Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A sad story about work

    It is almost 11AM and I am browsing a complex and dull-looking website that will tell me how much money the clients of the bank I'm working at will lose today with the stock market. It's called current liquidity excess, it is repetitive and uninteresting, and it needs to be done twice a day to ensure that no one loses a vast amount of money, like, say, 3 million dollars. All is well, none of the clients have their names in red.

I started my internship on the 25th of June 2012, and in two weeks I will be done. As a media undergraduate who attends an Arts College, working in a bank goes against all my beliefs and principles. I hate money and how it enslaves people, I hate that money is the biggest entity in the world, I hate the political schemes of corporations and banks, I hate what it makes people do. But most importantly I hate that I have to work for money, eight hours per day, five days a week, all year long. I guess you could call me a naïve idealist who believes that we can live on poems and flowers. 

What my job consists of is making sure the clients' transfers are archived by numbers and dates, that the stocks they've bought are correct, that their amount of cash at the end of the month does not differ from the one in the bank's system... Hours of archiving and numbers and maths, and Excel graphs and tables. HSBC, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Merril Lynch have become part of my daily vocabulary. As a student who used to cheat her way through her maths class (and still miserably failing to get a simple PASS), this was torture. I could never get the same result twice, and would often opt for the number that seemed most appealing to me (34500 or 256... mm 256 pounds seems reasonable I guess). I found it hilarious that I couldn't get the same result for a simple addition of numbers, even with a calculator. But this was overestimating my capacities in maths: 38000 dollars became 83000 dollars, pounds became euros, hong kong dollars became swiss francs... I was a disaster. And when the cash at the end of the month did not match the bank's system, it was my task to find out why they had lost so much money (we are talking millions here). I thought it was completely absurd to let a 19 year student (who, to make it worse, got the internship without any interviews or skill assessment... Nepotism at its best) find out why the client had lost so much money, but they thought it was normal. After pretending to find mistakes in a twenty pages long cash statement, I finally asked the un-askable : "Maybe someone stole his card and then spent all the money! That would explain why he lost 38million euros and 256 million dollars! That explains it all!!". To which my boss looked at me as if I were a dinosaur. After a couple of hours, it came to light that I had entered the wrong data and thus the whole incident had been engendered by my maths mistakes. Oops. 

Another incident that makes me giggle (but shudder in shame at the same time) is the day I inadvertly printed out 250 pages of cash statement. It lasted around 10minutes, during which my infuriated colleagues  couldn't get hold of their faxes or prints. It was hilarious. After realizing that I had printed the wrong pages, I quickly flipped them over and put them back in the printer, as I did not want to look like a stupid, soulless and tree-loathing person. But in my purely altruistic act, I had not flipped the pages on the right side, and my colleagues were both shocked ( at my stupidity..) and irritated to find that their prints and faxes had been printed on my printed pages. They couldn't read a thing and we had to throw everything away. I couldn't stop laughing, but I was the only one. After that, they ceased giving me complex things to do, like printing out excel charts  or anything that involves numbers. Instead, I am now in charge or the archives and spend all my hours on 9GAG, because it is one of the few websites that is infinite. Sometimes I watch movies without the sound, because I like living on edge. It also makes for interesting plot twists. 

Apart from the sporadic hilarious incidents (mostly caused by me...), work is a dull pain in the ass.

I've only just come to the sudden realization that I will be graduating from university in two years. And then what? The real world? A job? I don't feel ready to become a person with a job. The only thing that I learnt from my internship is that I do not want to work in an office, I do not want to work in an environment that involves money or dealing with numbers. I want to learn new things everyday, I want to have a job where ideas are thought-provoking, a job where I can discuss compelling issues and contemporary problems that affect me... It pains me to see that people have jobs that they hate, but cannot quit for financial reasons, I hate that not everybody is given the chance to choose what they really want to do in life, it pains me to see that everyday is a repetition of the day before and before and before that... And it's worrying, because if I can't enjoy a simple and secure job like what I have right now, what will life be after university? Will I have to wake up everyday to a job I don't like? A lifetime seems pretty long...

Is it normal to be this scared? 

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