Words || Lina MacGregor
I’m in my final year at university and within four years I’ve switched between three majors, two degrees and, in between procrastination, volunteered to intern for several completely unrelated events and organisations. I’ve dabbled in art classes, screenwriting, and fashion design, and have recently considered starting up some kind of bagel café.
Jack of all trades though it may seem, I’ve still managed to Google-scholar my way through political science essays, maintain a credit/distinction average; all while rushing home from tutorials to skull a shot then bounce into the club. There, I’ll drink and dance and hope to forget that I do not know what it is that I want to do with my life.
This sounds very melodramatic considering I’ve learnt a lot and I’m doing alright at uni, but nonetheless there is a looming anxiety whenever I’m asked by friends, family, even in job interviews: “so, what career path do you see yourself taking?”
Just last week at a peaceful luncheon with my mum and grandparents, I found myself desperately defending my dignity against an assault of questions about my ‘future’; which, according to my grandfather, is looking very disappointing. From where he sits, the fact that I, unlike him, have not managed to immerse myself into a specific professional arena such as law or politics, I will never find success or happiness.
When I declare I wouldn’t mind circulating the hospitality industry as a waitress, travelling and volunteering abroad in between, I am shunned with “but that’s not a real job, Lina.”
But, what is a real job? What is the scaffold for a modern day career? Is the long-term, industry-specific career the path for young millennials anymore?
None of this stress is alleviated by both my parents, who lead highly successful careers – my mum is an academic and always engaged in some kind of editing process, while my dad is a journalist and radio producer.
The typical narrative – à la every ‘chick-flick’ and identity film – is made up of completing one’s degree while juggling an internship, then somehow managing to slide straight on into full-time employment. From what I’ve gathered, you stay there until you achieve self-acceptance, security and a stable income. For me, and many others of my generation, this simply isn’t the reality.
LinkedIn recently uncovered that those graduating between 1986-1990 “averaged about two job changes in their first 10 years out of college”, yet the typical millennial graduate will have jumped between entirely different industries. Recent studies suggest that “the new normal” will be four job changes by the time you are thirty-two.
The ability to feel secure in the workforce, something the Coalition government decry, isn’t realistic. So, what does this mean for indecisive and career-anxious individuals like myself? Well basically, the greater and broader your experiences, the more insight and perspective you have to offer to employers.
The expectation is not to gain skills in the one place, but to structure one’s career around the skills and lessons learnt in different companies or organisations. Instead of climbing the rungs of a single institution, you’re more likely to either lose your job or have to find another one, and elevate in position and rank as you go.
We are also entering an increasingly entrepreneurially-structured working world and our generation boasts the journey of the ‘self-made/self-starter’. Millennials are seriously profiting on their hobbies in makeup, cooking and fitness tutorials. The importance of initiative and creative independence are stronger than ever and professions or studies that once guaranteed open doors now require us not necessarily to get a job but to MAKE one.
Art and Design degrees used to present graduates with a clear position in the workforce, but now with cuts to the arts and diminishing job opportunities, one has to think like Beyoncé, get in formation and work it out on your own – or perhaps alongside others with similar and diverse skill sets.
There’s more opportunity and more choice than ever before – in the privileged West that is – however this choice is often the reason for our aimlessness and indecision. If you’re anything like me and enjoy undertaking new tasks, hobbies and taking active (sometimes sideways) steps towards uncovering what it is you might want to do, then don’t dismay. Your resume will depict willingness to undertake new tasks, to be insightful, have persistence and passion.
There’s no guarantee any of us will ever be able to pull ourselves out of constant debt and periods of unemployment, however those that have proved most successful in maintaining a steady income are those savvy enough to take the steps to capitalise on what makes them happy and what makes them different. That is, turning their hobbies and personal experiences, into foundations for self-directed careers.
I’m studying a BA in International Relations and Modern History, however I’ve recently joined forces with those in the entertainment industry to organise an event which would celebrate women in our music industry. At first glance my degree does not seem compatible to production and entertainment but it is; my degree highlights the importance of grassroots activism – that in order to direct a government or society towards equality, one has to start from the ground up – which is why I’ve involved myself in a feminist organisation that seeks to make a larger space for women in an industry that is dominated and directed by the male voice and gaze.
As someone with a specialisation in the political and historical studies and an interest in the art and entertainment industries, I might pair these together to form a career of my own making – could I see myself working to develop marketing strategies for say my women in music event by using image or video footage from historical archives to stage our agenda? Or perhaps I might use my awareness of the changing political climate and political rhetoric to round up supporters in government for our cause? I could even look at a hobby like makeup art, pair it with my interest in philanthropy and my historical studies, and begin working as a makeup artist in a non-for-profit theatre.
Really what I’m getting at here is that you can be anything, you can do anything – you just have to get out there and give it what you’ve got.