I suppose it’s not really the government’s fault.
After all, of the dozens of questions included in its online jobs quiz, none asked whether I like feet. I don’t, as it happens. I hate them. They give me the wibblies.
Had attitudes towards feet been included, then, I suspect the government wouldn’t have suggested I consider retaining as a reflexologist. Oops. But while I won’t be rethinking, reskilling or rebooting into a career tending to other people’s trotters, the National Careers Service has plenty of other helpful suggestions for me.
In case you haven’t heard of the government’s careers quiz yet (in which case, well done for using your time productively eschewing Twitter), rest assured, its launch could have gone unnoticed had it not been for that now infamous Fatima ad. “Fatima’s next career could be in cyber,” it proclaimed, over a picture of a ballerina (questionably clad in European ‘nude’ pink tights). “She just doesn’t know it yet.”
The ad in question, designed to encourage people to consider a career in cybersecurity, was quickly met with rage and ridicule, prompting officials to withdraw support, proclaim it out-of-date and “crass”, and pray that we all moved on.
So far, we have not. Amid rising unemployment and a full-blown crisis in the arts, the suggestion that individuals who have dedicated years to a craft, be it ballet or bassoon, could just suddenly up sticks and move to ‘cyber’, whatever the hell that means, has not been welcomed kindly. And while Chancellor Rishi Sunak did release a tranche of funding for creative businesses this week, it felt like too little, much too late.
Nonetheless, it seems only sensible to acknowledge that, as an increasing number of people find themselves out of work amid a recession, jobseeking is about to become a fine art. This is the background to which the careers quiz arrived, and for many, advice and support is much-needed right now. But just how accurate is it?
It’s perhaps ironic that, before I became a journalist, I trained as a dancer. I wasn’t much like Fatima – ballet wasn’t my strong suit and my arse was never really built for a tutu. I was, however, pretty talented in jazz and tap, earning myself a fully-funded place at a prestigious dance school in London at the age of 17.
Sadly, after a couple of years of full-time training, and two high-flying days wiggling behind Westlife, I realised my body simply wasn’t cut out for dance, full stop, and went back to university to train as a journalist. I’ve been earning a living that way, happily, for the best part of 18 years, and it had never really occurred to me to do anything else. Until now.
Because while some might consider the job I do currently – running this, my own online start-up – a ‘cyber’ job, it’s not yet paying the bills. Perhaps there’s a better way?
After ten minutes of answering a series of multiple choice questions – each one offering a range of responses from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’, with a non-descript ‘it depends’ in the middle for when it gets too boring – the National Careers Service creates a profile for me.
I am, it determines, a “motivated” person. “You set yourself personal goals and are comfortable competing with other people. You are sociable, find it easy to understand people, and enjoy helping and listening to others.” So far, so accurate. But what jobs will that make me suitable for?
Strangely, given the state of the world, a host of hospitality options are apparently right up my street. I know a few head chefs though, and now doesn’t seem like their boom time. Next.
I discount the medical suggestions immediately – while I still have my son’s rainbow painting in the front window and remain in awe of our NHS heroes, I fear I lack the bravery to embark on a new career as a nurse or paramedic right now. That lack of courage also plays into my next rejection – as a five foot four inch wuss who’s terrified of guns, soldiering seems a non-starter.
Given the aforementioned size of my arse, I don’t think many people would trust me as their fitness instructor, and I’m a bit unnerved by horses, so horse grooming seems misled too. This isn’t going well.
Given my experience of football begins and ends with shivering on the sidelines of my son’s primary school training sessions on a Saturday morning, I’m not sure why football refereeing seems like a good fit. Perhaps my experience of moderating play date disputes is transferrable? I’ve also written recently about the misogynistic way in which the government discarded the beauty industry, so I fear we already have enough struggling beauty therapists on our island without me adding myself to the mix.
Thankfully, misogyny doesn’t seem to play a role in the government’s career suggestions for me, and a host of traditionally male professions are also in the mix – shop, kitchen or bathroom fitting anyone?
And then I find it. The nugget. The gold. The ideal sector for me. Based on my answers, the algorithm has found me no less than 15 perfect jobs in the creative and media sector. Bingo.
I’ve already been an editorial assistant, a sub-editor and a commissioning editor on my journey up the ranks, but the career gods have got me covered. “Magazine and newspaper editors manage the style and content of written publications,” runs the descriptor of my perfect job. I could do that. Hang on, I do do that!
Rishi, you’ve nailed it. Now, if only you could tell me where I can secure the £80k salary you reckon my expertise demands, I’d be eternally grateful. Chancellor, I’m all ears…