Boris Johnson takes his own ridiculous job test
As the government’s new careers website is ridiculed online, in a darkened Downing Street study a baffled prime minister tries it out for himself. Surely it can’t be as bad as all that?
It’s two o’clock in the morning and 10 Downing Street is shrouded in darkness. Only one window shows any sign of light. Here, the amber glow of a cheap desk lamp, left by Gordon Brown, illuminates 10 sausagey fingers as they tap at a keyboard, nervously manoeuvre a mouse and twist clumps of an already-ruffled blond thatch.
Boris Johnson, slumped in an office chair, collar loosened and white cotton shirt sleeves rolled just above his wrists, is staring at his government’s latest work of genius and wondering why, like so many of its previous great creations, the whole country can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at how implausibly bad it is.
It doesn’t make sense to Boris. Boris doesn’t fail. Boris is a winner.
He quietly, slowly reads the big letters at the top of the page.
“Discover your skills and careers.”
I know my skills, he thinks to himself. Leader, visionary, disruptor, charmer, historian, Churchillian levels of being a bloody good chap, fluent in Latin, keen amateur whiff-whaff player. I know what my career is, too.
“I’m the ruddy Prime Minister!” he says, thumping the desk loudly enough to startle himself. He tenses, hoping he hasn’t woken Carrie and whatever the latest sprog is called.
Still, he wants to see what all the fuss is about. Ever since Rishi told people who’d lost their jobs during the Covid crisis to consider a career change – bloody Rishi – people have been going on the National Careers Service website and filling in a questionnaire to see what other jobs they might be good at. Unfortunately, the results have been a tad, well, unhelpful.
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There was the woman in her 50s who, it suggested, could retrain as a stunt double. It told a 57-year-old musician that he could be a ‘sports professional’, more specifically a ‘boxer’. It also recommended that a vast number of people could try a career in acting at a time when the performing arts are in the middle of an existential crisis.
Freak results, thinks Boris. Anomalies. These people mucked up the form, sabotaged it even. Probably state-educated or from the North. Or both. He loosens his collar by another button and rolls his sleeves up to his elbows. Tongue wandering around his top lip, he employs maximum concentration and clicks on ‘Start Assessment’.
“Ok, first statement,” he says. “‘I am comfortable telling people what they need to do’. That’s a ‘Strongly agree’. Born to do it. As soon as I could speak, I remember telling Nanny when she needed to wipe my bottom.”
“‘I make decisions quickly’. Abso-bloody-lutely. I’m very happy to quickly change those decisions, too. Another ‘Strongly agree’. ‘I like to take control of situations’. Hmm. Well, I’d have to ask Dom before deciding, really. Not too keen on taking control of the unpleasant ones, like fatherhood or pandemics. That’s an ‘It depends,’ I reckon.”
Boris continues. Nearly every answer is ‘Strongly agree’ (‘I set myself goals in life’ and ‘I like working with numbers’ and ‘I enjoy planning a task more than actually doing it’) or ‘Strongly disagree’ (‘I like taking responsibility for other people’ and ‘I like working with facts’ and ‘I like to follow rules and processes’).
This is Boris’s way. Winston wouldn’t have indulged in any wishy-washy mid-spectrum thinking. Be absolutely certain in your convictions, unless those convictions turn out to be wrong or, worse, unpopular. Then be absolutely certain in your ability to pretend you never had those convictions until people are too tired to bother pointing out the contradictions.
He finds some exceptions – a few ‘It depends’ responses, which he rephrases in his head as ‘It depends what Dom says’. Whether he ‘likes to help other people’, for example, clearly depends on which school they went to.
He also notices a distinct whiff of Brexit about the whole thing and tries to remember if he’d told Gove to write it. ‘I like to see things through to the end’. ‘I am comfortable talking people around to my way of thinking’. ‘I am good at coming to an agreement with other people’.
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“Fah! Who wouldn’t strongly agree that I strongly agree with that?” he says, reaching for his coffee in its ‘KEEP CALM AND TAKE BACK CONTROL OF OUR BORDERS’ mug. “I’m getting Brexit done and if Monsieur Barnier isn’t coming around to my way of thinking then I’m a straight banana.”
Eventually, the progress bar reaches 100%, revealing a button that reads ‘See results’. Boris’ anticipation levels are surprisingly high. He knows the kind of jobs he’d excel at: Leader of the armies of Macedon; historian to rival Herodotus; Winston Churchill’s best chum. But there is only one job he was born to do.
He hesitates as he hovers the cursor over the words, taking a deep breath through his nose before…
‘What you told us,’ says the screen.
you are motivated, set yourself personal goals and are comfortable competing with other people
you are a creative person and enjoy coming up with new ways of doing things
you are sociable and find it easy to understand people
“Fah! Ya!” says Boris. “I knew this bally site was no snafu. That is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. To. A. Tee.”
He reads on. There is one job in one sector – ‘managerial’ – that he might be suited to, it says. Hello, he thinks, this is uncanny. Other people have been getting dozens of suggestions, but he’s getting one. Destiny doesn’t allow for deviation.
He scrolls down…
Network managers supervise the design, installation and running of IT, data and telephony systems in an organisation.
“Bah! Pah! Balderdash! Piffle! Tosh!”
Boris hurls the mug at his computer. A pop, a fizz and a cloud of smoke precede a black screen and no signs of digital life.
Resting his face in his hands, he wonders how easy it is to get hold of a network manager at this time of night.
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