Not everyone has a job right now. Some people have several jobs or none at all. It’s when you have gaps in employment that you realise what you need in life – things like routine, structure, money, plans, success, la la la –  the list goes on.  You also realise what you don’t have, and some of us are better at dealing with rejection than others – leaving us to deal with the inevitable teary aftermath and feelings of low self-worth.

crying people
Even David Beckham, Kim K, A kitten, and Dawson cry. Let yourself go!

Those of you who are prone to the teary aftermath can probably agree that once that stage is over, you’re back to stage one – re-empowering yourself, bigging yourself up, re-focusing and re-evaluating your achievements and competencies. It’s a great feeling – the realisation that “I am not a total shit head after all” and “ I’ve done stuff, I’ve achieved lots of stuff”.  But how long before you slip back into those dark thoughts again? The worst part is keeping up appearances – people have an opinion of you, of a version of you (the successful, outgoing you). How can you keep this up with no moolah? On a practical level, you can invite people to your house – just a thought…

When you don’t have a job to provide these things for you, you have to force yourself to impose structure, routine, success, budgeting …. Heat, Grazia, Elle – all these women’s consumer magazines become less relevant to you as an unemployed person – “it’s as bad as being infertile… or grossly obese”, said one friend (a bit extreme, I know). You look at the covers, flick through – the contents comprise of a massive magical shopping list of trendy clothes and beauty products for consumers, (“I can’t relate to this because I’m no longer, <sob> a consumer” waaaaaah L  )

Luckily, I have a hugely supportive boyfriend so that helps with covering the big expenses – we enjoy more nights-in alone than when I was working. He loves and supports me unconditionally – and knows my break will come soon.  But when you strip all of that away, what do you have? Just yourself and your dreams and, for me anyway, a nagging brain. Forget about the stats Radio 4 spit out every now and then about the decrease in people signing-on, at a grass roots level, there are thousands of talented, competent twenty-something year olds who are at a total bloody loss – an existential crisis, if you like. I have had so many close calls for great jobs, neck-and-neck with some brilliant candidates. It’s a credit to you, getting an interview. You’ve battled it out with hundreds of other candidates. So remember that much at least. Celebrate the little victories…

Today I’ve been thinking about my life choices so far. My young adult life in the big bad world started out when I was 18, starting my undergraduate Bachelor of Arts in 2005, back when I really had no major concerns but attending classes, studying, doing my exams and writing papers. Oh to be an undergrad again! I enjoyed it, but I distinctly remember the urge to get it over with and get living ‘in the real world’.

I mean, why the hell did we all invest money, time, and passion in university education only to be told by uppity recruitment agencies to push our education down to the second page of our CVs?  Why has education become the big pink elephant in the room? Why is it that some of us feel ashamed of mentioning our, albeit often not directly related, qualifications, underselling your hard-earned qual? <nervous laugh > “Hehe, yes, well that was a great time in my life, I learned a lot about X but I am more passionate about collecting money on the street, I mean, I’m a real people person… honest”.

uni chugger
Little did Sarah know that in six months time, her degree would be worth sweet diddly squat…

Education is a path that I chose to further my knowledge in a certain area (anthropology), while also gaining very useful research, presentation, public speaking, and other skills. I also worked waitressing, teaching and other jobs during my studies, like many of you, I’m sure. Contrary to popular opinion, university students are not the molly-coddled yoofs many make them out to be – most are hard working, hard earning, dedicated individuals with goals and aspirations. Until – the big heavy welly of our modern times squelch our dreams to a pulp. Now it’s becoming increasingly difficult to secure funding, places, and so on. I was lucky at the time, to be exempt from fees and had a generous grant to cover accommodation etc.

Seems like this kind of support is a thing of the past. Now I’m not qualified to get into an opinion piece about economics and the state of the nation but, why does it seem like students are being cock-blocked from education? And if you do complete a qualification, why are graduate opportunities being limited and our expectations lowered?

My first job after graduation earned me a cool £25k per annum salary with great perks, and now I’m living off £71 a week. I am happy, although I’m dying for that break. You must find that new norm or you’ll go nuts. I have had to look at other skills in my CV, not necessarily ones I want a career in, like teaching. God, there’s nothing I’d hate more than a full time teaching position, you become all ‘teacher-y’ around your friends (trust me, it happens). No offence, teachers. But these teachers need support, and graduates can offer this by becoming Teaching Assistants. This is just one option. I have also participated in consumer focus groups, every few weeks, that pay in cash for talking about skin care etc. It’s cool – you get an insight to what makes a brand tick. There is a multitude of options for volunteering – yes, working for nothing – it’s brilliant, couldn’t recommend it more. You can volunteer locally at a school or charity shop  – it doesn’t cost any money and you’re contributing to your community. Start a free online course – Coursera is offering 100% free online courses hosted by the likes of Berklee College and MIT. Help your neighbour. There are many bartering groups in London, just look up your area.

In short – be constructive, do things that account for your time off work, show you’re trying.

Seems like a lose-lose situation, this job seeking lark, but it’s not all bad. It may seem like an endless cycle of up-down, up-down. But despite the emotional strain of it all, believe me, it’s character-building and helps build an even thicker skin. There’s one thing I learned when I moved to London from the sticks: no-one gives a monkeys about you, or what you do but you. It’s your responsibility to promote yourself and your ideas – what you are good at. You owe it to yourself to be resilient and foster an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s not personal, it’s business. The hiring process is a tough one, your break will come. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway. We need more women opening up about this situation of job seeking, a symptom of 21st century life.

This article is an example of constructive procrastination. (Taking stock, re-focusing, making plans). Go. Do it.

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