Sara Jones was like every other humanities graduate on paper. That’s why she tore the paper up, and did things a little differently.
This is her story.
I am a humanities graduate. I spent tens of thousands of pounds to read things at University College London with the occasional hour spent reading things with a professor in the room at the same time. The received wisdom is that this kind of degree is actively harmful in securing a career and that anybody who doesn’t choose Science is doooooooooomed.
Received wisdom which of course wallops more cods than John West. Great news fellow artsy layabouts, your degree is very much going to help your career. And you Scientists have a rosy future too.
But neither degree is enough by itself to get you a worthwhile career, of course it isn’t, monks didn’t set up little colleges in the Middle Ages so that big banks could cherrypick for grad schemes in 2015. The furtherance of human knowledge and employability were never meant to be synergetic. Unlike little monk novices, you still need to spend your university life beefing up your CV because competition is fierce. At the current rate of inflation, the arms race of internships will mean that toddlers will be attending special “nursery internships” in Canary Wharf to stay ahead of their peers. I’ll be beaming GCSE mock questions into my fallopian tubes in ten years.
So, every graduate is told to say goodbye to university summers formerly spent touring foreign countries, attending festivals and taking mind altering substances on a beach. Get your suit on they say, get down to an austere office tower and start Getting Ahead, it’ll be fun, they say.
Nah, bollocks to that.
If you want to boost your employability, spend your free time at university trying to become as interesting as you possibly can. Internships should only be considered for the purpose of road-testing a career, you need just a couple of weeks to do that, leaving you plenty of spare time to “skill up”, a.k.a: live a little.
The reason I give this advice is simple, I got my first graduate job not because of my First Class degree, not because I’d once spent nine weeks at JP Morgan, not because I had proven leadership experience. I got my first job for two reasons: I once was Tyson Gay’s bodyguard, and I’ve been on holiday to North Korea.
Now I embellish the Tyson Gay claim slightly, though he had a body which need guarding and I was the professional on hand at the time, the point is that this absurd tale of bravery made my interviewer laugh.
Secondly, North Korea. How many people do you know have been to North Korea? Aren’t you just a little bit curious as to what I got up to in such an isolated country?
Well my interviewer was, so she asked about it. We chatted, we got on, we bonded, and she decided she wanted to work with me. Why? Because she thought I was the kind of person who’d fit right in to the company culture. That culture was vibrant, driven and successful. That culture was unique, it was different, which is exactly what you and I are looking for.
Our generation values job satisfaction much more than our parents, we want amazing colleagues, fun offices, adventures, meaningful work, we want something different. Work culture is one of the most important things, way beyond salary brackets. And in my experience, it’s not something many graduates have realised or prioritised. And just like universities don’t necessarily make you employable, so internships certainly don’t make you different.
Ask yourself, who do you want to be? Mark Zuckerberg? Barack Obama? Sheryl Sandberg? Why on earth would Mark Zuckerberg want to work with you? Steve Jobs? Emma Watson? Do you think they’ll be hooked by your second year internship in assurance? Or will it be because you did some ridiculous thing out of passion for a subject? And this goes both ways, when you’re talking to your dream boss outside of an interview, what would you want them to talk about? You’d hope they’d be at least as interesting as you, no?
Furthermore, whatever first job you secure, you won’t be doing it for long – and you certainly won’t be doing it in forty years’ time. Our careers will be a wibbly wobbly tangly wangly random wandering journeys across industries, businesses and technologies. Becoming an interested, interesting person at university will become the trait which helps you navigate these changes.
So, work hard, save money, have fun, but don’t, no matter whatever happens, do not, at any point, for any reason, for any person, ever, be boring.
PSA: for North Korea-related anecdotes, drop me a tweet and the name of a pub with whisky in it.