The Job Hunting Joke

Job hunting is like being part of ‘You’ve Been Framed’. Every time you click ‘apply’, you expect Jeremy Beadle to pop out of the nineties with a camera crew full of men with mullets and unacceptable beards. You search online for hours stopping only to weep into a Kleenex at the prospect of working in Subway and gorging on the meatball Sub every day. Whilst Googling, you realise that you have more chance of discovering Narnia than you do of finding a job.

The holy grail of job hunting lies with the array of ‘job sites’ that want to know your entire life story; name, address and number of sexual partners. Some then redirect you to other sites that request registration so you spend the next decade of your already sad baked-beans-from-a-tin life bowing down to the computer screen. After detailing school grades, degrees and ‘extra-curricular activities’ which always seems to make me blush, you’re asked to ‘log in as a human’. Now I can understand why I never hear anything back; I forgot to log in as a Smurf.

These sites then ask you to type in your ‘key word’; this is the most pointless thing since Wayne Rooney’s balding hair transplant. I’ll type in ‘writer’ to which they’ll list ‘mechanic’ as the best suited. We have to rejoice at how far we have come with technology.
The next issue is that they promise thousands of vacancies within a three mile radius and then present you with an opening in Kuwait. You ponder your options but eventually decide that the commute from Shepherd’s Bush really would be too far.

Once you find an extraordinary opportunity that details everything you’re good at, you start to flap around like Mr Bean on Christmas day. You don’t care if Jeremy Beadle is secretly filming you because after all the pain and heartache, your dream job has arrived. It’s staring at you as you salivate from the vision of mansions, BMWs and Dominos on tap. It’s only after you’ve phoned your husband, put up a status on Facebook and tweeted to every Tom, Dick and Harry down the lane that you realise it’s UNPAID. I’m sure we could all live happily in a rent-free cardboard box.

After the breakdowns have finished and your laptop has survived being thrown about and screamed at, you apply to some jobs that do not include flying across the Bermuda Triangle. They include a salary that will allow for pot noodles and all the good things in life so you can finally sleep easy at night. This is short-lived as the impersonal email arrives with the line ‘We regret to inform you…’; I’m sure we’d like to regretfully inform them of a few things.

The next time I’m job hunting, my Curriculum Vitae will talk of the Eurovision song contest, bouncy castles and my hatred of Tottenham football club. At least then I will know if they ever truly look at the CV’s. When I undoubtedly get an interview from this, I’ll be ready with my Papa Smurf outfit, a pre-paid ticket to St Kitts and Nevis and a purse full of Monopoly money.

Advertisements

A Vow of Alcohol Celibacy

There is nothing worse than alcohol. I’ll be the first to admit it and I’ll probably be the last. Everyone talks about vodka-induced nights out as though they didn’t end with their hair dripping half way into a toilet but the reality is just that. It’s about time we all admitted that tequila is the leading cause in those dreaded wake-up-to-find-a-hairy-beast-of-a-man one night stands.  

The issue is that alcohol always starts as a good idea. No one thinks they’ll end the night half-naked at the bottom of their stairs because a striptease really did sound like a great idea. You believe that the world is, for the first time, your oyster. You can have anything you want regardless of expense or logic. If you want to dangle off the side of Ruby Blue’s balcony at half three on a nipple-decreasing Tuesday, you can do it. It’s only after drinking enough to sink the Titanic that you begin to understand that dribbling without knowing it is the least attractive thing since the mankini. It’s at this moment that you start to forget why tongues weren’t created for sordid kisses at the back of Yates and your friends despair at ever having known you.

In the process of drunkenness, we seem to lose all self-respect and do things that no human should ever do with or without a mature adult’s consent. I have unfortunately lost all dignity and bared my unshaven forest-like hairs on my thighs to an elderly gentleman on the ninety four bus. Others tend to scream their way into the Guinness World Records for being the most intoxicated person since Justin Beiber’s arrest.

