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There's a tradition at my university called Halfway Hall. It's rather self-explanatory. Exactly halfway through their degrees, on the very middle day of the very middle term of the very middle year, second years sit down to a meal together to 'celebrate' surviving the ordeal of university thus far and to hype themselves up for the same ordeal all over again, but this time with finals. Which consists, as you can probably guess, of eating too fast and drinking too much, followed by lots of day-rueing for many tomorrows after.
But it's around this time that many pairs of itchy panic-stricken feet begin to high-tail it down to the Careers Service in a desperate attempt to find an answer to The Million Dollar Question: what am I going to do with my life? More often than not, possessors of itchy feet then find themselves face-to-face with a rather beleaguered adviser who looks like they'd really rather be anywhere other than here. And then they're asked The Two-Million Dollar Question, "Well, what do you want to do?" If I knew that, you silently scream, I wouldn't be here. I'd be… you know. Doing it. Why else would I be studying English Lit?
Mostly, I find, when people have no idea what they want to do, they have quite a good idea of what they don't want to do. And this intricate theorem has been formed over many separate (one) experiments (conversation) in a professional laboratory (the pub). "I suppose rather not be stuck behind a desk all day," says one friend, conveniently ignoring the library desk she made her permanent residence in the wake of a recent essay crisis. Another demonstrates his charitable, giving spirit by vetoing any job involving engagement with children, animals or ill people. "I just know for a fact that I would die in any legal career," chips in another, looking up from a battered International Law textbook.
These definite no-go areas are followed by some nicely vague abstractions. Travel would be nice. A chance to use my languages. Something creative? Something stimulating, definitely. Ideally something that involved a pay-slip. Then again, given the distinctly murky outlook for graduate employment next year, maybe we'd just take the pay slip. Any pay slip, never mind the job. Then all subjects tend to end the experiment slowly shredding beer mats before trundling home and moaning weakly into their pillows.
I'm taking a slightly different approach. Yes, we are a generation without prospects, as the headlines insist on reminding us. But, onwards and upwards. Take a look around you. Opportunities are everywhere, but we just need to dredge them up. Slapping on some make up to hide post "science experiment" dark circles, I noticed that my nondescript beigey-browny eyeshadow goes by the name of 'Wheatsheaf'. An equally insipid hue in my very limited colour palette is 'Cappucino'. I find a nail varnish that is not pink, but 'Sorbet'. This is clearly excellent and obviously fun. Who does this job? How do I get it? I shall be the person who thinks up exciting names for boring shades of make up while travelling and speaking different languages, accompanied by a distinct lack of offices or farm animals. And then I will open up my own Careers Service and disseminate answers and joy.
Or we could wait for the Government to tackle the real problem head on. And in the mean time, perhaps, we can go back to shredding our beer mats.