Stuart and the City
Each spring and summer brings great angst to our friends and colleagues who are parents; will their children get into the preferred nursery or school, are they choosing the right subjects for GCSE’s, will their GCSE/A level results be what is hoped for and are their children choosing the right degrees and will these lead to the right careers? I am brought into the heartache either as a shoulder to cry on, a non-parent and therefore independent or to give my opinion as an employer, this is probably where I can make the strongest contribution.
In my day, degrees were less common – if you left university with a degree, even outside of your chosen subject, you would get the job/career of your choice. If you had a first class honours degree from any university or a 2.1 from a leading university, you, the student, interviewed the company and decided whether you wished to work for them! Even us lesser mortals with OND’s, HND’s and BTEC’s had the pick of career opportunities… but how times have changed. Last year I found myself consoling great friends whose daughter, a straight A student with a first class honours degree in neuroscience and a grandfather who was a leading neurosurgeon in California did not get into medical school. According to friends in the health service this is not uncommon because they have the pick of students, all with first class honours degrees!! They therefore often wait for second applications the following year from any candidate who they believe has shown anything less than a 100% obsession for medicine for fear that they may drop out and mess up the statistics. I have relayed this story to both over confident parents and students alike, not to burst their proud bubbles, but to demonstrate how difficult it still is in the graduate market.
This year, friends of mine stayed with friends whose son had just received his A level results – straight A’s in English, History and Politics, he had just announced that he had applied for a number of jobs in photography and secured one with a leading photographic studio! He would therefore not be taking up his place at Durham University. His reasoning was that he had the opportunity to take up a paid position doing something he loves which would lead, in 4 years’ time, to a better chance of securing a great position in his chosen field. A great degree he concluded did not ensure a great job and he could back this up with the names of many friends and associates who had great degrees but poor jobs. He also asked his dumb struck father to define what success is and why success, in his father’s eyes, could only be a six-figure salary in the City with a bonus to match! His mother meanwhile was planning their move from the shires to the rural outback where no one would know them – oh the shame of a child without a degree.
These various conversations took me back to my own qualifications, management training and job applications. An impressive powerhouse of a trainer gave the first training course I ever attended. She was about 4’10 with the presence of a giant. Noting that we were all a little giddy with the excitement of being selected as management trainees she explained the need for continual training/improvement and the need for a great toolbox. Yes we all had good/great qualifications, good personalities, determination etc. but if there were only one job going which one of us would get it? Knowing what was expected of us, we all roared in unison, “the one with the best toolbox!” Students at all levels, GCSE’s, A Level and Degree need to apply this philosophy while studying (especially during the long summer holiday!) and get as many tools into their boxes as they can! They need to volunteer, apply for internships (paid or unpaid), get holiday jobs to understand the work environment, take up team sports to learn how to work together, attend local group meetings; indeed anything that will stand out in their job applications. Parents must trust their bright children if they unexpectedly seek jobs that make them happy, they can always go back and do degrees later and those with less academic children should lobby tirelessly for vocational qualifications to be funded and respected.
Anyone in our industry knows how hard we have to fight to be recognized as a profession of choice. But I would recommend this industry to anyone; it certainly provides me and many others with a great happy life and even a few nice toys to play with.