2 May 2012

This Is The End, Beautiful Friend

I have a job!!!! Ha ha, never did I think I would utter those sweet, sweet words of glory. I am now a Production Assistant at the very prestigious Bloomsbury Publishing in their Academic Department. If you don't know Bloomsbury, you should - they were the clever people who published Harry Potter. I will however, be working less with Muggles, Witches and Wizards and more with revolutions, wars and philosophies. This is certainly the end of monotonous job searches and cover letters and CVs and bitter bitter rejection. Hooray! It has taken me around 8 months of searching, over 40 jobs applied to, less than half of those replied to, over 100 tiring waitressing shifts, 5 nerve-racking interviews and 4 work experience placements with great companies.

Reactions to my news varied from people streaming tears down their face and jumping up and down on the spot for about five minutes to a simple 'wow that's great....but what about the blog?' Aah the selfish human mind - always looking to get something for itself out of a situation. I am, of course, joking and never fret, this is not the end of our beautiful relationship dear readers (even if some of you were dying to get rid of me!).

I did contemplate ending it all here, signing off in a dramatic statement of typed words flooding the internet with their poignancy. After all, I can't write anything bad about the new job (not that I think I'll need to) for fear of being fired before I've even taken off, and let's face it... who really wants to read about how well someone is doing and how happy they are? People want to to see how miserable and stressed everyone else is so that they don't feel like a total failure themselves. I know I do. It seems however, that there is still a lot to be written about the graduate experience and the terrible job market we are in at the moment.

I don't claim to be a bearer of all knowledge on the subject but I do think that if I can offer up some advice or just a little bit of courage to anyone about to graduate or looking for a job, then this blog still has a semblance of a life. I still feel angry about the way many of my job applications were handled. I still believe that universities don't offer up enough practical advice about entering into a weak labour market. And I still believe that we need to shift the blame from jobless graduates who are labelled lazy or stuck-up and take a deeper look at what is really holding them back.

In September of 2011, I was one of thousands of graduates unable to find a job that used the skills I gained at university. With the 2012 graduates about the join us, it looks set to get even more difficult. Here's my message of hope however - If I can do it so can you. And until that point, we shall both keep fighting the objects that stand in the way. I'm on your side - job or no job.  


26 April 2012

The Luck of the Draw

I don't know whether I was green with envy or just plain sick but the number of high end designer coats I handled yesterday was insane. It was Dolce & Gabanna after Prada after Burberry, and so much fur; god knows how many dead animals I hung on a coat hanger. What did I expect when I was the coat check girl for a very very expensive jewellery shop on New Bond Street? When I say expensive, I mean some of those jewels would have bought several houses.

While a few of the clientèle were almost ridiculous - botoxed faces that looked like masks and 40 year old bodies pushed into see-through black dresses - the owner of the shop was actually quite normal. Once they had discovered I was more than just a waitress (actually we are all always, more than just waitresses) they told me about how their son had just graduated from Manchester (ha...Nottingham is better!) and was going to be in the same situation as me soon.

Well, this got me thinking... is he actually going to have to face the same obstacles as me? His parents own a spectacular diamond shop and they know countless extremely wealthy and connected people. A reader of this humble little blog recently stressed to me how much luck comes into the equation. They wrote

'Even the work ethic required to complete a law or medical degree is established by a certain amount of luck. Lucky to have nurturing parents, lucky to have wealth (for most), lucky to have the correct set of genes to use a certain side of the brain, lucky to be taught from an early age how to manage time. With 7 billion people on earth, there's more pressure than ever to be perfect' 

Well it seems that my luck has dried up, or at least it's in drought. I was lucky enough to have parents who gave me decent enough genes to do well at my education, pushed me to take on lots of extra curricular activities and who taught me how to communicate well. Certainly there are people born into far unluckier circumstances than myself.

I'm not the kind of person however, who wishes to leave it all up to luck. While several factors are playing in my favour in the 'rat race' I also believe that most of my good fortune has come about through sheer hard work. The luckiest person in the world wouldn't get the job of their dreams without at least trying.

