Sunday, 29 January 2012

"Why don't you just move back in with your parents?"

The graduate/Young Adult With No Kids demographic is being somewhat ignored in the debates over housing benefit caps. To be honest, I don't really mind that, because although the point of this blog is my own demographic, I appreciate that as a healthy, young, childless individual I am fairly privileged in my set-up. It's okay guys, we're at the bottom of the priorities for this one. Carry on, we don't mind.

However, a phrase keeps popping up occasionally in these debates when we are mentioned, and I think it should be addressed. The phrase goes as following:

“Why don't you/they just move back in with your parents?”

Well now, there's a problematic phrase if ever I heard one. In some – nay, many – cases, Just Move Back In With Your Parents is indeed an option. Many people have wonderful relationships with their parents, and both parties are okay with the nest remaining unflown for a few years longer. The problem is that those people probably already have moved back in with their parents. Allow me to unpick exactly why it's impossible for some people to move back in with their parents:

1. The Autonomous Adult problem:

This one is from personal experience. I moved back in with my parents, and oh, it was not good. You lose all aspects of being an autonomous adult, and instead go back to the status of the late teens, where you don't get to make many decisions for yourself. It's empowering to buy your own food, decorate your own space, keep the hours you want. Losing that is hard. And given we're consistently being told that we have a problem with twenty-somethings growing up, we shouldn't be encouraging this.

2. Your parents are also Autonomous Adults:

Mum was really pleased when I moved back home after university. She was pleased for about a week. She was a lot more pleased when I moved back out, and is now pleading with me to try and persuade my younger sister to move out too. I am twenty-four years old, with reasonably young parents, and they have raised me very well. They're still wonderful people, and I like dropping by regularly. Christmas was fab. They're done with raising me now, though, and don't particularly want an aggravated mid-twenties adult moving in the hogging up the bathroom.

Also, from what I can tell, about twenty minutes after I loaded up the car with the last load of stuff to move out, my parents threw out all of the furniture from my old bedroom. Touché, Mum.

3. “Sorry, we sold the house.”

More common than you might think. One friend of mine went home for Christmas and discovered that the 'lovely new flat' her mum and partner had bought did indeed have enough bedrooms for her and her siblings. Sort of. She spent Christmas in a room that was so small her feet stuck out of the door, where she had to sleep on the floor, as there wasn't enough room for a bed. All of her stuff was in storage, too. When children move out, parents divorce, downsize, and generally don't necessarily purchase property in line with the wishes of the whole family.

4. There are no parents.

Without meaning to be too bleak, sometimes parents can die. This is hard, and horrible, and it means that when someone says 'Why not move back in your parents?' they are stabbing the knife back in a little more.

5. There never were any parents, or none that were useful.

Not all students come from nice middle-class homes. Although the rates of children moving from care and social housing to further education are shockingly low, they are still there. Sometimes university is the escape from a dysfunctional, awful household. Instead of celebrating these achievements, we just tell people to go straight back to where they belong.

6. Getting on your bike

On a more cheery note, or possibly more bleak, I'm unsure, where you can afford to live is not the same as where the jobs are. Hurrah, a graduate has managed to find work and not take money off the taxpayer! But boo, it's in London, so the graduate lives in a cardboard box and saves nothing for his or her future! But their parents live in Burnley! … and so on.

This is just scratching the surface, but please stop assuming that all graduates are middle-class homogeneous sorts with a wonderful family home waiting to invite them back.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

"Cheese, Gromit!"

I have buggar all willpower when it comes to food.

I love eating. Love it, love it, love it. I would pretend to be a foodie, but to be honest I'm too fussy for that. I'm not even a proper vegetarian as I still eat chicken and fish; I just don't like the taste of most meat. Or the smell. Don't get me going about bacon sandwiches, they smell like evil to me. However, if it's not meat I'll give it a go.

I love stodgy food. I love crisps. I can actually take or leave chocolate and puddings most of time, but hell, I'd rather take. Cheese. Man, I love cheese. And chips. Combined with cheese. Mmmm.

All of the above said, I'm fairly sensible about food, I think. I try to eat rounded meals, and not overly snack. I also try to walk where I can, although I do basically loathe exercise.

Office work completely floored me, in terms of food. You plan your day around food, and other people eating tends to set you off. People bring in snacks, and I love cooking biscuits for people. Takeaway occurs at lunchtime. All of this is combined with a massive decrease in exercise.

As a whole, essentially, the office gets fat together. As I said, I have buggar all willpower.

Despite all of my lovely statements about how New Years resolutions are useless (and I still believe they are), I was making a quiet decision to try and cut down on the snacking front. For some boring medical reasons I had to get weighed, realised with horror that I had put on A Lot of weight over Christmas and that I also have to be fitted for a wedding dress at the end of this month.

Which is why I am on Day 10 of the Special K diet. This involves sitting there at lunchtime eating cereal for lunch. I have managed to lose quite a bit of weight, as crash diets will tend to do, although last night I dreamed about eating pasta for lunch and to be quite honest if someone gave me the choice between murdering a nun or getting to eat a cheese sandwich I wouldn't fancy the chances of the nun. I get to eat a full meal at night. They're nice, let me tell you.

The office, though, has developed fruit overnight. Fred jogs into work every day. Every day! It seems that eating habits, healthy and unhealthy, spread throughout workplaces. Things you learn!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Brain turning into mush due to excess wedding planning, they never warn you about the eight-week burn out on the wedding blogs.

