This feature was written by freelance writer S.J. Lewis
Back in March we launched the hunt for Go Think Big’s new blogger. We wanted to find someone who could voice all the hard, infuriating and challenging parts of job hunting faced by young people, and make us laugh too. Three finalists were shortlisted from over a hundred applicants, and you, the readers of Go Think Big, selected S.J.’s blog post as your favourite. Check out her latest post below…
I’ve been offered a temping job at a large multinational company. The good news is it pays £10.50 per hour and will be a positive addition to my CV. The bad news? It’s an end to my current creative aspirations. As for sitting at a desk for 37 hours a week, I’ll have to figure that one out later. I don’t hold anything against the corporate world, but I’m aware it is simply not for me. For starters, I don’t suit business wear; I look like a Year 7 wearing a uniform one size too big to allow room for growing. I’m terrible at anything feminine so avoid skirts and high heels, which often leaves me feeling like the odd one out. Instead, I’m the girl who arrives with loo-roll stuck to the bottom of my supportive footwear, smudged eyeliner, and a VPL from my comfortable M&S pants. Hardly boardroom material. Despite my best efforts, I just can’t ‘do’ smart and professional and honestly, I’ve tried. Instead, this wonky body and wonkier hair was made for dungarees, and studios, and unapologetic self-expression.
I dread being asked ‘what is it you want to do exactly?’ because it’s difficult to answer. There’s plenty I’m passionate in, from writing, to radio, to theater, but it all comes down to one thing; I need to have a creative output to be happy. I’m regularly on the receiving end of sad looks from friends and family who try to gently inform me I may never ‘make it’, but I’m not asking to be rich or famous. I just don’t want to spend 40 hours of my week feeling dead inside as I watch a two-year-old urinate next to a self-scan machine in Sainsbury’s (true story). Nevertheless, financial necessity always gets the better of me and manages to prioritise itself over my creativity. I’m currently preoccupied with the question: how on Earth do people do both? That is, manage to have a job they enjoy and pay the bills. I’m yet to uncover the elusive secret.
I’ve seen graduate schemes online that offer 27k plus bonuses, and extras like health insurance or gym memberships. It leaves me thinking that I’ve picked the wrong career path, especially when my uni friends are sipping cocktails in Soho and I’m attempting to make my foundation last longer by watering it down with supermarket brand moisturiser. I’m not claiming that money is everything, but I need to be able to cover essentials like rent and food. I’m only just getting away with living with my parents at 25, it won’t be quite so defend-able in a decade.
Getting a job is hard, getting a job I actually want has been impossible. Companies’ demands nowadays are astounding; everyone is expected to have experience in their chosen field, be fluent in three languages, able to use Photoshop to a professional standard, and make a flat white with Mona Lisa smirking in the milky froth, and all in return for a zero hours-minimum wage contract. Is it just me who’s angry? I’ve sat through whole assessment days for jobs a 1960s Darlek could easily manage. I’ve attended networking events, masterclasses, job fairs, CV seminars, spoken to countless recruitment agencies, and even been paired up with a ‘journey guide’. I’m exhausted with convincing employers that I’m desperate to work in admin when I’d much rather be Lena Dunham.
Some believe that generation-iPhone are lazy, entitled, and unwilling to persevere to climb the career ladder. However, when we’ve spent 35k (or more) on our education, landing us with a whopping interest bill we’ll struggle to pay off for the rest of our working lives, I think it’s justifiable that young people aim for more than working at the Little Chef in Bicester. When Tony Blair said “education education education“, I really wish he’d said “skills skills skills” as it turns out no-one is interested in my ability to accurately reference.
I have barely managed to peek through a crevice at the hinges, let alone get my foot in the door. In the arts industry, if like me you didn’t go to the right university, and don’t have parents who know people, then it is even harder. Almost daily I change my mind about whether or not to pack it all in, in exchange for financial stability, job security, and team building weekends. I’m aware that money alone won’t make me happy – but it might help! Not only am I conditioned via capitalist materialism to believe that my life will be better if I buy a particular brand of yoghurt, but I’m aware that if I had more cash I could pay for the treatment(s) the NHS is unable to provide me with.
Earlier this week whilst sat in a waiting room I got chatting to the man next to me. He was in his 50s and had recently given up his well-paid job at a large car manufacturers to fulfill his dream of being an artist. The money wasn’t worth it in the end, he told me whilst handing me his card. And so I’ve come full circle and remain conflicted; should I follow my head or my heart?
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