Well here's a test for you life... I recently had a very exciting interview at Bloomsbury publishing for my ideal role in their academic division. It went really well - the interviewer seemed to like me, I answered the questions naturally and comprehensively. I left feeling good about it but I was only the second interviewee and they had several other candidates to see after me. I'll know if I got the job by tomorrow.  Come on luck, open the flood barriers again and pour your glorious water all over me because this drought is starting to slowly suck the life out of me.

15 April 2012

Selling My Soul

Hold the press! The kindly people from the JobCentre have revoked their decision to offer me absolutely no money at all while I search diligently for a job and have instead decided to award me the incomprehensible sum of 88p per week.

While it is awfully kind of them to reconsider my economic position in society all the way from their offices in Scotland, this now means that I have to provide proof of my job searching activities and go to the JobCentre every other week to sign on in order to claim my 88p. I'm going to say it again out of sheer disbelief.... 88p.

Please, please keep your money and preferably shove it somewhere unmentionable. Or at least give it to a more useful, less time-wasting cause. This is absolute bureaucracy gone mad and I refuse to participate in it. All it means is that I am now the government's female dog and must adhere to their ridiculous laws in order to get my bone... and a measly old bone it is too.

I have just got back from Berlin, a city that was not so long ago divided by a wall and whose inhabitants (at least in the East) were often forced into conspiring with the secret police in order to get their daily bread. Have I essentially just sold my right to live a free and private life for the price of a loaf of bread? I don't want to get carried away with comparisons here but I'm a historian (or so they told me at university) and so I like to make historical connections between our present day and past occurrences. It was Pasha in Doctor Zhivago who claimed "the private life is dead in Russia". Perhaps the private life here is dying? How many national databases share our private information every day? How many people sell their privacy for 88p?

While I don't have to be a part of this, I refuse to be. Ironic really, considering the fact that I am blogging my life to the world, but at least that is of my own choosing. And plus, I like to think it is my own minute political stand. Better ring the JobCentre now and tell them I choose not to sell my soul for 88p and I really haven't found them the least bit helpful. After all, I am the one who has just secured myself work experience at Time Out Magazine. I can't wait to get some more experience. It may be unpaid but even they are offering me travel expenses and £2 for my lunch each day... I might even be able to afford some sandwich fillings for my bread now.

6 April 2012

No Job, No Benefits...No Nothin'

I'm not really sure whether this is positive or negative factor on my life as a whole but I have been refused Job Seeker's Allowance. After putting myself through two rather un-fun trips to sign on at my local Job Centre Plus and diligently noting down the ways in which I had been searching for jobs to prove that I should be allowed the benefit, it has all come to, well, nothing

I have to admit it did seem stupid writing down all the jobs I had applied for and going along to the centre like a naughty child who now has to keep a record of all their homework. The lady I showed it to didn't even look at it properly and decided to pick out the one job that I was not proud of applying for.... sales assistant at Victoria's Secret. (I couldn't resist the call of discounted undies). I hadn't even received the letter telling me whether or not they were going to give me the Allowance. Well, they're not, the stingy buggers, because apparently I earn wayyy too much. Now I do see where they are coming from. My waitressing jobs can sometimes earn me around £52 a week, the amount the government claims we need to live, but they don't always. In the off months I can get far less than that. Should I just quit my job and re-claim? That's hardly an honest way to live and plus I know that I would just get bored bored bored without some kind of work distraction. If the government aren't going to help me, I shall just have to keep trying to help myself. And by this I do not mean pickpocketing the wealthy iPad users on the tube.

I did not get the internship I wanted. I got a nice reply from the internship agency saying that the interviewer enjoyed meeting me and said that I would be a great addition to anyone's team, however, they needed someone to work 5 days a week. Huh? I do not recall mentioning I couldn't work full time? What followed was a series of emails to clear up the mistake. The astute interviewer had got me 'confused' with another candidate. Fantastic. So when I thought we were getting on really well and all having a laugh together, actually it turns out he was probably just flirting with his co-worker and getting distracted from the real task at hand. The more I interview, the more enraged I feel  at the way I am treated. Needless to say, I no longer want to work for them anyway. So ha. 

