Looking for a job after you graduate is like having a full time job, except the pay is rubbish but the benefits are…alright, I guess?
If by benefits you mean, there’s no queue for the toilet, the commute is non-existent and lunchtime is anytime you get hungry or bored…actually forget that. When your full time job is looking for a full time job, you never actually get hungry because you tend to eat more out of sheer boredom and the walk to the fridge means you get a break from sitting on the computer tirelessly filling out application form after application form.
When I was in high school my teachers painted in my head this picture of going to University, spending three years trying to figure it all out, but then graduation hits and it’s suppose to be one of the best days of your lives and after that you’re suppose to be full of experience, all this knowledge from those days you spent in bed nursing a hangover, avoiding emails from your course mates and lecturers who were present at the classes you weren’t… I mean the stuff you learnt at Uni… Everyone makes it sound like when you graduate and finally have this degree you worked so hard for, all these doors would suddenly open up, in fact I was preparing myself for all these emails and job offers that I never got…
Pretty soon it was a month later, graduation day is a happy memory from way back when and you realise that you probably should start looking for a job… which is what I did… 1 month became two, and it wasn’t until then that this sudden panic hit me and I realised that those casual 8 weeks I had spent waking up late, doing some recreational writing and applying for the jobs I liked the sound of, not all that I was qualified for but I thought, why not? It was worth a try; the worst that could happen was that they wouldn’t accept me. In those early days of job hunting you have this strong sense of confidence, and it was great, I was blissfully ignorant of the countless articles online saying how 2014 was yet another terrible year for recent graduates and good job offers were scarce.
I had this belief that finding a job I liked wouldn’t be hard because from the age of 14 I sailed through job interviews and found it easy to find someone willing to hire me. I wowed more with my personality and optimism and strong work ethic rather than my experience and as a result I actually built up good work experience in different industries.
There’s a running joke with my friends that I’m a professional at job hunting and having jobs, in fact most of my friends ask me for advice when applying for a new job, and some even ask for advice on how to leave a job.
I’ve worked in restaurants, shops, in education, in catering, in cleaning…I was a cleaner, a cashier…I worked in a forecourt, a farm, at a local newspaper to name a few. You name it; I probably worked there…except Waterstones… That’s a sore topic for me. Being a big fan of literature, and dreaming of being a writer someday, I dreamt of working at a bookstore so that I could be surrounded by the great authors, book lovers and a never ending supply of new things to read. I applied almost every time they were hiring, and each time I would get a disappointing rejection email… It was disheartening but it meant that I would go and apply for something completely different and because of the rejections I learnt a lot of trade secrets that help me to this day. Though Waterstones to me, was the Cambridge of all bookstores, I didn’t let their rejection hurt my determination to get more experience and find a job.
Back to September 2014 and I was slowly creeping into an unemployment career, something far different from this imagination I had of working in a fast paced office of a media company, maybe I was writing? Maybe I was running coffee for someone, either way I thought I’d be one foot in to something I wanted to progress in someday. My routine consisted of waking up, having breakfast, having a shower and getting dressed. I would go to my computer and turn it on, read the daily mail so that I could capture their latest spelling errors to put in my collection (let me know if you’re interested in seeing them, I’ve been collecting them for almost three years, I’m not sure why… maybe save that judgement for another day?) then I would browse through about 10 different job websites, choose a minimum of 60 jobs I wanted to apply for then spend a mind numbing amount of hours jumping through the hoops of job applications. I started learning early on that the only jobs that were interested in hiring me were sales based jobs, all because of a tragic few months of working for the outbound sales team at Phones 4 u… A job I took on a harmless whim made me the main attraction for all the companies hiring recent graduates for their graduate scheme…what did that even entail? Were they saying they wanted to hire graduates to train them on how to be a sales adviser? The idea of going back in to sales made me feel sick… Though the basic salary they offered were often quite good, I hated the idea of commission…I’ve worked in a commission based job before and though I was alright at the job, I found that the money I’d get back for a 4 hour conversation that stressed me to no end was appalling and just hated the idea of it altogether.
It was reaching the four month mark of being unemployed and I was slowly convincing myself I was going to go on a ‘staycation’ gap year… recover from the three years at University… every time I got a rejection email back I’d shrug it off and tell everyone I was glad I’d have more time to relax for a little while before having to jump on the career train, I was grateful that I could hang on to my carefree University ways for a little bit longer…but really I was panicking. I felt pressured by people to get on with my life. My parents were so understanding, they could see how my full time job of job hunting was causing me a lot of stress and tried to convince me to ease off on the 60 job applications a day I was doing and to only apply for the things that truly interested me, at this point 60 jobs applications was creeping to a 100 minimum, I’d even started to apply for jobs I knew I would hate, but it was out of pure fear that I would be jobless forever. My partners parents would make me feel like I wasn’t contributing to our relationship, I constantly felt like, because I was living with my partner who helped support me, that I was nothing more than a sponge who accepted hand outs but had no intention of providing for myself. That wasn’t the case at all, I don’t even think my partner knew just how many jobs I applied for, I’d often stay up late at night having not moved from my position all day, still filling out applications 4 at a time.
I know that there are plenty of jobs out there but I was so disheartened that I was in debt of over £24k because I went and got a degree and that that ‘investment’ wasn’t getting me anywhere.
I don’t know how many job interviews I went on, countless…I even widened my job search to commutes of up to 1 hour just to give myself a better chance. If I had given in and said yes to sales, I probably would have gotten a job easily, but I was so determined to find a career with a great path and plenty of opportunities that I was selective…even if I didn’t really have a lot of choice, I was confident something would come up soon.
The day I printed my CV to give to the local petrol station down the road, I got a call from an internship agency who were interested in having me interview for a Project Coordinator internship, it was only for 6 months and I had never really looked into internships before, I decided to hold off on applying for the petrol station and went to the interview. Within days I heard back and they wanted me to intern for a new Project starting a few weeks later. I was told there were no guarantees but a position for a full time Coordinator was going to be open at the end of the internship so I jumped on board. What happens after that is a story for another time, but… that was when my ‘funemployment’ ended.
Relief hit me, I was going to finally join the rest of the adults on their hustle and bustle of work life. Yes my commute would be about 4 hours a day, yes the pay is rubbish, yes the workload is huge BUT I did it… I survived the University to Career jump that not everyone can.
Whilst at University, they prepare you for so much, but the one thing you can’t learn in a classroom is how to deal with rejection (over and over again). It can be so disheartening and it’s so easy to give up. If people treated job hunting like a job then they’re more likely to find something rather than simply applying for lots of jobs. If you work hard, and you show your best self, if you do extra curricular stuff and use your free time doing things to give yourself an advantage then people will see you more, people will be impressed because you’re not using unemployment as an excuse to sit around doing nothing.
Unemployment was hard for me, but making it into a job itself made me feel like I was being productive. I created my own little work place, I wore a ‘uniform’ (not really a uniform, more like I was wearing pants and not just in my PJ’s all day), I took lunch breaks and coffee breaks and pretty soon I actually felt excited to look at new job applications.
So the moral of the story is… Don’t let unemployment be a long-term job, but at the same time let rejection be your motivation. There are so many jobs available to you if you’re willing to try something new, you never know! You might just like it!
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud everyday!
Peace and Love