One reason why I’m finding the graduate job search so hard

Now, my sociology degree is really starting to show here. (And, perhaps, my cynicism, and my idealisitc nature concerning how the world works). But I can’t help it; it changes the way you look at things. Tell me, truthfully – am I reading too much into this shit??

You know all those graduate job websites? And all those fat shiny booklets you can get from your careers centre which list the best companies to work for (usually finance, law, etc), and how to be a more employable person? Well. They’re useful, yeah. And they make you excited about the future and what you can achieve. But there’s also something a bit creepy about them. It’s weird…I’ll read the words on the page, but they mean something different in my head. Let me demonstrate. Here’s an example of how to be successful when doing an internship or work experience:

  1. Be excited and show enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and take part
  2. There’s no guarantee that they will hire you yet. Think of it as an extended interview.
  3. Be professional, and respectful.
  4. Hone your communication skills and learn to communicate with colleagues across the business.
  5. Meet people. Be approachable and network.
  6. Try your hardest. The harder you work, the more you gain from it.
  7. Be results driven and commercially minded.
  8. Think on your feet
  9. Be client orientated

Now, I’m not saying these are bad tips; it’s all good advice. But there’s no reflexivity about what kind of attitudes this could encourage. And I can’t help translating this advice in my head…

  1. Do everything we ask you how we want you to do it, with a smile on your face; don’t question what we ask of you. Make us feel good about our decisions and ideas. If you’re critically and honestly assessing our failings, you’re against us.
  2. There’s a lot of competition out there. It’s you against everyone else. Grab this opportunity by any means necessary. If we don’t hire you afterwards, blame yourself.
  3. Act according to white, middle class norms (this is what we consider normal/neutral/professional). Don’t be yourself, whatever you do.
  4. Fit in with the company culture. Say what people want to hear. Speak in the right way.
  5. Don’t bring your personal baggage to the table; just act correctly so as not to make things awkward. Be unfailingly smiley and friendly. Build functional ‘friendships’ so you can use people for their networks and knowledge, to further your own career.
  6. Work hard so we can benefit from your free labour. Lunch breaks are for the lazy.
  7. Making more money is the most important thing. Growth over everything.
  8. Bullshitting is important. Being able to pretend like you give a shit/know what you’re talking about is a great skill in this world.
  9. Appease those individuals and private companies who pay for our services. Ask nothing about their integrity or intentions. Fuck community and the wider world.

So what do you think of this comparison? Is the graduate job market in a capitalist, neoliberal environment facilitating extreme individualistic competition, which waters down your ability to see past the money you’re going to make, and allows companies to foster in people (through their desperation to be the ‘right’ candidate and fit in) an acceptance of middle class, elitist and discriminatory norms and teach them to ignore how corporations can harm society? I dunno. Sounds crazy right? Ah, forget it, maybe I’m just delirious from too much Lemsip…



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