Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
As a young man searching for a career to suit my post-graduate qualifications I am constantly told by family and friends that “something will turn up eventually for you” or something else along those lines. Although motivational help is appreciated, I have come to the conclusion that nothing will ever just “turn up” and that if I want anything, then sitting around and waiting for it will result in absolute failure and disappointment.
Of course, all of the above should be regarded as incorrect if you come from a relatively wealthy background, having family and friends who are working professionals and have a wealth of business contacts who can give you a helping hand along the way to your chosen career. Many of these types of people I have met at University, most of whom see their situation as ‘the norm’ and seem baffled by anyone who might suggest we actually don’t live in a meritocratic society. This brings me to another vital point about our contemporary job market in Britain, having contacts is essential for success. Networking is fundamental if you’re going to get where you want.
Working-class people, poor people, the masses, call them what you will yet the people I am talking about are the majority in Britain. It is these people who find it most difficult to get on in Britain’s ‘supposed’ meritocratic society. People who don’t have the luxury of a stable and wealthy up-bringing, who have worried about money and paying bills throughout their lives, who haven’t had the finance to access the benefits of a public or private school education find it extremely difficult to progress into a career of choice precisely because of all the aforementioned issues.
Yes, some working-class people do manage to scramble through the net and, under great strain, persevere with the multitude of cultural and educational challenges to career prosperity. However, it is worth considering the mental and physical stress caused to the human body by taking on such a hostile and overwhelming environment. Evidence is available for stress-induced deaths in certain lower-sections of the class spectrum, caused by a lifestyle of constant stress related to financial instability and trying to transgress a throng of cultural and educational barriers.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you have had a privileged education and come from a family of working professionals, then you are going to have a better chance of getting on in life than someone who has been born, for example, on a council estate with a broken family and has had little financial security, has gone to a bog-standard state school and cannot meet the educational requirement for entering University, not to mention the daunting cultural boundary of considering the feasibility of holding such a financial burden of debt.
The under-privileged in society, in general, are not as good at networking and finding professional contacts to get the career they want in life, as the more privileged members of society who can always ask Mummy and Daddy if they have any professional contacts to give them a nudge (or even a hefty boot) in the right direction.
If you’re from an under-privileged background, being told to network and volunteer to find the career you want can be a tricky thing to grasp and partake in for a number of reasons. Volunteering is going to be tough, as being from a working-class background the cultural norm and also the physical need is to get a regular income which is essential to sustain your living for yourself and if you don’t live alone then for your family also. Finding time to volunteer around this requirement seems hardly feasible, especially considering the low-wages, temporary work contracts, and general instability of the job market we face in post-recession Britain, yet time and again, we are told by career’s advisors, business insider’s, government representatives and at university that volunteering is the way forward.
Coming from a less financially privileged background myself, not in a state of poverty however, I feel qualified to share my experience of volunteering with you which may also be enlightening..
My experience involved a self-arranged, and paid for, visit to Westminster to spend time working for an MP. Whilst there I had a nice time, seeing lots of interesting and new things in the capital and met lots of interesting people aswell. However, the other student-volunteers/interns who I met at Westminster seemed to be rather different to myself. They were young, fresh-faced and talked with much more confidence and fervour than myself. I began to feel a bit like a loose part at Westminster, and after chatting to some of the other interns, I learned that many of them were staying in London for an extended period of time, and therefore could afford to get a generous amount of work experience at Westminster as they were living in a friend’s or family member’s flat or house in London. I soon realised that without these types of opportunities open to me, I couldn’t get the experience I needed as I couldn’t afford to stay in London for any reasonable amount of time anyway. To be frank, it felt like an alien environment for me personally, the many people I met were polite and helpful, yet I sensed an un-easy atmosphere and this I deemed to be related to class division and the differences of privilege which I have mentioned above.
I have tried to clarify already the unequal opportunities between privileged and under-privileged groups within the UK, and although too many are ignorant of this class and cultural divide, much of which I have witnessed first-hand, this is a fundamental issue to understand for anyone facing a job-search in contemporary Britain. With all the difficulties of the current job market, it becomes evident that a rather different approach may have to be taken if any success or fulfilment is to be gained from a post-university life where constant job applications are constantly ignored or politely refused.
Tom Bone, 2015 – Editor for Consensus44