Hugh Reilly: Jobseekers need a degree of self-denial
IN MORE truthful moments, most men will admit that the ability to tell bare-faced lies to gullible partners is the secret of a successful relationship.
Just last week, my blonde squeeze surprised me by dyeing her eyebrows black. “What do you think?” she asked. Several unhelpful thoughts flashed through my startled brain. Was she auditioning for the lead role in a local production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Or testing make-up tips promoted by Captain Scarlet’s wife?
“I love your new look!” I lied, earnestly praying that my body language would not betray my true opinion. Fighting the fibber’s impulse to swivel my eyes to the left, I twirled the hairs on my left ear in a nonchalant way that suggested the veracity of my statement was beyond question. At this point, my heart went out to poor Pinocchio who, due to his extending nose, was doomed to live a life of disastrous short term liaisons. My paramour, having heard the words she wished to hear, departed the scene with a skip in her step. Believe me, if polygraphs ever become an affordable household item, the number of divorces will go off the needle.
Of course, there are times when lying has acquired cultural acceptability. For example, research shows that at least a quarter of job applicants exaggerate their CVs. Many graduates embellish the quality of qualifications they possess while others go as far as “tailoring” classes allegedly taken at university to suit the requirements of the post. In times of a booming economy, deliberately inflating one’s worth to secure a highly paid professional or managerial position is understandable, if a little naughty. But the current double-dip recession has led to a new phenomenon of students “dumbing down” their CVs to enhance their chances of employment.
Last week, a survey conducted by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found that many students had been told by Jobcentre staff to omit degrees from their CVs when applying for so-called “survival jobs” in industries such as hospitality and cleaning. Hiding one’s level of education was a necessary evil during the Killing Fields period of Cambodian history when teachers, doctors and lawyers were routinely slaughtered by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army. One can only imagine the depressing feeling felt by Scottish students at having to disown degrees they studied so hard to obtain. On a more positive note, it will be of some comfort that, thanks to the derisory wages in the unskilled sector, money will not be deducted from salary to repay the mountain of debt amassed over four years of wasted tertiary education.
To be fair, from the point of view of an employer, recruiting a degree-holder to carry out mundane tasks is fraught with problems. A barmaid with a Bachelors Degree in Marine Biology will inevitably leave the business at the first hint of career progression, eg a job with a local authority traffic wardens department. The presence of an intelligent cuckoo in the company’s nest may cause disquiet among existing staff, upset that their chances of in-house promotion have been somewhat diminished.
For the more discerning consumer, there is an upside. Instead of engaging in small talk about the weather with café staff, one may be able to discuss the implications of the Arab Spring for American foreign policy with a politics degree-holding waitress. The bloke with a Masters in Film Studies selling the Butterkist at the Showcase cinema could provide an expert critique of the movie you are about to watch.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions refuted the notion that staff encouraged students to tell porkies to find work. But there is anecdotal evidence that Jobcentre advisors are ill-equipped to deal with unemployed graduates. A friend with a degree in animation was asked to consider a job in an art gallery. A young man of my acquaintance with a degree in engineering from Glasgow University was out of work for four months. During this time of inactivity, Jobcentre staff pushed him towards unskilled work, a tactic he believed was designed simply to get him off the register. Indeed, in the CAS survey, only 1 per cent of students had found Jobcentres helpful in finding graduate-level work.
Fortunately, students who feel the need to dumb down their qualifications are in the minority. The truth is that over 90 per cent of graduates who left university last year went into jobs or further study. Would I lie to you?
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