First published 26th August 2010
Let’s play the word association game, or better, let’s imagine we’re playing it with the government. I say: ‘student’, they say: ’18 year old, living with parents, parents happy to support 18 year old financially throughout their degree and unpaid work they gain afterwards’. But here’s a wacky scenario: the student isn’t 18, nor did they start their degree at 18, they don’t live with their parents and haven’t relied on them financially for a number of years. Instead they are in their early 20s, live in privately rented accommodation with their fiance and are currently wondering what to do about getting paid work when they graduate next summer.
Yep, you’ve guessed it, it’s me (again. I should vary my topics a little.) At the moment I’m considering my options for my life post-graduation. It’s a scary thought for most, and I’m constantly being told I’ve picked the wrong degree subject. I’d like to correct everyone who has told me this: I picked a competitive subject, yes, but not the wrong one. I could have assumed it would be a difficult career and chosed something else, but then I wouldn’t have been doing something I love. And I’d rather it be more difficult to do something I love than easy to do something I don’t. It’s a bit like relationships, the good ones are hard work, but worth working for. That’s the small point over, let’s get to the main one.
The government are trying to help graduates struggling to find work by suggesting they take on unpaid internships instead. I’m all for this, you gain the vital experience needed to push you through to the second round of interviews when it comes to the real thing, and they make sure you actually start off with some practical knowledge of your chosen industry (helpful, not?). Maybe this is my own mistake, I thought I could skip this part by gaining unpaid experience during my degree. I’ve worked the odd week here, the Christmas holidays there, and freelanced here, there and everywhere, so shouldn’t this count towards something and lessen the need to work for free after university?
It’s not at all that I wouldn’t be willing to work for free, far from it, I think work is most motivating when you’re not being paid for it, but what if it’s just not practical? My fiance and I moved into a new house in February and since then have spent our savings on decorating, furniture, gardening and generally making a home for ourselves. This is something I’d have to be willing to give up if I worked for free. I’d have to move back home (which isn’t particularly fair to assume my parents would be happy to give up their space and quiet once again) and say goodbye to the home, car, and independent life I’d worked so hard to achieve.
So what are my real options? Would a larger number of week-long work experiences suffice? Should I go freelance and see how working from home suits me? Or should I just apply for paid jobs until I’ve written to every media company in the world and my hands have fallen off? Your votes please.