20 Mar A future of prejudices
I’ve run out of easy options. After studying for 19 years the 28-year-old me is taking a step into the unknown. On the verge of becoming a Master of Science I’m thinking about my future and the biggest question I have is what happens after studying.
Till now everything has been clear: primary school, high school, (in my case insert also vocational school, entrepreneurship, folk school and military service) and then university with a Bachelor’s thesis and a Master’s degree. In this best possible scenario an average person studies for approximately 17 years and is 23 to 24 years old when graduating from university.
But in reality few graduate in the target time. Finnish national broadcasting company Yleisradio reported in 2013 that every third student graduates in the target time. In 2016 Helsingin Sanomat told that only a fifth of all university students are able to do the same. Instead of five years, young adults spend 6 to 7 years in university and is usually 26 to 28 years old when they graduate. I’m just about join that group.
In the Helsingin Sanomat article the Head of Academic Affairs of Helsinki University Päivi Pakkanen estimated that quick or even target time graduation isn’t attractive because of the poor employment situation. It is simply easier being a student than unemployed. But eventually you have to get your degree and no one knows what truly happens after that. Not even who have graduated from different schools more than once.
To me uncertainty is lovely and scary at the same time. It feels like I’m paddling on a river knowing there’s a waterfall ahead. I also know exactly where that waterfall is. And now I’m getting really close to it.
The logical and assumed option is of course that I’ll start a career after my studies. However, finding that career is as hard as entering a pipe in Mario 3: it has to be pixel perfect.
This holds true especially in the media and communication industry. Getting the first contact and holding on to a job in your own field is hard. I remember hearing a story about a journalist students’ sits where you had to dress up as a legend. One student dressed up as a permanent employee. (The story doesn’t tell what that outfit looked like.)
As if the the employment situation and operating environment in the industry I’ve chosen isn’t difficult enough, my own uncertainty is heightened by a worry that’s quite special and surprising for me: my gender and age.
I am a woman who is expected to have kids in the near future. The average age of a primiparae in Finland in 2016 was 28,8 and the average age of all parturients was 30,6 years. In the minds of others I’m just about join this group, regardless of if I want to have kids or not.
Even though an employer is not allowed to ask about pregnancy plans in a job interview, I can’t help thinking how my gender and age effects finding employment or getting into job interviews. In my mind I’m already imagining a scenario where I’m asked whether I’m about to have baby fever: do I tell the truth, do I refuse to answer or do I lie?
All of those options seem unpleasant. What’s also unpleasant and absurd is that I’m thinking of these things in advance. And I’m not alone. The topic is being discussed on forums and this worry has risen even among my fellow students. Will anyone hire a woman of this age?
Yeah – this age. My life has changed a lot during the last ten years and luckily for the better. And the older I get the greater my life is. There’s no teenage commotion yet I’m still in for a new chapter that is as exciting as moving away from home for the first time.
I wish I could write a compendium on finding a career after studying or on how to avoid the prejudices concerning age and gender. I can’t, though, at least not yet. When I know, I will tell.
But till then I have to believe that this boat I’ve built will stay afloat and that it is faster than anyone else’s. And that I’ll stay on board when it plunges down the waterfall.