Last week my friend tagged me in a humorous post on Instagram. It's a fairly usual occurrence, probably - and more honestly - a daily one. But this time it really hit home. Posted by @jimmyhendrixjr, it read 'Trump can run for president with no political experience but I need a masters and 5 years experience for an entry level job.' It made me laugh. Actually out loud. Before the reality behind the message fully dawned on me, and made me want to wail.
In a world where the misogynist, bigoted, ineloquent buffoon that is Donald Trump could seriously be in with a chance of landing himself the head seat at the world's political table, you have to stop and wonder: how did we get here? How is this man a legitimate potential world leader? And if he is that (shudder), why on earth is it so hard for the rest of us to obtain comparatively marginal roles in the real world?
Now, I could easily cast some pretty wide aspersions here...and I probably will. For some, getting a job was easy. They knew someone, got a lucky break out of Uni and then charged ahead. But I know that for many of my fellow graduates and friends, finding a job that adequately reflects the time, money and sweat spent on achieving academic success is by all accounts harder than it might ever have been to actually just DO the coveted job in the first place.
And you might well be thinking 'AH! But real world work experience trumps a long, humdrum list of A levels and degrees any day.' To this I answer yes, correct. That is why we have all signed up to work many an hour, for very little pay, doing what can only be described as actual salary-worthy work, under the ruse of a CV-building, experience-honing 'internship'. Where has it got us? Back round to Stage 1 of the vicious circle that is the 'getting a job' wheel - You need more experience.
Speaking anecdotally, this seems to be the case most especially for those of us who have not always known exactly what it is we want to do in life. I envy the bright-faced grad who hits all the prospective employee's criteria because they have been building to this point since the very moment they shed their last Pamper. I applaud them, really. Because in a system where you essentially have to decide your whole, sprawling future when you choose your A levels, it's truly staggeringly good luck if you actually get it right. I fear this might be rare, however.
I have worked one way or another since I was 13, when I started sweeping up hair every Saturday so I could feed my cringe-worthy, Tammy girl t-shirt habit. I have an Undergraduate degree, a Masters from a prestigious London University and a reasonably extensive list of real life work experience. I consume books in droves, keep up to date with world developments and am also not a complete social pariah. And yet...make one mistake, like being born without an innate knowledge of your life's calling, and you're screwed. My mistake was a graduate diploma in law, and it's following me in my pursuit of a creative career path like bad press follows Trump's presidential campaign.
So Trump can suddenly decide to lead a G7 country at the drop of a terrible toupee, but industrious, diligent young people who genuinely want to work hard and succeed, struggle. This is also true of many mothers returning to work after a child-rearing 'break'. Daily, we are reduced to a list of futile bullet points, and if you can't fulfil just one of those bullet points, you may as well give up now. Long gone are the days where you might actually meet someone and present yourself to make a real impression, or worse still, where you might have the chance to actually learn this missing bullet point on the job. Chaos would surely ensue...
Now, I love books as much as the next English graduate with a Waterstones club card, but even I know that people cannot always be comprehensively understood from a piece of paper or reductive application form. People are people, with complex lives and stories to tell. Maybe they weren't brought into the world wanting to be an (insert job title here), but they may just have it in them to make a bloody good go of it anyway.
Today more than ever there is a call for a connected world where we appreciate artisanal, original and creative ideas. The smaller the brand the better as it means there are real faces behind it who care about what they do; the more honest a blog post the better because we want to know the truth of peoples' experiences. Why, then, can we not afford job searchers that same luxury of being real people, not automatons with exactly and precisely the history recruiters are looking for? Someone who has tried other roles and thus eliminated them might even be a better, more accomplished and well-rounded candidate...but at the very least they're certainly worth a 10-minute conversation to find out.