Cover letters. CVs. Job Hunts. The bread and butter of those graduates who didn't take a vocational degree, and still the staple diet for many of those who did. As soon as victory over the world of education has been declared, a new battle front emerges - the tooth and claw fight to become employed. Or rather, to become employable.
The most helpful piece of advice I have received since graduating was from the University of Nottingham Careers center; "Don't put your education history first". But surely this is the most significant thing I've achieved in my 22 short years? I've been in education since the age of 5 - what else would I put first?! "Nobody cares about your degree - because, quite simply, your name will feature in a pile of hopeful graduate candidates, and that pile will sit next to those candidates who have a degree AND a masters, and that pile will sit next to those candidates who have several years of experience, and a degree, and a masters - and that pile will sit next to the two internal candidates who are already lined up for the job. If you think you're going to get a job in this climate because you got some nice A levels and a First, then try applying at Tesco." When I dropped my education history to the end of my CV, and got rid of any mention of my GCSE results, I had 6 replies to applications in two weeks.
Brutal, but incredibly helpful. For far too long in my search for a job, I was hoping that people would look at my academic history and think "Well, he'll keep his head down and do us well won't he?". A recruitment group told me last week that they were more interested in my data entry job for a student service website than in my degree, because they knew of clients who were looking for people with experience in student services. Data entry could see me get a job, because no matter how undeniably shit it might look, with the right twist it's 'experience'. All my education history achieves is for my name to be bracketed "GRADUATE" - white, middle class, fortunate enough to expand their mind for a few years, but otherwise just another idiot.
I've been a massive idiot when it comes to facing up to 'the big bad world'. I've been hopeful that people will give me a break, that they'll look at my academic record and my stints of volunteering and see my hidden worth. But why should they? There are far more experienced job seekers out there than me, and the Lord knows that there are certainly job seekers out there with far more direction than I. I should have bitten the bullet and taken on more unpaid internships - I only managed three before my savings ran out. An editorial internship I saw advertised in London recently wasn't even offering to pay expenses, because - painfully - they know they that people will still apply. The cruel facts of the job world are, that unless you're middle classed, fortunate enough to have parents who're willing to fund you for another 6-12 months, and live close enough to a significant city filled with internship-giving-companies, it'll be hard to find anything. I sofa surfed in London for 6 weeks, and only now do I realise that I should have taken an internship that kept me homeless for 3 months. No amount of experience is ever enough.
Am I being too picky? Should I give up attempting to obtain enough experience of 'media' and 'editorial' work and just take a graduate sales/recruiting job? If you like sales or recruiting, then never fear - the market is ripe for you. I, on the other hand, am a bumbling twat who considers their creativity and way with words a skill that they'd like to develop into something that will earn them some money. Who am I kidding? I can hardly spell (I only passed my degree thanks to Spell-Check) and my abilities with grammar, maths and logic are falling away with each and every month they aren't used. If I wait any longer, then even telesales groups aren't going to take me, since my brain will have dried up and dribbled out of my nose. I don't know how long 'long enough' is before I give up with Plan A and invent a Plan B. Any ideas?
The comfort is, that it's not just me. There are thousands of other far more deserving graduates and redundant workers out there facing exactly the same situation. Page 14 of today's Financial Times sees a letter from a US History grad who can only find a job in military service. The reaction from 'Lucy' and others is a fairly standard one; Keep focused on hunting one job sector - don't spread your search too thin; realise that you took a History degree to broaden the mind, not get a job; realise that you shouldn't have taken a History degree. I don't want to debate the topic of which degrees are useful and which degrees are useless in this rant - that's a whole different argument. For any graduate out there who's finding themselves a bit lost and unstuck as they attempt to gain 12 months worth of employable experience - I salute you, and wish you luck. To those graduates who have found a job after months of hard searching - you've done your university proud. To those who are currently at university - get to grips with your CV and with your ability to sell yourself on a cover letter, and find a career you can nail the hell out of. And if you think it's unfair or too hard or just a bit shit, well, it isn't - that's just the nature of the current job market. Unfair is living on the east coast of Japan.