Spare a thought for the slightly older jobless

Last week I asked you to send me your pitches for How to Be Jobless, and the response so far has been brilliant. First up commenting from the Pyjarmy barracks is Sean Cleaver, who thinks young people are getting entirely … Continue reading

How to Be Jobless on BBC World Service: What’s it like to be young and unemployed?

Listen here

On Thursday 2nd January 2014, the BBC World Service show “World Have Your Say” decided to give a platform to several unemployed young people around the world, and me. A study for the Princes Trust found many young people feel … Continue reading

Your bad internship experiences

Dearest HTBJ readers, I started this blog because I was miserable in my jobless, hopeless existence, and I realised no one in the real world gave a damn about my struggle. They reported figures that said we were screwed and … Continue reading

Insincerity: the language of cover letters

Last week, HTBJ reader Frides O’Neill sent me this fantastic post on the many problems with cover letters, “an exercise in out-bullshitting your competitors”…


It all starts in a flurry of excitement. No jobs you say? What rubbish! Look at all these glittering jewels just waiting for me to snap them up. Editing position, fashion buyer, PA to the stars – it’s all here. According to the figures, unemployment is now down from a record high in 2011 to just over 2.5 million and in June this year it was announced that vacancies were at their highest since 2008. Well that sounds pretty promising. Oh wait. The estimated number of job vacancies is 529,000. I’m no mathematician but I can see that is a scary statistic, especially following the realisation that you are distinctly under qualified for at least ninety per cent of these jobs. At this point, you start to pull away from Enthusiasm Junction and head at some speed towards Disappointment Parkway, attempting not to derail completely as rejection e-mails come flying your way with the familiar words, ‘due to the high level of applications, we regret that we will not be able to take you on [read: that we have failed to read your application]. Their ‘regret’ seems somewhat insincere when it’s almost certain they have copy and pasted your name into the first line.

Still, insincerity is the language of cover letters so it’s useful to be given a healthy dose of it now and again. Never in your life will you spend so much time trying to turn the most ordinary of life proceedings into examples of unique and remarkable personal attributes; a process better known as ‘bullshitting’. Your childhood obsession with a wooden abacus wasn’t just a fairly standard toddler’s attraction to brightly coloured moveable objects. No! It demonstrates rare and unparalleled mathematical skill. At junior school, your regular position as third sheep in the nativity play shows that you work well as part of a team. You were always nominated to tidy the sand pit area, which you did admirably, and which confirms an acute attention to detail and a willingness to take responsibility. Take away the bullshit veneer and what you’re really saying is that you’re not completely mathematically inept or an nauseating show-off (like the girl who always played Mary) and you may have mild OCD.

After a few weeks at Application Station when your final destination, Success Central, looks as far as London to Vancouver by foot, it’s common to make a slight detour towards Despair Bridge. You may be here for several days while you’re oiled with reassuring words and inflated compliments. When you’re at your most desperate, friends have a tendency to display an excessive amount of confidence in you and gradually their reassurances just turn into outright lies. “You’ll have a job by the end of next week. They’re like buses, after three weeks of no-shows, five offerings will come along at once.” With figures estimating that, in top companies, up to one hundred and sixty graduates apply for one position, this is statistically unlikely. “They only turned you down because their quota meant they had to employ a male Jewish amputee. And its not your fault you’re not a male Jewish amputee.” Do not be fooled. These are lies. At least I hope they are otherwise, as a white, caucasian twenty three year old with all my limbs and features, my chances of getting employed within any quota are depressingly low.

With the expanding list of ‘skills’ and ‘experience’ needed to procure the most junior of roles, graduates are forced into the position of talking nonsense at an unparalleled rate. The cover letter becomes less of an exercise in expressing your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the job and more of an exercise in out-bullshitting your competitors. Its nonsensical to advertise a graduate job and demand that the applicant have three years experience in that sector. The clue is in the name: graduate job. The only thing we have three years experience in is vomiting, bad cooking and an inability to clean the bathroom (they may all be interrelated). So what they are essentially saying is, yes, we want a someone with a degree but screw you if you’ve spent the last three years at university because you should have spent them training to do this job. And yes, we want someone with a willingness to learn but it would be preferable if you already know it all.

