The Continual Student

by sarahtwonames

On the day of graduation, surrounded by the lovely horticulture of the British Ambassador to France’s residence (check me out), I had an eerie premonition. I was going back into education. Thankfully, it wasn’t the side-effect of reading too much Sandman. I could have found myself trying to summon the Lord of the Dreaming, which would have ended badly. For me and the livestock.

On a practical aside, going back into education now makes perfect sense. I still remember how to study, how I learn, and my beloved set of highlighters is still with me. I was one of those people at uni who had rainbow-vomit notes.

When I told people that I was going to do an online course, I frequently got the reaction of “Avoiding the job hunt are we?” and it’s various incarnations. Actually I’m doing the reverse; I am making myslef irresistible to the job market by becoming actually employable.

When I flew the Franco-British academic nest I soon found out that the big bad world of work in England has little scope for a language graduate if you don’t want to be a teacher or translator/interpreter. French is basically viewed by the job market as a skill, not an area of study. Hence the proliferation of tech/customer support and recruitment roles for multi-national companies on job hunting sites and LinkedIn.

What a lot of the LinkedIn crew don’t realise is that a language degree has made me a creative thinker. You can’t just bang an English text into Google Translate and expect a Baudelairian masterpiece to be spat out. You have to think, rephrase, take weird circuitous routes and remember your target culture. For 3000+ words. Which leads me onto another pet peeve; it’s like essays aren’t creative either. Never mind that I can take 9 large books, 4 JSTOR* articles and my own class notes, condense them, analyse them and produce a discursive essay (in French) which gets a First thank you very much, do I have any experience in customer support? It’s seems I’m allowed to be a creative thinker at uni, and as soon as I exit the building I need to become a French speaking automaton who asks “Avez-vous essayé d’éteindre l’appareil et l’enclencher à nouveau?” ** five times a day.

So I didn’t get a real job. And no, I didn’t let my feelings show in covering letters, although it was tempting to write “If I can write a 3000 word essay on role of art in Huysmans’ À Rebours, I can do this.” I know that all my creative leanings would be satisfied in teaching, but it would be a disaster. “Actually kids this stuff is completely useless, and what you really need is to be able to tell the scary French policeman that the white powder isn’t yours.” And that is how alternative me got banned from teaching in three counties.

Thankfully, my unpaid social media work allowed me to be creative, and introduced me to marketing, which is driven by creative thinking. So the Squared course is actually an Investment in my Future (cue heavenly choirs). When I hit the job market again with a vengeance, I will (hopefully) be snapped up as a) more skillz and b) I will have a piece of paper that LinkedIn recognises as proof of creativity.

And the beauty of an online course means that no-one knows that I do creative with unwashed hair and a large amount of food down me.

*An online archive of digitised academic journals. Saviour of many a student’s essay the world over.

** “Have you tired turning it off and on again?” – Roy, the IT Crowd.