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Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't put your daughter in the meeja, Mrs Worthington

At this time of year I get more emails than ever from young people either looking for work experience, sixth formers wondering what A levels they should do if they want to be a star journalist or graduates who are wondering if we have any staff vacancies for young writers ("I am enthusiastic about all kinds of music, movies and contemporary culture, well-motivated and good at working as part of a team". This makes me wonder if they have any sense of what kind of "team" works on a monthly magazine and what they all do.)

It was never easy to know how to respond to this kind of enquiry in the past. Nowadays it's impossible. I turn down requests to address students because I can't think of any experience I could draw upon that might be of any use to a person making a start in the turbulence of today. Other than, are you really too late to think about doing something else? The sort of things you might have told people in the past – start as a freelance contributor, be available for holiday relief and if you're very lucky you might get a staff job - no longer apply. I have a fuzzy sense that young people would be better off if they developed a more entrepreneurial mind set and started aiming beyond the reviews section of the NME but I don't know how to tell them to go about it.

This generation, who have been the victims of "education, education, education" and have grown up being told that they could be anything they wanted to be, are finding that this is anything but the case. Among the twenty somethings I meet there's a palpable sense of betrayal. I wonder if we're seeing the trend of the 80s reversed. During that decade people who'd been prepared for quite mundane jobs and professions found themselves hitching a ride on the economy into an altogether more glamorous milieu. Hardly any of the people I worked with in those days had trained to do the job they ended up doing but there were more jobs than there were good people to fill them. In response to this surge, billions of pounds were then pumped into training people to take their place in Britain's allegedly booming creative economy. Now we find ourselves with all these people being unleashed into the market at the exact point that the creative economy has slammed on the brakes.

We're already starting to see the 80s trend in reverse. The people who have been trained for the glamour jobs are taking whatever there is, no matter how mundane. There's nothing wrong with mundane, of course, unless you've been raised to expect something altogether different.