I can’t deny that I have been one of these people. I have been all Bambi legs and Mr Bean dance moves whilst trying to chat up the Tottenham Hale bus driver post-Weatherspoons. I have been denied access from Leicester Square Burger King for being, in the burly security guard’s words, ‘drunk and disorderly’ and I have been known for the odd shot contest that ends with me hugging a chair and declaring my undying love for it. However, this happens once a year and for this, I am truly grateful.

For some people, hangovers are a myth. There’s no passing of the bucket or crying into the toilet bowl of shame; just a casual shower to soak away the memories of the night before.

For others, we wallow in self-pity and suffer in no silence. The day consists of head-pounding, toe-curling, vomit-inducing pains that make you want to give up life and surrender forever. It is a time when not even George Clooney’s naked self could bring you back to earth as you once knew it.

It is because of these reasons that I refuse to wear a vagina-skimming miniskirt and drown my tonsils in anything that has a percentage sign on the bottle. There will be no smudged mascara down my cheek and I refuse to sit on Santa Claus’ knee at the Christmas party. It’s all so mortifyingly embarrassing that someone has to take a vow of alcohol celibacy and declare themselves married to the joys of middle-aged hot drinks like Ovaltine and warm milk. I do take this vow.

 

 

The Hopeless Hope of a Graduate

University consists of sex, drunken nakedness and wasted seminars. Sometimes, you learn things. Sometimes, you learn how to look like you’re learning things. You spend three years of your life in further education knowing how much you hated the previous fourteen years of schooling – tears, tantrums and thoughts of setting the labs on fire with that trusty old Bunsen burner. However, you go to university knowing it will all be different. There’s freedom everywhere. It’s dancing around in the air and seeping into your nostrils. It’s sat in your lungs as you breathe in and out the rules and rule breaking of living at home with your parents. You’re told university is the start of an amazingly successful career that will put you alongside Richard Branson and his England-sized jumbo jets. With this definite fact that will definitely happen no matter what, you live your adolescent life wondering what job will be waiting like gold at the end of a non-existent graduate rainbow. It’s best that I shatter that illusion with a Miley Cyrus-licking sledgehammer now rather than allow you all to wait until graduation day where a piece of paper offers you nothing but dismissal.

For a lot of people, you’re sort of pushed into going to university whether you want to or not. You don’t even stop to think about it or ponder anything else; university will be ‘the best days of your life’. This is a line we’ve been told since we were four years old, clasping a book bag in one hand and fiddling with three fallen teeth in the other – ‘school will be the best days of your life’ and now university has supposedly overtaken those best days and provided us with even better days. I can’t help but feel we’ve all been blanketed by a barrage of lies that is now suffocating us as we wallow in self-pity over the lack of job opportunities.

University definitely starts as one of those amazing experiences that you think is incomparable to anything other than multiple orgasms. You believe that the fact you can cook repulsively strong smelling boiled eggs at three thirty on a Monday morning is the epitome of perfection. You believe that bunking lectures whenever you choose an Eastenders omnibus over a Poetry morning is the start of a rebellion that will fundamentally change the world as we know it. Your beliefs are short-lived.

                In my first Creative Writing lecture, I got out my fresh notebooks and Parker pen and stared at the lecturer with beady eyes. In hindsight, we looked like a batch of farm hens waiting to be confined to years and years of constant pressure to produce goodness. But for that one moment, we sat with an abundance of optimism; brimming inside like a pubescent, hormonal mess.

                My lecturer began by introducing herself; a pleasant formality that kept me calm and awaiting her next words. What followed was unexpected; a crisp, honest, brutal admission that I should have listened to rather more closely – ‘The Creative Writing course will help you with your writing but offer you nothing more than that. This course will offer you zero jobs.’ Thank you for finally unwrapping that cotton wool.

After three years of giving up a few times, vowing to quit other times and eventually doing everything I was told and then some, I completed the course. There was a short wait until the results were released and finally I knew my gold was waiting somewhere and I only had to find it.

