Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Being a real life person (and the reasons why I have avoided being one for so long)

I wouldn't class myself as 'unemployed.' I'm not. Really I'm not. I definitely don't have a real job either though. Unless you class playing endless penalty shoot outs with a small boy and forever telling him to 'stop throwing couscous everywhere'/'get into bed, no YOUR bed... are you a big baby? Do any of your school friends still sleep in their mummy's beds?!'/'stop tugging at the fringe on my leather jacket, they don't make these anymore! You really will break it!' as a real job. (If you do then you probably do even less work for your money than me.)
As well as my glorified nanny role, I also started 'interning' at a film company recently. That's fun. Some of the tasks have been shit I actually like doing as well, like translating and editing, and a particular highlight was when they asked if J.G. would tweak the Liverpool dialect in a football themed script (ignoring the fact that one week later they called me back in demanding that I explain what 'that's boss' means and asking whether they could take all the 'lad's and 'our kid's out, replacing them with highly Americanised and unconvincing alternatives, such as 'pal.' I don't think I've ever heard a scouser say 'pal' in anything other than a jokey way, but I digress...)
However. In my 'internship' I'm also assigned menial tasks such as running the length and breadth of Paris looking for polystyrene chips and picking up lampshades from storage (which may or may not have been simply for use at one of my employers' homes and not actually for any of the films...)
I'm yet to be paid a penny, but I get a free lunch now and then and I don't have to make anyone coffee, so I take what I can get.
It's not long term though. Obviously. I got a terrifying statement from the student loans company last week informing me of exactly how much I owe, and I can confirm that ignorance was indeed bliss when it came to not knowing the exact total of my debt... I had a rough idea, and it turns out that my guess was only 10 grand off... (No biggie!)
So I've made the executive decision to move back home and look for a real person job. As much as I'm not arsed about money, the people you owe it to DO tend to care. Who knew.
This is by no means the first time I've come to this drastic decision (one that almost everyone else my age made at least 2 years ago.) Last summer I spent 3 months job hunting, and it took it out of me. Not that I even got a job by the end of it. I opted instead to simply have another self prescribed year abroad. (Queen Procrastinator needed another year of lie ins and smoggy, beautiful Paris air.)
The job search period always starts out optimistically. You think positive, confident thoughts such as, 'I'm young! I have a degree! I speak three languages! I'm hip! I'm desirable! I can string a sentence together! They should be lining up the block for me!' Things like that.
It seems almost impossible that you don't already have a string of high flying jobs. You shake your head in disbelief that you weren't snapped up the very day you graduated.
So you put all of your energy into writing a CV that lists all of your endless qualities in a quietly confident tone (with strictly no boasting), in a way that says, 'hey, I'm dripping with potential, but I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes,' but that also says, 'I'll work hard. Within reason. I'll work late OCCASIONALLY, but I need quite a few holidays,' avoiding all obvious adjectives such as, 'hardworking', 'reliable', and 'punctual.' It's not often that you'll achieve a perfect CV that incorporates all of these elements, but you'll settle for something which makes you sound relatively hardworking, relatively reliable, and relatively punctual anyway.
Then, high off the success of your CV tweaking, you'll join around 26 job sites, getting into the swing of things and ticking nearly all of the boxes in the 'jobs by category' sections.
'Management?' Sure, why not!
'Media?' YEAH.
'Teaching?' Shouldn't rule it out!
'IT?' Sometimes I cry if my computer doesn't do what I tell it to, but fuck it! Lets give it a go!
'Engineering?' Yeah...?
'Environmental?' Not 100% sure what it involves, but worth a shot!
'Sales?' No. Definitely not.
Then you'll sit back and wait for the calls to pour in.
They don't.
You wait.
On day 3 you'll get a missed call from a withheld number. YES! This is it!!
You stare at your phone, willing it to ring again. My god, that was definitely a potential future employer. Definitely.
One hour passes and you can't concentrate on anything else. Two hours. Oh my god, why aren't they calling back??
And then they do. You sit up straight, put your shoulders back, clear your throat, pat your hair down (you know they can't see you, but it somehow feels like something you should do) and you answer the phone.
You don't use your normal voice. You find yourself speaking in someone else's. My go-to phone interview voice is very soft, sugary sweet, but somehow has strength at its core, whilst also being a bit of a song. (Yours could be different, but I can guarantee it won't be your every day one.)
'Hell-oh-oh?' I'll say.
'Sweetie? It's me. I'm calling off the work phone. Just wondering if you'll be in for lunch?'
'Mum?! Did you call me before?!!'
'Oh yes, a couple of hours ago to check you were up.'
'So are you in for lunch then?'
'Yes!! I don't have a job!!! Where else would I be?!'
Or... something like that.
Your spirits will inevitably get low on day 6, so on day 7 you'll contemplate the possibility of applying for a couple of jobs. In most cases, the reality of it isn't as terrifying as the idea of it. You'll spend a whole evening really s e a r c h i n g. Typing into Google every single name of every single company that has ever had any kind of success in your desired field of work, sending hopeful emails to little independent companies, hoping to appeal to their sense of compassion... You'll then trawl all of the 26 job sites under the job categories that you actually like and want to work in. You'll make shortlists and organise the applications into chronological order depending on their deadline dates. You'll really make an event out of it- putting your phone on silent, getting into bed, setting up a snacks table... And then the lists start.
I usually write quite a few, just to make sure everything is covered.
Headings can range from:
Things that are non-negotiable in a future job
Jobs which will not make me want to kill myself
and everything in between.
By the time you've finished all this planning you'll more often than not feel truly fulfilled, like you've really accomplished something (even though you're yet to apply for a single job.) You'll resolve that 'that's enough work for one night!' and roll over and watch HBO shows until your eyes blur.
You'll wake up the next morning full of confidence and excitement for the opportunities that this new day might bring, and when your only new emails are from ASOS and Graze you'll feel cheated and crestfallen (even though, I repeat, you're yet to apply for a single job.)
Don't fret though, you can feel it in your bones that today is the day. You set aside a couple of hours for that one job that's really caught your eye. You work on a quirky, yet serious, cover letter, a letter that manages to say, 'hey, look at me! Over here! Hey! I'm the kinda cheerful little scamp you want in your office! I'm better than all those other boring, playing-it-safe candidates!' and that also says, 'I'm just as good (and not in any way a little scamp) as all those candidates who sent in well thought out and researched applications, no different, so just maybe pick me, if you think I sound nice and you fancy having me around.'
Once that's done, you'll have a leisurely lunch break, and then after having double checked both your CV and cover letter, you'll send it all off with a polite little note in the body of the email and feel like you've done a whole day's work. (I mean, you're usually unemployed if you're going through this whole charade, so you more or less will have done a whole day's work...)   
Hoping for a quick response, you'll call it a day and tell all your friends that you're sick of all this bloody job searching.