Before I revert completely to my childish self, I will offer some words of hope. I have had work with a wonderful new start-up website over the last few days (earning real money... insane, I know) and made some great contacts in the travel journalism industry. I'm also off to do some travel of my own in Berlin over the next few days so I'll say ta-ra for now, or auf wiedersehen as they say over there, and with any luck I'll return with a head full of inspiration and a belly full of beer and sausages. Here's hoping.   


20 March 2012

A Delightful Trip to the Local Jobcentre Plus

It seems that life is determined to take me full circle. Having started this blog with a post about the Jobseeker's Allowance, I can now confirm that I have taken the almighty step into my local 'sign on a die a bit' centre. This decision was not taken lightly - after looking for work for around eight months I finally decided that I probably deserved to be earning some kind of governmental benefit purely out of pity. So there we are, I have officially signed on. Well, that is if my application goes through. Because I have been doing part time work I'm not sure if it will - but the rules say that you can claim if you work less than 16 hours a week and are searching for full time work, which I am I am I am!

The centre itself was somewhat like a book. Do NOT judge it by it's cover. I have to say I was a bit nervous about the whole deal. Strangely, what popped into my head first was what to wear. How do I appear not so bedraggled that I am mistaken for one of the drunks who regularly collects their dole, yet not so smart that I seem well-off and get robbed on my way out? Decisions. In the end I went for a jeans and pumps option which seemed to do nicely as I'm still very much alive and the security guard didn't throw me out.

Once I'd passed an angry looking drunk man smoking a strangely pungent roll-up on my way in I suddenly realised that I wasn't actually in a hell hole. Quite the opposite in fact. The room looked new and clean and it was quiet yet weirdly, very weirdly, friendly. I signed in and plonked myself down on a comfy sofa, feeling rather better than I had ten minutes ago. The butterflies flew off and I waited calmly to be seen.

While sitting and waiting for twenty minutes however, the cracks began to appear. Firstly, the over-abundance of security guards became a bit of an alarm bell. In a room about twenty by eight  metres big, there were at least ten guards. They were all very friendly looking but I couldn't help wondering why quite so many of them were needed. Then, as I was ushered into a small office room to meet my advisor I was faced by a one inch thick pane of what I can only presume was bullet-proof glass. As I passed my documents through the tiny slit in the window and signed a million forms I imagined how many angry jobseekers there were. I felt like I was in a prison at visiting hours. Angry as I was, I wasn't about to shoot 'em up.

Finally, when asked what kind of jobs I was looking for I have to admit I felt darned stupid answering 'editorial assistant roles in journalism or publishing'. Apparently, that job spec isn't even on the national Jobseekers Plus computer system. Timidly I added, 'or PA/secretarial roles' to downplay the 'I'm a posh twat with a degree' side of my application. After being handed a flyer about a local job fair where I was told I could apply for roles at Greg's the bakery, I left the centre as hurriedly as possible with some sense of my pride intact. Not that I mind working in a shop, I just applied to a job in the new Westfield, only, I could have found out that gem of a work opportunity on my own thanks.

So I haven't moved far from square one... it's all snakes and ladders really and I was never much good at that game. I am waiting for hear back from an interview I had with a small publishing company for an internship. It would be amazing, nay spectacularly amazing if I got the job. I'll keep you posted.

7 March 2012

Snobs We Are Not!

It's official says the Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Mail and even the Metro... graduates these days are NOT stuck-up job/education snobs who are unwilling to take on a job they believe is beneath them. According to BBC Education reporter Judith Burns, "recent graduates are more likely to be working in lower-skilled jobs than they were 10 years ago, new figures suggest." 

So no more of this grad hating please. Stop moaning that we are too proud to work in Tesco or the Pound Shop after having spent £3,500 a year (now more like £9,000 may I remind you) on a full time degree because, actually, many of us are doing just that. Well, more of us than were doing so 10 years ago anyway. We're waiters, promotions staff, shelf-stackers and call centre workers. 

So next time you try blaming us for our unemployment, think twice.

