27 October 2011

Rule Number Two

Never forget your end goal. This is a lesson I truly needed to remember today, especially after a minor breakdown in the kitchen clearing room. After serving a group of well-to-do young women (seriously, they can't have been much older than 27) and listening to one of them preach hearteningly to her colleagues about how you should always strive to be in a job which you enjoy and which fulfils you, and how you should never settle for anything less than you are worth, I had to leave the room asap. I felt a sudden urge to proclaim loudly that actually, this was not my job, just a way to bring in the cash, while simultaneously flinging a fork at her head and obliterating a red wine glass on the wall. Of course, she wasn't talking to, or about, me. And of course all I did, in humble slave mode, was walk into the kitchen and take a few huge breaths in order to hold back the flood gates.

The problem is, she was absolutely right. While I know that this job is necessary because I need the money and that I am doing relevant and essential work experience alongside it in order to get where I want to be, I still feel like I have taken a huge step backwards in life. A very special person made me realise however, that we must, in that most clichĂ© of phrases, keep our eyes on the prize. My prize sees me writing content for a fabulous magazine or website where I get to go on an emotional rampage. Hang on...maybe I'm already doing that?!

26 October 2011

Rule Number One

The first rule of being an unemployed graduate? Do NOT under any circumstances, especially when you're feeling like a hopeless basket case, start facebook stalking your university friends. While some of them may well be in the same position as you, many more of them will be wildly exclaiming their joyous first day at a top London PR company or bank, unaware of the devastating effect they are having on your already deflated sense of self worth. Firstly, yes I do realise this is a contradiction on my last post which exclaimed the fact that we are not alone, and secondly I also realise that I am beginning to sound rather jealous. I cannot deny either fact and so I shall just have to rebuild my self esteem with a deep crust cheese pizza (which never cooks properly in the middle but always, without fail, burns on the outside).

Enough of the self deprecation, it's always onwards and upwards. As they say, it can only get better, and besides, I have decided that if it gets any worse I might resort to sending in an application to Britain's Got Talent to showcase my now spectacular waitressing skills.

19 October 2011

You Are Not Alone

What I have learned from both writing this blog and from doing my waitressing jobs has essentially manifested itself into one key fact which I believe makes it all worth while...I am not alone. People have told me they have actually read all of my rants and also enjoyed them which makes me one very happy bunny. The reason I believe they have enjoyed them, apart from of course my excellent prose skills, is because they can relate the the situation I'm in. With close to 1 million 16-24 year olds out of work in the UK, it's hardly surprising.
The more people I meet at work, the more I realise that while we are all happy to be doing our job, and we do it damn well, most of us are overqualified to simply be serving tables. There are people with degrees in psychology,  engineering, English and languages who all deserve more than a job which is obviously classed as the pits due to the ridiculously low wage we receive and the way some waiting staff are treated.

Why, for instance, do male guests feel they have the right to be sexually overbearing with female waitresses? I've had all sorts. Take today, a rosy faced man decided it was quite OK for him to kiss me on the cheek with his grizzly face and port soaked breath. As a friend I would appreciate the sentiment but at work I would prefer a tip please! I've been thrown lewd comments, had my bum commented on, been handed a business card and even been asked out on a date. I wouldn't mind but I think a lot of these wealthy business men do it for a thrill - the underpaid waitress and the millionaire type scenario. All I know is that none of the women I've worked with have appreciated these situations.

There is hope however. Armed with our degrees, our CV and our blistering perseverance we shall vanquish the champagne drunkards and win over our bosses-to-be until we are the ones being served canapĂ©s at Claridges... and we will know our table manners.

18 October 2011

Star Employee!

Future employers take note! I am a star!

I received an excited email from the staffing agency I have been working for exclaiming the fact that my employer said I did an excellent job last week. It may just be for waitressing but it proves that even in the world of black and white uniform where we must all look and act the same I apparently was someone who stood out on the job. Phew, I was beginning to feel down-heartened that I would spend the rest of my limbo years flitting from job to job and never actually gaining any idea of whether or not I was of any use to the world at all.

Not that my aim is to work in this kind of job forever, but it's always nice to be noticed. Now I just need to get the same notice in my other parallel existence.

My time at the Daily Mail turned out to be exciting, and they are having me back to cover the lady who was showing me the ropes for her holidays in a few weeks time. Time to prove I am indeed a star in the office as well as the banquet hall me thinks. Now, I know that I should be paid for this, at least a temp wage, but I'm just not positive whether they will 100% be sorting this out. Definitely need to email her towards the end of the week (so I'm at the top of her mountain of emails when she returns) to make sure I will get at least something. As far as I'm aware, people don't work for free in this country. Oh, except we do.

When I say the Mail was exciting I mean two events stuck out for me. Firstly, upon calling Paul Smith's PR company to inquire as to whether they might email me a high res image of a cream jug (I know what you're thinking...how exciting!), I got the curt response of "Did you say you're from the Daily Mail?" Errrm, yes. "Oh, we don't actually deal with the Daily Mail any more, we don't feel they represent our image". Oh dear. Paul Smith really does not like the Mail.

