The Career of a Pessimistic English Literature Graduate

Well, I’ve finally made it into a profession I actually wanted to be in. It’s been a long journey and fraught with many a tear and wail. Sometimes it seemed impossible that I would reach the dizzying heights of the (digital) communications world, but I’ve done it – and neglected to blog along the way.

Sorry about that. It’s things like blogging that keep you going; sharing your thoughts with the world, lifting you above tedious (and sometimes humiliating) tasks – the bidding of over-inflated and under-competent senior management members.

It’s a hard place to reach and one you can only get to through being well-connected or extremely committed; supported by eternally generous family and long-suffering friends. I never realised just how important a workplace was or how wrong you can get it, especially when you’re young and desperate for a job, any job.

Interestingly, as ever, job prospects have evolved. I’ve grown up in the era thinking that City bankers and lawyers are some of the most highly-paid and high-profile professions (failing incredible beauty and a talent for acting), whilst being a journalist romances the writer in me. However, the reality is that news journalism is, figuratively speaking, back-breaking work, some jobs that seem glamorous or lucrative might not be as rewarding as Mad Men would have us believe, and hardly anyone reaches the baffling status of people like Justin Bieber or Colin Firth. Read this article for a sobering look at the world of Wall Street (in contrast to the recent DiCaprio film) from a former banker. TV and film have warped our expectations of what we can reasonably expect from a satisfying life.

All those years of higher education are finally worth it, and now I work in higher education as Digital Communications Assistant. To me, this is an amazing job that I have struggled hard to get but to others, it’s probably a little dull and technical (it’s not). Whatever your aspirations are, it’s important to keep going even when it seems like you’ll just never get there. I will never know what it’s like to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher – those professions that immediately jump to mind when a child casts around for typical “grown-up” jobs – unless I make a somewhat unlikely career change.

I suppose I’ll have to revise my goals and give myself something else to strive for; focus on actually being great at the job, for instance. Being an English student is an interesting path, and one that I’m still observing radically different forks within. There are some I know who are making it as journalists, the top prize of the second-tier glamour professions (journalism, broadcasting, advertising, publishing). In case you were wondering, top-tier glamour professions refer to the film, sports, movies and fashion industries. There are internal communications specialists, editorial assistants and jazzy PR professionals. Some fellow English grads have diverged and started forging their way into the related and equally as competitive areas of “the arts” and museums.

According to my 1982 Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word glamour means “bewitching or enchanting”, “magical” in some way, but Google says that it can also mean “an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing.” In this context, I am using it to mean exciting and attractive professions that seem to require little actual drudgery compared to the high levels of recognition and financial reward – though neither are always the case.

Still, hardly anything matches the thrill of seeing your name in print – though this medium is clearly dying out. That’s okay, because in a few years I’ll have a vast knowledge of digital communications under my belt, a rapidly developing field (sometimes mysteriously known as “new media”) that emerged with the internet explosion a few years back. Social media, websites, e-comms and tinkering with HTML will all be things that I can be quietly proficient in.

I think it’s important to challenge preconceptions, and maybe there are amazing careers that I haven’t even thought of. Hardly anyone wants to work in engineering or manufacturing, but apparently this is the industry to watch. If you ever thought being a B n’ B owner would be dripping in glamour, check out this website to find out why it’s not. The working world is more complex and alluring than I ever suspected it might be; even accounting for my previously rock-bottom expectations.

I’m pleased and I’m proud; I hope to revel in these sensations for a while, though I’m not really sure if communications can be described as glamorous. One thing that is true, is that the buzz still hasn’t worn off when people actually ask me for ideas about projects that are interesting. It’s funny to think that I could (or would) not imagine post-university life before I lived it, like some dark abyss beyond the reach of sanity.

Well, here we are, and it’s looking good.


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