“Out there” seems like an increasingly scary place. The picture being painted of the economy is bleaker and bleaker, university is costlier and costlier and meanwhile graduate level jobs are scarcer and scarcer. Right now we are safely nestled in the bosom of university, but before we know it we will be ejected out into the real world: careers and adult life.
Our parents left university debt-free, in most cases, with a pool of graduate opportunity to dip their toes into. In today’s economy 20% of graduates are unemployed. One of the worst things about being a student today is how unpaid internships are becoming the norm, which makes it more and more difficult to gain experience if you don’t have economic backing from your parents. This is obviously a kick in the teeth for social mobility and it’s getting worse as unpaid internships are increasingly both accepted and extremely competitive in many industries across the country.
This is all really horrible and scary! It begs the question of what makes people want to attend university in the first place. Do we go just because we want to learn about stuff? Students today are relatively lucky to be in a position to be able to study something that we are passionate about for three years interest free.
Yes, the prices are going up way beyond the worth of the degrees but many countries have it worse off than us. This being said students won’t accept paying so much for a degree just because it’s something they are interested in.
In reality, employment is the ultimate goal of education. The idea of working hard at exams and essays for three years (for £9,000 a year) with an ultimate end of getting a job that you could have got without three years study (and £27,000) is a difficult pill to swallow. So the main goal of university is employment, but higher education students demand even more than that. We don’t go to university because we want any job. We study hard for three years, in many cases gaining experience from evil unpaid internships because we want a specific job. That elusive beast: our “dream job”.
It may be a different (more realistic) job than the one we discussed in junior school, however it is a career that we know we would be happy to spend our lives doing. It might not even be a more pragmatic job than the junior school dream job: someone has to be an astronaut, or Lady Gaga’s stylist… why can’t it be us?! But the “r” word does keep creeping back…. realistic. So many of my friends who have graduated are unemployed, or working at extended summer jobs. How many people really do get to do their dream job in today’s economy?
I attended the Amnesty International Student Media conference last month and it was filled with journalists, editors and others working in the media. There was a special panel put together of students who had achieved their dream jobs through different paths, and they told us how they had achieved this.
There were different routes presented: a BBC internship; an MA in journalism; freelancing. All three of the panel had worked relentlessly to get to their position, applying and re-applying for apprenticeships, internships, experience.
Although it was more difficult for the panel at the Student Media conference to break into the world of journalism, the thing they had in common was hard work. Seeing these people who had seemingly beaten the system inspired me to keep fighting for the elusive dream job. We will find it more difficult than our parents, but experience and hard work will hopefully pay off. It does depend on what your dream job is, of course.
One of my friends has just graduated as a midwife , and although there is a national midwife shortage and birth rates are rising, cuts are being made which means midwives are being laid off across the country. Stories like this are becoming more and more frequent. I (somewhat idealistically) hope that with a bit of luck, passion and hard work hopefully our student generation can emerge from the economic mess with jobs that we enjoy and that are worth the cost of our degrees.
Unfortunately, the dream job looks like for many it might be just that, a dream.