Secondly, a group of angry protesters, mostly about my age stormed into the main courtyard, somehow managing to get past the burly security guard and the electronic doors. There was not a single person in the building who wasn't up from their desk and peering down from every floor to see what all the racket was. Unfortunately for the protesters, no one could actually hear or see what they were protesting about. After a bit of a scuffle with the security (or what looked like all two of them anyway), the police arrived and escorted them out. Turns out they were Syrians protesting about the media's silence on the plight of the Kurdish people. Funny how the mood of the office improved ten fold after this little disturbance. I hope the newsroom took note of their issues.

10 October 2011

Parallel Universes

It appears that my graduate limbo has split into two parallel universes, both of which I simultaneously inhabit and neither of which are alike in any way. Universe number one consists of me generally running round with a heavy tray (which has already increased the size of my biceps), polishing plates and glasses in a steamy kitchen and smiling graciously at very very drunk middle-aged men who insist on breathing their Veuve-Cliquot champagne breath right up my nose. While this job is earning me a wage, it is so minimal it might as well be a minus wage. For my shift at Claridges (one day I will walk through the FRONT door!) I had to buy a pencil skirt, tie, shirt and heeled shoes. They may well have been from Matalan but they also accumulated to £30, almost the exact amount I earned for the five hour shift.

Even the people hiring me think that I'm mental to do this job. Sergei, the suave Russian head of the waiting staff at Claridges was both overly pleased and astounded to have met a real English person working there, at one of the most English establishments in London! Now, I had a great time meeting all my fellow waiters and waitresses, but it did leave me wondering why on earth I was the only English person working there? Why are   foreigners having to take these low-paid jobs in hotels and what are all the other English people of my age and situation doing instead?

Perhaps they are simply settling for one universe? My parallel existence number two is very different.Today I completed my first day at the Daily Mail with the Weekend Magazine. The description my supervisor gave me was that basically I would be 'doing all the shopping for the magazine'... yipee! What girl wouldn't want to shop for a job? And, I got to walk in through the front door, well, the visitors section of the front door but let's not dwell on that. My day consisted of reading through every big British newspaper available (by the way there's a lot of them) in order to try and suss out what exactly was hot and what exactly was not for the barometer column and then internet shopping for quirky corkscrews. I never dreamt that a corkscrew would take up an entire evening of my life but it did, and the result was surprisingly satisfying. Plus I got shown round the store room where they keep all the products they have been sent from PR companies:- Hotel Chocolat choccies, Laura Ashley Wallpaper, expensive wines and so much more.

I think if I had to sum up my two parallel universes it would be by their respective cupboards. A treasure trove of freebies in comparison to a kitchen clearing room which is full of cold food, broken glass and tiredness.

2 October 2011

To Spin or Not to Spin?

On the tube home today I picked up a handy copy of the Sunday Times Magazine and Mr Robert Roland Smith, the 'To be or Not to Be' columnist (p.13, 02/10/11) was discussing the moral issues behind 'spinning' your CV to entice potential employers. Now, I believe that to spin, is just a cop out way of saying to tell porkies. When the MPs have their spin doctors whittle up some elaborate piece about the Iraq war, we all know that they are essentially, no matter how they put it, lying.

While Mr Smith may claim that it is "presenting the facts in such a way that they become more coherent than, in reality they really are", stating that you are a social and community interested person when you really mean that you frequent the pub on a regular basis is just preposterous.

For all us people who have actually worked hard to gain the type of experience and qualities an employer is looking for, the fact that someone who is essentially just a good liar could get the job instead of us is painful. Of course we should sell ourselves in our CVs. A job as a waitress for instance should never be put down to just a list of duties such as plate waiting, clearing and polishing. I learned fantastic organisational skills from the hectic kitchen (with a chef worse than Gordon Ramsey on a bad day) and fabulous people skills from the classy, picky and often drunk customers.

My point is, you don't need to lie on your CV, you just need to dig deep and pick out extraordinary things you might have learned from an ordinary job.

On the subject of CVs, I have come across just about every piece of advice out there now. With the job pool so full to the brim, it seems that we are expected to go to insane levels to promote ourselves, without even meeting the boss. www.thebiggeridea.com suggests a colourful visionary delight of a graph depicting your relevant experience to get you noticed. They then go further to suggest sending tape recordings of your hiring pleas and amazing qualities directly to your chosen employer. It seems these days that we have to practically date the boss before we can even meet them. Whatever happened to the good old days where employers would search for and really want us?

My friend is a perfect example of this very situation. In order to try and get a job - unpaid of course - where he can gain relevant experience in the filming industry (after having done a degree in the subject!) he has had to construct witty letters containing filmic anecdotes and references to his employer, alongside calling him several times a week. How come intelligent, hard-working and experienced young people have to basically stalk a boss to even get noticed for an unpaid job? My friend would have been arrested for behaviour like that a decade ago...not given the job!