Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Nation-Wide Lack of Demand... for Economists?!

As I go round that last roundabout my mind is racing. Quite furiously too. I park quite randomly, violently pull the hand break, get out of the car, slam the door shut and stomp up the stairs. Apartment door effectively slammed, I barge in on the woman carrying her child putting him to bed and that’s when the disbelieving wrathful rant begins.

Really, even though she saw it coming, my sister could not have possibly done anything to prevent this. Neither could have my 3 month old nephew. Even with all his attempts at distracting cute smiles and gurgles. The rant had already started on the way home in my mind and it needed to get out into the world.

I had just come out of my 3rd job interview and even though that’s not a big number (…more like the tiniest number of interviews I’ve heard of recently) I was starting to become quite frustrated with the state of the labor market. No wrong ideas please; there are plenty of jobs available and plenty of firms and companies recruiting and hiring, unlike what most of my graduating class expected, but my frustration is a symptom of another quite unexpected disease. My frustration stems from the fact that there seems to be quite limited room for poor ickle aspiring economists such as myself in this supposedly booming economy.
Now thus far I have not been able to delve into studying the matter deeper and I may as well end up terribly mistaken, but I cannot help this ugly impression right this instant…

I think accidentally ending up interviewing for one more marketing and sales job when I at first had the distinct impression that the office I was interviewing at was actually involved with coordinating between private and public sectors for the sake of the greater good of Egyptian welfare and the Egyptian economy did that for me. Hmph. Let’s just say that’s just 5% of the rant my mother and sister and friends and family and anyone on the street who is showed the tiniest interest had to bear.

With all those marketing and sales jobs out running about looking for someone to get them done I began to wonder what in heaven and hell are all those people selling and more importantly: to whom?! Everybody seems to be selling something to someone, and I really cannot help the disbelieving resentful facial expression I’ve been wearing around. Because honest to God, I thought before looking for people to sell and market –sometimes- non-existent (and quite “developed country” like) products to quite delusional buyers*, this market would be looking for qualified and willing people to help develop the effing non-existent structure the economy is supposed to be operating with.
Has this attempting-to-be-“free market” been like this for a while? Or did I have higher expectations than supposed?

I guess part of the problem will always lie in the fact that public institutions and offices will always say that they’re looking to recruit fresh blood that would bring in new ideas and help get out of that ridiculous rut resulting from the stupid bureaucratic details, but in reality do nothing about it.
I don’t blame them a 100% (“them” being the highly qualified personnel working the public sector). I only blame them for the part where they don’t try to put themselves out there and start respectable organized recruitment campaigns. They don’t even check their HR emails for heaven’s sake. How else can a fresh graduate with high hopes and ambitions get her resume in to the director in charge? I bet we all know the answer to that one don’t we?

But let’s not be unfair, there are those public institutions that successfully surpassed all the unmistakable faults of the public sector and evolve into the perfect “private-structured public institution”; the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) being one. At least I’d secretly like to believe that, and please, even if I’m wrong this time do not correct me.

There are of course different things that economists can do that would not require them to completely stray off their intended course: may it be financial analysis, working the securities and investment field, research and academics (I willingly count marketing research as one of those fields, because it admittedly does require a certain amount of economic background) or conducting highly economic feasibility studies for private sector projects.

All the same, do those few sectors and the few opportunities they offer and provide suffice? Can they possibly absorb the almost 2,500 economists graduating economists per year? Can they help encourage high aspirations for fresh graduates and supply them with sufficiently challenging environments that are needed in order to ensure that the ranks of “crème de la crème” students remain as such and not be drowned with the routinic down slope of the working life? Have I been successful in concealing my overflowing disappointment?

I recognize that not all the graduates from my school and the other private schools offering majors in economics are looking specifically to work within the specified fields of economics; some of them don’t care what they do as long as they do something, anything. Others don’t mind drifting into the banking sector, or the advertising, marketing and sales sector I have come to despise… but that’s their conscious choice to wander off from the field they’ve supposedly been preparing themselves for for 4 years.

It’s not my choice… and may I be damned I shall not give up. And no nation-wide lack of demand for economists shall come in my way.

At least I hope so.

* I understand that marketing and sales could involve material physical products as well and I have no problem with that, but the fast growing market for abstract products and services is becoming quite the problematic issue. At time the fact that products could be abstract helps in completely wrecking the concept. That is in the likes of “convincing CEOs to sponsor attempts at creating conferences and events in different and multiple areas of economic interest with the façade of the economy’s greater good but in truth just hoping to inflate both our egos and our bank accounts”.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Lied! Mosaic Is Much More Than Just Pretty Art.

We’ve all been told stories growing up, whether they were bed time stories, stories of princes and princesses relayed as cartoon, stories of suspenseful and quite lame vampire fiction as teenagers, or the more drama-filled stories we read as adults. The one thing in common between each tale we are told of is this: they all have just one story in its folds. One hero, one heroine, one happily ever after or one tragic ending. Those protagonists had a story told about their lives. One story.

That’s exactly where the story tellers lied. And that is one heck of a lie; it is so immaculately weaved to the extent that we get systemized to it since the youngest age possible and then we can hardly see the problem with it when we grow up… until it hits you straight in the face of course.
Taking the lead from those nice fairy tales we admired so much as kids, we all tend to think of our life as just one big, really long story that we might be able to tell our grandchildren when we’re 75 and slightly senile. Fiction is one thing but in reality this cannot be farther from the truth. We might be able to tell those little brats things, but we won’t tell them just one story; we’ll tell them stories.

So how did I come to realize this very obvious yet quite elusive grand charade that I and most of the people I know are living? Well… It did more than just hit me in the face; it tripped me over. But then its light and breezy consequences lift me up right away.
I’ve spent almost the entirety of the past 21 years searching for my story: looking for the perfect prince, the perfect kingdom and yearning for the perfect ending (and of course timidly fearing that fate holds an ugly one for me instead). At some point I was quite sure I found it and that this was IT!
Okay… I lie; at multiple points of my life I was quite sure that it was it! And every time it slipped away the sadness set in instead and so did the disappointment. I always felt entirely thwarted whenever something ended and I reprimanded myself for being so deluded as to think that “it was it”, because it so obviously wasn’t! Every time I promise myself I’ll be wiser next time and more careful, and that I’ll judge the situation with a more mature perspective, only because I cannot afford anymore bad aims. Time was running out and I needed my story. I needed it when I could still call myself young… those were always the nicest stories.

It was not until the few days before my birthday that it hit me. Seeing as I was turning 21 during the holy month, my thoughts were less fixated on the big party that would not exist and more on what the past 21 years meant. The more I thought about it the clearer it became: I’ve done everything, I’ve been everything, and I’ve been through every kind of story line known to Cairo. I failed miserably at finding something that I feel I had missed out on so far!

I have so many stories to tell about the things I’ve been through to the extent I am sure I could easily write an entire series of books and still won’t run out of tales. And through simple math, I recognized that I’ll still have more stories to tell as the years go by. That could only mean one thing: I should not be looking for “my story”; I have plenty already and there is more yet to come. It’s all about accepting the idea that this so called “one big story” –that is actually none other than “life”- is actually compromised of small miniature plots and subplots that may, or may not, have their own little consequences on the future ones. The trick is to treat past stories -whether comedies or tragedies- as compost to be used to feed and nourish future ones.

The implications of this realization -to me at least- are “Major. Huge!” as my mom said the night I turned legal. Now that I have finally caught that lie red-handed and now that I fully understand the “mosaic theory” of life, I quiver with anticipation at the prospect of the next story... or the one I’m already inadvertently in the middle of.