Job Search and Destroy Me – Looking for Work in London
It seems like I’ve spent the better part of the last three years in that vast, endless purgatory that is job seeking. My will to go on is weakened with each passing day, but it’s not the searching that I find soul-crushing. It’s the employment industry’s determination to repossess words and redefine them as they see fit. To my mind, ‘entry level’ does not equate to ‘two years’ experience required’, but advertisers seem to think it does. The same goes for ‘junior’ positions. If you need three years’ experience for a junior position, how old are you meant to have been when you started working in media? Did you just have a really great after-school job?
I’m rapidly discovering that I am underqualified for even the lowest paying of positions, as I’m sure many other recent graduates have also learnt. A writing position paying just slightly more than what I was earning at my last job as a dish-pig requires a minimum of six months experience and a writing related degree. I’ve got the degree, but it’s difficult to get experience when practically every job requires you to already have some. Apparently, whilst I was getting my Bachelor’s and working two jobs to be able to afford to move to London in order to get a better job, I was also supposed to take on an internship. And learn an extra language. Bear in mind that all this would qualify me for a job with an annual salary that would actually require me to move out of London in order to survive. Before leaving Australia I was optimistic about my chances in the UK. I’ve been fortunate since leaving high school and going to university, and all I could hope was that my luck would hold out a little longer. But when you see an advert for a job collecting baskets and trolleys at a grocery store and discover you aren’t even qualified to do that, you’ve hit a new low.
I thought things were looking up the other day. I had a job interview at a café that went well, and even though the pay was rubbish and the hours weren’t what I’d hoped for I agreed to go for a trial shift anyway. I figured the job would buy me some time while I looked for a better one, and maybe I’d even be able to put some money away to pay a deposit on a room of my own. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it though, which is why it probably serves me right that they hired someone the day before my trial. At least I received a very polite email cancelling my shift ahead of time, and I got to sleep in on the Saturday. I’m sure that will be a great comfort when I run out of money and am stranded in London with nowhere to live and nothing to eat.
The problem, I guess, is that I’m too picky. I have enough experience to get a job in a kitchen somewhere, but I don’t really want to do that. I left two kitchen jobs behind in Australia, promising myself that I would never again wash dishes for a living. Oh how naïve I was. I’d probably be more inclined to go back on that declaration to myself if it was actually worth working in a kitchen, but wages in the UK are shockingly low. I’m beginning to realise just why they call Australia ‘the lucky country’. A kitchen job here in London pays around seven pounds an hour, if you find a good one. The last time I earned the Australian equivalent of seven pounds an hour I was sixteen. Seven pounds is not an adult’s wage, especially not in a city where you’d be lucky to find a decent room for less than a hundred and ten pounds a week. My only saving grace is that I have nobody to support but myself. I can’t imagine how young families manage. It’s a tough world out here.
A few weeks ago, somebody told me that you have to be a bit of a chancer to survive in London. He was right, of course. You’ve got to take every opportunity that comes your way on the off chance that it turns out to be something good. But in addition to that almost-recklessness you also have to have a degree, more than two years’ experience in your given field, a rabbit’s foot, and a crystal vial full of the blood of a virgin. Then- and only then- you will almost be qualified to scrape gum off the bottom of other people’s shoes. I guess everybody’s got to start somewhere.