It's only after graduating that I've realised no one has ever taught me how to get a job. Not properly. I've been to CV workshops, interview practices, even gotten feedback from rejections, which is a rarity, but, despite various suggestions on how to improve my chances, there's still a lot that they seem to have left out.
One suggestion that came from a lot of universities while I was still looking and applying four years ago was to get involved in as much as I could to gain a wide scope of experience, and boost my chances of success in later life. In fact, a paraphrase from a student guide at Lancaster went along the lines of "If Joe has a first, but did nothing with his spare time, and Matt has a 2.1, but did loads of extra-curricular stuff, employers are gonna go with Matt."
He spoke with so much certainty that it indoctrinated me into that mindset. I'm now in Matt's position; a graduate with a 2.1 degree, who was also PR and Marketing Manager of the Amnesty Society, Station Manager of the student radio station (where I had to co-ordinate the re-launch of the entire thing), a writer for a Hull-based magazine, a Telesales Operative, a blogger for the Huffington Post, a member of an active band, and a beginner tap teacher all throughout university. 80 job applications later, and it seems Joe's been chosen over me every time.
I've had experience in project management, writing to daily deadlines, social media marketing, maintaining multiple WordPress and Drupal websites simultaneously. I've done analytics, database maintenance, email marketing and telesales, as well as taught, used PhotoShop and DreamWeaver, edited audio, presented and produced. I've also done creative writing, proof-reading, and have worked with both Macs and PCs. That's the short, non-specific list of experience I gained around my degree.
Both the Station Manager role and the magazine writer role were also full-time positions, and during especially gruelling times as Station Manager, I would get to the office at 8:30am and be kicked out when the Union closed at 11pm. 14-and-a-half hours of solid extra-curricular stuff, and still came out with a 2.1. I'm not sure how much more experience I could get around my degree.
Another piece of advice was to do internships and voluntary work experience out of term time, so I did. Every summer, including this one, I took on a different role in the sectors that I want to eventually work in, primarily digital marketing, all in the hope of increasing my chance of actually earning a living in the future. After graduating, I re-located to London and took on two internships - one at a music promotions company in Notting Hill, and the other at Breast Cancer Campaign. Both are unpaid. In order to support my living in the south, I'm currently sofa-hopping between houses and teaching guitar, which brings my income to around £30 per week. Hardly enough to pay rent in the most expensive city in the UK.
I was also told to go to CV and interview workshops at uni, so I did. Hull University Union's Careers Advice Service genuinely helped me out, I feel, but even with their help, I rarely get past the application stage, and never get past the interview stage. All my roles/internships thus far haven't required me to attend an interview. Even when I got an interview with HUU itself, and employed all the skills they taught me, I still didn't get the job.
They did give me feedback, which was nice, but one part said "the quality and content of your written work was excellent, and the panel were impressed with your high standard of interview, but felt that you could have given more specific and varied examples."
Specific and varied? That seems a bit oxymoronic...
I was also told to start applying to jobs early to beat the rush, so started in January just after my first lot of essays were due, tailoring each application form as per the advice of HUU. Again, this is not a dead-cert way of gaining employment.
Perhaps the most important advice that a lot of people have given me is to not give up. I can't fault this one, partly on the grounds of common sense, and partly because, after every rejection or, in most cases, after you haven't heard from anyone, you have to keep at it. It took me 60-odd applications to get my first interview, and another 14 to get my second. I'm now almost at the 100 mark and awaiting my third, still sending off at least two applications per day around my internships, seeking bar and café work (to no avail), and writing for a number of music blogs.
Being unemployed is hard work.