Far be it from me to wax negative on the unemployment situation in the UK, but the more I see of this sh*tstorm about job seekers having to stack shelves in supermarkets to earn their benefits, the more I want to eat my own eyes.
Category Archives: unemployment
This blog hasn’t really been living up to its title of late. This is mainly because I’ve been trying to pitch the concept to various papers for money and it feels a bit unprofessional to blog about my adventures for free when I’m trying to sell them. There again, I probably ought to be talking about it a bit more in order to maintain my reputation as an expert.*
So. I have been temping since August 2010 and freelancing on the side, but just lately I’ve started applying for the odd proper job here and there again. I’ve only been going for writing/communication ones, because the agency gets me enough work that I don’t feel obliged to return to the harrowing 6 months post-graduation, when I was applying for 10-15 crappy admin jobs a week and never hearing anything back.
The BBC posted an article mentioning my experience yesterday, actually. ‘More graduates taking low skill jobs’ the headline goes, as if this is somehow surprising or new. (For those not up to speed, I graduated from The University of St Andrews in 2008 with a 2:1 in Modern History and a raft of extra-curricular detritus on my CV, and then spent 6 months on the dole before finally securing a job with the council starting on 11k pa. I was certainly not the only one.).
The idea I’ve been trying to pitch for the past 6 months (if not longer) is basically a series of blog or diary entries about the experience that these graduates are having. I’m pretty well equipped to do it, on account of being one. But clearly I’m not targeting the right editors. Either that, or I’m not approaching them in the right way.
Earlier today I came across this article about how to get work using social media, and realised there might be a very good reason why my last application went ignored. Seriously, read it, this girl totally deserved to get that job. Meanwhile I limited myself to hyperlinks in the cover letter and a pretty CV (you can have a look at it if you want by clicking the tab above)… It’s pretty clear I need to up my game. There are only about 2 creative vacancies in Edinburgh at any one time, and they’re being applied for by 3 or 4 years worth of graduates, as well as untold professionals and optimists. Proving you’re the best one is hard going.
As if the pressure wasn’t enough already, you then read stuff like this about the problems with using t’internet to get an employer’s attention. Oh, the irony of not being able to use social media to socialise in case you give a bad account of yourself in the working world! (Course you can just make your profile private. But that only works with strangers – can you refuse a friend request from your boss?) It’s just as well I’m a teetotal, non-smoking, 100% attendance record holding freak of nature, hey.
*it’s what you might call a localised reputation.
You may be shocked to learn that I’m not the only one who has found it hard to obtain fulfilling / paid work since leaving university. Surfing the web today I came across this echo of my graduate sentiments by London based Emma Hyatt, who is having a pretty rough time. And yesterday this was doing the rounds on Twitter – again, I completely empathise.
On the plus side though, at least I got uni over and done with before the coalition happened. And live in Scotland. Our jobs market may be markedly more tumbleweedy than England’s, but the Graduate Endowment was scrapped when I was in third year and my debt is considerably lower than the students of the future as a result. I count myself lucky on that point, even if it is a moot one. I’m never going to be earning enough to pay anything back.
Unless of course I miraculously make it as an SEO writer as per the many emails I keep getting from the long distance journalism course I signed up to. No, twinkly Australian man, I do not want to spend $17 on your ebook about how to write content for the types of site most internet users try to avoid. I do not have $17 to spare, certainly not on the dubious pastime of buzzwording morons into buying enough green tea to sink Boston. Those dollars are going to be 18 gold ingots in British currency soon, and I’ll need them all to swap for powdered eggs and tripe when a birthday comes round. #BigSociety
Mr Jobless Graduate was texting me at my temp job earlier today to register his disgust at the way the press have covered the London student protests. Prior to hearing from him, all I’d read was part of a statement from the head of the MET describing the trouble makers as “a small but significant” minority, although the attack on the royals had filtered through my caffeine deprived senses to a certain extent.
“What are they saying,” I texted back, looking through old biology papers to see if the diagram I needed to do had been drawn before. It had not.
“Mainly banging on about the desecration of war memorials and attacks on the royal family. Nothing about the people stuck on the bridge.”
It transpired that one of Mr JG’s friends, currently studying in London, had gone along to the protest at 3pm but on seeing the violence he decided to leave. He was prevented from doing so, detained on Westminster Bridge for over four hours without access to food, water, or the other accoutrements to which he has become accustomed.
read the rest of this post here.
