Monday, 30 January 2012

Creative chaos and career conversations

After the usual website trawls for job vacancies to apply for, today I will now mostly be making cards. And jewellery. And gift tokens. Not just to keep my jobless self busy - I do actually enjoy all this crafty creativity, but also I've been commissioned to make the goodies. I also want to make some extra samples to put on the website and Etsy shop that I'm in the middle of setting up.  As a result, my desk is a little- shall we say- busy? If there was an award for desk which most closely resembles a Blue Peter make it special, I'd be collecting my badge right now! Card count so far = 3. Not my most productive day so far, but they were very unusual personalised ones so they took a lot of work. Honest!

But I can't stop thinking about the conversation I had this morning. In the midst of my cutting, sticking and glittering spree, my phone rings. I answer to discover it's one of the recruitment agencies I'd contacted last week who wanted to have a more detailed chat. I've already spoken to and met with a few reps from other recruitment agencies and found them all to be on the ball, polite, full of ideas, and actually quite helpful. Today's caller? Not so much.

Firstly, she wanted me to talk her through my CV. Which she'd left in the other office. Then she called me the wrong name. Twice. Then she asked what I'd be interested in doing next. I explained that I loved the kind of work I do, and that I'd be interested in doing similar work, in the same sector or perhaps in a different sector and indicated that I was also keen to look at comms or marketing roles in the NFP (not for profit) world. There followed a silence. A long silence. Eventually, she gave her response to this: "Seriously? At your age? Don't you think you've moved on from that?"

I asked her what she meant, and she said that people of my age and at this stage in my career, working outside the corporate world amounted to career suicide. "I mean, most people get this idealistic thing out of the way at uni or in their gap years," she said. "Then they get over it, get real and get proper jobs."

Now, I'm assuming she may be fairly young or inexperienced - firstly if she was more experienced, she probably would have put this a bit differently, in perhaps a less confrontational manner.

Secondly, she should really acknowledge that there is some kick-ass Marcomms work being done in the NFP market. Really clever, innovative and user-centric campaigns and materials, in an environment that can sometimes offer a lot more freedom than the often more locked down, corporate world. So it does have a lot to offer for someone looking to do real creative work.

She did make me think though. I know in the past when I'd mentioned to acquaintances that I'd perhaps like to work for a charity or a community organisation, they looked at me with puzzlement. They questioned why, with the lower pay? The lower profile? The lack of career opportunities? Was I some weird do-gooder?

It seems that if a teenager or student or recent graduate is passionate and cares about a cause or charity, it's tolerated in a 'they'll get over it' way. It's expected that they do an internship, do a gap year volunteering, do something temporary and then get back to 'real life'. As if caring is a temporary madness; one that stops when you become a proper grown up.

Don't get me wrong, I left my teenage idealism back in uni with my Grolsch-bottle-top-adorned DMs, my purple hair streaks and my youthful conviction that I was going to marry Rob Lowe. I understand the world a lot more than I did then, I understand the complexities of economy and politics, and I know about the practicalities of living life. I left my impractical idealism behind, but I didn't stop caring.

I'm not saying I'm against the corporate world. Far from it. I need to find a job that is interesting, gives me challenges and allows me to learn new skills, and also that brings home the bacon. (I'm a vegetarian - should that be bring home the vegeburgers?!) If that same role also happens to be working in a charity or cause that makes a positive difference to my small part of the world, all the better. It's highly likely that my next job will not be in the NFP sector, simply because there aren't that many roles around that will fit me.

All I was trying to tell that recruitment consultant is that I was interested in those kind of roles too and would consider them alongside everything else. Her reaction that working in that sector was immature or career suicide really shocked me. Apparently, she believes there is an age limit to caring!

Ok, rant over. Back to the glitter.

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