One of the biggest lies we’re told as children is this:
Do well at school and you can get into university and then you can get a good job.
It’s a lie because those things just aren’t linked in this simple way we’ve learned to expect.
“Doing well at school” is referring to academic achievement in the form of grades. That’s a whole other rant but, for now, we can surely agree that grades aren’t the hallmark of success.
“Doing well” could also include excelling in an extra-curricular activity, or having a healthy social life, learning self-care, and so on.
Sure, grades will probably get you into university if that’s what you want. But do you really need a degree? Nope! Myself and many of my peers who graduated into a recession I’m sure would echo that sentiment!
And what even is a good job? So subjective. People usually mean one with a socially impressive title and a big salary.
Personally, I’d rather forgo those things and just have one that doesn’t make me want to scream into a pillow before and after each working day which is where I was with my first few jobs around school and uni.
Now, parents and teachers who told us this stuff didn’t mean to lie to us. They genuinely believed it to be the case. It probably was the case when they were growing up.
Valuing education is no bad thing and it’s one of my own biggest values in life, I just wish we could have a bigger definition of what success is to maybe avoid kiddos growing up with the pressure to achieve only to find it may not bring them everything they hoped it would.
In my last post, I talked about one of the reasons school life and work life are so jarringly different. I think this is part of it, too. We go through school with a really clear direction and a clear end-goal: get good grades so you can get a good job.
It’s like completing a level of a game with enough points so you can get to the next one.
The problem is, we find out, that that end goal isn’t guaranteed like we’re led to believe.
My generation really had it hammered into them that we had plenty of opportunity, more than our parents did, and that all we had to do was stick in and work hard and jobs a good ‘un.
Of course, it’s really disturbing when you get out into the big bad world and find that the worldview you’ve developed for your entire life isn’t quite accurate. It’s changed an awful lot even in the time I was at university. When I started, a degree was almost a guarantee of an interview.
Then the recession hit and we started to see a lot more competition for every job from entry level to senior roles and our degrees were, in a lot of cases, not worth the paper they were printed on.
A lot of us have ended up getting jobs out of necessity that we almost certainly could have got without spending and lending thousands and dedicating years to our studies. There isn’t anything wrong with that apart from that it can be quite depressing if you had hopes for other things.
Then again, we also see extremely high expectations for a lot of roles which are increasingly requesting highly specialised experience and qualifications you didn’t even know existed. So, we’re down on our luck there, too.
I mean, for goodness sake, I was scrolling through job listings a few months’ back and read an ad for a dog walker for a family in a nearby village which required the candidates to have a minimum of two years’ formal dog-care experience and relevant qualifications.
Thankfully, we seem to be a resilient and innovative bunch, maybe as a result of the employment situation, I don’t know, and once the initial shock is over, we start to figure out a way through.
I wonder what it’s like for people who are graduating or starting to work these days and if the same message has been drilled into them: to get good grades, get into uni, and get a ‘good job’ as a result?
I certainly hope not but, if it is, let this be a reminder that it doesn’t always work out like that and it’s mostly just a lot of pressure you don’t need on your shoulders.
I would say to anyone of any age to just do a bit of soul-searching, find out what they’re good at and what their interests are and start to build something in those directions, regardless of qualifications and pieces of paper and unfulfilled promises in unstable times.
Even though I like to learn and I’ve genuinely enjoyed my time in academia, I don’t feel my grades necessarily helped me to gain any employment during or after school or uni and I would tell my past self not to rely on those.
I’d tell her to network, follow what she’s interested in even though it may seem disconnected from an end-goal career, and to think twice about what she actually wants from life.
Anyone else get this growing up? This idea that good grades lead to uni which leads to a good job, and it was all just the process of life? Have you questioned that thinking and, if so, how has it influenced your choices now?