‘‘Go to University, you’ll get a better career!’’ That’s what fresh faced Seventeen and Eighteen year olds are told year in, year out by careers advisors up and down the country and for the large part, it is true. However, Universities seem to let down their final year alumni with the wide-spread myth that students should settle for what they are offered and subsequently put no value on the piece of paper they have taken out the best part of £47,000 worth of loans to fund.
I remember trudging around Universities proclaiming that I was to become the next big name in advertising. I was told by each of those Universities that their course matched my ambition. However, throughout the University process, my ambition was diluted by what was described to me as “realistic expectations.” “Realistic expectations” turned out to be total and utter rhubarb but we will get to that in time.
My girlfriend (who is in the final year of University), told me that she had been to a careers fair and was inundated with companies offering the opportunity to go freelance in the media industry. Freelancers by their very definition should be experts in their chosen field and be able to apply their skill-set to a wide variety of businesses. A ‘freelance graduate’ equates to ‘cheap labour’ and offers no protection to the employee. That’s right! There is no sick pay, no guaranteed hours, the stomach churning uncertainty of where your next pay cheque will come from and above all else; a lack of statutary protection that companies are required to offer permanent and part time contracted staff by law. There is also no pension contribution, no health scheme and no actual career guidance or training. Wow, that sounds like a really poor deal doesn’t it! – So how do they get away with it?
I’ll tell you how they get away with it; the Universities and the employer market in general perpetuate the myth that there are no jobs in the media industry. The BBC pay a tuppence because they know kids the world over will go and work for them because it is their passion rather than being a practical career choice. Media companies nowadays will offer ‘freelance roles’ (cheap labour jobs with no protection) to graduates because they know the graduate market by and large is frightened or at least conscious they won’t find a job in something they are passionate about doing. This is exploitation.
When I graduated from University I took the first thing I was offered in recruitment. The company I worked for probably couldn’t believe their luck. A first class honours degree educated graduate who was prepared to pick up and slam a phone all day, happy days for them! Nope. I hated it. I hated more or less every last minute of the two years I spent working there. Why did I work there for so long? I believed the pack of lies I was told by careers advisors, the media and above all else Universities that had convinced me I would have no other choice.
That’s not a damning indictment of recruitment. It is a great career choice for some people. The money is great and the people I met were amazing, but it wasn’t my passion. My passion has always been to combine my creativity with my naturally outgoing and confident nature. I’ve always had a perculiar fascination with advertising and how messages are conveyed to audiences and my job now combines the both beautifully.
I think the best thing I have in my short life so far was to move back home, sit in my pants for a month and fire my CV to every single advertising agency in Manchester, Leeds, London and beyond. I received great feedback from a lot of companies applauding my ambition and my enthusiasm. I’ve had calls from companies since offering me roles (happily employed now thanks!) and I’ve had messages of congratulations from directors of companies I applied for without luck. It is do-able. You can get the dream job if you pursuit it relentlessly and guess what, you don’t have to be a freelancer on £4.80 an hour and you don’t have to only work when you get a text message in the morning! Isn’t that strange?
I guess what I’m trying to say is to University students far and wide, don’t settle for what you are offered first. Don’t listen to a careers advisor who tells you to “get real.” Don’t take on board the myth that there are no jobs in the industry you are truly interested in. Take it from somebody who is an ex-recruiter and now works in an industry where I discuss at length, the needs and expectations of major blue chip companies recruitment strategies. They are absolutely desperate for passionate graduates. They are clamouring to bring in the best new millenials. There are no boundaries to the ambition they want you to have. You have skills that companies simply don’t have that make you invaluable.
If anybody says otherwise, if anybody says that as a graduate, you need to go freelance to work for them and work at their beck and call to make it in the industry, send them my mobile phone number and I’ll give them a couple of words too unsavoury to include in this article. If they tell you the route you need to take and it leaves you with nothing; no certainty, no career-path, no training or guidance, no team support, an empty promise of work when it suits them, then they are simply exploiting you. End of discussion.
It is more than time to take the ball and put it in your court and change the perception. It’s not that difficult to get the job you want. Be passionate, do extensive research into the company and it’s competitors, puff your shoulders out, put your chin up and a Colgate smile will get you over the line and get you your dream job.