So what are you doing with your life?

first_imgOxford careers literature proudly proclaims that this university has educated twenty-five Prime Ministers, six kings, and three saints. This alone might go some way to explaining the seemingly endless ambition of many Oxford students. Then again, ten centuries are bound to produce a couple of famous alumni. Maybe it’s time to regain our sense of perspective: we are, after all, unlikely to be the next Thomas More, however well we do in our finals. That said, pressure from friends, parents and tutors, no matter how well meaning, can be immense, to choose a direction and a career, preferably one that brings financial reward and qualifies the weight of expectation upon us. It is tempting to wonder exactly how soon this year’s Freshers will start planning their glorious city careers, attending presentations and attempting to procure work experience placements with random investment banks.Despite the high workload of subjects like medicine, it’s likely that many have envied those of us whose subjects are so vocational in nature. “Transferable skills” are all very well, but graduating (as most of us will do) with a 2.1 in a non-vocational subject leads to the realisation that, however much we worried about “narrowing our options” by choosing A level subjects, such panic was probably unnecessary. For many, there may be a myriad of options, but no obvious choice of career. Students may, as the Careers Service confirms, be securing internships gradually earlier in their university careers, but many others are increasingly choosing to defer career decisions until after graduation. The 46% of Oxford graduates who entered immediate employment after graduation in 2002 was the lowest figure for more than seven years, and this fall has been coupled with a steady rise in the number of those “not available for work”, which typically refers to those who follow their degree with a period of travel.When the search for a career does begin in earnest, however, scanning careers literature can swiftly make one disillusioned. It is all very well to read twenty advertisements for city firms, but the difficulty comes afterwards, when trying to mentally extricate one from another and work out exactly why one firm is better, or different, to another. You may be able to decorate your room in college entirely with promotional material acquired at Freshers’ Fair (or, indeed, have been in possession of a free muffin at Summer Eights because you were able to say that Deloitte’s line of business is “professional services”) without really having been any the wiser.Of course, beyond the initial confusion, enlightenment will probably have come by the time one actually ends up working for said city law firm or investment bank. Graduate recruitment schemes offer job security, and, lest we forget, a starting salary far above the national average. But the structure and culture of many of these organisations means that career advancement happens within pre-ordained limits, and although well paid, the hours that some of these firms expect one to work means that a social life may become a distant memory.One third year, who this summer took part in a vacation scheme at a city law firm, recalls her supervisor, an Oxford graduate, saying that she had not made any evening plans during the week for four years. Of course, at the age of twenty-five, long hours may not matter very much. For many, mostly unencumbered by relationship or family ties, the salary provides ample compensation for a life spent mostly in the office. ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005last_img read more