As such, some links to amuse and edify you:

The Ultimate Celebrity Interview Oh,we're all read it, but it's worth a link.

Cliff Richard Dying Inside On the outside he's smiling, but there's nothing behind the eyes.

Graduate objects to working in Poundland for free, idiots object to graduate. Also, as a headline “I'm a graduate, get me out of here!” is something I totally should have used.

Being a graduate sort working in an office with some stringent internet own-use rulings means that my ability to find amusing links is heartily lower than it was as a student. Work severely restricts your ability to waste time on the internet – who knew?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Well, duh.

Graduates without work experience face struggle to secure jobs, report says.

In other news, report proves Pope to be Catholic?

More than one-third of the graduate vacancies available are expected to be taken by people who have already worked for a firm while they were studying, a report by High Fliers Research has found.

This is, shall we say, obvious news. Employers prefer graduates who have a degree and experience within the working world. It's an absolute bastard, particularly when you realise that getting the experience is a catch-22 situation. Then again, I assumed that when I left university I had work experience. My work experience was in cleaning, retail, and care homes. I thought that having worked alongside studying since I was sixteen would show I was hard-working and knew how the working world operated.

That was a bubble that was burst quickly.

But a total of 36% of vacancies on offer are likely to be filled by applicants who worked for the company concerned while they were at university.

That's a bloody big chunk of vacancies put to one side for people who have already worked there, within vocational subjects. I don't resent those soon-to-be-graduates for their ability to know what they want to do with their lives at eighteen, or indeed their engineering/architectural/etc know-how, but I am jealous.

The main problem is that as a rule, you only work this particular issue out too late. It's difficult enough getting a job, let alone the mythical graduate job, and any job-seeking graduate could tell you that work experience is required.

So, if you're reading this, you will probably assume that I was a dim student who should have done work experience in Something Relevant, and that I deserve everything coming to me. To an extent, I suppose this is true. I should have worked harder to get work experience, or an internship. You know, the illegal ones where they don't pay you? Unfortunately, a combination of paying your own way through university (student loan pays the rent; what do you think pays the rest?) and living very far from London makes this a tricky proposition indeed.

I see the perspective of the employers. I really, really do. You'd rather have employees who have experience of the industry, and hell, you've got your pick of candidates. The perpetuation of this system means that you get free employees during the summer, too. Why not?

Well... because you're perpetuating a system wherein it's not what you know, it's who you know. Work experience involves being able work for free, and knowing someone to give you that experience. Talented graduates who are outside of the magic circle are not given a chance to prove themselves. I'm not a supporter of the idea that graduates should jump in at the top – you're young, you don't know very much, I get that. I'm happy to start at the bottom and work my way up through according to my merits.

But as my merits do not include living in the South-East, or having parents who were able to support me through university, or indeed having parents with friends who runs important firms, I'm not even getting the chance to get in at the bottom of the ladder.

However, presenting the idea that graduates need work experience as news? Yes, we had worked that on out for ourselves, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Guilt of the Survivor

“I've never actually survived one of these,” Fred confided towards the end of the day. “So I have no idea what's the appropriate thing to do. At least when it's you getting laid off you can go to the pub and get drunk.”

I nodded in very emphatic agreement. In the end I went home, had a little cry, and then wondered exactly why I'd done that.


The reason for my recent silence has been, basically, shellshock at a frankly horrifying round of austerity measures at work, and having absolutely no way to respond to them. Fred and I are the only administrative staff to survive in the office, and I am also now responsible for cleaning the office (cleaners have gone too), the work of several people as well as myself, and a cracking bout of survivor's guilt.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear – I, personally, was never in the running to lose my job. I was the only person in my pay grade who had been there more than a year, and frankly I was (am?) the better member of staff due to aforesaid experience and general awesome. I would have fought tooth and nail for my job if it looked shaky. I knew we'd been quiet for a few weeks now (seasonal nature of the business I'm in) but I thought we were possibly in for a round of hour and day reductions, not the bloodbath it's been. We all only found out the first day back after the Christmas holiday, and one staff member sat and sobbed at her desk when she was told she was laid off.

I am aware that this story, to those in the public sector or indeed in a lot of industries, will make you want to shout “CRY MORE, N00B!” because I am aware this is a story that trails throughout employment around the world. I am also a monster, because I've been working out how on earth I can make this blog-relevant, as it were, because I feel without mentioning it I couldn't keep on blogging about my working life without feeling fraudulent. I have my priorities straight, you see.

Graduates are uniquely vulnerable to this kind of event as it takes a long time to get the kind of seniority and experience that gives you better odds of surviving these sorts of things. You get more legal protection after a year of service, and after two you get compulsory redundancy pay (read more here). This means employers, I have discovered, are more willing to consider keeping you on when there are more vulnerable staff still there. When you're just out of uni, or still 'job hopping' as you try and find the right career path for you, it's difficult to get the service years. Which, in turn, means you have to continue job hopping. It's a fairly vicious cycle.

I will miss some of my colleagues dreadfully. (Some, not so much, but that's the nature of these things. The office isn't such a good mix now, either. Apart from anything else, I am now the only full-time woman in the company which is... odd.

And on top of everything else, my survivor's guilt is still rampant. If anyone knows how to deal with that, I'd love to hear your advice.