'Well, I can play four instruments, two to grade 8, have (results permitting) got an MA and BA in English from Russell Group Universities, and have proven my dedication to online writing through my zealous social media presence....when can I start?'
If only post-university life were this simple. Hi, I'm Clare, and I am unemployed. There, I said it. Unemployed, without work, seeking internships (paid, mind), allergic 9-5er. Not the adjectives I'd like to describe my current state, but nonetheless, correct.
I was inspired to write this post because Christmas is looming, and that means family parties are on their way, social get-togethers will inevitably occur, with neighbours, and family friends, and friends of family friends, and a gaggle of people whom I have not the first clue who they are. Throw in a couple of G&Ts and it's time for the dreaded question....'So, what are you up to these days?'
I love education, and I really support learning and the ambition to further one's knowledge, and I thought education loved me, until it was time to leave, for good, and embark on a quest to find a placement in 'the real world.' Suddenly it's no longer 'I'm studying an MA up in Durham' but is instead a concoction of curdling cliches 'I'm just trying to figure out what I want to do with my life,' 'I just haven't found anything suitable yet,' 'I'm getting interview experience, so all is not lost' and 'I am categorically not working for free.' If I had a job contract for every time someone has told me how difficult it is out there, how something will come up, and that 'in today's current climate you must take what you find' then I would not be writing this post. Now what this list won't guarantee is to find you a job, else I'd bottle my brain cells and make a fortune, but what it is, is an honest, truthful, and subjective account of my job search, because after all, no one else is there to hold your hand and find it for you. As it is, I am not inundated with glimmering employment gems, thus I will begin my list that comprises my list 'How to remain positive in your job search.'
1. Don't sell yourself short
Sure, it may be a tough market out there, but will working a 3-month unpaid internship that will leave you out of pocket really help you on your way to finding employment? In my case, it won't...living at home means I am half an hour train ride away from London, but rack that up a week, and I would be £100 out of pocket, per week...and that's before considering Pret lunch allowances. Have I heard about people paying for the privelige to intern? Yes. Was it in Central London with long hours as opposed to being on a beach saving turtles in Costa Rica? No.
2. Be realistic
Each morning I am greeted by endless emails from recruitment websites excitedly trying to encourage me to apply for 'Senior Management Consultant £50k,' 'Senior Editor- must have 132435 years experience,' 'PA to *insert big CEO name here*- £DOE'
I know fully well that my ability to compose a sonnet in less than two minutes will not stand me in good stead for these jobs, mainly because I am the wrong candidate, and they are the wrong opportunities aimed at me. By all means aim high, but do not waste time applying for a role if you do not match at least 60% of the criteria they are looking for.
3. Don't compare yourself to others
While I love Facebook and its ability to connect you with school friends, uni friends, colleagues (if you've got there), friends from holiday you will never see again, the problem lies with what I call the 'ETLG' effect. 'Every Thing Looks Good.' Granted, Facebook would be more like an episode of Jeremy Kyle than a feel-good-how-are-we-all-doing-wanna-connect-on-Farmville social universe if we all shared every minute moment of madness, sadness, and gladness to our 'friends.' but the majority of positive posting from your ex-crush to your best friend can affect our own mental well being, particularly if we're not feeling we're doing that well to begin with.
4. Celebrate the little things
Complimented on your CV? Great! Bagged three interviews? Even better.
It's incredibly easy to forget your own self worth in a bubble fit to burst with covering letters, relevant CVs, and interview invitations. To you it may seem small, but in fact, it's a start and a step, and a step in the right direction at that. A job offer is never guaranteed, but knowing you're trying, is...so long as you continue trying.
5. Don't give up, and get a balance
'Quitters never win and winners never quit' is another cliche (spot the English graduate), but nonetheless is apt. Gone are the days where having a degree fast-tracked you into employment, so it's time to be pro-active, take the initiative and flex those muscles that will match your skills and experience to job requirements.
Take a break. If kitkats aren't your thing, read that book you've wanted to for years, or play tennis with the friend you promised last summer. While finding a job is almost a job in itself, it does not mean you can't have any time off, because by all means you can, and you should! Besides, you'll want to think of all the things you can do when you reach your first pay day.
6. Give yourself some time
I've been beating myself up for not having a fixed year of paid internships ahead of me, when the reality is that I only finished my Masters over a month and a half ago. Time can drag when you're sifting through job specs, growing more frustrated at each spelling mistake you find, before laughing at the irony that said spec is looking for 'Candidate with impeccable speling.'
In the great scheme of things, your pre-job months will be a drop in an ebbing employment ocean.
7. Value the time
'We always want what we can't have' is something I've frequently said to friends who are working and craving a week of sofa-lounging, and to those who are desperate to swap the Reed, Milkround, and Indeed webpages for physical spreadsheets, and grown up colleagues. I've promised myself that If i am not interning at a company or employed by the new year, then I am going to fulfil my ambition of getting a TEFL or CELTA qualification, because if i can't find a job or internship here, then i'll go and travel, teach English abroad and get paid for the luxury...there are worse things to do.
8. Keep your head up
While we may feel like we're in the same boat, one that is rickety and showcasing a large hole in it, friends will all have gone through similar motions. Just because you only see their success stories via social media or when you meet for coffee, it does not mean they haven't been despairing at their computers, or feeling a tad disheartened like you are now.
I'm incredibly lucky to have friends who understand what I and some other friends are going through...because they've been through it too. It feels a bit like a post-giving-birth support group, but without a screaming child, and thankfully significantly less pain.
9.Remember who you are and what you like
There's a difference between keeping your options open and doing anything for the sake of it. I strongly believe that you work effectively and more efficiently if you are doing something you enjoy, instead of something you hate, for the sake of it.
If you are tight for money, find a part time job that you could (if desired) keep when you do find employment/internships.
10. Seek comfort in the fact that I know how you're feeling
I know that once I've found a job I will do anything for the free time that I am sporting right now, however it is not as simple as just staying home and counting the amount of puns used on a single episode of Homes Under The Hammer (124 if you're asking), it can be depressing, it can be frustrating, and it really can be disheartening, but there's no alternative route to finding a placement if you aren't willing to put the hours in.
Perhaps it's just me that feels like the only single person in a room full of happy newlyweds in the context of job-seekers and job-keepers, but for now, I am in the situation I am in, and all I can do is to wake up every single day, with a positive attitude, a huge mug of mint tea, and plug, plug, plug away until the interviews turn from 'We loved you! You were in the top 2 but *insert name* had more knowledge of unicorn training*' to 'Congratulations! Welcome to the team' because after all, don't ask, don't get, and no pain, no (financial) gain. I guess for now I will settle for 'It's tough, but I'm trying' after at Christmas gatherings, because after all, we Brits do love an underdog.