I graduated from Bristol University two months ago. It is a cliché to say that your university days are the ‘best of your life’ but these last three years in the West Country will certainly take a lot of beating as I grow older. Sadly these things must always come to an end and so looms that horrible period where I must relinquish my freedom, move back in with my parents and start searching incessantly (and often fruitlessly) for employment.
That aside, I am one of the lucky ones. I have loving parents who are more than happy to take me back into their London home, a steady part time job and as of last week, a two month unpaid internship with a London orchestra in September to get me started.
To get your foot on the ladder, the most common procedure at the moment is to obtain an internship - the golden ticket into the working world. An internship is a blanket term for the privilege of being taken on by a company, with the details of the position varying from profession to profession, employer to employer. What I have come to realise is that the word internship is often a very dressed up way of saying ‘general dogsbody/office slave’. The content of the position is not the main sell; the objective is to obtain as many of these positions as possible in order to list them under the ‘previous experience’ subtitle of your CV. Your intimate knowledge of the coffee and photocopying machines and the ability to open letters at lightning speed are all skills which can be honed during an internship.
Rarely are these positions paid, which makes it near impossible for many to undertake them due to extortionate travel/accommodation expenses which they inevitably incur. And with so many applicants, the only way to distinguish between good and bad candidates is to put them through a rather gruelling interview process. At an interview last week I was asked ‘what are your weaknesses?’ What did they want me to say? That I have a proclivity to fall asleep if left on my own in a warm room? Or that as an arts student I am unable to function before 11 am (at the very earliest) and that, like a child, an afternoon nap is a daily necessity? I settled for ‘I work too hard’. Not bad for thinking on my feet. If all this seems rather daunting for an unpaid role, it is a reflection of the scarcity of employment and the competitiveness of applicants.
And as jobs become more and more scarce, sadly the cost of education is increasing rapidly. At my graduation ceremony my head of department asked if I was considering doing a Masters. My reply was that I honestly had not given it much thought, but the past year had really shown that I would love to continue studying, although perhaps not until next year, after I have had some time to experience the working world and to decide what I would like to specialise in. To my shock, he told me that if I were to wait a year to enrol for a Masters, the price was going to go up from £4000 to an eye-watering £8000+. I can’t quite see the logic in raising the cost of education this much, as if the more years that pass, the more money students are magically going to have to conjure up from out of nowhere.
At the end of it all it is my parents who I feel sorry for the most. You would think that after 21 years of rearing a child you should be welcome to a well earned rest. Yet the current situation for many parents is very different and the prospect of your beloved now-adult-children invading your retirement with the inability to alleviate your parental stress with the certainty of a stable future is to become an all too familiar reality.
To end, I would like to repeat a rather insulting joke which I am frequently told: what do you say to a music graduate with a job? “A burger and fries, please”. Whoever that graduate is, I’d like to know how on earth they managed to get into the employment