I don’t think I will ever be able to describe properly how completely soul destroying it is trying to get a job. Not even a graduate job. Not even a well-paying job. Just A job. When I left University after 4 years and 2 degrees I couldn’t get any job at all. I’m not sure if I will be able to describe what I went through properly but I’m going try.
This post is a message to try and comfort those who are still looking, to warn those who still have it to come and share what I learnt from my experiences.
My first ever job was at University and I remember being absolutely crippled with anxiety I nearly didn’t go to the interview at all. It was just a summer position that looking back I ABSOLUTELY needed as I never intended to live at home again, but at the time it didn’t feel that urgent. The job interestingly turned out to be my worst nightmare. An upbeat sales pitching role where you had to be great at small talk and good at convincing people to part with their money. Weirdly I was rather good at it. I spent two summers there before I graduated and moved away to do my masters.
My masters degree was kind of my way of hiding from the world. I wasn’t ready for a real job and I was scared to try and get one. But in doing my degree, the sheer workload actually completely flipped my way of thinking and by the end I was DYING to find a job and never wanted to go back to University again.
University did make one thing very clear to me. Without work experience I was screwed unless I got lucky. So after applying for many graduate positions and internships I did manage to find a small unpaid internship at a great community interest company back home in my local area. I guess it worked out that the company focused on mental health conditions which I was very familiar with. They were looking for a Marketing Internship and I happily took it up knowing this was the vital experience I needed. Right? Wrong.
By the end of my internship I had graduated from my Masters and I was broke. I hadn’t been able to get ANY part time sales assistant or other roles to do alongside my internship and I had exactly zero money left. This is where the privilege of staying with family really showed, without them I would have been living in a box. Even living with my family and not paying anything I still was forced to apply for Job Seekers.
I won’t ever forget the day I rolled up the Job Centre and joined the queue of people waiting to go inside. I was embarrassed but also weirdly full of pride. I had a degree and I was here? I didn’t think I belonged there but life has a way of humbling you like that.
One of the worst days in my whole claiming Job Seekers experience was when I got offered an interview down in London. I didn’t have any nice interview clothes for a marketing role in London though and so the Job Centre gave me some vouchers that could be used in certain stores. One of them was Matalan. So off I popped to my local Matalan to start trying on outfits and…nothing fit. I’m quite short and big and all the skirts were too tight and too long. I ended up completely breaking down in the dressing room to my sister on the phone and sacked off the interview completely.
It was this time I wasn’t just angry with the world but also specific family members. These family members had the means to support me rather than me having to degrade myself at the Job Centre but they chose not to. I knew with an absolute certainty I would rather send money to my siblings than them ever having to go experience signing on at the Job Centre.
The second worst day of my JSA experience was when I had to go sign on..on Valentine’s Day. This made me acutely aware I didn’t have anything in life and I cried all the way home. I finally managed to stop claiming JSA when I got a part-time position at Poundland. I thought I would be their temporarily while I applied for my dream job. I thought wrong.
By the time I started working at Poundland I was in deep with book blogging, I’d started my Etsy shop and was growing my bookstagram and posting on my blog. I was determined to show that I used my own initiative and had continued to do stuff relevant to my degree and interests even while unemployed. I was also volunteering one day a week at the same company I interned for doing their social media. After 4 years of University I had some idea of what I wanted to do but book blogging showed me what my dream job would be – publishing so I started to apply.
At first I didn’t hear anything but then one day I got an interview as a Marketing Executive at Hodder & Stoughton. It was then I thought dreams really did come true. I swapped shifts at work and went all the way down to London and guys I was DYING inside. I was so nervous I just sat in the huge glass lobby praying I didn’t look as anxious as I felt. Despite this I thought my interview had gone really well and I remember telling my friend I would cry if I got the job as it was my dream.
I didn’t get it. Not enough experience they said.
I had two more interviews in publishing and didn’t get those either. I went down to the London Book Fair for their seminars on how to get into publishing, I showed my CV to recruiters, I spoke to some people already employed in publishing to try and improve my cover letter. Nothing worked.
I continued to work at Poundland and apply for jobs every week. I had a few more interviews but never for publishing again. I worked at Poundland so long I got promoted to Store Supervisor. This made me feel a bit better, I hadn’t been stuck in a dead-end retail job. I had been promoted and given more responsibility. Surely this would help me to get a job? No.
At this point my life had started to change. I met someone and the idea of moving away to London became more and more distant. I developed new dreams of working for myself and creating my own business focused on book merch. I just needed to get a job. A good job that would enable me to save. I thought being Store Supervisor would be okay for a while.
But then things at Poundland started to go downhill. My manager basically hated me, she didn’t think I worked fast enough and at this point I was still on probation. I was terrified I’d be forced to take a demotion or be fired and I was scared how this would look to employers. One week I got the flu really bad and I was completely bed bound, I knew my manager would be pissed but I couldn’t move. I phoned in sick and she was not happy as she was “on her own” and was now going to have to do a longer shift. I got off the phone and cried. I was so stressed I just started applying for jobs even though I was ill.
I ended up getting an interview at a company that I didn’t really understand. That weird pride humiliation hit when I realised I’d be interviewed by a girl I knew at college. You see she had left university before graduating and yet here I was still looking for a job whilst she had been in marketing for 2 years. I went to the interview, at this point I was used to never getting the job so I didn’t really plan ahead on what would happen if I did get offered the role. I was given some tasks to do at home which I spent hours on every night for a week before submitting and the next week I got a phone call offering me the role. My now manager was concerned about the commute but I was so grateful for the position I told her a bus ride wasn’t going to stop me.
Nearly a year after I started what I thought would be a temporary job at Poundland I got to finally hand in my notice. I was so excited to be able to show to her that she was wrong and guys Karma is definitely real because less than a month later the entire store closed down. She had treated me so badly I was pretty happy she would be out of a job. She was a terrible manager.
So now I’m working as a Marketing Executive. I get up everyday at 5:30am to get my bus at 6:30am. I arrive at work for 8:30am and finish at 5:00pm to get home by 6:30pm. I am at work essentially 12 hours a day. This was the job I had waited for, I had worked so hard for but guys I am tired. All the time. When I’m not working I’m trying to design stuff for my shop, take pictures for bookstagram, write blog posts, read, see my boyfriend, see my friends, see my family and I am exhausted. You can’t have everything in life but it was bitter sweet finding out the job I had wanted for so long is affecting my physical and mental health.
I just want this to be clear. I was MISERABLE claiming job seekers, my soul was completely destroyed working in Poundland, my Manager hating me was just another kick while I was down and now I am tired all the time and this is actually the best place I’ve been since leaving University.
This job challenges me everyday but at least I know that I’m growing as a person and an employee. I get to use my mind and my creativity and that’s better than mindlessly shifting stock around a shop floor. But I also know I can’t continue doing 12 hour days indefinitely, something will have to give eventually.
I don’t think I did anything special to finally get the graduate job I was looking for. I was in the right place at the right time and really I just got lucky. Lucky my manager made me so upset I applied for just about any job I found, lucky that my workplace needed someone quickly and lucky that pretty much everyone else in the running didn’t want the role.
It’s just luck guys and some people are luckier than others.