Shit, I’m Unemployed!

It’s third year, you’ve got no money and no prospects. Becoming an astronaut was only an option when you were six. ISOBEL PRITCHARD is thinking of a way out.

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There is a very lovely little land called University.

You go there for three years and all your worries disappear. It is a happy world of oblivious frivolity, where wine is the only cause of a headache. Where food, friends and fun are all found just down the corridor. Where one can watch bunny rabbits and ducks quacking around from the bedroom window. A beautiful bubble where dreams are made. Sounds a little like the Moomins theme tune. Until the bogey man came along with a big fat pin. Shit, I’m a third year.

I imagined the bubble would happily float over the horizon to the Big City at the end of third year. Surely that is what you do with your sparklingly new Cambridge degree? In this little idyll would be all my graduate friends, all with high flying careers; we would continue to live blissfully, serenely and securely.  We would have a little flat somewhere quite central but still suitably edgy. We would meet after work for drinks at our local, have coffee mornings and hold dinner parties where we would wear our old college gowns as an ironic nod to our undergraduate larks. The social whirl of university would not stop in my twenties, it would just mature. I could buy my own furniture and put up artwork with real hooks rather than blue tack. I could even get some coy carp.

Admit it; we all get a little carried away. Married by thirty? Kids by thirty-five. Planning to be in retirement bliss by the time I’m sixty. And then you remember. The economy is fucked. You are an arts student entirely lacking vocational direction. The Moomins theme tune has become a solitary riff on a rusty harmonica.

‘Don’t worry darling, we have absolutely no expectations of you’. I try to take comfort from my Mother’s reassuring words. But whilst my failure in the job market would obviously not shock them, I still have expectations of me. I want to succeed, as do we all. But no job means no money and no flat. Which means going home. One in four men and one in six women in their twenties now live with their parents. I don’t think I am alone in saying that the prospect of returning to an empty nest does not fill me with enthusiasm.

What is worse is that I feel decidedly out of the loop. Whilst I have been watching bunny rabbits it seems that other people have been applying for internships. Whilst I have been enjoying 2for1 Dominoes on a Tuesday night, other people have been schmoozing bankers in Hotel du Vin. One by one my friends disappear for interviews in London. The banker, the lawyer and the teacher have it all sorted. Deadlines are fast approaching. The clock is ticking. And indecisive little me is shitting myself.

I ring up the Careers Service and express a mild interest in journalism. ‘You didn’t go to the Journalism talk last week?’ the lady on the line says incredulously and highly unhelpfully. I begin to write a CV. A festival of pretention and ego. And if I can’t bear myself, why would any right-minded employer want to bear me either?  Perhaps my trouble-free University World has actually treated me unkindly. In the midst of the cotton wool and beautiful rainbows, I expected some helping hand to tell me what to do next. I was naively waiting for the ‘Cambridge Life God’. An expectation that I don’t think will be fulfilled by the Careers Service.

I know I am not alone in my confusion. But the fact still stands that 95% of students from the University of Cambridge still head into employment or post-graduate study. Where do they all go? Maybe they don’t go at all. Maybe they are just still here. The dark fog of confusion and torment which has been clouding my mind suddenly clears.

A new and beautiful vision appears on the horizon: a world of comfy armchairs, the musty smell of books, a cup of tea and biscuits. A Masters it is then. Unemployment can wait until next year.