Making a decision about careers – a job in itself!

When I started this blog, I said I would write about my experiences as a graduate – when you hear graduate, you immediately think of the dire unemployment statistics (at least in the UK, anyway). The latest unemployment figures show that graduate employment is at a record high, with a quarter of the most-recent graduates still not employed in any kind of work after graduating nine months ago (which is on par with those who didn’t attend college or university). Although I would say I am lucky in that finding paid work hasn’t necessarily been a struggle for me so far (more on that later) I, myself, have spent a fair bit of time stood in the dole queue whilst waiting for my job to start, quite possibly the most depressing place on earth. The people there range from those that have been made redundant in the recession (as some of my family were) who are trying to raise children and desperately put food on the table, to university leavers like myself, to those who blatantly have no intention of finding any sort of paid work, and are more than happy to live off the state while slobbing around on the sofa, beer in hand, watching, or even appearing on, Jeremy Kyle (I’m not knocking this, I love a bit of Jezza). If you think I’m generalising, I don’t mean to, this is my direct experience, and I found that the latter actually received preferential treatment from the jobcentre – I think the poor staff just wanted them to stop shouting at them and make them go away as quickly as possible.

The past few years have quite possibly been the worst time ever to attend university. Course fees are getting higher and higher (thanks, Nick Clegg, for conning students into voting for you, then reward them by being too weak-willed to oppose the fee rises) whilst employment prospects are getting lower and lower. Yet, as part of the baby boom generation, we were brought up to believe that we could achieve whatever we wanted to, and thanks to the feminist push for equality, this included women also. Do the statistics now mean we should turn our back on our dreams and aspirations and settle for second best?

I still don’t think so. Although I am the first to admit I am afraid of things falling apart, the fear of failing isn’t as awful as the fear of getting to your deathbed, and regretting all the things you haven’t done – the fear of ‘what if’ is terrifying. I’ve found, if you work hard enough, someone, somewhere, will notice you. After graduating, I sent out hundreds of application letters to all sorts of different jobs – at that point, after a psychology degree, I felt I should pursue a career relating to this, but I wasn’t choosy about what I went for. I applied for everything from care assistant jobs to assistant psychologist posts (incredibly optimistic)…however, despite the current economic climate, I was choosy about what job I actually took. After spending half a day at one care home witnessing the horrific way the residents were treated, I walked out and never returned.

I was finally offered an interview at a psychiatric hospital (the very one where the word ‘bedlam’ originated from…I would soon find out why after I took up the post!) and was one of the lucky 8 who were offered a job out of 30 after a day of group tasks, improvisation, answering questions we hadn’t prepared for, and individual interviews. I later found out that over 300 people had applied for job.

I’m making this point because I am no more special that anyone else, I just spent a lot of time and effort on my applications, worked hard at the interview and had a genuine desire to get the job. I believe it was a case of being in the right place at the right time – the other hundreds of employers clearly looked at my CV and application and threw it straight in the bin, while this one thought I might be good enough for the job. I strongly believe that, particularly in today’s market, persistence is the most important quality to have.

As it turned out, the job didn’t work out. It was literally bedlam. I’m now working as a special needs teaching assistant which, don’t get me wrong, is extremely challenging, but I adore all of the children, and love seeing them each day.

Now, despite how confident I may seem about going for your dream, I have another side of me which craves the security of a stable job and good money, as it’s one less thing to worry about and, yes, although money isn’t everything, being able to afford a nice house, car and lifestyle certainly helps! I strongly want to be able to stand on my own two feet. So I have found myself at a crossroads about what I want to do next year. I feel that it’s time to move on from this job, and have been offered a place on a teacher training course which, although it is a great opportunity, I am now having doubts about. From this, I’d hope to go on to train as an educational psychologist in the future. On the other hand, I have always wanted to be a journalist. I suppose you would describe it as my dream. Both are equally as competitive, and yet somehow, becoming a journalist feels like the more risky option. Possibly because I want it more, it means the fear of failing is even greater? Or perhaps it’s the feeling of not being good enough? Either way, it is a genuine dilemma, and I have no idea what to do. Maybe I should settle for the safe option – after all, there is no dispute that these are difficult times with no sign of light on the horizon. Or, maybe I should join my friends, the majority of whom are feeling despondent after facing rejections on a daily basis, and are living hand-to-mouth, but are staying true to themselves and chasing after what they really want to do. After all, there’s always the lottery to fall back on. Perhaps I need to put myself in the slippers of my future grey-haired, wrinkly self, lying on that bed, wishing she could give a naive 22 year-old the kick up the arse she needs to chase after what she really wants…

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