Written by Anonymous
Illustrated by The Sketch Room
For myself and I am sure for many others, striking out into the world of work has been the most unpleasant, anxiety inducing, sixes and sevens, doubtful and stressful part of my twenties thus far. And that was before a global pandemic absolutely desecrated the job market.
Now, young people have a lot more competition to contend with when it comes to getting on the career ladder. But it’s not just the now increased competition for the vacancies, it’s a much more deeply established competition between ourselves to validate our experiences.
It’s part of the human condition to treat anything that we feel self conscious about (body image, money, romantic relationships) as a source of competition and the world of work in your twenties is unfortunately no different.
I guess that unsurprisingly, not living in London, not earning much money, working (until recently given Covid-19) in a bar and not using my degree in the slightest has put me on the receiving end of a lot of one-upmanship and job snobbery.
Happy though I am for those around me to use my nominal failures as something to feel better about, I thought I’d jot them down in case they help others on the receiving end feel less alone.
On the other hand, if you are indeed one of the people making others feel inadequate about their choices, please find below a guide as to how to be less of a twat to your friends when we return to the supposed “new normal”.
Making more money than someone else does not make you more successful than that person. Acquiring wealth is a very flawed metric for success largely because material gain is exceptionally problematic in an era as unequal as the one we currently live in.
Some people want to work in jobs that foster their hobbies and interests, some people want to work in jobs that pay them enough to foster their hobbies and interests.
Either way, speak sensitively about other people’s choices. Britney taught us all the importance of an individual’s prerogative and if we don’t hold Britney as sacred, we have nothing.
Opportunity a plenty, a bustling metropolis of other inspirational and inspired twenty-somethings and sandwiches that cost upwards of £12. After university there was a mass exodus of nearly all of my friends to London, leaving both my home and university town bare of people I knew. I felt terrified that I wasn’t going to have friends unless I too made the move.
I started to look for jobs there out of fear I would never have a social life again. But soon enough, I got a job in my hometown, made friends here, saw old friends when they came back home, and got in touch with other friends who moved to the Midlands for jobs out of London instead.
Some careers require you to be in London, some don’t. Some sectors operate solely in London and major cities, some don’t. Some people like being in a big city, some don’t. Some people are motivated by being around their graduate pals, some aren’t.
As for friends there, it takes the same amount of time for me to get to London as it does for some of my friends who live in London to get to each other. The vast expanse of tubes, buses, boroughs and a river in the middle which people bizarrely use as another bargaining chip in their bid to feel successful: “oh em gee, they live north of the river? No, thanks!”. There’s more to life than drinking wine out of a can on Clapham Common, lads.
Education, Education, Education
You either did well at school or you didn’t. In fairness, I did relatively well at school but I was also very weird and hated every minute of it. My school days were certainly not the best days of my life. By the time I was choosing A levels, I would have shaved my legs with a flymo if Ellie Goulding had said it was the mode de jour, such was the quality of my rationality and decision making.
No one is a greater advocate for writing off the choices you made in your adolescence than I am but alas, they follow you around for all to see on every job application & CV you write. It would be really quite helpful if the world of work put much less emphasis on the nominal achievements from your school days but no dice.
At the very least we could all do a bit better at not writing someone off based on their education. Besides, it’s not inconceivable that anyone who thought school really was the best days of their life probably peaked too soon.
Not everyone wants a traditional career and not everyone wants to work for a top five company. This seems to be a concept that many, many people that I have come across struggle with. Having never had a “proper” job nor indeed having never worked for a household name company, when telling people what I do, you’d be surprised at the amount of times the reply that I’m met with is “oh cool, you work for a start up!”
This has always confused me because I’ve never worked for a start up either. Please don’t think I’m being shady to start ups – I imagine they give employees much greater input over their working environment, flexibility with their working hours and a variety of projects to work on day to day.
However, small businesses, roles within branches of the public sector, outreach projects, paid charity work, creative and culture sector work all exist. If you’ve not heard of someone’s job or company please don’t assume that it didn’t exist until recently. None of us need to be made to feel less validated in or more alienated from our ability to contribute and showing your ignorance to someone’s job will get you an A* in doing just that.
Next time, ask questions, say it sounds interesting, ask how they got involved in it, ask if they enjoy it. You never know, it could be something you fancy too.
I’m a firm believer that one should live and let live. And fair play, if you live in Clapham earning 27k+ a year using your finance degree at a top five accounting firm then you deserve no greater censure than the kid who left school to work in a pub in their hometown. To each their own.
Although I would say it’s no coincidence that on my travels, I’ve come across a lot more job snobbery from the former type than the latter. Be kind. There’s enough in the world to get you into a funk without your peers making you doubt your choices.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous