It’s May! Exams have finally finished and you want to cry: ‘Freedom!’ No more hard work for a few months, plenty of time for long lies in and lazy days overdosing on Jeremy Kyle and Holly and Phil. The books are packed away and it’s time to hit the pubs for a long overdue Monday session.
And then you remember.
‘Oh yeah.’ You’re no longer a teenager; you’re an adult. Gone are the days of sandcastles and ice-cream-lollies! Gone are the days of picnics and suntans! The summer’s not there to enjoy anymore when your student loan has stopped and the bills keep pouring in. There’s nothing more for it but to get out into the big wide working world and find yourself a job.
You start off full of hope and determination. How hard can this job-hunting business be? You’re smart, you’re experienced. Any employer would be lucky to have you. Or so you think.
I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re headed for disappointment!
I applied for around 80 jobs before I was lucky enough to find one. It wasn’t because I was being fussy; that’s just the way it works now. The fact is you are likely to have to apply for around 70 jobs before you are offered even one.
Of course, I did have a few interviews along the way (…and when I say ‘a few’ I really do mean ‘a few’. I had three in total in the space of three months). Interviews these days are not the same as they used to be. Gone are the days when an interview consisted of a one-to-one with the employer having an informal chit-chat about you, the job and your hopes for the future. Nowadays it’s what I can only call: a rigmarole.
First you have the telephone interview. This consists of 30 minutes of questions about situations that might arise in the job and what you would do about them. Doesn’t sound too bad? Well, when you’re called up at 9am still half in and out of consciousness and then asked ‘Tell me about a time you went the extra mile for a customer’ you panic (especially when your last job was working in a pub and the only positive thing you did for a customer was throw them out when they had too much). You have to be a fast thinker and a fast talker to get through these (seemingly nonsensical) interviews.
Then, if you are successful, you are invited to an assessment centre. Here you find yourself spending three hours of your day filling out never-ending paperwork (I once had to fill out a questionnaire about an engineering job, even though the job was for bar staff!).
Then there are tests: tests on your typing speed, tests on your customer service skills, tests on your IT skills, and numerical skills, and organising skills.
Then, finally, there’s an interview asking you the same questions you were asked on the telephone interview.
You’d think after all this you might be in with a chance. But then you realise there were 100 other people applying for the same job. Your optimism quickly turns to a feeling of dejection and its back out there on the hunt again with the hope of ever finding a job now at zero.
You do begin to doubt yourself, thinking: ‘is getting a degree worthwhile when you can’t even get a job cleaning the toilets down at your local?’ (For me, this doubt was made worse when I was told a few times that I was ‘too over qualified’ for certain jobs and advised to ‘remove my education’ from my CV. Has it really got that bad that having an education is seen as a obstacle to getting hired?)
Finally September has arrived and your student loan will soon be heading into your bank account. Happy days are here again!
Well, at least until next summer.
By Jenna Niblock
(Published: Issue One, October 2012)