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The Absence Of Ambition

The Absence Of Ambition

When I left school in the 1980s, only the very best, academically gifted students went on to university. It was unusual in those days to continue studying beyond school leaving age. Instead, youngsters were encouraged to find a job, start at the bottom of the career ladder and work their way up. Some went on to secondary college or were offered an apprenticeship where on-the-job training would accompany an appropriate continued learning programme. University was reserved for the wealthy or those with a burning desire to be a brain surgeon, astronaut or marine biologist. For the rest of us, we would follow in the footsteps of our parents, find a job and work hard.

This working-class attitude didn’t, however, allay the ambitions of myself and my fellow students. Despite the apparent lack of opportunities, we were still encouraged to aim high when it came to our career goals. As well as my own aspirations of becoming a journalist, the hopes of my fellow students included the respected positions of lawyer, policeman and nurse. Career advisors guided us through our options and pointed us in the right direction. Some, depending on their academic ability, were encouraged to consider more viable alternatives. Others stuck to their guns and steadfastly pursued their dreams.

Of course, it’s entirely different today. These days, it’s unusual not to go to university. The learning possibilities and career opportunities are endless. So why is it that so many students have no ambition whatsoever? Why do so many youngsters want to take the easy way out?

In this social media-obsessed world, more and more students and graduates are citing ‘influencer’ as their desired career. For clarification, this is someone who influences potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending certain items on social media. Since when did this become a career? Seems to me they’re just looking for free holidays, free clothes and an excuse to take more photographs of their egotistical selves. Let’s be honest, the only thing they’re promoting is themselves. Social media has introduced a new breed of self-obsessed attention-seekers with a lack of ambition and an unhealthy addiction to mirrors.

I am proud of my working-class roots and will be forever grateful to my parents for instilling in me the importance of working hard. It brings with it a sense of satisfaction, an element of self-respect and undeniable pride. Where is the pride in persuading the naive and the gullible to buy something they don’t need and probably can’t afford? If they genuinely want to influence people, why not become a teacher, a nutritionist or a doctor? Too much like hard work, that’s why.

University is no longer the respected institution it once was. For many, it’s an excuse to delay their entry into the world of hard work; a way to evade responsibility and to live an easy life. Of course, there are those who have worked hard for their university place, are committed to their studies and dedicated to the pursuit of their chosen career. Hats off to those students with the desire to succeed and the drive and determination to make a difference – not to be confused with those with no interest in their chosen courses and even less interest in their future career. Rather than leaving university with a degree or, better still, a job, many leave with nothing but debt; a debt they have no hope, or intention, of ever paying back.

Laziness has, of course, existed for decades, if not centuries. For every conscientious person there is at least one indolent individual looking for an easy ride. In the 90s, when the salaries of professional footballers rocketed, many girls answered ‘footballer’s wife’ when asked to disclose their future goal. Their lack of ambition was clear – and embarrassingly degrading. But is the modern day equivalent of ‘influencer’ really any different? The idea, it seems, is to have as much money as possible without actually earning any of it. It’s an unhealthy and unrealistic ideal but sadly, one that’s growing in popularity. Maybe one day they’ll realise that self-respect is of far greater value than self-importance.

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