Something made me really angry today. A friend of mine has been looking for work for some time – months. I sympathise; I was unemployed and job-hunting for around eight months before I returned to university to tutor and, eventually, start a masters thesis. It wasn’t my original plan, but I needed a job, and the truth was that people weren’t very willing to give me any kind of chance. I was fresh out of university, had minimal work experience, and a degree in the arts (forgive me for treating three years at university as something other than a corporate training course).
So this friend of mine, he went to an interview for a job he would be great at, which applied skills he uses in his everyday life even if it wasn’t related to what he studied. He was told:
“How can I hire you if you’ve been unemployed for a year? You will have forgotten how to work!”
This is what makes me mad: the idea that having trouble finding a job will make it harder for you to find a job. The idea that lacking experience means no one will ever give you the chance to get some experience. The idea that someone who has spent months of truly crappy, disheartening, depressing time searching for work must just be lazy or useless, and will never make a good employee. The idea that once you graduate and you put yourself out there, open to opportunities and new things, if you don’t know someone who can get you a job at their work instantly, you are screwed.
This guy would have been ecstatic to get a job. He would have worked so damned hard, to be worthy of it, to make sure he didn’t make a hypocrite of himself for all those times that he had said he would do great if someone gave him a chance. He probably would have put up with shit from his bosses because, you know, finding work is hard! Let’s not jeopardise this. I know - I was the same. A number of recent graduates that I know, undergrad and postgrad, are the same. No one is giving us a chance (most of those I know have gone to Australia, and never looked back).
Apparently, there is no place in the world for those of us who think, those of us who took university as an opportunity and a challenge and did more than the bare minimum to pass the rite of passage. Apparently, we should have just trained for a desk job, because no experience or skills are valid unless you have a piece of paper qualifying you in them – and a degree only qualifies you to be a student, as far as recruiters are concerned.
Aparently, it’s always our fault if we can’t be constantly a cog in the great commercial machine.
Well let me tell you this: seeking employment constantly for a long time is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done. It makes you feel worthless, rejected, and wasteful. It makes you wonder if your image of yourself is a lie, and you’re actually nowhere near as good or worthy a person as you hoped you were. To suggest that we put ourselves through that because we were lazy, selfish or elitist is bullshit.
I cannot believe the cold, calculating lack of empathy behind this interviewer’s comment. I only hope that there is some way we can make integration into the workforce a productive opportunity, rather than an awful trial where everything we were ever taught about effort, merit and proving yourself independently, is proved a lie.