Will my position soon be changed?
Answer : –
“It will change if you change it, not else”
They did warn us post-graduation that finding a job would not be an easy task, that we would be poorer than our parents were. Our generation would pay for the materialistic consumer driven mistakes of those who had brought us here – this carbon gassed, war ridden, and immoral world. I paid little attention to the doom and gloom of my elders. They were old after all, and I was young – and everyone knows that to be young is the key to success. Besides I had gone to a prestigious red-brick university in London and the world was my oyster. Very soon I would be living in Cheslea, dancing in red soled shoes on the Kings Road and drinking over priced cocktails – happiness epitomised for any half-wit, twenty-something girl.
Deciding on the glamorous world of publishing, I applied for a graduate training scheme with Harper Collins. I spent more time researching what publishers wore than what they actually did (appearance is everything), and so on the day of my first interview I looked the part, whatever that part was meant to be. I spoke enthusiastically about a Turkish writer I had seen on a TED talk, and a few weeks later I was invited to a final interview. Finding a job was clearly not as difficult as they had all predicted. And I believed that, until it all started to go wrong – firstly because of Rupert Murdoch, and then because of a three year old –but really because of me.
I woke up very early on the morning of my final interview. Feverish and aching all over, I initially attributed these symptoms to nerves –however when a cystic acne face stared back at me in the bathroom mirror, my worst nightmares were quickly confirmed. I had chicken pox… for the second time. Too tired to wash my hair, and too itchy to attempt any proper concealment of my blemished face, I went to my interview in spite of my better judgement (and I’ll admit, a complete lack of concern for the pensioners I was unwittingly murdering on the tube – that thought has plagued me since if it is any consolation).
One of my interviewers made a joke and laughed – I glared at her, didn’t smile and continued to scratch my incredibly itchy elbow and look out the window. When asked which literary character I most identified with, my response was Elizabeth from The Naughtiest Girl in the School books (Enid Blyton is an excellent shout for those wishing to demonstrate sophisticated literary tastes…) improving my performance, I changed my mind and said actually no I was too square to be like Elizabeth and I didn’t know who I was like… next question? By the time it got to the presentation part of the assessment (and my acne had now turned into a delightful collage of aggressive boils) I had difficulty remembering where exactly I was. I do know that the entire Harper Collins board of directors were watching me, and a few were sniggering (I don’t blame them), the CEO definitely passed a note to another executive– more laughter, but by now most of my attention was on how much my back itched, and how it would be very hard to imagine a worse day, and the total humiliation sort of passed me by. Maybe I have more of a moral conscience than I realised, and my bout of chicken pox was a physical reaction to the notion of working for Rupert Murdoch… a deeper part of me thinks it was fate’s cruel lesson on the evils of complacency.
I left Harper Collins HQ looking like a Clearasil experiment that had gone very wrong, delirious and completely demoralised. A bag of haribo, and the realisation that publishing is actually just about sales (and largely sales of really bad celebrity autobiographies) made me feel a little better. I tried to be optimistic, and rather than focusing on the fact that I studied an arguably arbitrary subject for three years (I am yet to discover how any knowledge of Trobriand Islanders social rituals could ever be useful) or that after 19 years of education there are no desirable jobs, and little prospect of any in the near future, I have maybe learnt something. Namely:
• That despite Harper’s Human Resources director not believing me, you can get chicken pox twice. I am living proof, and he is a stupid-head.
• If you apply to work for a News Corp company, my experience tells me there is an extremely high chance that you may develop a serious childhood illness for an unlikely second time.
• In a face-to-face interview: not answering questions, looking out the window and never smiling will not win you a job. Take it from me.
• Equally unappealing is greasy hair and continuous scratching of your body, this will give the impression of poor personal hygiene and should be avoided if at all possible.
• No one likes a show off, however having Enid Blyton as your favourite author (aged 23) is not overly impressive. It would be nice to suggest some sort of progression in reading tastes.
My series of unsuccessful applications since has shown me that a sense of entitlement is one of the greatest disadvantages my generation has to deal with today. I left London the day of the riots, with a real sense of sadness. A lot of school and not many prospects, I felt angry with the world too. I felt angry that I had wasted time and money; that I had voted for a party that did the opposite of what it promised. I feel angry now, I’m angry that I’m working in a restaurant that I worked in before University, regression? Perhaps, more so for my single hard working mother who had mistakenly thought she had seen the back of all her children, it isn’t just my generation that’s suffering. I have also discovered that the things I so badly wanted when I was a student no longer appeal to me. Having spent time with my family, had time to really question what it is I want to do with my life I know the oracle to be right. Five out of five. I suppose all we can do is hope, try and expect a little less and do a little more – “It will change if you change it, not else”