We're in Mombasa at the moment, my last taste of Africa for 2010 (and my first, briefly, of 2011). Nothing has really changed here - it's the same hotel we've been to twice before and the same beach we've visited four times in the last five years. I'm pretty certain that of all the holiday destinations in the world, returning here, to the same place, ranks fairly low on my list.
This lacklustre holiday which, family time aside, feels like a little bit of a waste of time seems typical of my life in general at the moment. I've started as a graduate at a large investment bank (where I interned twice) and absolutely detest the work I am doing at the moment. It's a short first rotation (just two months left) but I wonder if the next will be any better.
The problem I have with this work is not that there's too much of (that's absolutely fine, I have no problem working an 80 hour week if the work merits it) but that it is so incredibly dull and not necessarily that useful in the business sense either. Without going into too much detail, essentially I'm adding missing pieces of functionality to an application to abate pressure caused by internal politics. The functionality (and generally the application itself) isn't complicated, rather just tedious. The tedium of actual development is compounded by the extensive QA process that surrounds any change to the application and while the majority of my changes are new, affect a minority amongst the 3,000 users we have and might only even be used by support - I still spend 60% of my time doing QA tasks.
It feels like I'm wasting my time - this is the time when I can really give it everything but lack motivation to do so. I've barely learnt anything new though in the last three months besides how to use various systems and how to produce QA documentation to satisfy the regulators. This causes a sinking feeling in my stomach every time I talk to (some of) the other graduates and they tell me how much they're learning. I recall my internship where I learnt a huge amount - both of software development and the business need that necessitated our work.
So instead of stagnation, it's almost like recessing. My hire-ability is sinking each week that I learn nothing and forget a little bit more all that I learnt during my Computer Science degree. As my hire-ability sinks, it becomes harder to jump ship, to break out of the circle and to get back onto the true road of career fulfillment. I will not go down without a fight though - my eyes are open and actively scanning for opportunities.
And finally, I'm not the only one - this is a common theme amongst quite a few of my graduate colleagues. My faith in the HR department has been shaken by their failure to place the brightest graduates (who they apparently go to great lengths to hire) in positions which they will enjoy and where they will have their capabilities pushed. Sure, it's not a problem on their side - they often mention how many applicants they get - it is easy to fill our positions as graduates (we should be lucky to be where we are, of course!) but they need to treat us better. It seems that we're regarded and treated as merely numbers - without recognition of the fact that we have different desires, skill levels and ambitions.
This is going to cause two problems: 1) the brightest students will no longer flock to work here in the way they have done (the economic crisis of 2007/8 has already gone a long way to reducing the number of students who are chasing a career in finance) - graduates talk (and I have been talking too) to their peers in the years below and 2) the brightest graduates will leave - several of my colleagues are pursuing potential opportunities elsewhere.