Recently I read this in The Pool, that really spoke to me and then I cried. I can imagine the issues raised will speak to many, a conversation we certainly need to have more of. I, like many other people, have been scouring job sites since I got home from a fabulous New Year, wondering “what next?” “what now?” and “where do I go?” My contract for my current job runs out in April so this job hunt feels all the more pertinent. A New Year brings up all sorts of questions and memories, and as much as I try to ignore the screams from the media to “live a better life,” sometimes it’s hard not to. I accept that I’m part of many of us who, come January, start to do a bit of soul searching. It never gets me very far and every year I seem to have the same questions, that to date remain unanswered.
Last month I Turned 30 and as much I’m pleased to finally be in this decade, that it seems I’ve waited forever to be part of, I can’t help thinking that my 20’s could have been better spent building a career or building an “anything.” I then remember that, bereavement, mental health and other difficulties are good enough reasons to be where I am now. I’m not in the same place as the head girl of my old secondary school and that is absolutely okay. There is pressure to know exactly what you want to do as soon as you leave school, to map your life out and then by 30 you anticipate having everything sorted. I literally know no one whose reality is this. Most people don’t feel settled until they hit 40, and even then it’s questionable.
Much of this uncertainly in modern life is down to the lack of full time, permenant jobs, that offer progression and loyalty to an organisation. My parents generation were able to get a job in their 20’s that was for life, but now this is virtually unheard of. It is the norm to have two, three, four part time jobs, with colleagues you barely get to know. This week I’ve only seen jobs advertised on temporary contacts, some being under two years, meaning that planning anything long term becomes virtually impossible. Sessional work (as much of my work has been recently) makes it only possible to plan day by day, rather than by months or years. Sessional work should also not be A Thing because it simply makes it impossible to live unless you have support, and provides more uncertainty than anyone should have to deal with at once. Sessional work is almost an open door to discrimination, as I recently experienced, you have few rights and because of the uncertainty of these contracts, many people fear speaking up and complaining, and rightly so. Losing a job hurts and makes you question if you really are good enough. Spoiler: you are. It’s just these contracts that aren’t. More people are now relying on food banks because of sessional work and 0 hours contracts. This is just wrong and should not be happening in 2019. I’m a trained youth worker, of which jobs are often underpaid so my skills are very much devalued. A union rep recently made the comparison that I could earn more stacking shelves in Asda than in a job I recently had, which really put it into perspective. For those of us who can’t get a job to “get by” and our skills lie elsewhere, either in writing or with people leaves us no option but to plough through, and I’m grateful to have had family support to be able to do that, I know many people don’t have this option.
Society is built for my parents generation in many ways, assuming that by 30 you’ll be well on your way with your career. Most schemes or programmes stop at 30, and accessing support becomes harder. Finally feeling “too old” is an incredibly odd feeling, when I’ve had access to and benefitted from young peoples schemes in the past. A couple of years ago I explored the career change option, as youth services were being cut and job prospects seemed to be evaporating. I’ve always been good at writing so I trained as a journalist, a year that on the whole I loved and gave me the chance to be interviewed by the Guardian. I didn’t get the job, but at least I got to visit another shiny building in London. After my degree I quickly realised that I just don’t have the experience to progress, most opportunities were unpaid internships and voluntary positions with expenses, both of which were not options for me, if I wanted to remain a functioning human being whilst exploring this “career change.” I felt that if I’d made the decision to do Journalism a few years previously, and I was only 28 at the time, I’d be in a much better position now. I’ve had two appointments with careers advisors in my life, one when I was 16 who told me that I shouldn’t do an English degree and another with a university advisor post second MA whose sole advice was “use Linkedin”, both meetings were as unhelpful as the other. There is then very little advice about becoming self employed, those of us who consider it, often vote against the idea because it seems too complicated. And those that do become self employed because they have no other option, find things out the hard way. There should be scope for proper careers advice for the over 30’s who have more life experience than 20 somethings, but are feeling a bit lost about what to do next. I can list several people who would jump at the chance to have this opportunity, finding advice better than the careers advisor telling me that LinkedIn is the answer to all of my questions, is hard, but something that would be incredibly valuable. Working it out as we go along is what most of us have to do, as evidenced by my jumping from degree to degree and university to university, without much of a plan other than “I must pass this degree”.
I’m not one for making New Years resolutions, partly because I don’t want the pressure to stick to something and then the guilt of not seeing it through. This may also harp back to feeling unhappy about myself, and highlighting something to change about me intensifies historical feelings of not being good enough, that I’ve dealt with for most of my life. A friend recently asked me the resolution question, and I said: “take more time out for myself to do nice things,” which I think is a healthy goal to try and stick to when you’ve been in recovery from years of anxiety and depression and crap. I’ll report back on the “nice things” I’m sure, which is a challenge when believing I deserve nice things has been a difficult one to get my head around.
January will affect us all, as we try to live up to our own or other peoples expectations. It’s hit me more than I’d expected this year partly because I’m in my 30’s now, and have no plan other than eating left over Christmas Chocolate Orange tomorrow, which is probably the best kind of plan. Facebook ads selling online dating or online making anything about you better are unhelpful for this time of year (or any time) and I’d rather sit in a bath of beans than do anything they suggest I do. This whole #NewYearNewMe thing is rubbish. What if I am perfectly happy with the current me? Is that acceptable too? It bloody well should be.
We’re all working it out together really, something that makes me feel all the more better for entering 2019.
Happy New Year.