‘When I grow up, I want to be a princess and live in a palace and be rich and famous. I want to have three children and marry a lorry driver with a long beard and own a toy shop.’
I wrote this aged five (or thereabouts), as part of an extensive and ambitious schedule for my future. Everything was carefully mapped out and any fears that my goals were unachievable were quashed by the fact my parents promised me I could do anything I wanted if I wanted it enough. Well, Mum and Dad, I appreciate your confidence in me, but I’m not sure that’s strictly true. 15 years on and I’m finally losing belief in the dream that I will find a bearded royal trucker who will whisk me away to his regal residence on top of the hill of wishful thinking.
Plan B, of course, is what brings most of us to Oxford. I’ll need a degree so I can work in the city for 15 hours a day, for a few years at least. Then I’ll do some serious husband-hunting at work, on the tube and online. Another couple of years and I’ll be taking a break from work to have his children. I’ll go back but it will never ‘be the same’ and I’ll be a thirty-something with a bunch of sprogs to follow around with food and laundry. This isn’t exactly the stuff that dreams are made of. So I’m back to square one.
Despite Oxford being a city swarmed with very driven and motivated young people, I don’t think I’m the only one without a clue of what the future will bring and I have every intention of postponing adulthood for as long as I possibly can. Looking to the University for solid employment guidance, the Careers Service website has a step by step guide to sorting your life out. The very first part of the guide, ‘Knowing Yourself’, encourages me to unveil my ‘underlying values and beliefs’, and already it seems as if I’m engaged in an online self help session.
My problems remain unsolved, that thing called ‘real life’ is looming and every week is a week closer to the daunting prospect of finals. Even the terminal name of the exams tell us that our extended teenagehood is on its deathbed and we’re stuck doing a subject we’re painfully bored of with no fucking clue what happens next. Panic not, I have a plan.
As I said, we are surrounded by impressive and soon-to-be rich, successful people, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If you think this article is here to try to motivate us all to work a lot harder, so we can swan around in slightly longer gowns with superior sleeves that brush against the ‘commoners’ as we walk to voluntary lectures, you are wrong. I mean join them on the dance floors, at the crewdates, the formals and the drinking societies. The ‘Knowing Yourself’ section of the Careers Service should be retitled ‘Know Other People’. Befriend the potentially minted, seduce the imminently powerful, be one step ahead of the game.
Most basically, we’re looking for friends in high places and valuable connections. Once these ties are secure, we can get them or their multi-millionaire parents to give us jobs, or we can just marry them for a year or so. Here’s how to put yourself on the elite map.
Do your research
With the powers of social networking at our fingertips, hunting for influential prey is greatly facilitated. Seek those in high positions of important university clubs and drinking societies. Better yet, seek their best friend. A president will most likely be arrogant or at least aware of those looking to ascend the social ladder, but his slightly chubbier, plainer and quieter friend will welcome the attention wholeheartedly. With this budding new friendship in its early stages, mission manipulation can flourish.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that networking can be, quite simply, more valuable than your degree. If you’re better at throwing parties than writing essays, you’re destined to be successful in my books. Embrace all weak links of nepotism, flirt your way through all the important people you can find, and talk to absolutely everybody. The slightly smelly pregnant lady sitting next to you on the train home might, just might, run a company that will place you in the job of your dreams, or have a dashing millionaire brother who wants to marry you.
Making a name for yourself in Oxford will undoubtedly do wonders for your connections, but becoming a big name is no mean feat. There is more than one way to do this, of course, with some being more successful than others.
1. Do something outrageous. Be the guy who got laid on Christ Church roof or the girl who once got with Simon Cowell, then carefully leak your name to a number of well-connected people. A legend in the making, surely?
2. If this seems unfeasible, you could be a hero of a different kind. Pay a ten year old a fiver to stage saving his life. Perhaps this is a little high risk if you’re getting him to skip between traffic, but if you can convincingly feign the rescue of an infant, you’ll be making serious talking points. If possible, and if you are committed enough, lose a limb in the process both for authenticity as a visible reminder, now and for the future, that you are the selfless lifesaver of Oxford.
3. P.T. Barnum allegedly nsaid, ‘I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right’, which highlights that great media belief that any publicity is good publicity. This must be sufficient evidence to put our good (but insignificant) names on the line and commence a new life of scandal and humiliation. Vomit on Emma Watson, piss yourself in the queue for Wahoo, charge people after sex. Being talked about is vital for your new reputation, if you have to be infamous rather than famous, so be it. Girls could always grow facial hair; stories of Guildford’s ‘bearded lady’ have reached as far as Staffordshire. Evidently it works.
Be better looking
The easiest of my steps, for some, is quite simply to be stunningly attractive. Have captivating eyes that never make contact as they’re too busy scanning the room with an austere stare. Look friendly and popular, but fundamentally unapproachable. Work the room being allusive and endearing, always making an excuse to leave first. Nobody can resist someone that sexy. You, my seductive friends, are the student glitterati that leave the rest of us defeated. You have it sorted. Always put a picture on your CV, ideally a naked one.
I somehow doubt that this advice will revolutionise the student body. Unfortunately I think I went too far with the false near-death experience of a child to do that. Really, I think that we use our degrees as an excuse not to do the things we enjoy all too often, when really we should be using socialising to avoid work. Getting a first or a 2.1 isn’t the be all and end all. University is about more than a degree, just as employers take a lot more into consideration than exam percentages. It’s hard to deny that connections can be a huge help in future job hunting, and at the risk of sounding pretentious, we’re here to find out who we want to be as much as what we want to do. Making plenty of connections means that we know interesting people in all sorts of areas, and we can delay the pressure of settling down to a grown up nine-to-five.