One stand-out statistic shows that the most worthwhile degrees to take are definitely practical. Medicine and dentistry come out on top in terms of wage per hour, closely followed by mathematical sciences, architecture and engineering. And where does History stand? Second from last, beating only the Arts. Typical! Why didn't someone tell me this before I spent over £12,000? In all honesty though I could never have been a doctor. I can't even talk about needles, let alone administer them - I fainted like the pansy I am when  had my BCG for goodness sake. Dentistry doesn't exactly appeal to me either come to think of it. Though I can't imagine staring into random strangers open mouth chasms is that appealing to anyone. 

Maybe I should have chosen a healthy medium and studied law. Law graduates seem to be doing OK. I reckon I could settle a few over-the-fence disputes for £16.95 an hour. Actually just saying those words made me yawn. Or is it the fact that it is 23:30 and I should be asleep? No, pretty sure it's the law thing. 

Still, those of us who are employed seem to be doing better than non graduates who are earning far less than those with a degree. According to the recent research, the average non-graduate hourly wage is £8.92 - which is still more than I, and most waiting staff, earn per hour - but far less than the average graduate wage of £15.18 per hour. Considering the fact that a third of graduates are in 'low skilled' jobs and graduate unemployment is at roughly 25%, it is clear that the lucky ones employed in the above mentioned career areas are the ones earning all the money. Not that studying medicine for 7 years and getting a job is lucky - no one will deny the work that goes into that. 

It's a shame I wasn't cut out for the mathematical sciences or for blood and guts surgery. I'm a word-smith. My brain functions in other ways. Do I deserve to be punished for this? Ha, probably just for the pure arrogance of that sentence. Seriously though, stop with the grad-bashing culture of blame and don't forget that we are all in this together. And to all you unemployed grads out there... keep a little bit of pride. No matter what they say.  


28 February 2012

Am I Just A Number?

I really don't want to be done for libel but I'm about ready to turn an unfamiliar shade of puce and start yelling awful things on the streets of London about a particular company we shan't name here. It seems to me that not only do jobseekers have to contend with a worsening job market, fewer jobs, redundancies, never-ending applications and inevitable rejections, alongside all of this, we are treated in an almost inhumane way.

HR, headhunters - we are all just numbers to them.

I recently did an interview for the role of Publishing Assistant with a certain magazine. It went surprisingly well considering it was the first interview I've ever had for a job that I actually really want. I wasn't a shaking ball of nerves, I actually remembered everything I had read about the company on their website and, after I left, the recruitment company rang me to say that the interviewers really liked the way I had answered the questions and that I had a second interview.

The next week was spent diligently practising my practical skills. I printed off proofreading tests and even watched every single video on YouTube narrated by a geeky American middle-aged man about how to use Adobe InDesign. Needless to say this all took hours and I turned down shifts at work in order to be at my best as well as turning down another work experience placement at the Daily Mail.

It's Thursday evening, the night before my interview and I'm in Tesco buying aubergines or something, when my phone rings. In two minutes my soul was shattered. The guy from the recruitment agency tells me that the company decided to go with someone else.... before even giving me my second interview. Cue me wandering forlornly through Tescos with my aubergines and wondering whether I should just take a job there instead.

I just don't understand. Why tell me this the night before my interview? In my eyes, I am not only down one job interview, I am also down at least £40 worth of work and a weeks worth of experience. If they thought someone was better than me, why did they ask me to do a second interview? I thought they were really great people when I met them but now I'm glad that I'm not working there if they treat people like this. I got from over 300 applicants down to the last 5 and I was still just a number to them.

In my eyes, all job applications should receive a letter/email of  recognition, followed by one saying whether or not you have made it to the next stage. The number of applications I've spent hours on to receive absolutely zilch back from is countless. Even an automated email would be something. So far I feel like the people in charge of actually giving us jobs are cold-hearted machines. I don't know whether it's their fault or that of the economy/job market but it's still not acceptable.

Perhaps I should go into HR myself and revolutionise the way job applications are processed. None of this computerised CV sorting. We need real jobs for real people.