                Graduation followed with the rules of no hat throwing and no alcohol; it was as exciting as hovering in a public toilet to find there’s no tissue roll left. I found the whole experience vomit-inducing although the quiet, underlying feeling of success seemed to settle my dishevelled stomach. When you graduate, you have sober beer goggles. They work the same as beer goggles that find you grinding on a balding Asian man in Yates but you’re sober and quite frankly, just stupid. You see the world from a graduate point of view; endless money, endless opportunity, endless everything because you have five letters after your name – the elusive BA Hons.

                As time slowly starts to pass, you realise that eight episodes of Come Dine with me doesn’t quite constitute a well-paying job regardless of how many CV’s you’ve sent out. You start to understand how awful it would really be to become one of those middle-aged people wearing denim on denim that sit in the audience of Loose Women as opposed to at an office desk with a deadline.

                After you pick up more hours at your current retail job, clock-watching and talking to inanimate objects like broken hangers and tills that refuse to open; you wonder what the point was. Three years of your life seemingly wasted when you could have been earning for your future or gaining that much-respected ‘experience’ that companies drone on about as though it’s as wonderful as Viagra. No matter how you decorate your CV with endless ‘graduate talk’, nothing works. No one cares that you spent twenty one hours straight putting together a portfolio of writing only to spill your coffee over it mid-consciousness. No one cares that you’re in twenty thousand plus worth of debt and a bank balance that screams through the cashpoint at you with three zeros. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to write an honest covering letter telling ‘future employers’ that I’m struggling with rent bills in an over-priced studio flat in Shepherd’s Bush because it was the only place I found with a flushing toilet and distinct lack of damp.  But somehow that takes away that graduate dream we all once shared; that luminous beacon of light that we somehow thought we were following.

The truth is you get a degree so that you don’t have to do a job that everyone can do; you get a degree to become more than the ‘average’. Companies write that the candidate needs experience but I ask you what is more relevant than life experience? After all, experience is the result of time and opportunity but a degree is the definition of skill and dedication.

Six months has passed since I graduated with my fellow writers and I can give you a crisp, honest, brutal admission now; not one of us has a graduate job. This isn’t through laziness or lack of trying; this is the state of England’s job market and small mindedness. The only thing that we can all hope for (undergraduates and graduates alike) is change. Let that be the beacon of light for you to follow.

Catch-the-council-estate-kid-22

I’m a council estate kid. A kid that grew up around tower blocks and police raids and fights. A kid that ate little and saw a lot. I’m a twenty one year old that still feels like that council estate kid. There’s this feeling that I’m a poorer breed; a breed that should be kept in the estate and only let out after dark. After all, no one would be able to see us then.

When us kids from the council estate converse, there’s an acknowledgement that other people can’t see. We know hardship; it’s sort of settled in our bones like it’s the real strength waking us up every morning. We’ve seen things that other people either ignore or disbelieve in; we see life in its raw, truthful state. Broken homes, broken windows, broken bones. Does that make us less worthwhile?

I went to a grammar school; one of the best in Kent. It was Ofsted’s idea of perfection and my idea of prejudice.

            Sometimes, there’s no tell-tale sign of being from ‘that council estate’ but they’ll pick up on it. They’ll see things or hear things and eventually know you in a way you didn’t want them to. Your deepest secrets laid bare through Chinese whispers and playground chit chat. Soon, other parents will be warning their children to stay away from you as though you’re a disease that is spreading at the rate of the bubonic plague. They say you’re a ‘bad influence’ although you’re a straight A student with great prospects. Sometimes I wondered what they thought my influence would be. Pissing on the pavement by the school gates? Smoking my lungs away? I decided my lack of parental guidance and money was just too bad in itself.

            I didn’t go on many school trips and there were never any parents’ evenings but I knew what the difference was between an ambulance siren and a police siren. I knew I had a battle between education and reality and every one of those ignorant people in between.

