Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Lessons I Learned From Job Hunting

Thanks to a variety of circumstances - notably an international upbringing, a boarding school education and a crippling fear of rejection - I have never had a job. Well, that's a lie, technically I have been 'employed' across a variety of self-imposed and volunteering-based positions, but I have never had that staple of the standard youth, a "summer job". You know what I mean - those low-paid, soul-crushing, real-world experiences that people make funny videos about on YouTube.

This summer, however, saw a change in said circumstances; I had before me a long holiday, with no long periods of absence, in the UK, and myself now able to drive and thusly travel further than half an hour from my front doorstep in search of work.

As you may have judged by my absence from this blog, it turns out job hunting is a very time-consuming experience. But also a strangely enlightening one. Allow me to explain.

There's a lot that a thousand careers fairs, online surveys and helpful websites can't teach you about job hunting. They can't teach you, for example, how to react when your would-be-employer's first question is why you - a university undergrad with high grades, a magnificent academic track record and absolutely no hours on a checkout in Tesco - are applying for a minimum wage, long-hours job in a café at a harbourside train station. They can't teach you how to judge the appropriate waiting period when the person who emailled you enthusiastically asking for an interview yesterday is twenty minutes late to the Skype call and you're wondering if you should get back and put in another application somewhere else before their deadline passes.

Job hunting in practice is a very different barrel of eels to job hunting in theory - and it can be twice as slippery.

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to land a paying job for about two months now, and I keep running into a conundrum. Well, perhaps not a conundrum, more of a disconnect. How can I be, in theory, so educated and eloquent and have a thousand tips and tricks manuals practically glued to the forefront of my brain ... and yet I can't even get a job serving people pizza, or washing up coffee cups?

Like everything else in life, I've come to the conclusion that it's a matter of practice. I used to think that job hunting was a one-shot thing - something to be done in one fell swoop before someone picked you up and you wandered off to advance your career and / or scrape together enough cash to afford that trip to Glastonbury with your friends in two weeks. Now, I think it's much like anything else in life - you have to learn how to do it properly.

As I said before, theory cannot prepare you for the thousand little human idiosyncracies that can come to life during a job interview. Nor can it teach you how to do or be everything someone wants that they will hire you on the spot. Perhaps it can't even teach you how you can be looked over for a job for being "overqualified" - although if anyone ever manages to explain that to me in a logical way, I think I'll actually eat my socks.

Practice makes perfect, I say, so I need to adjust my strategy - and stop falling into the pit of existential sadness each time an application goes unanswered in the void. I just need to keep going, keep trying, learn a little more each time, and maybe one day it will all fall into my lap and I'll have a nice little bread and butter job to keep me ticking over while I grapple with that potential masterpiece of a novel that will either pay all my bils for the next twenty years or see me sent to hospital with improperly used commas embedded in my eyes.

Job hunting is weird, and scary, and far too grown up for my liking. But I've barely got started, and I've still got a lot to learn and a long way to go.

... And yes, I was perfectly serious about the socks.

~ Charley R

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