Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The plea of a deadbeat dad: how does my son enter work?

I haven’t often felt this inadequate as a parent.

No, strike that.

I have always felt inadequate as a parent. I was inadequate when Ms T was not-coping with post-natal depression and our eldest son was perfectly capable of crying for seven hours at a stretch, unless she was cradling him and dancing to early 1990s thrash-punk (he still likes The Pixies’ “Dolittle”, thank heavens). I was manifestly inadequate when he was being bullied in Year 4, to a point that was close to call-the-police. I tried to be adequate through his teens.

Now he’s nearly an adult, we get on brilliantly, and I’m insanely proud of things like his university results – where the hell does a son of mine get the seriousness to land regular “distinction” results, including in one did-it-on-spec unit that’s in the doctoral stream and he doesn’t yet have his BSc?

(This is especially poignant for me, the university drop-out because I ran out of cash in 1990.)

For someone who thought “why didn’t I know you?” when I carried my father’s coffin, that feels good. Snd I’m also gob-smacked at how he’s learned to care far and beyond his years: knowing how sick his mother is, he doesn’t maunder or rage, he simply says “yes” to whatever burden her illness brings to him. Cheerfully.

But: I have NO idea, none whatever, about how to tell him to get a start in the job market.

You see: when I started out, it wasn’t so hard. For office types, there were regular start-by-examination in any number of industries. My start was in the insurance business, as an 18-year-old clerk; I then moved to telecommunications – as a trainee with paid training – on the basis of another enter-by-exam job offering.

And I moved around a few jobs and suffered a few interviews, and then found my first niche, as a journalist specialising in technology. That was in 1987.

Since then, I have hardly ever needed to go through the indignity of job-seeking and interviews. I have been head-hunted, I have travelled with the furniture in acquisitions, and I have coat-tailed (“You do the bid, I’ll do the work and take my cut” – a wonderful way to outsource the interview thing!). But I have hardly ever actually applied for a job.

Which, as you might guess, makes me utterly useless to advise my son about how to get work in the long university break.

So: my son is intelligent, can present a decent facsimile of someone who likes the customer even if he doesn’t, can work hard, talks intelligently, likes old ladies and toddlers, and detests the very idea of making his start with McDonald’s. What should I suggest to him?

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