I’d never bunked a day in my life until sixth form. The issue is, if you tell someone often enough that they’re nothing; they’ll soon behave like that. They’ll believe they may as well do what you think they’re doing because you’re thinking it anyway. I would bunk purely so I had control over something when I had no control over everything else in my life. There would be a sense of pleasure every time I’d sit in some café knowing I was meant to be studying Simone de Beauvoir in Philosophy at that very moment. It was like I’d taken life in the palm of my hand and squashed it to smithereens; I was free for some time.

When a council estate kid has the opportunity to go to university if they ‘get good grades’, it’s a tough scenario to be faced with. No one thinks you can do it. Your so-called parent doesn’t think you can do it. You don’t think you can do it. It’s a live or let die moment where you make a choice that will change your life although there are already so many choices that are sitting on your shoulders in great iron boulders. Teachers refuse to help you and the few that do patronise you to within an inch of your life. I faced such a decision.

My head of year 13 said, and I give a direct quote here, ‘you have mammoth amounts of work to do if you have even the slightest hope.’ It is a direct quote because I burnt it into my memory as though burning through layers and layers of negativity. I made a rash decision two weeks before my International Baccalaureate exams to actually try. I knew if I didn’t and failed, there would never be a way out of the estate. There’d be babies and drugs and every other stereotypical thing you can think of. For fourteen days straight, I revised solidly. People continued to tell me not to bother; it was a ‘catastrophic waste of time’. I passed all seven subjects with an A* in English.

            When you’re studying for a degree, you feel as though you’re part of some sort of underground revolution. As though we’re all going to rise up and take over the world with words and language and new found respect. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

I graduated in July 2013 and have been working non-stop since. There’s rent to pay and food to buy and an array of bills that stack up venomously month by month. I can’t move back so I’m alone in London with my degree and my past to push me into better things and a future that labels me as nothing other than who I am. However, there is a huge, fundamental catch 22 that so many people are failing to see or who are in full agreement of it.

            Companies nod along to your degree as though it’s as easy as reciting the ABC and then ask ‘what experience do you have?’ I ponder this carefully. If, like so many other council estate kids, I live alone with no help from parents or family, how would I be able to do unpaid internships? They ask for full time unpaid for three to six to eight months; how will we survive? When I reluctantly say I have no internship experience, I know they’re questioning my dedication or my loyalty to my craft that I love beyond anything. But I ask, doesn’t my work ethic that continuously pushes me to work at a place that offers me nothing show you more than a couple of internships on a generic CV? If I had the chance, I’d do every internship available. I’d write whatever they wanted me to. I’d sacrifice anything. Yet life isn’t just fields of gold and fortune, is it?

In my first year of university, my lecturer asked the class ‘can you teach someone how to write?’ I thought it was such a ridiculous question; of course you could hence the Creative Writing course. Now I know what that lecturer meant. You can’t teach people what they don’t already know how to do; you can only nurture and enhance their skills and talents. If I was to go for the same job as someone who has three internships under their literature belt, does that make them a better writer than me? Or does it mean they’ve had a luckier social upbringing than other people? If someone lives at home with no money worries and all the time in the world, it’s a wonderful thing. Of course it’s a wonderful thing to get out there and learn and grow from internships but what if you’re on the other side? Middle-class children from middle-class families will continue to be middle-class and us council estate kids, degree or no degree, will always be second best.

The catch 22 is that some people are born poor and some people aren’t. Some people are born with the love of both parents and some people aren’t. That is the way of the world and clearly, we’re still much more privileged than a lot of other people in a lot of other places. But how can we stop being poor if companies are continuously choosing those with the greatest experience but not the greatest skill?

Council estate kids aren’t envious of middle-class people; there’s no deep yearning to be any other ‘class’. The only thing we are, some of us, is motivated not to go back to the place that took away so much from us.

Some of the staff and pupils from my past said I may as well not bother. They said a council estate kid will get nowhere and I wonder now where exactly my nowhere will be?

The Graduate Life

Twenty five percent. That is the number of unemployed graduates in the UK at present – 14.6 percent of Media Studies graduates out of work. Christopher Holmes was one of them until he applied for his thousandth job in February of this year. Forget ‘lucky the third time round’, Chris calls this his ‘lucky one thousand’.

