When Mr. Braithwaite is demobilized from the RAF, he is told by the career advisor that he should have "no difficulty in finding a good civilian job". Mr. Braithwaite has a science degree and "varied experience in engineering technology", and there is "an urgent demand for qualified technologists, especially in the field of electronics, (his) special interest". Upon visiting the Appointments Office, Mr. Braithwaite is given a letter of recommendation and a list of three firms, each of which has vacancies for qualified Communications Engineers. Mr. Braithwaite immediately writes to the companies and receives encouraging replies with invitations to interviews from all three.
At the first company he visits, Mr. Braithwaite is greeted with "silent hostility" by the receptionist, who seems surprised that he is black. Mr. Braithwaite's interview with the company associates seems to go well, but at the end of it he is informed that although his replies have been completely satisfactory, he will not be hired because in his position he would have to have "authority over a number of...English employees", who might be uncomfortable working under a person of color. There are other positions available, but for these, Mr. Braithwaite is overqualified.
Realizing that the company would not hire him because of the color of his skin, Mr. Braithwaite calls the other two companies who have scheduled him for interviews and lets them know that he is a Negro. In both cases, he is told that, unfortunately, the post for which he would have been applying has been filled.
Desperate, Mr. Braithwaite tries everything - "labor exchanges, employment agencies, newspaper ads - all with the same result". He even applies for a job as a technician for which no special qualifications are indicated, but is told that he would not fit in because the other employees, who are not well educated, "might resent the posh way (he) speak(s)". Feeling angry and betrayed, Mr. Braithwaite happens to sit next to a "thin, bespectacled old gentleman" one day beside the lake at St. James's Park. The old gentleman, sensing Mr. Braithwaite's dour mood, strikes up a conversation, and fortuitously suggests to him that he should be a teacher (Chapter 4 and 5).