Football Teams, Cool Kids and Unemployed Graduates

by elizabethfcoates

I am currently finishing first year in a Geography degree at university, like several others around the world. I am not distinct from the others in any way. I can’t eradicate cancer. I cannot solve the poverty problem. I can’t even resist sneaking my stuff into my bag at the end of lectures.

Hang on, hold that last thought. I don’t do that. One lecture I was so caught by one thought that I simply sat there, as others left, trying to digest it. I was there for so long the lecturer came to shake me on the shoulder to check I was conscious.

This was when I had to ask her; Why do we think learning and education to be exactly the same, when they are clearly not? We learn all the time, things that certainly won’t get us paid, but will benefit us, such as how to fill up a tank in a car or rendering the git down the hallway speechless with your comeback. What does education think they are, telling us what they comprise themselves as – the mere accumulation of facts?

i was surprised the lecturer listened to my indignant little rant. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if you all think I’m a self entitled little git myself. But I think the lecturer understood me, for she said,

“I don’t give you an education. I lead you to the education to drink. Drink up and savour it.” Then she left.

As a slightly related story, my boyfriend will be graduating later this month. Obviously, he has applied to (what appears to be) everything, from cleaning the Queen’s corgies’ slippers to paper-on-desk-sliding (I hear those are called Insurance…), but the two industries he wants, the people he considers to be ‘the cool kids’, are Recruitment and Banking (what can I say, he does Economics).

How are these silly anecdotes related? I sat with my breakfast this morning, alone as I woke up late, and sitting in the refectory I noticed something. At the beginning of the year, people sat nervously away from each other, wary. You could sit next to anyone and quickly make friends. Now it’s the end of the year, distinct groups have formed, including ‘the cool kids’, the people who you want to be friends with.

I pondered if graduates, companies and entrepreneurs have similar attitudes. As a student journalist I covered the Start Up Weekend at my university (official site here, and my article here), writing a ridiculously long piece on it, and I was heartened by the energetic, optimistic spirit of the people at the event. Recruiters (from the likes of Bloomberg and Google UK) turned up, hoping to ensnare them for internships and graduate positions. I contrasted it to my boyfriend, hoping to ensnare employers for internships and graduate positions.

I saw a group of boys, very closely knit, and I recognised them as Connaught Halls’ football team. Insert your own jokes about how they interact together, and I can only confirm they frequently ride off on the beer van into the sunset together. There was another boy who is my block and he frequently practices his football skills on the green near where they play their games. This boy watches every match, wears the t-shirt and takes photographs for them. He wants to play for them. But do the team know that? Well…if they do, they’ve forgotten. This boy has tried several times to drop hints, but it isn’t working. Try-outs are no good either. The team is too tight knit.

I watched this, and wondered if unemployed graduates are just rejected by ‘the cool kids’? I wonder, indeed, if employers hunt amongst student entrepreneurs to raise their standards and make them seem even more cool?

When it’s put this way, the unemployment problem is no one’s fault, but everyone’s problem. These entrepreneurs may well be employers one day, picking out graduates to work for them; the employers are struggling to work out where to find bright graduates; the graduates are struggling to be noticed.

So, is it possible that everyone should stop blaming each other, including themselves, for the problem? We should have grown out of this at school, surely! Cool kids in those days, after all, were the shallow Mean Girls and the suchlike; why do we want in, when they should want us?

Therein lies the problem though; we can’t all be cool. But we can all try. This leads me to my lecturer’s comments; we have all received this education, and all these people are using it differently. Graduates are waving it about frantically, hoping they get noticed; Employers have only retained what has transpired to be useful for their work, and entrepreneurs have laughed at it and contradicted it. Do you drink that knowledge? Do you savour it, gulp it down desperately or spit it in someone’s face?

Perhaps we need advice;

Graduates: Make yourself wanted. Join a society that has links to employers, and demonstrate your skills as you make new contacts, making yourself employable in a non stressful non interview situation. Not just career fairs, but also fairs for societies such as the newspapers, entrepreneurs, your department society or even the politics/debating (if you can stomach it).

Employers: Don’t just rely on functions. They can often only be good for free food and a day off work (come on, be honest, it’s why you went. As a student journalist, those are certainly perks!). You’re actually just as well off just striking up conversations with strangers. Seriously. The best people are easy to identify as they will speak back to you and engage in conversation, being pleasant and polite enough to simply speak to you; not expecting anything in return, just a nice chat. Don’t tell me you don’t want that! Sitting on the bus, at least it will mix up the commute a little for both of you. The best opportunities are impromptu.

Entrepreneurs: Carry on, and don’t forget us, for you will definitely be employing us all in the future…please don’t spit in our faces…