Aged twenty one, Christopher Holmes studied at Coventry University for three years on a Journalism and Media Undergraduates course. Since starting secondary school in 2000, he discovered his passion for writing and hoped to pursue it throughout his education. “I always knew that I wanted to be part of it; being part of writing is like being part of a community” he says when questioned about his found love. “I always knew I wanted to go to university and everything else was just leading to that.” Barton Court Grammar School Head of English teacher Charlotte Ponder once said that he is one of the ‘most inspiring young men she’s met in her profession’. However, with so many students planning their futures around going to university and getting that much anticipated degree – are they delusional about the current market for jobs?

“It’s dedication that will get you there.” Chris says, delusion clearly playing no part in his mind. He was certainly dedicated to achieving his dream; starting to write at a tender age of 11 and focusing on his studies to give him the best chance.

            He left university in March, got his exam results in June and graduated in November with an Upper Second Class degree. When discussing this achievement he said, “I was extremely happy with the 2.1; I worked so hard for it but I was out of work for eight months. It was a long time and my confidence was shattered.” Being out of a job for eight months would be daunting for anyone, especially a recently graduated student in thousands of pounds worth of debt with a fresh air of success surrounding them – but what is the alternative?

            Asking many young people aged 16 and 17, it is clear they’re already worrying that there will be no job ‘at the end of the tunnel’ if they choose the route of further education.

For Christopher, choosing this route has definitely paid off. Currently he is a copywriter and marketing assistant at international company SBE, a global electronic service and logistics management business in Ashford, Kent. He is now in charge of the company’s website and online promotions alongside the advertising aspects of SBE, but he says he couldn’t have achieved this without his degree. “You don’t go to university and get a degree for money; you go to university to achieve what you can in a field that you love. I’m just lucky to be doing something that I love.” However, the road to success wasn’t always that easy.

Using his own initiative, Christopher created his own website and began writing journalistic features for an online audience. He paid for its setup and employed others to help out using their writing skills productively to produce a diverse and entertaining site.

            Five years on and the website, www.thenpcs.com, is still up and running. It is now a popular games review site that gets thousands of view daily although there is no cash reward for this. “It was more to gain experience than for anything else. Getting others involved also joined writers together and we made something that people use on a day to day basis.” Christopher says on the website.

Applying to hundreds of jobs is a prospect that one in ten graduates face after gaining their degree and this prospect is a difficult one.

            Christopher attended ten interviews; five in his local area of Kent and five in London. Although the interviewees seemed interested in his university experience and degree, his lack of experience put him into a niche market. “They asked me questions about my course, how I coped, what I had to do in the third year. It was all very well but at the end it was a nod of the head and a walk out the door.” Companies are impressed and happy to discuss degrees but are they really taking them on board? In Christopher’s experience, they employed people without degrees over him to which he says is because ‘their face fit’.

Eventually, Christopher had a successful interview that gave him the position at SBE earning £16,000 per annum and finally allowing him to start paying of his student loan debt. Realising how lucky he is to no longer be one of the one in ten graduates, his name at the local Canterbury job centre has been taken off the register.

In the future, Christopher has high hopes to become a leading journalist in the gaming industry having already secured powerful contacts in this field. By attending London gaming events regularly, his name is appearing on other gaming websites and journalistic features. Once a month, Nintendo send him the newest games before they’re released to review and as a payment, allow him to keep the new editions. With these big gaming companies already knowing his name, this graduate’s future is looking promising. He says “I am willing to try my hardest to get to the top of my field; this is a great starting job but I want so much more.” This is an inspiration for those graduates to keep trying.

            Whether it was his degree or other factors that secured him the job at SBE, he says that “the writer lives in me and I will never give up on that. Any form of writing should be given to the world and mine is included.”

Christopher Holmes is still your regular twenty one year old man. He struggled, he fought, he shoved his degree in hundreds of companies’ faces but it was his dedication that won over SBE. Through secondary school, through university and now through his first job as a graduate – it is true that a writer’s voice is always louder on paper.