It was a rite of passage when I was a teenager.
Everyone would get a holiday job in the summer holidays, or between the end of school and the start of university. Some jobs would morph from being after school jobs to full time temporary positions and many were of the Mc-job variety. It was a good way for kids to make that change from studying to the world of work whilst squirelling away savings for the next few years tertiary study or gap year travel.
In fact I’d even go so far as to say that it was a grounding experience!
Nothing motivates more than the prospect of spending your entire life filing or washing cafe floors. Faced with the very real threat of having to sit behind a desk and shuffle paper for the rest of my life, I was practically panting to get to university and further study!
So, what will happen to this generation of young people – my son and daughters – who cannot find part-time holiday work? Work’s so hard to find, will an entire generation of kids end up graduating with no experience at all of the work world.
Son has finished his exams, in fact he finished about three weeks ago and has since that time been struggling to find a holiday job. He’s 18 now so he can serve alcohol and he has had some experience working in a local diner. We asked him to stop working there whilst he studied hard for his final exams and though I’m sure that was the right thing to do, his job-less status now makes us occasionally doubt whether it was. There just doesn’t seem to be very many jobs out there. The jobs that do exist tend to require crack timing – you literally need to be online before the bird is catching that early morning worm – the very moment the job is listed. If not before the previous incumbent actually gives notice.
I sat down with Son the other night as he filled out his application for a McJob. It was for a large global restaurant brand and we had heard from a very clued-up source that they were hiring. We sacrificed a few virgins to the job gods (we had a couple lying about the house) and sat down to second-guess the job questionnaire.
The first few questions were easy enough – Name, address, phone number, school qualifications. Not hard to feel he aced those. Not many A levels are required for buttering buns and wiping tables, surely. The next raft of questions were a little more challeging.
What are you most proud of?
What star sign are you?*
In what position did your mother give birth to you?*
*These may not have been actual questions, but you get my drift.
Son deliberated over the ‘most proud’ question. Was he most proud of the Senior Cadet status he’d achieved at Air Training Corps, or getting an offer from one of the UK’s most prestigious universities? He choose the latter, as we both thought it would suggest he was clued-up.
The next brace of questions were multi-choice little buggers. I gather they existed to gauge his integrity and honesty.
Do you believe in honesty at all times?
Do you ever lie?
Well of course he believes in honesty and integrity, and no he doesn’t lie as a matter of habit. But then they followed it up with -
Have you ever told a lie?
At this point we began to smell a rat. Do they want the truth (yes, at least once or twice, possibly when he was a great deal younger and a missing slice of cake may have been involved), or do they want him to lie and say he is always, absolutely, scrupulously honest? That in 18 years of life he has never, ever told one lie.
In which case he would negate his own answer.
I’m sure that this online job application is the result of much HR psycho babble but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that they were going to make an evaluation of Son without ever meeting him. It seemed to me that the computer would decide based on whatever random reason. Maybe there were too many applicants ahead of him in the queue? Maybe they would be skewed towards kids who would work there full time and wouldn’t be leaving for university in the autumn?
I guess we’ll never know, as in this case the computer said no.
Son’s back out looking for a job today, along with his 16 year old sister. I say ‘out’ but what that really means, is sitting on their beds scrolling through web pages, (in between playing Bubble on the internet and cannabalising my bandwidth) and generally making dishes and mess for me – the work at home Mum. I wonder how many other kids are out there doing exactly the same, up and down the country. And more worryingly I wonder how they will make the progression from student to worker without these trial summer holiday jobs.
Is this the end of the holiday job as my generation knew it?
Will a whole generation of smart kids be too schooled for worker cool?
Image: Flickr CC