Student protests against the education cuts are right up there with the snow in the news this week, although the former is decidedly more interesting to me as a jobless graduate. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the Edinburgh protest today because I had a couple of deadlines (one successfully met, the other less so) but I was able to follow the action in real time on Twitter. Here’s how it went down…
Nobody tweets about leaving Bristo Square, but they presumably did as:
@viceuk : What’s everyone having for lunch?
@DeadlineClare : Edinburgh Protesters now shouting “come outside” at doors of Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
@impworks : Hark I hear the dulcet tones of a Student protest…
…. 20 minutes later….
@thesimonevans : Students are a bit like yamaha electronic keyboards. At their most impressive when in Demo mode.
Twitter then panicked and went over capacity, which was conducive to my finishing a What’s On column for The Broughton Spurtle, but sort of disappointing.
However, you can now see a slideshow of photos over at Deadline News, or read articles about it on STV (worth a look at the picture they use) or Guardian Edinburgh. The Guardian’s video features an interview with Patrick Harvie MSP and footage of student chants, some of which were more realistic than others… worth a look.
I found it interesting to note that none of the Edinburgh protests have descended into kettling yet, especially after watching Coppers last night. Even though students were chucking snowballs at them, they seemed to remain quite calm. Are our police more tolerant than those in London, Manchester and other larger UK cities? Or are our protesters better behaved than those down south?! And does a genuinely peaceful peaceful protest publicise the cause as effectively?
I am researching an article about the status of vocational training as opposed to the university education that we’re apparently all meant to aspire to.
In 2002, Chris Woodhead wrote:
“If the Government pursues its policy of expansion the consequences will be dire… for the thousands of students who will find themselves locked into three years of sub-degree study that is unlikely to bring any real intellectual satisfaction, and may well not lead to worthwhile employment.”
I was doing standard grades when he wrote that, and had no intention of going to university. (I was destined to be a writer and thought practical experience would serve me better than studying other people’s books to death.) But just a few years later I was swept along in the expansionist tide, giving in and applying on the grounds that everyone else was going and it probably wouldn’t do any harm.
In fact, this choice led me to become yet another one of the over-educated in a jobs market that needs practical skills far more than the kind of knowledge and attitudes studying for a degree gives you.
He went on to say:
“The Government talks endlessly about the need for graduates in the Knowledge Economy, but the ‘dirty little secret’, remember, ‘is the scarcity of jobs that require more advanced skills.’ We need plumbers and electricians, not, to take the letter C at random, graduates in Caribbean Studies, Caring Services, Childhood Studies, Chiropractice, Cinematics, Clothing Studies, Combined Studies, Communication Studies, Cosmetics, Contemporary Studies, Creative Therapies and Critical Theory.”
The idea of getting everyone to go to uni, irrespective of whether it’s relevant to what they want to do or if it’s even a real subject (sorry, but ‘contemporary studies’?), was apparently justified at the time as being positive for the economy. Even though the Centre for Economic Performance was saying that 30% of British adults were ‘over-educated’ (ie more qualified than they need to be in order to do the job they were in.) I can’t imagine that statistic has improved, based on the number of people I graduated with who have in jobs in admin, retail, call centres etc.
“Margaret Hodge is quite simply wrong. ‘Promoting an ambitious increase in the number of young people in higher education’ is not necessarily ‘an economic imperative’. It could be a waste of everyone’s time and money.”
I really think that this view has been proved correct, less than a decade later. So many spend years of time and thousands of pounds on going to university, and what are they then qualified to do? Study more. Entry level jobs in any field of vague interest are so amazingly competitive that it almost doesn’t matter how good you are, certainly North of the border. You are one of probably 40 or 50 really good, degree wielding candidates. And before whittling you into that pile, the prospective employer had to wade through another 100 or so pretty poor applications.
What university helped me to do was decide that I definitely wanted to write for a living. What graduating into a recession did was help me to hone this a bit more. I was surprised to discover that I still wanted to be a journalist, just like when I was sixteen. University (and DC Thomson rejections) had made me widen my horizons, looking at communications and marketing quite seriously because after all, this would involve writing copy for a living – so what if the content wasn’t quite mine?
But now, having been rejected by far more than merely DC (The Evening News, The Herald, Deadline News, and The Guardian to name but a few), I know I want to write my own stuff. And more than that, I have confidence that some of my ideas are quite good.
On the way towards this realization I discovered that I really should have done vocational journalist training somewhere like Napier, because skills alone do not make up for lack of contacts, NCTJ approved qualifications and a heady mixture of old-skool skillz like shorthand and new media ones like podcasting. So now I am building up my knowledge base in a haphazard sort of a way, and freelancing – invariably for free.
