Grad Scheming (14): Nine new rules for the job market

Nine rules for navigating the job market

Last month marked an entire year since my first “My Week in Joblessness” post on GoThinkBig. That means since I started publicly complaining about the UK job market, the earth has had time to travel more than 585 million miles around the sun.

And get this – I’m still not done. Every time I think I’ve covered all aspects of what it’s like to be a job market statistic, every time I think I’ve polished the last speck of dirt from the window of bullshit, another politician or policy or trend or issue comes along and lays a greasy paw on it.

What if we just made some rules? Not laws, they don’t work – there’s a law against exploiting interns and another against paying less than minimum wage, and look how well those are working out. Maybe some commandments. Not 10 of them, that’s way too many to keep up with, clearly. Maybe…nine?

Behold: How to Be Jobless’s nine commandments! Send them to employers! Send them to interviewers! Send them to your mum! For they must be followed by all and sundry! On pain of death! Well, not death, exactly…on pain of me complaining again in a future post!


Employers! Thou shalt stop asking for graduates with over two years of experience. By definition the only thing in which graduates have over two years of experience is drinking to numb the impending doom of the job market that awaits them.

Sub-clause: Thou shalt be honest about what this pathetic catchphrase “graduates lack essential skills for work” really means: “We want youngsters because you know all this digital crap, but we don’t want to spend any time or money training and developing you, so please come ready-made.”

While we’re at it, employers, there are some commandments relating to interns. Namely:


Thou shalt not talk to interns or work experience people like they’re so stupid they might accidentally set the building on fire. I know, there are stupid interns out there. Whenever I mount a defence for the eager young’uns, I hear, “Oh you don’t know – we had this one intern who was SO rubbish…” Let me stop you right there.

If your intern is stupid, you are no less at fault than the school who hired the paedophile. More at fault, in fact, since there’s very little on a teaching application to give you away if you’re a paedophile, whereas for an idiot, writing a CV and covering letter is a minefield. Vet them better. How, with so many people scrambling for an unpaid chance in your understaffed office, did you let an idiot into your organisation? I’m guessing by not paying much attention to the application, since to you an intern is little more than meat at the desk. What a ridiculous loss.

Look around at your talented staff. They all started as interns. If yours is an idiot, you chose poorly. THOU art the idiot.


Thou shalt not hire interns instead of staff to cut costs. If you don’t have the budget to stay in business, don’t pass the cost onto an eager young grad – or, let’s face it, their parents – under the ruse that learning how you take your coffee is a career move. If you don’t have the money to hire staff, either overwork your current employees like everyone else (EVERYONE else) or have the balls to tighten your belts and hope things get better next year.


Interviewers! Thou shalt not ask candidates where they see themselves in five years. This is an outdated question, a hangover from a time when getting where you wanted to be involved little more effort than putting on trousers (yes, trousers) and turning up. All you had to do was say where you wanted to be in five years and you’d either be given it or, if it seemed a little ambitious, you’d be slapped on the back and called “plucky”.

But now, that question is a minefield. Does that mean where do you want to be, or where you actually see yourself given the barriers in your way? If you say the former, you sound arrogant, “Editor? Really? Are you planning to start five years ago?” and if you say the latter, you sound unambitious and cynical.

Stop asking, interviewers. The answer is the same as “is there a god?” and “did Amanda Knox do it?” – I don’t know, and neither do you.


Scientists! Thou shalt develop coffee to the point where it actually replaces lost sleep. Until two hours sleep plus three double espressos equals eight hours sleep, you have work to do.


Businesses! Thou shalt offer with all temporary contracts a French-style 13th-month bonus at the end (yes, this is my 13th month writing for GoThinkBig but I am letting them off the hook). This slew of temporary contracts has brought a brand new pressure into the lives of workers: saving for your impending unemployment. A real catch-22, since if you’re only worth a temporary investment it’s unlikely you’re also being paid particularly well. So anyone who needs to save because they might be unemployed soon will probably have a hard time putting any money aside. An end-of-contract bonus – retractable if you offer them another contract – would really ease the burden.


HMRC! Thou shalt accept a declaration of earnings in the form of us simply declaring them, loudly, in the same ingenious manner in which Michael Scott declared bankruptcy. This is clearly preferable to filling in a ludicrously long and tedious tax form.


Universities! Thou shalt not count your alumni as “employed” if they’re doing an internship. An internship is not yet a job. In unfortunate cases, it’s actually a barrier – cleverly disguised as a stepping stone. You don’t get paid enough to live on for more than a few weeks (sometimes you don’t get paid at all), you have no real place in the team, you don’t get your own login, and you certainly don’t get the privilege of irrationally latching on to a mug. Often you don’t even get to contribute an idea without people taking a second to stare at you with the same level of amazement as if the chair just blurted out the Declaration of Independence – or some smiley, patronising nodding, the likes of which you haven’t seen since you mastered the use of a potty.

If this sounds familiar, when your university calls and asks if you’re employed, swallow your pride and say “No. No I am not. Write that down.” They charged you 10 grand a year for this shit. Don’t let them tick the “see now, it WASN’T a major rip off” box in your name.

Stay where you are, universities, I have another one for you:


Degrees that are going down in value shall not go up in price. Every year, the number of jobs shall be weighed against the number of places on a university course, and for every discrepancy you shall knock off £1. For the most oversubscribed courses, universities will therefore owe candidates money. This is absolutely non-negotiable.

The commandments have spoken, people. Feel free to share them with the worst offenders. Hopefully the Earth won’t have to trudge another 585 million miles before someone takes notice.

One thought on “Grad Scheming (14): Nine new rules for the job market

  1. Commandment #1 is so true! It really annoys me when employers constantly ask for minimum two years of experience, and then they say “graduates are lacking the necessary skills”. How does this make sense!?

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