Neil hasn’t got back to me. Bradford Outsources’ phones are unmanned. I fear the worst.
The Bradford Outsource interview – Angelica, Sleepy Monobrow, Smirky Bentmouth, Neil, the whole gang – was a distraction devised by some bawdy prince-charming bent on taking Mother to a wine-tasting session and walking her respectfully to her door.
I kid. But Neil was so encouraging and nice that I wondered if I hadn’t maybe been given a break. Some trues:
True: I didn’t know what the job was.
True: it turns out that Bradford Outsource have a truly terrible reputation.
You know you’re on boggy ground when Google suggests ‘scam’ as the word most associated with your company. Apparently their ‘scam’ is to trick graduates, poor worldless graduates, into door to door sales. Can you imagine? Are Graduate schemes all D2D scams? What does a real one look like? I imagine frosted glass acclimatisation booths where graduates sit blinking at the light, sucking lungfuls of oxygen from a mask and watching in disbelief as everyone bustles about the office. “No-one is reading Ulysses”, they say to themselves, “OH FUCK NO-ONE IS READING ULYSSES”.
According to graduatescheme.com they are ‘quite popular with the students’ and ‘one can choose to work with IBM or joint the HM prison’s service scheme’. I hope I was applying for IBM, it’d be the ‘Julie’ debacle all over again at an HMP. Are they perhaps for me, graduate schemes?
In order to meditate more deeply on this and any other prospects that remain viable (and to get out of the house) I attended a careers-meeting with a wonderful woman called Esther. Wonderful Esther’d been handed the CV and had seen through the misanthropy and the self-regard to the scared little boy that I am. She offered to swaddle me in her considerable bosom. I was all for it. We set up an illegal careers meeting. Not illegal because we were learning about how to park on double yellows for a living, illegal because I’d never studied at the university the careers office belonged to and so was in no way entitled to Esther’s time. It was very nice of her to give it to me and THANKS ESTHER.
The last time I considered careers in a formal setting I was locked in a room with a computer. The computer asked innocent seeming questions about what I liked doing and I spent the whole time trying to find a set of answers that didn’t consign a boy to a lifetime of landscape gardening.
The meeting with Esther was considerably less lonely but fell foul of the set-the-goal-pursue-the-goal school of thought that looms large in all enterprises that wrestle with large groups of people who are expected to exercise a sense of autonomy. Esther was very gentle about the whole thing, made sure I knew that I didn’t have to set a goal if I didn’t feel I was ready, that the goals were entirely up to me and could be whatever the hell I wanted them to be. But, true to her training, lovely Esther is from the goal-school and she bent everything we talked about in that direction. This being my experience at the Job Centre and the Future Jobs Fund and now the careers office. I suppose there is a chance that these institutions are right about the whole thing. It is healthy to entertain the possibility, however slight, that they know better than me. What other method can encompass all hopes and dreams so simply? How else are we going to measure our successes?
But and BUT I wouldn’t be a responsible guardian if I pretended I was happy exposing my cherished hopes and dreams to such an old whore of a solution. Some I don’t know that I could admit to without first making 100% sure the straps of the straight-jacket were secure. Some I’m happy to exchange. This one for example: I’d rather like to arrest my slide into the yawning maw of minimum wage jobs foreverandeverandever. That counts as a GOAL right? Do we have a METHOD? Piss about on the internet? Current Result: nada. A graduate scheme then? Perhaps a man could work at a graduate scheme with a measure of dignity.
Technically you’re still a graduate five years after the fact. You’ve a shorter shelf life and you’ve been exposed to the business end of work, probably, and the chances are unless you’re a saint you’re might be a bit jaded and the moisturiser that you’re embarrassed to buy in the first place isn’t doing jack shit to stop your face sliding off your face. But you’re a graduate, and that’s what counts.
What sets a graduate apart from the rest? Lets have a look:
Things I Learned at University
That vinyl sounds better than CD. That just because you feel compelled to tell a girl that you ‘love’ her doesn’t mean that you ‘love’ her, if by ‘love’ you mean that you want to introduce her to your parents. That not many people eat well. That the 90% of philosophy that is abstracted philosophy is 100% masturbatory. That masturbating is something you do more of when you are sad. That if you try to infuse a look with the depthless love you think you feel for a person, that person will say that you are ‘looking at them weird’. What drugs feel like. That the one mood that you most closely identify with yourself is rarely attainable and that, regretfully, every mood is ‘you’. That worrying about whether or not something is ‘just my opinion’ is reductive and boring and a species of passive aggression. That there are some girls that you don’t want to have sex with. That autumn is the season that most mirrors the mind.
Not the most useful lessons for the workplace. What about the natural sense of superiority that a university education infuses you with? I used to work with a fellow called Matthew Took (Burnley bred/strong of arm/thick of head) who took my degree as a personal insult. He thought I thought I was better than him because of it. I didn’t. I thought I was better than him because I wasn’t racist. He could sing like a choir boy, that man. Absolute nightmare. But the old idea that the degree raises you above the common man survives.
Simon rejected my application to be a warehouse shift manager. I asked him why.
Disgusting idea isn’t it? Let’s abandon that one.
A graduate scheme success story: my friend Leonard is an English graduate who went on a graduate scheme and became a successful accountant – the English degree considered a boon by his company, the mark of a ‘rounded individual’ -the ‘analysis, communication and literacy skills gained from a humanities degree [the thing] that sets you apart from the rest’. Leo is not a drone or deeply compromised in a way I can tell and now has a measure of both financial and career freedom. I envy him it.
There seems to be a coming-to-a-point in my friend’s lives where they ‘wise’ up and stop fucking around. Sometimes it passes you by because it isn’t fun and maybe they’re revealing the final scorecards on an episode of Come Dine With Me you can’t work out if you’ve seen before or not, but these points decide lives**. You and I, conspirators, we might call it compromise so that we can file it under phony and not have to think about whether or not we’ll ever do it.
I think Leonard is wise. And that half the problem, my problem, the problem I hope a lot of us have since there’s safety in numbers, is not being able to bear the difference between the real world and the world of books or films or television or the imagination where life breezes by and any work anyone is doing is squarely off-camera, sort of in the way that the most grizzly & terrifying murders happen off-camera. Too horrible to look at. Or where untapped potential remains potentially bottomless and the thought that it possibly could be bottomless is addictive and comforting.
Sometimes we might pretend The-World-of-Work has exclusive rights to the problem of our career and the problem it lives in the language they use and the way human lives are moved about like pawns. tWoW certainly has a bad name but it isn’t to blame for fecklessness or lack of courage.
None but a few nuts love accountancy. I could not love it. I could not love the other jobs but I did them. I thought they asked nothing of me. It’s the temptation – to do something that asks nothing of you lest something is taken away that you didn’t want taken. When, after ten years at work, I got on top of the fact that these jobs were taking something from me then I reacted like you would if you woke up covered in leeches. And I woke up poor.
I’m going to go and apply for some graduate schemes before I run out of cigarettes.
* Bradford Outsource rather playfully suggest in the job description that D2D might be the primary function of graduates:: with a “consumer-focused approach” you will “take the first step”, on your regular “channels of distribution”.
**Not the Come Dine With Me points, I should add.
On to TEN ?