Spotty Adolescents

The London Paper  –  31 July 2009

Believe it or not I receive a huge amount of emails from desperate female readers asking me to meet up with them. These impulsive women initially tend to be quite coy but it soon becomes pretty damn clear that they’ve only got one thing on their mind. They flatter me first but then they reveal exactly what they’re after … an internship at an investment bank for one of their kids. If only just once it was something more interesting!

This is the month when firms across the Square Mile are invaded by a bunch of spotty adolescents desperate to spend their summer holidays improving their CVs so they can slip into a lucrative City job as soon as they leave university or school. It is a tragedy that these characters choose to spend their precious free time waking up at 6am, donning scratchy terylene suits, being ritually humiliated by senior colleagues and doing the ‘Starbucks run’ three times a day when they should be out necking tequila slammers and dancing ‘til dawn in Ibeefa. However, if they really are keen to try to enter the hideously competitive City job market there is no better training and hence there is a never a shortage of teenage dogsbodies to exploit.

And I should know because in 1996 I was one of these confused young interns desperately trying to impress my seniors at a Dutch bank. I had spent most of the previous two years travelling the world, smoking weed and dancing on beaches but some strange force had impelled me to join the rat race. Of course, I got the gig merely because my brother was a valued client of a high-ranking salesman.

And therein lies the problem. Most banks probably receive at least thirty applications for every available space and the ‘winners’ are invariably either employees’ relatives or those of clients the bank is wanting to keep sweet.

This inevitable nepotistic bias was picked up by last week’s report on social mobility by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, where internships were described as ‘grossly unfair’ and based on ‘who you know’. It seems non-City types may be able to get jobs planting trees or restoring furniture (which make up some of the 47,000 ‘socially useful’ jobs that Labour has just created) but the City remains part of the ‘closed shop society’ that outsiders will invariably find difficult to enter.

The report also revealed some shocking statistics – such as the fact that whilst only 7% of British people went to private school 75% of judges and 70% of finance directors had done so. All of this suggests a lack of ‘social mobility’ and unfortunately this goes hand in hand with a violent, fractured envious society.

I’d never try to dissuade any lady from writing to me but be aware I can’t get your sons a job in finance. More importantly, they’ll probably have a far better life doing one of the so-called ‘non-jobs’ that Labour has just created … and that’s because no-one on their death bed wished they’d spent longer in the office!

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