My week in Joblessness (3): Why you’re not as behind as you think you are [GoThinkBig column]

Published 21/06/2013 on GoThinkBig

Howtobejobless: Why you're not as behind as you think you are

This week, our anonymous blogger discusses how being jobless can damage your self-esteem – but you’re really not as much of an idiot as you think, we promise. 

I’m writing this from under my bed. This is where I come to hide from laundry and joblessness. There’s so much of it. Laundry, not joblessness – despite statistics stating I’m one of a million unemployed young people, I’m sure I’m the only one. Literally everyone else is jobbed up, smashing their potential, sipping from martini glasses and not spilling a drop, despite the absurd spillage-prone design. (I mean seriously, whenever I’m handed a martini glass I think – this isn’t for me, is it? This is for the floor. But you want me to deliver it. I’m just a sticky middle man.)

That’s how joblessness feels (though you might dwell less on the shortcomings of stemware). It starts as a twinge of paranoia, grows to a grave concern, then flourishes into a firm belief: I am a loser. I am professionally behind everyone I know. How embarrassing. I will now build a fort out of this blanket and my little-used office chair, and make it my headquarters until the economy picks up.

Things look better from the fort. I feel like a commander in the jobless pyjama army – the Pyjarmy, if you will. But just as I was about to install a conservatory, a realisation struck me. We – THE JOBLESS – are not as behind as we think we are.

We’re all armed with the same useless education

Today’s youth has spent years chasing qualifications no one ever asks us about. We were told that algebra and close reading skills would get us jobs. So “the grown-ups” tested us – a lot. We were the most tested generation ever. They may as well have stuck litmus paper in our mouths instead of taking a register.

But the minute we graduated, something switched in employers’ heads. The same generations who had us sit SATs and the 11+ and the 12+ and SATs again and mock GCSEs and real GCSEs and AS levels and A levels and BAs and MAs and MScs and PhDs decided education is an afterthought. Experience is what’s really important. Which none of us had, because we’d been busy pretending Romeo & Juliet weren’t just horny teenagers and Pythagoras wasn’t the most tedious bastard that ever existed.

We were told that further education was a ticket to employment. Really, it’s just vague directions to the station.

Now we’re graduates of this ludicrous system. Remember when the word “graduate” had connotations of sleeping with your mum’s sexy friends? Now it has connotations of asking to borrow £10 to replace that “interview shirt” you ruined spilling donut jam all over myself. Yourself. Over YOURself. I never did that.

It’s all spin

People put forward tarted-up versions of their jobs. The better they’re doing, the more casually they throw it into conversation. I’m rubbish at it, personally. I avoid my MA friends; I’m afraid they’ll ask what I’m doing, and instead of saying I’m a careers writer (ha), a Google researcher (mainly funny cats) and a writer for Empire (although they don’t know it), I’ll tell them I blog about what an absurd, drink-spilling, interview-ruining loser I am, and everyone will go quiet and the music will stop and they’ll all clear their throats and say “Anyway…” and I’ll be so embarrassed I’ll put jam on my face and wait for the bees to descend.

Learn to spot Job Spin. Did your “Assistant Editor” friend eliminate a “to the”? Some craftily avoid mention of a job title – “I write for Cosmopolitan.” She’s an intern. Especially watch out for people who tweet about meeting Alan Rusbridger, who’s giving them instructions for some “speedy reporting”. Who would tweet that their boss told them to do something? A star-struck intern – often with a conspicuous absence of the “here’s that story I wrote” tweet.

Not getting the job can be down to the tiniest mistake

There are so many articles on what to do and what not to do for CVscovering lettersinterviews… because sitting at home rejected and dole-bound may be down to the dinkiest error on your part. And mostly not because you’re legitimately rubbish.

Example: I had a virus. My vision was blurry and I was having a hard time keeping my insides inside me. You know that illness frenzy where you’re convinced if you take a moment to recuperate the world will explode and survivors will turn into treacle? You babble and clammily resist a loved one’s attempts to give you medicine, put you in bed, and ban you from using your computer, phone or pogo-stick.

In this state I found my computer and applied for work experience. I didn’t notice, “I would like to be considered for a placement” autocorrect to “I WOOHOO to be considered for a transplant”.

Was I wrong for the internship? Does misspelling the editor’s name really mean you can’t do the job? Not really. It means they have 900 applications and are grateful for an excuse to narrow it down.

Your freelance friends are as unemployed as you

Assignment spinners are the worst for pretending to be in astronomical demand, with vague references to “all the pitching”. Grab Freelance Freddie’s iPhone, open Calendar and survey the snowy white plains of emptiness. Chances are you won’t be able to; as soon as he realises what you’re doing, he’ll shriek and snatch the phone as if you’ve uncovered a photo album of his scantily-clad grandmother pulling him along on a rickshaw by her teeth, looking really unhappy about it.

I, too, have attempted to spin the freelance yarn, but mums aren’t fooled.

“Freelance? Oh no, you’re unemployed?!” (She wasn’t kidding)

“No mum, freelance. I have an assignment tomorrow. Pff! Unemployed! Perish the thought!”

“Oh, well done! What’s your next assignment?”


“Mum, you’re breaking up, kshhhhhh…I’m going into a tunnel, London’s made of tunnels, ksshhhhhh…”

5 thoughts on “My week in Joblessness (3): Why you’re not as behind as you think you are [GoThinkBig column]

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  5. Pingback: 13 Maya Angelou quotes to get you through your jobhunt | howtobejobless

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