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Friday, 21 January 2011

Job Hunt MSc

I spoke to a mate of mine last night and he has been told that he’s about to lose his job. Now, being a friend I was supportive, we went for a pint and I tried to share all of the encouraging things I found out when I was in the same boat last June. Tragically I just don’t think I am that good an actor. I worry that he saw through my thinly veiled efforts to gee him up.

The fact is that the two months of job unemployment I had, having been made redundant, was the single most soul destroying time of my life. Worse than when, at six years old, I discovered that Alison Palmer wasn’t going to be my wife. Worse than when I was dumped after four days by Caz Austin when I was 15, EVEN THOUGH I bought her a dozen roses. Worse than when my mum sat me down and told me that my parents were going to get a divorce and, though it pains me to say it, worse than the 102 minutes I spent watching “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” having adored “Desperado”.

Having forged a career since leaving University, making subtle career moves to gain experience, learn new skills, make myself more employable within my field and risen to the heady if inaccurate job title of Road Safety Specialist, I was fairly happy with my lot. One day last April I met up with the boss. I was bought a smashing lunch, we discussed what my career goals were, the fact I’d like to gain experience of working abroad and when I’d be getting my iPhone. The next day four of us on secondment were told we had four weeks notice and after another few weeks of “working from home” the inevitable happened and the consultancy had to let us all go. That’s it. Done. Thanks for all your efforts. What a turnaround.

So what was next? I’d been applying for jobs within the industry but at a time when public spending everywhere was being cut, Local Authorities everywhere shedding staff, what could I do? Well, the first thing was to go through the process of signing on. My first visit to the Job Centre told me everything I needed to know. I explained what I had been doing and got……..nothing. A confused look. I handed over my CV, explained my transferable skills…..nothing. The system is not set up for people with a degree let alone a Masters who actually want to find work! The next eight weeks were hell.

Weeks one and two: Enthusiasm at the ready. I thought I’d find a filler. Something to pay the bills before my undoubted talent was unearthed and I was restored to my rightful place amongst the employed. I had already exhausted applications for jobs relevant to my experience so on to websites, the paper, any source I could. I signed up to ten recruitment agencies, applied for temp this that and the other and cherry picked a few permanent posts that excited me and that I could turn my hand to. I heard nothing.

Friends - Always there to lend support!

Weeks three and four: Chin up time. It is still early doors. Sadly working from home with no work to do had put pay to my appetite for daytime television and any box-sets of choice so my routine became one of facebook, job hunt, facebook, job hunt and then making sure I dragged myself out to keep up with my weekly socials. I was tired though. Staring at my laptop, seeing the same pages, same job, getting the same, silent response.

Weeks five and six: The realisation. Why would anyone take me on for the role of “Office Monkey” when there are fifty people who’d just left the same role looking, who’d be there for years, brain optional, when I’d be there for as long as it took to get something great. Surely the JC would help? No. My fortnightly visits were nothing more than a five minute wait to get my book signed. I want a job. I need a job. What assistance are you giving me? Why won’t you help me? My salary expectations have dropped. I was on nearly £30k. I’ll now take £6.50 an hour. I’m conscious that I need to plan for the future, I can’t afford to keep my lifestyle. My desire to go out has waned. I’m being sucked in. My girlfriend knows and it’s a chore to see her so that falls by the wayside. Friends offer advice. Have you tried this? Have you tried that? Then the looks of sympathy though I’m not crippled by disease, my dog has not died.

Weeks seven and eight: The Fall. I’ve dropped a long way in the last two months. A glum and hollow individual. I queued for 90 minutes to get into a jobs fair. In the rain. A jobs fair with almost no jobs! Toward the end of the queue two women arrive and chat to the guys in front of me. One declares “I’ve been out of work for over a year now but I’m not queuing for an hour to get in”. I vow that I’ll never get to that stage and it’s the impetus I need. Another wasted trip to the JC but my saviour arrives in the form of a mop.

My friend offers a week of work. Cash in hand. I um and err for two hours – he works in a storage place and it needs a good clean. How much pride have I got left? What if someone I know sees me? I go to look at the job and take it. It’s a week out of the house more than anything, watching the comings and going of mystery visitors to their lock-ups, putting my degrees to good use sweeping up behind them. It’s funny. I thought that week would be the final straw of humiliation. Instead it gave me everything back. I was off out to the pub, bounding around the cricket pitch despite the aches and pains of a hard days work and lo and behold I got a call for an interview with an agency.

Having worked in recruitment the junior agent impresses me very little but I know I can impress again, given the chance at interview. In fact I like him decidedly more that the Job Centre robots who have no interest in me, my welfare or job search it’d seem. Perhaps because he sees a profit? I couldn’t care less about his motives. Within a day I’m starting an office role and from their have found myself in my current post. My description to anyone who asks how it’s going is simply “it’s a job”, a phrase that means very little to them I know, but it means the earth to me.

So what advice can I give to my friend? I passed on my tips, offered to help with his CV. The fact is that it’s like ‘Nam. If you haven’t been there, to that dark place, then it’s hard to imagine. It’s hard to accept where you’ll have to go to before things start to look up too. Worst of all, you are on your own. It’s good to have that grounding once in a while but it’s amazing how quickly almost a decade of work can be cast aside for a mop and bucket.

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