So you’ve just graduated from University, shook the chancellor’s hand, taken pictures with your ‘diploma’ (spoiler alert, its actually just a plastic tube) and you’re hit with the sudden realisation that you have no idea what you want to do with your life – despite the extortionate amount of money that has just gone into obtaining a piece of paper and a couple of letters at the end of your name.
So you do what anyone else would do, move back home and scramble to get a job; any job. You’re in a slightly luckier position than most as you spent your Summers working in an office, which for one reason or another is ‘appealing’ to recruiters. You land yourself a nice cushy civil servant role, the pay is pretty damn comfortable because you’re classed as a ‘graduate’. You get along with your colleagues, the work is relatively interesting but, as you watch the friends that didn’t choose to go to University for the last three years slowly climbing up their career ladders, you know that you need that too. You look at your university peers who are battling for the jobs that their degrees actually relate to, seeing them get rejection after rejection due to lack of experience. Maybe this civil servant role isn’t that bad? Then BAM your partner of three years, the one who procrastinated course assignments and binged fast food with you, lands the job. The job that their degree relates too. The one that they’ve spent half their life dreaming about. The job that starts their career; but there’s a catch and a big one at that, it’s in a different country.
Three years is a long time and when you’ve invested that amount of time you don’t really want to let it go. So you choose to move with your partner, after all, it’s not like you have a career to hold you down and just like that the job hunt starts again but this time it’s like you’ve moved the difficult level from ‘normal’ to ‘expert’. Getting a job in London is a completely different game, there is no more ‘hire’ just because you have a degree and some ‘office’ experience, that degree has to be relevant and that ‘office’ experience might as well be ‘ice cream stall’ experience for what its worth in this battle. You have to tweak and prime your CV for each and every application. It’s an exhausting process and after hundreds of rejections and even more non-responses, you settle for another careerless ‘9-5’.
This job is worse than your first. The work is mind-numbingly dull, the pay is poor and your colleagues try to get through the day with as little interaction with each other as humanly possible. You have spent too much time and money to give up on it all now though and you also have that pesky CV gap from your incredibly smart decision to relocate with no job secured. So you are faced with a decision to make and little time to decide. You start taking career quizzes, hoping that some formula will tell you what you should be doing with your life. You try to remember all the parts you like about your previous role from your coffee job when you were 16, the job at your dad’s office during the summers and that civil servant role that you very almost settled for. There’s only one that stands out. The people.
That’s when it dawned on me, I started to look further into everyone around me who actually enjoy their jobs and those who did not and I realised the pattern. It was never just the passion for the role that gave them drive but it was the atmosphere, their colleagues and the opportunities presented. My partner’s work gave huge investment to their employees in the ways of generous benefits packages, transparent progression plans and a huge emphasis on socialising with each other. I started to question why people move jobs in the first place, of course, sometimes relocation, headhunting and change of direction come into play, but more often than not they just didn’t enjoy their workplace. They didn’t feel valued. They didn’t feel safe. They didn’t feel happy.
It is impossible for everyone to secure the career of their dreams and its foolish to think that everyone wants to work hard to achieve that role, regardless of this though everyone should at the very least be able to gain some kind of enjoyment from their job and for that to be achieved that responsibility belongs to the employer, specifically the HR (or People & Culture) team. I wanted that responsibility. I wanted to be part of the team that makes the workplace safe, comfortable and welcoming. I wanted to be the person who fights for the ‘little’ guy. I wanted to be the person who makes someone’s job more than just a job.