On what I want to be when I grow up

Wednesday 16th May, 2012

Everyone always says it doesn’t matter if you don’t know for sure what you want to do with your life. Over the past six months, though, I’ve come to realise that having a specific job title in mind gives you a major advantage.

I’ve wanted to be various things at various points in my life. Mechanic, butcher, accountant, journalist, to name but a few (I abandoned the latter two when I discovered everybody hates them). The problem is, I’ve never been able to stubbornly hold on to one single ambition. And that’s not because I’m fickle; it’s simply because there are several different things that I would be good at and would enjoy doing. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? I wouldn’t have thought so, but the truth is that every graduate-level job, even the most basic no-specific-skills-required rookie role, attracts so much competition that the person who gets the gig inevitably has explicit, clear-cut reasons for wanting that particular job.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been fortunate enough over the past few months to have secured several different interviews in several different industries, mainly because I’m able to show that I’m bright and talented with a range of strong transferrable skills – which is what a lot of recruiters, especially for graduate schemes, claim to be looking for anyway. What I’m not able to show, though, is why I’m passionate about getting that one specific job. And that’s because I’m not. Just about every position I’ve applied for has been one that I would love doing and that I would thrive in, but because there are so many other jobs that I could say the same for, I can’t show that I’ve been toiling ardently in that specific direction for any meaningful length of time. That’s why I haven’t been successful yet: I’m always up against people who can prove they are committed to that specific role.

For example, I interviewed to be the new marketing assistant at Sheffield Doc/Fest but was told that, although my experience working in arts marketing and arts festivals and my keen interest in documentaries and film made me a strong contender, I never really stood a chance. Why?

  • “we had many applicants for the role who had not only specifically worked for film festivals, but who have considerable existing experience in film festival marketing and were dedicated to building a career in this specific field, having already worked for many film festivals that we know well across the country.”
I discovered on Monday, at my assessment day for the BBC’s Production Talent Pool, that compared to the other candidates I was not remotely qualified. That’s because, unlike them, I haven’t gambled huge amounts of time on unpaid work experience in the media and specifically in production. Many of these people were in their late-20s and early-30s, having done degrees in broadcasting followed by several years of being a media industry dogsbody. I could, if I wanted to, go down that route now, writing letters, knocking on doors, and blagging to anyone and everyone about what a great cup of tea I can make. But I’m not going to because there are other careers I would be perfectly happy in. I guess the trick is not to give that fact away, to make each and every employer believe that the job I’ve applied for is what I’ve ‘always wanted’ to do.

On a positive note, I’ve got a few interviews lined up, including one for an assistant role in the ticketing department of an arts venue. I’m fairly confident that I stand a reasonable chance, as long as the other candidates can’t find some way of demonstrating a lifelong fondness for ticketing databases.

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