Does Your Background Affect Your Chances?
Research Says Yes, But You Can Change That
Where you are from, and who you come from shouldn't have a massive bearing on what you do, or where your life can take you. But often it does, and unless you're willing to break out of that mold, you may be stuck there. And so may your children, apparently.
Part of the problem stems from education, and not just your own, but that of your parents.
If your parents came from a poor background, maybe their education wasn’t great, maybe they left school and went straight into work. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it does restrict movement slightly.
As an example of this, we can look at results from a 2020 Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) report. It found that just 16% of people in creative jobs are from working-class backgrounds.
And while I find that figure depressing as hell, and so should you, I don’t find it surprising. If like me, and most of my friends, you come from a working-class background, statistically speaking you are more likely to work in a shop or factory than you are in a creative industry.
Access to information, the time to be able to use that information, and the encouragement to make something of that knowledge are sadly lacking. I’m not usually a doom and gloom sort of person, I knew about the working, middle, and upper classes, I assumed it had changed with the times.
It seems it hasn’t. The report indicates that even in this day and age, your background alters your chances at an alarming rate. Location, parents' jobs, and finances, race (sadly), all skew the odds,
I wanted to be a computer programmer when I was 11, we couldn’t afford a PC. When I finally got one, we couldn’t easily afford the books to teach me about the languages. In fact, they still aren't cheap today. luckily there is Youtube and other free sites that all have learning material these days.
And the internet? Forget it, it was dial-up anyway, and unlimited access for a monthly fee was only a pipe dream. By the time the access to information was there for me, I had a full-time job and a young family. My parents wanted me to be happy, but happy meant getting a job and earning some cash.
I’m not looking to make excuses here either, I have made so many mistakes in my life I would need to create a new website just for my blog's Appendix A on the “things I’ve screwed up”. But the worrying thing is the trend seems to still hold true.
Even most of the poorest of UK families now have access to high-speed internet in some form, there is a wealth of information available for free, you could learn to program on youtube for god’s sake, people do, and get jobs from it too. I weep for the 11-year-old me, and the uber-geek he could have become.
But how do we now address the continued lack of progress into creative roles for those from underprivileged backgrounds? Despite the veritable wealth of free information now available, who you are, and where you are from, still make a massive difference in your chance of getting into a creative role. As I couldn’t get into a creative job as a youth, and I am now “working class” like my parents, what chance do my children have? At 14 I was bright, motivated, inquisitive, desperate for knowledge and success, by 22 I was a parent and stuck in a dead-end job.
Don't Be A Statistic!
A worrying highlight from the PEC study is that of having a “double disadvantage”, where for example working-class women are five times less likely, yes, FIVE TIMES, to secure themselves a creative job. As a parent to two young girls, this horrifies me to my bones. And don't even get me started on if you are disabled, or black, or any other race you can speak of. A young black girl from a poor home, in a wheelchair, has more chance of winning the lottery twice than she has of being an upper-echelon creative success.
My eldest daughter, at 8, is constantly creative, designing and making artwork. She loves it.
Some of her ideas, the shows she makes my wife and I sit through, the drawings, paintings, are very advanced for her age. For my age, if I’m being honest, I can’t draw a stick figure. Proud parent aside, I constantly praise her work, and tell her to stick at it, “you can be an artist when you grow up, these are brilliant”.
The report from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre says otherwise it seems. Apparently, she has more chance of serving someone in a creative job their Costa Coffee than she has of displaying at the Tate or even just making a happy living doing something she loves.
This means I am either lying to her every week when I say she can be whatever she wants to be, or I need to swing the odds a bit.
So what are her options? Do I leave it to chance or to the education system? Not likely. I need to make our home somewhere where she sees creativity as a real option, so started to write again. Over the recent past, I have been building up my own portfolio of writing, investing myself in learning copywriting, I have clients, and am building up my understanding of the processes.
I still feel like a complete fraud, literally every time I write or submit something, or even do a video call with a client. I feel like I have my Bullshitter badge on, and they can see I should be more suited to shelf stacking than wordplay.
The overwhelming sense of "I'm not educated enough, I can't do anything but menial work" is part of why I keep pushing myself to keep going. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking they have to be limited because we don't have a great deal of money.
The access to learning is there for them, we just need to make sure the access to opportunity and optimism is too. All of this got me thinking about this blog, I just sat down and tapped away, the more I researched how poor the odds are, the more I wanted to write.
So now I still work full time, and also pretty much full time at copywriting too, but have high hopes for the future. It may have taken 20 years for the penny to drop, and I think that is the biggest problem for children in underprivileged areas.
No one ever came up to me and said “You don't have a chance”, but the focus on not burning down the school, getting out, and getting any job, is rife. I don't have the brainpower to understand what else it can be, are kids still unable to access the right information? It doesn't seem that hard to get to these days.
Your average parent, regardless of education, wants their children to be happy and successful, but because they don't see creativity as vital to their jobs, maybe they don't focus on it for their children? I know what my dad would have said if I had declared I was going to be a writer or actor when I grew up.
Research shows that having a role model can influence a child’s aspirations. Whether that is Elon Musk, Katie Price, or you as a parent is largely down to you. I spent 20 minutes discussing probability and random chance with my 8-year-old daughter today (admittedly not something we discuss daily), but remember having to explain some of the “bigger words” in the Sun newspaper to my dad as a child.
I am as culpable as the next parent for just getting through each day, especially after a long day at work. But when I am doing something creative in my copywriting work, I both feel happier with my life and have more mental energy, which then transmits to my children.
So I am working at becoming better than I was, in the hope that seeing this gives my children the optimism they need for their own futures. That could be the secret sauce to success, optimism. If you hate your job, and it seeps into your home life, how can you expect your children to have any hope for their own future roles?
Maybe that is the difference between poor and rich? I’m still broke, but working on it, but my work life, through my own choices, is on the up. I feel richer personally, mentally, and emotionally. The fog of the daily grind seems less of a chore for me, and I want to invest that into my children.
I’m not sure what you will be able to take from this blog, if anything, although I hope you do. If you consider the class system defunct, let me know, I am genuinely interested in any opinion. If it is defunct, why do kids from poorer families still not get creative jobs?
Maybe you are from a working-class background, and through your own endeavors have bettered yourself, got that dream job, and feel that having made it yourself, your kids’ chances have improved?
Maybe I am just full of crap, and I am wrong about all of it, who knows. What I do know is that until a year ago I felt like I was going nowhere, and taking everyone else with me on the choo-choo train to mediocrity. And now I am trying to do something about it, at 40, I feel like I have a chance, and so do my children. Or I will fail miserably at some point, but at least they will see me trying, and hopefully try something themselves.
Oh, and one last thought, don’t google “Can you learn to be an XXXXX at the age of YYYY”, because some smug little turd at the ripe old age of 27 will have put “Of course you can learn to be an XXXXX, even if you are almost 30, it is just a lot harder than if you were 19”.
It’s demoralizing, and it’s a load of rubbish. And I fell for it for about a decade (as if in my normal life I would give a second thought to the fact that 22yr old Brian from the 'tintlenet' thinks I'm too old to learn scuba diving, the wanker) If you can think, you can do it. . So do it, better yourself now, and maybe you can better the people around you too.
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