I completed a compulsory non-credit course on career planning for my Politics degree, assessed by a reflective essay on steps we would take towards our desired careers. I decided to be honest. I was extremely disheartened by this course, I said. Despite what everyone may say, I am not here solely to gain a job but to gain knowledge of the world and thus what my part within it must be. More worrying was its compliance with the obsessive neo-liberal supply-side focus of employment, the assumption that those who work hard will succeed. This is a dangerous lie.
As a student I know my greatest boost on the career ladder will be an unpaid internship. That it will be a great opportunity for me to be hired by an institution, for free. We are continuously fed rhetoric that further education is a worthwhile investment, while the government fails to invest in secure employment but continues to invest in war and climate change. Similar to Edinburgh University actually. Society thinks we are naïve, inexperienced, foolish and ‘radical’ for getting angry at the system. But I live in hope that, if we demand change as a generation, change will come.
As a woman, I will be faced with a 14.2 per cent pay gap in the UK, despite the Equal Pay Act having been introduced more than forty years ago. Occupational segregation, the devaluation of jobs primarily associated with female labour, and the continuous disregard for unpaid domestic and caring work predominantly carried out by women. It will take the world 118 years to close this economic gap. By which time we will be dead. But we will not be silenced.
As an Arts student I am well aware of how society views my degree. How ironic that the very subjects which critique society in order to try and understand and improve it are not valued. It is almost as if there has been a cunning effort to repress their existence by those in power who do not want the system to change. But we will not be silenced.
This is also closely linked to the type of employment society values. It is not coincidental that more than half of the top paid jobs within the UK for 2015 all included finance of some sort. As if ‘caring’ for money deserves more value than caring for people. The course barely even mentions ethical employment directly, instead prioritising profit over all else.
Furthermore, I am fully aware of my privileged position, that there are those who are systematically discriminated over class, race, sexuality, disability, gender, religion, ethnicity, the continuous exploitation of the global south by the global north. I stand in solidarity and we will not be silenced.
So, career planning course, I know you were only trying to help but we are already fully aware of the fact that we need to keep building our CVs and gaining work experience and studying hard and thinking about the future and planning our careers and combatting stress as if it is somehow our fault. As if any of this is our fault. Therefore perhaps your time could be better spent educating government about the structural issues of employment and the ridiculousness of this situation. Or perhaps as an institution the university could begin by providing enough ethical employment and paid internships so that we are not aggressively competing with each other.
I know they may fail me for this exercise but I needed to be honest. You can try and trick others but you will never trick me into believing that the only thing that has to improve about this system is me. And I will not be silenced.
Image credit: Keoni Cabral