The post gap-year diary: trying to get back onto the ladder

We all know it’s hard to get on the career ladder, but surely it’s easier to get back on? Erin Cardiff explains the tribulations of getting back into journalism after voluntary redundancy and a career break.

ladderI’m going to come right out and say it: I’m mad. I’m mad at the bleak landscape that is today’s job market. I’m mad that experience usually speaks louder than potential.  And I’m mad that we were all promised better. From 9-4, Monday to Friday for the 14 years we spend in education before university we had drummed into us that a degree was our pass to a bright future. Yet here I am, proud owner of both a first class degree in journalism from one of the best universities in the country and a part time job in a bar.

But this isn’t a post about struggling to get my first Adult Job (and I mean adult in the grown-up, career-related, salary and a pension kind of way. Not a ‘massage parlour’ in Soho kind of way). And I’m not saying a degree should mean we get jobs handed to us. From unpaid internships to getting up at 5am to conduct an interview in an aviary despite a pretty huge fear of birds, I’ve done my stint at the so-called bottom of the ladder. I eventually worked my way up to a job on the lifestyle desk of a magazine, where I was happy for a year and a half. , No, this isn’t a post about breaking into the industry. It’s a post about breaking back in. Because after that year and a half, the magazine I was working for relocated and I wasn’t in the position to move with them, which meant me taking voluntary redundancy.

At this point in my life, the only things I knew about unemployment had been taught to me by Hollywood. But, as I discovered, real life joblessness is not all sitting in Starbucks with a laptop. It’s not Joey from friends, an apparently out-of-work actor who can still afford an apartment in central Manhattan. And it’s not Carrie Bradshaw, juggling moaning about being broke with buying shoes that cost a month’s rent. It’s quietly changing the title on LinkedIn you’d so boastfully put up just 18 months before.  It’s feeling as if you’ve been chewed up and spat out. It’s wondering just what the hell to do now.

I decided to take some time out and travel the world, namely South America and South East Asia. “It’ll be fine,” I thought. “I’ve got nearly two years experience under my belt. I can get a job when I get home.” Well, I got home almost four months ago now, and let me tell you – things haven’t quite worked out that way for me. Much to my surprise and utter, UTTER delight, it turns out getting your foot back in the door is no easier than getting it there in the first place.

Which brings us to today, where I sit, getting ready for the evening shift of the bar I work in after spending my day checking Gorkana with an almost obsessive compulsion, searching Twitter for any calls for freelancers, pitching articles to magazines, eating everything within arms reach of my laptop and occasionally pausing to rethink my career entirely (“Professional kitten cuddler. I could do that. Is that a thing? I mean, there are kittens. And those kittens do need cuddles.”) Oh, and plotting my vengeance on anyone who has ever told me to “just get a job.”

And this is by no means a rant about working a job that’s nothing to do with my degree. I know I’m not alone; that I’m a tiny drop in a huge pool of graduates who are all degreed up with nowhere to go, choosing jobs with no connection to what they studied over the never preferable alternative of unemployment. I know I’m lucky to have a job. And for what it’s worth, I like working there. But it’s not what I want to do. It’s not why I worked for free at countless magazines and newspapers over the years. It’s not why I grafted as hard as I humanly could for three years. It’s not why I existed solely on a diet of Red Bull and whatever the library vending machine was stocked with that day during finals week.

So, eighteen months experience doesn’t seemed to have put me at any more of a vantage point than I was the day I graduated. I guess it would just be good to hear that it does get easier for young people just starting out in the big wide world of work at some point.

If anyone finds out when that is, be a pal and let the rest of us know, won’t you?

Want to hear more from Erin? Check out her tumblr,

2 thoughts on “The post gap-year diary: trying to get back onto the ladder

  1. It’s like you took the words right out my mouth. I spent two months travelling around America and came home to find my previous work experience no longer counted for anything. Here’s hoping things pick up soon!

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