Strange situation

It’s hard to write about looking for a job in 2015 without sounding a) more than a touch defeatist, and b) like a whiny “millennial” with a raging sense of entitlement. The trouble is, the whole job-seeking process – from firing off application after application, to the cold-sweat awkwardness of interviews – is the most evil of all necessary evils, and everyone has to go through it at some point. There’s no way round it, but it is soul-grindingly bleak.

And the most frustrating part of it is the fact that once you’ve got a job, and are happily tucked up at a desk with a computer and a phone and a stained mug, you realise how easy it is to have a job. All you need to be is 1) not a psychopath, and 2) able to follow instructions. And if you’re aiming to be CEO, I wouldn’t worry too much about the odd psychopathic tendency, tbh.

When you take a moment to think about it, it’s a strange situation we’re in – and by “we” I mean those who’ve graduated since around 2008. We spent most of our academic lives being told “you’re bright, and you work hard – so keep doing that; do well in exams, go to university, and you’ll be able to choose what you do with your life”. It’s strange, when you’ve done pretty much everything you were told to do – you’ve done almost everything right – it’s strange for it to not be enough, not even nearly enough. In darker moments, it makes you think – well, I wish I had gone off the rails a bit. Had myself a proper teenage rebellion. I don’t think I’d be any worse off. When you’ve had some sort of employment since your early teens, you’ve got a degree and maybe a Masters, and you want more than anything in the world to be starting to put some sort of career plan together, knowing you should feel lucky to have a job at all is a little jarring.

I remember it so clearly: watching the news in halls in the early weeks of first year, seeing the financial crisis unfold. I remember thinking, so naively, “it’s fine… I’ve got three or four years before I have to deal with the rest of the world; they’ll have sorted it out by then. We won’t be utterly fucked.” And then coming out of uni after doing an MA that put the love I had for the intricacies of language into a pretty serious coma – that it’s only just coming out of now – and trying to find some kind of employment. Taking a couple of stop-gap jobs because I wanted the money and needed a reason to get up every day – even if it was to go and sit in a tanning and beauty salon – and on days off, sending out applications and CVs and cover letters, only for my mother to tell me on a weekly basis that I wasn’t trying hard enough. (Mind you, she still says that – maybe that’s just mothers. Or just her.)

But how many times can you explain that yes, you’re applying for retail/waitressing jobs too, because no, you don’t think you’re too good for jobs like that, but potential employers know fine rightly that you won’t be sticking around and will subsequently take a 16-year-old over you, because they’ll get at least a couple of years’ work out of them? How many times can you explain that trawling round the town centre with copies of your CV is, largely, not the way it works anymore? How many times can you summon all the enthusiasm you possess, channel that into an application that makes you cringe yourself inside out, only to not even get a “we have received your application and will be in touch in due course” email when you do submit it?

At the moment, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I can do. I really don’t – I think I’m quite good with words and writing things, but at this point, I’m not even sure, because my life is taken up with an admin job that’s turning out to be more stressful than it sounds when I describe it. And that’s OK – I can deal with being in a busy, pressured workplace – but it’s not quite what I want to do long-term, and I feel that at 25, I should be thinking long-term, and making big, grown-up plans. I want to move out – to Bristol, as you’re probably sick of hearing by now, but God I adore that city – but how do you find a job in a city you’re not in? If I were more of a free spirit type of person, I’d just go. I’d hand in my notice, find myself a little flat in Bristol and take it from there. Start temping to pay the bills, and then figure things out. But I’m more of a caged spirit, really – I like the routine and structure of work, if not the actual job itself – and let’s be honest, I like the money. You can’t do much without an income, and I’ve never been good at doing nothing. The general consensus is that it’s rather silly to give up a job without anything to go to, and I agree. Especially now, under a Conservative government – I do not trust there would be much in the way of support if things didn’t work out for me. I might be wrong, but I’d rather not have to test the theory.

I’m not expecting it to be easy – of course not. I know that a lot of people dabble in and out of a few things before they find their niche, and having a “not thrilling but it pays the bills” job is pretty much a rite of passage. I’m just scared that by continuing to believe that something better will present itself, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. I know I’m still young, but time only marches on.

This woman couldn’t sound more perfect if she tried.

This is a song I should probably take to heart.

And I’ve just stumbled across this, seems pretty good. That voice. Damn.

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