a superhero, it’s far more difficult to ignore a large group of working-age adults who all want to be authors, musicians or simply famous for famous’ sake. After all, half of the jobs that we have been conditioned to desire never even existed to begin with; the rest are woefully over-saturated.
Take journalism, for example. I have spent the last two years engaging in freelance film criticism for a variety of online outlets. But while I have enjoyed my taster of the high life — visiting sets, interviewing actors and attending film festivals — I would enjoy it even more should I ever get to do it full-time, for a living. Unfortunately, I’m not alone. The same is true across most forms of journalism (except, perhaps, the more important and less glamorous investigative avenues), with hundreds of talented and deserving writers pursuing jobs that simply are not there.
Call me naive or gullible to covet fictional jobs and glamorised careers, but I have never been sold on the alternatives. My school-sanctioned work experience saw me serving dinners at a rival school while the careers consultations I did receive were with an over-simplistic computer algorithm that encouraged every other user to become a priest, a vet or a landscape gardener. And these are supposed to be the realistic options.
It’s clearly time that I looked elsewhere for inspiration. Preferably somewhere that still has free biscuits.