I will get there eventually. But I think I would have even if I hadn’t gone to St Andrews. I was already blogging constantly and writing reviews for local papers in Perthshire before my third knock-back bounced me across the Tay to sunny Fife.
But what of the people I graduated with? Those who got their 2:1 in whatever and then said well, that box is ticked. Now what? Some have traveled. Some went into jobs in offices or retail. And a worrying number went straight back into education again.
I can genuinely only bring to mind about 3 people who went and got ‘graduate’ level jobs. For which you may read ‘went through 8 rounds of interviewing with one of the companies on Milkround, and after a great deal of stress in their final year attained high-paid jobs in London which they don’t particularly enjoy.’
Does anyone really gain from even higher percentages of young people going to university ‘cuz thats what you do’? Education for its own sake is a wonderful, interesting thing, but I don’t think it suits everyone. The reason I went is because I wasn’t sure I was cut out for what I wanted to do. That’s a hell of a reason to run up several thousand pounds worth of debt.
Yesterday the BBC reported that there are sod all graduate jobs at the moment, and that some people feel as though doing a degree hasn’t helped that much. Well done, this has only been going on for about three years. Do you know how many people applied for my very average job in a library when it was advertised in 2008, at a time when things were allegedly OK? 180.
Anyway. Following on in a helpful sort of way, The Guardian printed a short piece today about how to make your CV more effective. FYI, I’ve followed all those steps and it still took me six months to find work… in a job where they didn’t take CVs as part of the application process.
In a bid to move on from said job I have continued to follow the above guidelines, gaining maybe one interview in ten applications over the past 18 months. I have had 6 or 7 interviews over that period. You may now take a brief moment to conduct the mental arithmetic required to work out how many individual-tastic applications I have written (whilst in full time work and attempting to somehow build up a career in freelance journalism).
Maybe this article in The Journal earlier in the year was on to something when they said:
“Data collected by the University of Edinburgh suggests that the highest levels of involuntary unemployment occur in graduates of Divinity, History, Chemistry and Geosciences.”
My 2:1 from The University of St Andrews just happens to be in History, y’see. Although I find the research fairly unhelpful as it doesn’t explain why this should be the case. Why should history graduates be less employable than people who studied Philosophy or English? We have all the same transferable skills, and arguably less predilection for the pretentious. Although we do like a bit of alliteration now and then.
I am going to blog for The Skinny on this topic. Currently messing around with a couple of different angles on it because the following is a bit too long. It’s a piece about a typical day as an unemployed recent graduate in a new flat, as well as being one of the things that got me a meeting with the blogs editor. You may notice I have used part of it before.
As the unemployed member of the household, it is my job to field visits from the unusual handyman.
Scene One – Kitchen. Flatmate’s boyfriend makes tea, I re-lace a shoe. Enter Unusual Handyman.
Unusual Handyman: [in an accent so impenetrable even he probably doesn’t know what it is] mmmphgarnyadblah locked door flumedeygramphleyumyumyjellybibbles BURN TAE DEATH, ken?
Me: What did he say?
Flatmate’s BF: I don’t think even he knows that.
Mumbling offstage as we drink our tea in bemused silence.
UH: Yumblenblah – back tomorrow – mimble – light fitting – yumptyfacks – aff the wa’! [gestures offstage in the direction of my room] S’dangerous! Veryfastincomprehensiblesomethingorother I got tae be here.
Me: You’ve got to be here?
UH: [in a voice laced with mysterious hidden subtext] I’m authorised.
Scene Two – my room. The light switch, previously fine, is now hanging dangerously from the wall.
Flatmate’s BF: [calling from offstage] So, is the light fitting off?
Me: [disbelieving] …Yeah. It is.
Sadly though, visits from the pony-tailed misanthrope are too infrequent to make me completely forget how bored I am of job applications.
As I blogged in August, two months after graduating,
“My CV now available on s1, guardian jobs, denholm and reed.co.uk. I check job listings on over twenty sites (from media-specific to job centre to individual employers) daily. On stolen internet. But I’m not getting any feedback, and it’s raining, and our shower’s trying to kill us.”
This is no exaggeration – the shower really was trying to kill us. Sparks kept flying out of it, and for several days we had to press the ‘on’ switch with a wooden spoon for fear of electrocution. But the unusual handyman was more concerned about the fact that we took our shoes off at the front door. It’s a fire hazard, apparently…