My Innisfree has always been the coast. It doesn’t matter which coast, but just the smell of the salt on the breeze and the draw of the waves is enough to transport me back to childhood, away from the slouching weekday activities. Today I collected shells at Sandymount Strand in Dublin. I could have reached out and touched the English coast. Sadly the clock beckoned and I was whisked back to weekday obligations and adult worries. But I shall arise again and go, next weekend.
I wrote this in the middle of the Career Zoo at the Dublin Convention Centre on 15th February 2014.
I am definitely in the wrong place. The use of the word zoo is apt for what’s going on right now. It feels like a zoo. But I’m on the inside, looking out of my glass cage at all the people enjoying themselves. Enthusiastic job hunters seem to be in their element, handing over CVs, chatting, networking. I think this is the buzzword of the day. Networking. Making useful contacts so that when called upon, those contacts can extract your two-page representation of a whole life and fleetingly consider whether you will be a good fit for their company.
Each company is nestled snugly in its booth, AOL, AON, Kerry Group, Johnson & Johnson and many, many more. The staff are ready, donning the required company t-shirt, ready to ‘connect’ with job seekers and sell the company ethos. Some have a table football set up, you can sign up for information on their iPad. They have key rings so you won’t forget their motto, sweets so that you won’t forget the perks and bags if you’re really lucky. This is what a tech boom looks like. This is what it looks like when your city sells itself to start-ups and multinationals to convince them to come and set up here, take advantage of the low tax rates, English speaking educated workforce and submissiveness of its inhabitants. It’s great for everyone! The city is clearly thriving for these companies and I’m sure their employees are blissfully happy with their juice machines and encouragement to turn up every day in casual clothes. It’s great for everyone. Right?
Except, everyone doesn’t actually mean everyone. It means ‘everyone’. It means software engineers, web designers, systems administrators. If you are very lucky, we might include finance graduates, and please don’t forget research scientists. These are the everyone that the Career Zoo means and for a lucky few they will find the right person to talk to, the right hands to place their tailored CVs into. They networked. And Dublin thanks them for that.
In all the bustle of presentations and videos and complimentary lollipops, one thing is missing: everyone else. Could we extend the boundaries of Dublin as the tech centre of Europe to the arts, or is that a stretch too far? Could we see the same zeal for Google and Microsoft replicated in a devotion for the National Gallery or the Little Museum of Dublin? Alas, no. There is no room for the arts here, and no time for those who worship the beauty and complexity of language. If you are someone who worships the beauty of code, then the Careers Zoo is the place for you. If not, then I hope you have a good Saturday at the new exhibition at the Science Gallery, taking photos and discussing how to fail better.
I had an inkling that this day would be less than fruitful. I signed up halfheartedly. I tweeted with a sigh. Come on Dublin; show me that there is an opportunity for someone who looks for inspiration in the half torn stickers that adorn the most derelict of places, declaring happiness and joy amid the destruction. Reading the list of exhibitors, I felt like staying at home, but this is not the attitude of those who watched Italia ‘90. We don’t give up; we struggle through to the penalty shoot out and hope that the Romanian goalkeeper fouls it somehow. We persevere because we are supposed to, because we have received an education that was paid for by the State, because previous generations weren’t so lucky. Previous generations had to take any job they could get. Previous generations had to leave for the UK, US and other abbreviations that opened their doors.
So, in the middle of the din of the Convention Centre I checked myself. This is the twenty-first century. We need this technology; we need TripAdvisor, Pramerica and Symantec. I have no idea what Symantec or Pramerica do. Having spent an hour here in this temple to the computer gods, I still don’t know what they do. But we need them. Dublin needs them.
All kinds of people are here: graduates, serious professionals in their best interview suits, wanderers, all grasping their CVs, their lifeline to a better standard of living, a less stressed existence. What are present here in spades are The Hopeful. I wonder, as I sit here observing the ant-like diligence of job seekers, if for some it’s a last ditch effort to stay, to power through. I wonder if it’s part of the constant internal dialogue that it will be worth it and to soldier on. After all, the economy is improving. The turnaround is just beginning, right? I wonder if these graduates and professionals are here to quieten the calls from Canada and Australia. Calls of promise, calls of possibility, calls from friends who are sunning themselves down under and promising a life that does not involve trudging the rain-soaked, wind-battered streets in the hope that the next interview will be the one. I wonder what it would take to convince them to admit defeat. Very little I think. Admitting to the idea that has been slowly forming in the back for their minds for a while now: it’s time to get out. It’s time to admit that the country doesn’t want evidence of its failure. And you are a constant reminder that it failed on a spectacular scale. Get out or learn how to use a computer. That’s your choice now.
There certainly is a lot of noise for a Saturday morning, but that should block out the voices of concern, frustration, disappointment and anger in your head that have gathered to remind you that an entire generation has been let down and now we are being asked to become technicians of a Silicon Valley company that will disappear into the tax loop holes in the blink of an eye.
Well, I’ve spent an hour here already. It’s time to call it a day. I’ve leaving with as much hope as I came here with. Conveniently, my hope fits into the paper bag we were all provided with upon entering the hallowed grounds of computerdom. But I’ll be back. There’s a Jobs Expo in March. By this time I’m sure I’ll have even less hope, so the bag they provide doesn’t need to be too big. It’s good for the trees, all of this despair.