Since my altogether joyous and praising blog post about my job as a mentor on the National Citizen Service scheme, things have changed a lot. I’ve now become a statistic, I’m an unemployed graduate. Granted, I’m doing better than most, having had my mentoring job and having spent my weekend picking up rubbish (and poo, and cups of wee) at Leeds festival for minimum wage. But now I am mentoring and litter-picked out I’m signing on fortnightly and getting more and more frustrated with how absolutely impossible it is to get a job.
I’ve been signing on at two different jobcentres. The first one, Harlow, presented me with an advisor who looked shocked when I told her I not only had a degree but also 10 A*-B grade GCSEs. She also told me to put my degree at the bottom of the CV because it might “put employers off”. So great, I’m over-sodding-qualified. Three years and £9,000 on a degree I loved and I’m supposed to pretend like I don’t have one. Understandably, I was a little peed off about that. I was then sent to sit through an hour’s presentation on the Youth Contract.
This is what really took the biscuit for me. The session started off with a task in which we had to say what we would do if we won £46m on the lottery. Now I don’t play the lottery because it’s a tax on hope but in order to sound like less of a pompous twit I said I’d spend it on a masters and a PhD (I did say less of one, didn’t I?). Other people wanted cars and houses and all that business. Our presenter then told us we could have these things, albeit to a lesser extent, if we got a job! Well knock me down with a feather, I never knew that. Besides, I thought that’s what the jobcentre was supposed to be helping me to do. Then we were told how workfare isn’t slavery and how we should always offer to do a work trial when we apply for jobs (ie, work for free for up to 3 weeks with no guarantee that we’ll end up with a job at the end of it). I can’t even describe how angry this made me; I think twitter was massively on the receiving end of a few four letter tirades. I’ve campaigned against workfare yet it was still a shock when it became obvious that this could be not just my reality, but reality for other recent graduates too.
Then I got a job through Blue Arrow litter picking. This would have been amazing if the hours hadn’t have been 6am-6pm and the work wasn’t quite so gross, at least meeting (and re-meeting) cool people made up for this. Then I had to sign on again, this time in Cambridge. My new advisor seems far more switched on than my old one and understood fully that I just need to work any old job to make enough money to do my masters. But then she said I shouldn’t bother applying for anything but library work and retail because that’s where I have experience (never mind the mentoring, stewarding and student ambassadoring, all these have are transferrable skills). Working in a library would be amazing but there are precious few jobs, working in retail was the absolute bane of my life and Tesco was very lucky I lasted nine months with them. However, I am not choosy and I am applying for retail jobs.
What those who are not unemployed seem to find it difficult to understand is that there really are precious few jobs to apply for at the moment. A large, large proportion of jobs that are advertised are part time. Lots of jobs demand that you can drive. Nearly all jobs require you to have fairly specific experience. Today an hour’s search of indeed.co.uk in both my postcode area and Cambridge provided me with not one job I could realistically apply for. People say to apply for jobs even if you don’t have the experience they want, but when a job advert says that such experience is “essential” then spending an hour or so on a covering letter for the job which reveals that I have no experience is a bit of a waste of time. I am sick of the words “pro rata”, of “full UK driving license required”, of “experience essential”. I’m tired of filling in job applications only to never receive a reply. The one job interview I have attended in the past month ended in a brief automated email telling me the application would not go any further (thank you so much WH Smiths!). Being unemployed is not just about being poor, it’s soul-destroying. It’s constantly being told you’re not good enough, that other people are better than you. That you’re not suited to working the kinds of jobs you want to work, let alone the ones you don’t. But despite all this you have to keep trying, keep applying, keep bigging yourself up in application letters when really you never want to have to write about how good your people skills are again.
My name’s Nyika and I’m fed up of being a statistic.