Saturday, 16 December 2017

How to survive: Being Unemployed edition

Since September 1st 2017, I've been without a job, and I would say it has been three of the more difficult months of my life. I am adamant that I want to work in the charity sector, and I worked throughout secondary school and university, so I have a decent enough buffer to allow me to not need to work right now, but still, being unemployed post-university is miserable.

Thoughts fly through the mind of being part of the statistic of the wasted degree, or of missed opportunities of just starting a more manual trade and not going to university at all, or of going back to live with the parents.
None of these I believe are the right path for me, and I'm glad I am where I am now, with the skills I have now, but to any graduate, none of those thoughts will be new ones.

This blog is written with sympathy, for other graduates, for third years in the final stretch of university. Any digs at graduates are at myself first and foremost, but if the boot fits, please wear it. Here are 4 things I picked out as the feelings of graduating into unemployment. I'll state them, and then give the solution I worked out. I hope it's helpful.
1. Free time = Guilty time. 
You feel guilty spending any time in the day not applying for jobs. No application is ever guaranteed to be successful. But when each application improves the odds of that phone call coming through, not doing part of an application for even an hour washes over you with this nasty guilty feeling. Down time becomes anathema, so of course the applications suffer, because you feel mentally chained to the keyboard, and you're not able to relax.
This is not a novel solution. This is rule one of unemployment. Routine, and contracted hours. Wake up at a normal time. Go to sleep at a normal time. Go outside at least once a day. Eat at least one vegetable a week day. Treat applying for jobs as a job, because it is, so clock in and clock out. I have a specific place I apply for jobs from, I get up at 8, read with a coffee till 10, then apply for jobs till 1. I'll have lunch, go for a run, and apply for jobs till 5. I only use Mozilla Firefox for applying for jobs, and when 5 hits, I close Firefox, and I don't open it till the next day. Not keeping a routine will only hinder when you eventually get a job.
2. I am a skill-less use-less waste
Skills you know you have, you begin to question. When that rock solid application you sent off to do 12 hours of admin work a week, oh pretty please let me answer phones, comes back as a failed application, because they've got someone who's answered phones for 20 years who wants the job to keep themselves busy, you doubt your ability to do anything. You try to reword everything, rejection makes you limit your own opportunities. When your nose is in the dirt, it's hard to look at the sun, and it's hard to know you're good at what you do when implicitly it feels like you're being told you're not.
This is a bit exaggerated. But getting told you suck by 5 different employers a week hurts. I began to doubt if I was as good as I said I was. Here's the kicker, they don't think you suck. Employers don't think you suck when they turn you down, you heard it here first (They might do, if you don't show up). There's just someone there who fits the bill slightly better than you. And that's frustrating. So what I have done, is when I apply for a job, I make a circle of my current skills. I make another circle with the skills the job is looking for. I then cross the circles, thus making a Venn diagram. The goal is to have as many skills in that cross-over as possible. Then I go from there! I have three set examples for pretty much every skill in the world.
"Used to changing levels of work" - Like a flash, I've got three.
"Excellent administration ability" - Bang, three examples.
"Experience of managing volunteers" - Three.
"Beautiful face" - One example. Me.
As a result, I can apply for pretty much any job within a certain sphere in about half an hour.
3. Guilty money
You feel guilty spending any money on anything, because there's no income to replenish it. I spent £16 on a bottle of whisky as a birthday present to myself at the start of December, and I nearly put it back twice on my way to the counter.
If you do have any money, try something with me. Start a new bank account. For every hour you apply for jobs or do other productive things (volunteer etc), transfer £3 across to it. That's your spending money, right there. I've been going between this and giving myself pocket money every week.
4. We all hate interviews
You absolutely hate the interview system. You hate the fact that you have a degree and you can't get 5 hours polishing banisters.  
So two little anecdotes here.
During the summer, I was flying high. I'd got an internship with a really good organisation in the charity sector, and I had three interviews to do a position I really wanted, each on about 20k a year. The organisation offered me about a month of administration work, which I turned down immediately. I was going to get a well paid job.
Fool of a Took.
I was unsuccessful in all of the interviews, I had badly prepared because I thought I'd walk into the position. They said I lacked demonstrable experience in one or two things, one being admin. I wish, I really do wish, that someone had grabbed me in August, and said "Joe, the sun doesn't shine from your rear. You are not owed anything from society. Well done for the voluntary stuff, get some paid experience". No-one did, because I'm not owed anything from society, but I learned that lesson the hard way.
The second anecdote, on hating the interview system.
I had just finished hearing back from a 15 hour a week admin position, I hadn't got the job. On a question on data protection, I had not given the obvious answers, but had talked more about the whys of its importance. Now I'm not tooting my own trumpet, but I know data protection pretty well for a muggle, I've been in several seminars on it, attended workshops on it, read thousands of words around it. And I was being penalised to the point of not getting the job (I missed out on this job by a point, apparently), for not saying "data protection is gud becuz it protects the customer". And I was ranting down the phone about this to a friend. I knew that data protection was gud becuz it protects the customer. And then I realised that was exactly it. I knew it, but I hadn't said it. I hated the game, but it didn't matter that I hated the game. I could hate the game in unemployment for as long as I wanted. Actually, it was time to learn the game, learn how to play it, and actually get a job.
It's all about the game, and how you can play it, all about control, and if you can take it. etc etc. Thanks Trips.

So I hope this was a helpful read, or even an interesting read if you are one of the lucky people with a job. I'll still do my voluntary work, my trusteeship with the BYC is more enjoyable than ever, and I'm doing a few other interesting charity bits, but that's a different blog for a different time.

To end, I'll quickly introduce you to 10/10/10. It's my new life motto. It stands for ten days, ten months, ten years. The motto bit is when you see a problem, you say "will it matter in ten days? Will it matter in ten months? Will it matter in ten years?"
I don't currently have a job.
Will that be the case in ten days? Probably.
Ten months? Almost certainly not.
Ten years? I won't remember this feeling in ten years.