Dear Mr. Johnson,
I hope you think it reasonable that I am making this an open letter. I originally raised my objection to your promotion of poorly paid graduate jobs via Twitter in reply to your own tweet encouraging the jobless youth of the Twitterverse to visit www.london.gov.uk/graduates.I wanted to discuss the issue of poor opportunities for London graduates using the open forum afforded by London’s favourite social networking tool because your answers would be of value to a great many others, not just myself.
However, having received no reply two days later, I pointed out that the @MayorOfLondon account was, sadly, quite inept at replying to London twitterers wishing to correspond with their elected representative online.
A quick glance through your Twitter stream revealed that it had been three weeks since you last replied to anybody, and that particular tweet actually appeared to be little more than an opportunity to plug news of another City Hall initiative. This seems like quite an oversight to me, and reveals a disappointing unwillingness to engage in an open dialogue with voters – especially given recent news that London is the top Twitter-using city in the world.The chance to converse with hundreds of thousands of Londoners is passing you by because of your preference (as you told me in a direct message) for direct messages rather than public replies. Does this not undermine one of the most fundamental principles of using Twitter in the first place, that conversations are conducted in public, thereby allowing dialogues that might otherwise be limited to two people to instead be shared with many others? Why set up an @MayorOfLondon account if exchanges are only to take place in private? It would be simpler to send letters.
Corporate Twitter accounts (or those of high-profile individuals such as yourself) can be used to great effect if conducted correctly, permitting quick and easy engagement with the many people to whom you provide a service, fostering a closer bond than usually possible with conventional media, and, ultimately, helping an organisation connect with, and respond to, actual people without the need for a third party. Used incorrectly, Twitter becomes redundant; one-way, old media principles flailing around in a sad attempt to appear modern, closed to the very avenues of communication that have made the service such a success.
What initially compelled me to seek your comment was the ‘Helping graduates into work’ section of your website, which you promoted to your 44,000 followers on the 10th of August. Having graduated last year and struggled to find a job for several months, I know how difficult it is for those who have recently left university to find work, especially faced with the inordinate living costs of our capital.Upon entering my degree into your job search page I was presented with 10 of perhaps the most inappropriate results I’ve come across on any job site: according to London.gov.uk, the first-class degree in English Literature that cost me in excess of £18k to attain would bestow the privilege of being a ‘Sales or retail assistant’, bringing in around £13,666 pa, working in a ‘Customer care occupation’ for £15,666, or as an ‘Educational [?] Assistant at £15,818.
At the top of the pay scale is ‘Secondary Teachers’ on £25k, but your site neglects to mention a BA would not, in fact, be enough to enter this role as an additional post-grad qualification would also be required. Similarly, I doubt many recent graduates would have any chance of stepping straight into an ‘Editor’ position, as listed on your site.
To suggest that £14k jobs in retail are acceptable for London graduates is faintly offensive. I remember being paid £2,000 more than that in a retail position I held for 2 years before I went to university, and that was nearly six years ago. £14k would barely be enough to live on in London, after income and council tax, rent, and travel expenses (it cost me a little under £200 per month just to get to work in zone 1 from my flat in zone 6) . Equally, it suggests that a degree is virtually useless: Byron’s musings on crossing the Hellespont are pretty superfluous if you can only end up stacking shelves in Tesco.
I, and I imagine many others, would consider £20k about right as a starting point for graduate jobs in the capital. That rules out all but three of the results given on your website – of those, two are woefully unrealistic. That leaves ‘Journalist’ the only viable option for English Lit graduates in London.
All of which leads me to ask why you are promoting such useless career information? This sort of advice is discouraging at best for anyone wanting to find a decent graduate job, and surely puts a great many people off thinking they could ever hope to remain in London once their degree is completed. Do you personally approve of such advice being given to a group of people that, surely, you should be doing everything you can to keep? If so, how (and where) do you propose one might live comfortably for £13,666 in London?Presumably there are no jobs currently available within City Hall, or they would be listed on the website? Or is the job section simply paying lip service to giving graduates opportunities? Why, instead of disseminating information on how to live in urban poverty, aren’t you promoting fairly paid, respectable, achievable careers for graduates? Why not call on employers to provide an adequate wage for those who have taken the time and spent the money on gaining a degree?
I can’t help but think how valuable your input and support could be in really helping graduates find gainful employment if you were willing to engage with them, and with organisations that value intelligent and responsible young people who wish to enter employment but are unfortunately faced with a great many barriers in doing so.
I look forward to hearing from you (and feel free to contact me on Twitter).
Of course if the @MayorOfLondon would like to reply to Jamie here on the blog, then I'd be more than happy to add it to the post.
Your humble servant,