… a rock star. A demi-God. A prize-winning sci-fi author. A porn director. Clearly the state had other ideas for broadening my limited aspirations.
Back when I was at school, the teachers impressed upon us the importance of planning for my future career. As if, at age 15, I really knew what I was good at, or had the slightest inkling of what I wanted to do on a daily basis to fit into society as I made money for the ruling elite.
Like all misguided state schools, they employed a careers officer (whose title in today’s politically correct vernacular might be Career Optimisation Specialist). When sat in his office for the informal chat about my future, I made the mistake of asking him about his industry experience. I wasn’t deliberately trying to be subversive, I was desperately fishing for ideas to cover up the fact I hadn’t given it any thought, in the vain hope that something he’d done in his forty-odd years on the planet might appeal to me. Turns out he went straight from school to being a careers adviser, so him doling out advice sounded as sensible as being given a tour of a saw mill by a blind man.
But the school didn’t give up trying to make us choose a path and stick with it. They arranged the usual talks from people in industry, which were thinly disguised recruitment days for cheap labour. One in particular I remember was when a guy from some aerospace company came in wielding a state-of-the-art fighter helmet to pass around, complete with revolutionary HUD while he tried to make designing it sound sexy. None of us were listening, just trying on the helmet and pretending to be Stormtroopers.
Then, in assembly one day, we were told we were going to get expert careers advice from an external agency and were to go down to a particular room in small groups. With joviality disguising trepidation, we entered the room to each be faced with a questionnaire and a pencil. The remit was to answer all the questions as quickly and truthfully as possible, and we had to keep our pencil marks strictly inside the multiple-choice boxes.
The things asked were all rating-style statements: Strongly agree; Agree; Disagree; Strongly disagree; Dunno. The precursor to psychometric tests. But the thing I found baffling at the time was that the same questions kept cropping up, worded in slightly different ways throughout the test. I presumed it was to try and catch us out and see if we answered consistently, but I know more about the process of profiling now.
Anyway, we filled in the tickbox sheets and after the allotted time expired were informed not to mention anything about the content of the test to our peers who had yet to take it. Our answers would be whisked away, fed into a 1980s mainframe that probably had as much computing power as my gran, and our best-fit career paths would be spat out a week later.
Judgement day arrived as promised. My printout had three careers printed on it in full dot-matrix glory, based on my personality and the coding skills of a well-meaning, yet probably incompetent, software engineer. I forget one of the options, but I remember the other two vividly: 1) Policeman, 2) Undertaker.
Had I listened to Deep Thought that day and not been so incredulous of the fact it had either completely misinterpreted my answers or I was clutching someone else’s printout, I could now be gleefully shooting people or burying them. Begs the question how many youngsters took the results seriously and ended up on unsuitable career rungs.