Graduation is liberating.
You finally gain control over where you’re headed, how fast you go there, and which friends you leave behind forever (peace, Joe Casciaro!).
To figure out what you want from these decisions you have to make like you do in the shower and self-examine. Cradle, cup and caress yourself. This isn’t something to be touched upon lightly.
I myself have found a lump – a lump of harsh truths. Only now, in the solemn wake of completing an arts degree (well, a Bachelor of Journalism…but a BJ is an artform), do I see how ineffective that degree will be at establishing me in the workplace of my greatest dreams, or even just my average “Why does grandma have a jetpack?” dreams. It’s not to say I feel held back, I just feel on par with everyone else. Was more than $20,000 in tuition spent on a distinction in mediocrity? (I got honours!)
It’s a bleak question and I feel bad for asking. I’ve seen enough inspirational movies to know somewhere there’s an impoverished man who would drop to his knees in crying slow-mo euphoria because he got his university degree. Likely an idyllic Puerto Rican with nine siblings, no father and a dream. As he cries rain would pour from the heavens exposing his tattoos and impressive build through his soaking wifebeater. You know, symbolizing the harshness of his turbulent past and furthering the stereotype that Puerto Ricans wear wifebeaters to everything, even graduations. Epic.
But the world is not sensitive to this fictional man. Probably because he is fictional. Instead, the rampant question is the aforementioned one about the efficacy of our degrees. Many blogs and articles have wrestled with that query, and they do it well. It’s not going to be what I talk about in this blog; I just need to set the stage for my tangent. I am making like an undetected cancerous lump and standing out!
What I want to discuss is less how working professionals perceive us (which is what all the worry is about), but about how, in this epidemic of unsure paths, I am starting to perceive them. Yep. I’m turning the tables — just like how Jesus angrily flipped over merchants’ tables at the synagogue because he was unemployed.
Once we enter the workforce, whoever holds that prestigious job in your field is who you are supposed to revere. As much as you’re told to be unique, you even have to model yourself after this king/queen of the hill because he/she is the success story. This doesn’t just apply to jobs predicated by artsy fartsy degrees like my own — which are called artsy fartsy because a waft of fart gets you a pass — it applies to all disciplines.
But how many of these peoples’ success stories are similar to what ours could be? Any established pro with that elite job ascended the ranks well before the recession and probably before the internet – when combined, easily the two most destructive influences on the corporate, large-sized, high-paying workplace. Outside of terrorists and hippies, of course.
I’ll make like Harper’s good twin (because he’s the evil twin) and explain that further. The breadth of computers and the internet has allowed workers to become multi-capable in ways previously unimaginable. In a thriving economy, it’s a beautiful thing. But in a recession, it justifies massive downsizing. In the environment of shrinking businesses, you need to possess more skills than anyone ever had while being willing to take less pay for it. In other words, the smaller it is, the more multi-talented you have to be, and you’ll still get less credit for it. It’s a common reality, really…
If we thought the baby boomers hadn’t fucked us up enough with their oil, global warming and perpetual warfare, the recession did happen. Many jobs disappeared, and the ones that stayed got exponentially more stressful. But we carry on and respect our elders. It’s like what I always say, you can default on your mortgage but you can’t default on love. :)
If companies weren’t throwing around cash like Diddy Dirty Money before, it certainly isn’t happening now. Entry level jobs are sparse, and getting anything higher is like winning a really depressing lottery. What’s aggravating these matters is that the baby boomers aren’t retiring. Because of the recession, those old suits with already sizeable pensions figure it’ll take five extra years of fulltime to afford that lakefront retirement cottage in the Muskokas. Check yourself old people! Every 20-something has to pinch pennies to afford the gas up to Wasaga – our proud seabed of drunken teenagers; and as we graduate and realize this debt, Diddy Dirty Money isn’t the only one who’s “Coming Home”.
Now tell me, how does this famine compare to the advice we get from these pros we’re supposed to emulate? Their ‘how I got started’ stories involve so much ease you’d think they got their degrees in lubrication. Hell, some of the best in the business didn’t even need degrees to get hired.
It’s something you’d never hear today: Being allowed to slide your way into your company lube free. Then, once you were in, you were in. The business had room for you to grow large within it. It wanted you to do it. Your package of benefits expanded like the endless economy and you built life in this fertile oasis. Yeah, you worked up a sweat and pulled some creative moves – enough to feel proud and like you deserve the great climax of your career – but it was smooth. So many conditions were just right.
Look around. Our generation’s career climate is a desert. Companies offer opportunity as a mirage; there are too few spots to handle everyone. This isn’t a plea for pity, but an appraisal of the footsteps we are told to follow. And these old footsteps are on an entirely different beach, kind of like comparing those of Muskoka to those of Wasaga.
I’m not chastising those who came before us for taking advantage of a good, virginal situation. We all would have done the same. I’m just trying to combat the shriveling insecurity graduates face when they try to imagine how they’ll get the job done. The accolades of yesterday are not comparable to the ones of today. It’s like a guy bragging about how often he got laid in the ‘70s. We all could have been sex machines if we weren’t worried about AIDS! Definitely think about that every time you look at an esteemed professional.
So keep your head up, work hard and remember that you’re spending years as someone’s underpaid aid because the rest of the world has AIDS. Good luck everyone.
Uhh. Wait, that’s an awful moral. What else can we take from this?
Just don’t be intimidated by the elites of your workplace. They may strut around with an attitude like they’ve done it all, but in your shoes they’d be even more clueless than you. These years will be ones that earn us more character than savings, but if you do move up it will be unprecedentedly well earned.
Alternatively, if you fail to ascend the corporate ladder and instead realize in 2020 you got lost in the abyss of this 21st Century jobforce quagmire, just go back to the basics of your university graduation. You’re still completely free; liberty is still yours. Yeah, remember that and hold it close. Then call up those friends you told to fuck off and ask if they know anyone who’s hiring.
Love you, Joe.