I can assure you that that first application will be the best one you'll ever do. For the first job I ever applied to (at a publishing house), my cover letter included facts and figures about the previous year's releases, quotes from some of the more obscure books they'd published, a few personal (relevant) anecdotes, and quite frankly a whole load of other great stuff that made me sound like an undiscovered genius.
For the next 53 applications I mostly used that first cover letter, changed the name of the company, and (at a push) mentioned a couple of their bestsellers.
And then wondered why nobody called me.
That fateful summer of 2013 wasn't all doom and gloom though. I had a few interviews. I even had one lot of follow up interviews. They weren't great though. One interviewer asked me very personal questions about my family, their income, and my relationship with my parents, and then stared me out for around 20 seconds when he didn't like one of my responses. 20 whole seconds of complete silence. In a job interview. Yeah.
Another job, which I thought I had in the b a g, sent me an email addressed to another candidate, informing me that said candidate hadn't got the job. When I informed them of their mistake, they promptly emailed back to tell me that I hadn't got the job either.
I guess the moral of the story is... you'll probably get a job if you try hard enough? And sometimes you might even like it? (And if you don't, there's always Paris..)
But anyway, here's to another fruitful summer of writing very, very similar cover letters to endless publishing houses. And lets hope that just one of them will read what I have to say and think to themselves, 'hey! This is just the kinda cheerful little scamp we want in our office!'

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