AND SO IT BEGINS...
I am just your average lady. Well, graduate lady, at least. At 23, I am mindlessly wandering around pages and pages of graduate jobs, internship jobs, office jobs, shop jobs, waitressing jobs, jobs in the newspaper, jobs on the internet whilst also adjusting cvs here, writing cover letters there and all in all going a little bit insane.
I am by no means unemployed. I have a job, a little office job with reasonable pay (well, not minimum wage at least) which has allowed me the freedom of moving out of my parents house and into my own shared flat. In fact, I have never been unemployed in my life. Right from the age of 14 when I was FINALLY allowed to work for £2.80 an hour in order to buy myself the heavy black eye makeup and trousers with bycicyle chains that my mother dispised (don't ask...) I have worked. At first as a waitress, then at 16 in a high street retailer (the discount was a 16 year olds dream!), a supermarket during my time at University and most recently, I moved away from my small home town to find some better prospects elsewhere (only a slightly bigger town I may add, but still!) and have since held two office jobs.
'What is the problem then?' you may ask. The problem is this; I went to University with little to no guidance as to why. I went because I could, and I chose my subject field because it sounded interesting. Two years into my course, I decided that this wasn't the course for me. To pursue a career in my chosen field would require a masters course and most likely a PhD course. At a time when student loan prices rose and without the fall back of a wealthy family background to support me, this was not an option. As previously mentioned, I am by no means a genius and my average grades were not going to land me a scholarship or additional bursaries, but regardless of this I had come to realise, this wasn't really for me.
Some of you may read this and think 'Ok, well that's your fault for not applying yourself or researching your course choices better.' I accept this, and I don't doubt that some greater effort could be made on my part, but at 18 and the first of my family to be given the opportunity to study at university, I was naive.
After the realisation of what the future began to look like (bleak), I started to explore some other avenues into different careers. The most obvious is, of course, work experience. I already had quite a hefty part time job during university which continued throughout the summer months and other holiday periods. Along with the final year workload, this became quite a challenge. I could only do a few hours here and there, a day this week and a day the following. As you can imagine, most employers didn't find this ideal and although it was never directly stated, a waste of time. Throughout the final year, I did apply for many graduate schemes but I didn't get past the first couple of stages. My choice of degree subject 'wasn't what we are looking for', I didn't have enough 'industry experience', my grades were 'not at the required standard' and even one that stated 'Although you have passed all the necessary requirements to progress to the next stage, due to the volume of applications we have decided to not select you for an interview'. So, I'd passed but they didn't have time?! What is with that?!
After graduation, I continued to work at my student job who fortunately were kind enough to give me a few more hours. It wasn't the ideal graduate job, but it gave me money to save to allow me to move away when a more desirable job came along. During those months I suffered endless rejection. Fresh out of uni full of willing and skills you would think would be nothing but desirable, no one seemed to think I was what they were looking for. Coming from a small seaside town in the north of England, the opportunities were few and far between at most, but the ultimate rejection was when I applied for a full time position at the supermarket where I currently worked, and had been working for the past four years... and was declined. This was a new low point.
The time came when I realised that in order to progress in... well, anything at this point, I would have to move. Luckily, I had connections in a larger town where I live today who helped point me in the right direction and at last, I landed a full time job in an office in the November after graduation. After a few months, I had my own flat and things were looking up. I have since progressed from the role to the job I have today but it seems as though my streak of good luck has run out, which brings me back to the point of this post.
With a degree and now a years solid 'acceptable' work experience, I am ready and willing once more to chase the graduate dream. I know my ideal career and I have spent many, many months researching, perfecting my cv and researching companies but alas, the barriers are still there. This time it's 'your skills and experience do not match what we are looking for' amongst all the same as before. And I'm not even talking post interview rejections where they've met you and then thought 'Nah', this is the on paper me, the me they cannot be bothered to meet with. Fair enough, I do not have 'direct' experience in this industry. Why not? It's the real world. You guys won't give me a job so... no experience. I can't afford to do unpaid work experience because I need a job that pays so I can live. I cannot use my 4 weeks paid holiday a year to do unpaid work experience. Maybe one or two weeks, yes... but even this (which I have applied for!) is something companies are not willing to give, or even willing to discuss.
I am aware that some readers may feel that I am moaning about a whole lot of nothing, but I am aware that I am not the only graduate in this position and many of my peers and friends and experiencing the same kind of pressures and rejection as myself. I am a firm believer that if you really want something, then you will try hard enough and you will get it. But now I feel that effort just is not enough. I have a job, which is more than most, but I have paid, and will continue to pay, for the good degree that I worked hard to achieve that is not allowing me any better prospects than those without. My job at present did not require me to have a degree, and most of my colleagues do not and we all have the same progressive opportunities.
With all this in mind, I am not going to give up. As a cheesy poster hung in a past mangers office once said 'success is a journey, not a destination' and I will get there in the end. The life of a recent graduate is frustrating at most but we must not give up hope. After all, there may be mountains of as-of-yet unsuccessful stories like mine, but there as just as many success stories. Although the theme of my story is mainly negative (sorry about that!), I know many of you can relate.