Saturday, 23 February 2013

When I grow up I want to be....

It's the question you get asked most as a child, whether it's at school, by parents or well-meaning family and friends. As a small child, your answer is most likely a footballer, a pilot or maybe a fire engine; or a vet, a nurse or a teacher.

For years I wanted to be a showjumper, inspired by my five years of riding lessons. Despite the fact that I only had lessons for an hour a week (which deteriorated to once every two weeks as prices rose), I was certain that I'd be the next superstar and spent hours dreaming about it. This then graduated to a desire - than a serious ambition - to be a doctor, inspired by a long and crazy obsession with the long-running BBC drama 'Casualty.' This ended when choosing my A Level options, upon realising that I was dreadful at science and maths, and I just didn't really enjoy it.
BBC Casualty Series 16 Cast
I then had no idea what I wanted to do until I was half-way through University, when, motivated by my successful climb of Kilimanjaro and three years doing charity fundraising, I decided I wanted to work organising charity challenges, or at least in fundraising. This was my first serious career that I actually worked towards and tried genuinely to get experience in. I organised street collections, volunteered for various charities and managed to get a placement with DfID. Despite this however, alongside a three month (unpaid) internship with the NSPCC, I still can't get the job I want. I'm stuck doing a job that I was doing when I was fifteen, and left dreaming of what could have been.

After my internship, I went to several interviews for jobs that I'd love, and was told each time that I did really well and in any other circumstances they'd love to hire me. Unfortunately, people were now being forced to apply below their stations and I was competing against people with years of experience in the sector. I just didn't cut the mustard. I was told to volunteer for a while to gain even more experience and contacts (it really is who you know), but most internships and volunteering are full-time, or more time than I can give. I don't know who they think is going to pay my rent while I work for free, but it certainly won't be me. 

I know I'm not the only one; my peers are either struggling to find employment, being made redundant or are in rubbish retail jobs like me. So what happened to our dreams? Whether it be the crazy, childish ones or the serious ones, why are we unable to follow them anymore? I have friends that dream of being policemen, art therapists, designers, pilots, midwifes, vets, chefs, biologists and more and yet none of them are able to achieve their goals. Although they have relevant experience and qualifications, everyone I know is stuck working in retail, in minimum-wage roles, unemployed or due to be made redundant. I know a girl who was made redundant three weeks into a new job, and a boy who was made redundant after over a year. Films from Disney upwards make you believe you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard enough and are a nice person, and this just blatantly isn't true anymore.

So with a generation unable to follow our dreams, how are we to stay motivated? With thousands of young people stuck in jobs they hate, or find unfulfilling, how are they to succeed? Retail tends to be monotonous, doing the same thing day in, day out. What happens when people just stop caring about their work; will customer service standards drop? Will this cause even more high-street businesses to go into administration? Or will more people take the option to be unemployed rather than work in an environment they don't like?

How do we combat the social aspects of this? It's not just career-oriented dreams that people are giving up; earning minimum wage, people are struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck. Your twenties is supposed to be full of fun, getting drunk, travelling the world and making silly mistakes. My housemates and I can't even afford to go out for tea together, let alone go on holiday or go out on a regular basis. Stuck in the house when you're not at work, eating noodles or couscous for the third night a row, knowing that all you've got to look forward to is another day at work doing the same thing that you did the day before, it's hard not to fall into a kind of depression that's hard to snap out of. It's difficult to see how things will improve in the future, or how to get yourself out of the situation. It's not that you're unhappy - you love your house and your housemates, it's just that you don't feel like you have a life anymore, or at least not a life that you'd choose.

With the UK rating having just been downgraded to AA for the first time in history, our economy is getting worse and worse, and I'm worried about what's going to happen next. Although we're not quite in the same situation as Spain, with 60% of young people unemployed, we have an entire generation that's unskilled and unprepared for the future. We're going to be getting to all the hurdles in life much later than everyone else - I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get on the property ladder (can't even envisage renting on my own let alone affording a mortgage in the near future), and god knows when people are going to able to afford to get married or start a family. We're not going to be able to afford to start a pension, and so are going to be working much later than previous generations. We are the first generation of the economic crisis, and are living under a government woefully unprepared and with no knowledge of how to help us.

Despite this, I hold out hope that the economy will improve, and that one day we'll all be able to get the career that we want. In the meantime, I'll keep slogging away, and spend my evenings dreaming of travelling the world. Companies, when you're hiring, spare a thought for us lot and maybe throw someone a lifeline. You won't regret it.

1 comment:

  1. You make me realize some things important in my life. Thanks a lot.