Thursday, 13 March 2008
The Trials & Tribulations of Life on the Scrap Heap
This may appear as a rant but it is actually a genuine problem faced by many mature students seeking suitable employment after their graduation.
For anyone going back to full time, or even part time, education in their later years, it is a whirligig of an experience. You challenge yourself more fundamentally, taking the word education as re-education, than at any other point in your life. You must abandon all the suppositions and assumptions, recognized or not, that you have accumulated over your life and that help bolster your sense of identity and worth if you are to genuinely confront, absorb and understand the new concepts that will be presented to you as part of your university course.
Initially you feel naked and vulnerable as you strip away your armour of preconceptions. However, that is the least of the experience, it is also intellectually stimulating, physically draining and emotionally exhausting. The three years simultaneously condense and expand time; the years both stretch back endlessly and flash by with the noise of siren. The difficulty is, for most people, this period will represent the most intensely lived episode in their lives so it is not surprising that what follows post-graduation may appear grey and featureless. Many succumb to what may be loosely described as post-grad blues. Nor is this experience confined to mature students; those who leave university having arrived straight from school must also find the first years outside of academia deflating.
As a mature student, it matters not how realistic you may be about the difference a degree will make to your life, you are after all just one of thousands who graduate each year, it is still a sharp surprise that the outside world doesn’t seem to acknowledge your achievement. Your hopes of moving into a more interesting area of employment receive the cold shoulder of indifference. While you have been wrestling with Foucault or Derrida the world hasn’t even recognised your struggles with so much as a shrug; it has merely continued on its self-absorbed way.
Employers notice your degree not as the attainment of three years of effort but by the absence of three years of employment. You cannot possibly fulfil this function, firstly, because you haven’t done something similar before and, secondly, because you haven’t worked for three years.
‘Haven’t worked for three years?’ you feel like screaming. ‘Haven’t worked? Let me show you the mountains of books I have had to read, the extraordinary concepts I have had to grasp, the endless essays I have had to write and you have the effrontery to say I haven’t worked and then lard your insult by implying I don’t have the intelligence to learn your poxy procedures that a five year old could master in minutes.’
Since the Personnel Department was replaced by the HR department, any interest in the individual as an individual has been replaced by the view that the individual is merely an economic cipher. For HR, read Human Refuse.
OK, it is a rant. And for those of you who wonder why this has suddenly appeared out of the blue after such a long break in transmission, more later.