Bits and Pieces

Friday, December 03, 2004

Alphas and Epsilons

There's something very unsavoury about the response you get when you apply for a menial job as a college graduate.

I went to the job centre yesterday to apply for a few things. I'd spent much of the afternoon searching the Job Centre website for stress-free jobs I could do in my sleep. I chose meter reader, graveyard shift shelf stacker in a supermarket and data collector for public highways. They may sound dull, but after a year of marketing for Npower and the Wall Street Journal a job as a meter reader would be a little slice of heaven.

Imagine it - driving around all day listening to the radio, occasionally stopping to read a meter. Knock on the door. 'Cup of tea, love?' 'Yes please. Milk and 2 sugars, thanks.' 5 minutes of mindless chat later and I'd be back in the car... 'And now, Cat Stevens - Father and Son... 'It's not time to make a change, so just relax, and take it easy etc.' Fantastic.

The problem is the reaction you get when you apply for one of these jobs. You go to the job centre, tell them your qualifications, and the reaction is like something out of Brave New World*.

'But Mr. Taylor, my files show that you're a beta. We only require epsilon meter readers and shelf stackers. Surely you'd be much happier in another position. Marketing, perhaps?'

'No, that's OK. I'm tired of high-pressure work. I just want to relax and do something easy for a while.'

Troubled expression 'Why don't you take a soma, and I'll go ahead and set up an interview for that marketing position.'

'No, really. I'd much prefer to apply for the meter reader position.'


Seriously, if I get an interview I'll have to downplay my qualifications. I'll have to tell them I left school at 16 with a few GCSE's. I'd probably have a better chance at getting the job if I told them I'd spent the last 4 years in prison than in university. It's ridiculous.

I've never understood the idea that an educated person would be turned down for a job on the grounds that they are overqualified. It's happened once before when I applied to work in a shop over the summer. I was told that they were looking for someone without a degree, and that they were concerned that I would be bored if I got the job. Bored? Where did the idea come from that an educated person would be more likely to get bored with menial, repetitive labour than someone with no qualifications? What the hell kind of assumption is that? Besides, you're supposed to be bored in your job, unless you work at the puppy dogs and fireworks factory.

If I was in charge... (insert ridiculous Utopian claim here).

*Many thanks to Mark L for saving me from looking stupid for too long.
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