Why not forget the bullshit and employ us desperate graduates for three genuine reasons? One: we’ll work hard because we can’t afford to lose this job. Two: we’ll be enthusiastic because if we know we have to do something nine to five what’s the point in being miserable about it? And three: we’ll be good at our jobs because, after three months at Application Station we’ve learnt how to be organised, determined to succeed, and how to cope in a complete crisis, believe us.

Reporting from The Employment Bunker: Local journalism is like a low-paid internship

About a month ago, a local journalist approached me and asked to contribute to HTBJ. As a jobbing journalist, what could he want to say? The journalist – who wishes to remain anonymous – tells us why he thinks local journalism is just as exclusive and obstructive to a career in journalism as low-paid, going-nowhere internships…

A job in local journalism is becoming more and more like a low paid internship – only an option for those with help from mummy and daddy.Benefits-cap-GETTY

If you’re young, working class and have hopes of supporting yourself on what a news reporter for a local paper makes then you’d best think again.

I am a junior reporter for a London newspaper and for the past year Lady Poverty and I have flirted quite heavily in advance of making the jump to a committed relationship.

I get paid £15,800 a year. That works out to around £1,120 a month after tax. That is my total income. That’s pretty much the standard starting salary across the board no matter which media company you work for. For those who live in the big smoke you know that’s a pretty tight budget to support yourself on without wealthy parents or at the very least a generous uncle/aunt.

I live in a cheap part of the city (Zone three for those of you who know London’s underground) and pay £575 in rent before bills. More than half my monthly wage is considered cheap in this city.

If you take away the extra £193 in bills (which includes gas, electricity, water, council tax and the internet) that leaves me with a grand total of £88 to spend per week on food, transport, and anything else I might need. Oh, the glamour of journalism.

And the situation is getting worse.

Almost all local journalists have had their pay frozen for the better part of the last six years with near to no hope of this changing anytime soon – at a time when the cost of living continues to rise. This is a huge bummer when you consider that the average rent in London stands at a whopping £1,126 and energy prices set to rise by around 10 per cent next month. That’s an extra £123 a year spent on gas and electric alone.

Publishers often argue that because of shrinking advertising revenues and dwindling circulations they simply cannot afford to pay staff any more money. BULL. SHIT. Latest figures from the Newsquest Media Group, the third largest publisher of regional and local newspapers in the UK, show an operating profit of £58million. The company’s chief executive, Paul Davidson, is on a salary of £612,000 before bonuses and other perks.

Obviously the situation has not been caused by a lack of money but by an abundance of greed.

I, like most people who work in local papers, am extremely pissed off. The insult is compounded when you realise that these days one journalist is expected to do the work of three thanks to relentless cuts to staff and resources.

I’m not asking for the moon here. My demands are simple and reasonable – pay us what we are worth, which is a damn sight more than what we get paid now.

Last week Alan Milburn, the government social mobility tsar, said working people no longer earn enough to escape poverty and because of inflation many are £1,000 worse off than they were in 2008. Preach brother.

All this is worrying – not only because local newspapers are forcing their employees to live in poverty – but more seriously because it is making journalism a career that can only be pursued by those with the money to do so.

Historically speaking local papers are the where the future ‘big name’ journalists cut their teeth before moving on into nationals. If we start closing this route off to lower-income communities, because cutting financial corners is more important than reporting, it will only serve to alienate a large portion of the British population.

The media is quick to attack the current cohort of government ministers for being part of a millionaire elite that can not relate to the man on the street. Well, if wages for local journalist do not improve soon then we will just be kettles and pots calling people black. It will create a situation where working class voices go unheard and unrepresented allowing them to be taken advantage of and mistreated, where a small group of rich people uses established media platforms to decide what’s important and what’s not, to tell people what to think and how to act.

Low paid journalism jobs risk making the industry just as out of touch as it accuses politicians of being – and I for one am saddened by this state of affairs.

Author: Anonymous

Gordon: “I feel for you all”

Gordon commented on my column about the stupid things people say about employment, specifically the comments by Brendan O’Neill about internships – “interns don’t deserve pay“.

In contrast with Brendan O’Neill, Gordon tells us about “his day” without being mean-spirited, outdated or ill-informed.


Thanks Gordon! We’re keeping our chins up!

NB. Having trouble keeping your chin up? Read these…

Why you’re not as behind as you think you are

Hey, interviewers! Here are a few things YOU’RE doing wrong!

…and if you just feel like grousing… Five reasons to let jobseekers be negative