What not to say to an unemployed graduate

Lil’ side note: I wrote this in 2013, a full year after I’d graduated. I couldn’t find a job and was sick of applying for them and felt like writing about my frustrations was the best way to control them a little. If you’re stuck in the post-uni application-rejection-cry-repeat phase, maybe some of this will sound familiar…

“How’s the job hunt going?”

I can guarantee you that since I finished university a year ago, I’ve been asked this question more than any other. It HAUNTS me. Obvious annoyances aside, what bugs me is the way the question is phrased. “How’s the job hunt going?” wonders everyone I ever see. “Found any jobs yet?” I am asked, as if I am on some sort of career-themed treasure hunt. But the thing is, finding the jobs isn’t the problem. Getting one, on the other hand…

“Any news?”

This is what people say when they are trying to be cautious and have kind of worked out that the above question is starting to irritate you. By saying “Any news?” they have the option of saying “Oh no, I meant about…something else” if you start to look tetchy.

“So, got yourself a job yet?”

In my experience, this is the straight-to-the-point, I-mean-business kind of question frequently asked by people who have been in their jobs since before you were born and have no idea how hard things can currently be for people our age (and for anyone else who’s unemployed). Alternatively, this one will be asked by the parents of people you know from school who’ve done really well for themselves already and have somehow managed to secure a high-flying career in THE BIG SMOKE. After asking said question, these parents will often continue to tell you about how great James is doing and how he’s got his own flat, conveniently leaving out the fact that they paid for most of it.

“Don’t look so gloomy – you’ve got to stay positive!”

Have you? Well. Thank goodness you told me. Up until this point I was really struggling, but your gem of wisdom will see me through this dark, dark time. The next time I spend four hours filling out a 19-page application form and hear nothing back, I’ll bear your words in mind.

“You’ve really got to get on their radar, you’ve got to get your name out there”

If I had a pound for every time I heard someone say this, I wouldn’t even need a damn job. I can’t pretend that there isn’t some truth in it, as I’ve found in the past, but it’s just one of those really obvious and patronising things that people KEEP telling you, as if you had no idea and weren’t actually keen to get on anyone’s radar at all.

“Just get a shop job or something!”

This is a sentence that us struggling graduates seem to hear a lot. But in my opinion, it’s more than a little rude to the people who work 45-hour weeks in retail, never get a weekend off and have to deal with the general public on a daily basis. A ‘shop job’ is not just a ‘shop job’, and it’s certainly not an easy option. Just because I have a degree (which, I might add, has NOTHING to do with retail and actually will not aid me a huge amount slash at all, especially compared to other workers who’ve been in retail since the age of 16 or 17) that doesn’t mean I can somehow breeze through and find myself a job in John Lewis at the drop of a hat.

“So, how long have you been finished for now?”

Roughly translated, this means “I’m sure we had this conversation last year – what have you been doing for the last twelve months if you’ve not been employed?”. Well. Let me tell you, pal. I’ve been for so many job interviews I’ve lost count of how many I’ve attended and how much money I’ve spent on train fare. I’ve heard the words “…just not quite enough experience” a hell of a lot. I’ve dived further into my overdraft than when I was at university as a result of unpaid internships and working for free, and most of all, I’ve been wishing that people would understand that ‘not having a job’ doesn’t equal ‘sitting at home, not actually trying to get a job’.

And the worst of all: “Still nothing on the job front?”

What irritates me most about this one is this: if there was SOMETHING ON THE JOB FRONT…do you not think you would KNOW about it? Don’t you think that, after a year of attempting to secure full-time work, and after being asked the same question by all of you every time I see you, I would be shouting about my new job from the rooftops?!

I have been asked most if not all of these questions in just the past day or two and I really am running out of different ways to say “No, no luck yet – but still! I’m sure something will come along soon!” whilst smiling convincingly. In seriousness, I’m sure I will find something soon(ish?), and that one day we’ll all look back on this time fondly and tell our grandchildren all about it. But for now, if one more person says “Any news?”…

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