Thursday, 22 March 2012

The 7 Worst Things About Being Unemployed

Because I enjoy whining over writing things with any substance this article isn't about making any political or socio-economical points. It's purely about things that are annoying me right now. Because I'm a fan of Cracked, and kind of a hack, it's also in list form.

The 7 things that are currently most annoying me about not having a job are:

1. No-one takes you seriously.
Here's how I spend my day: I get up, go to my computer, open up various job sites, and then I stay there all day. OK, yes, I procrastinate. I look at stupid things on the internet. I stare out of the window and daydream. And I only actually start my day at 11. But I'm still there, all day, at my computer trying to focus on finding an interesting job. What I DO NOT DO is spend each day living a life of luxury, lazing around, doing whatever I want.

But no-one ever actually realises that. Every single day that I remain unemployed I have to put up with people - usually a member of my family - telling me that I "do nothing". And whenever someone needs a lift, or needs something picking up from the shops or whatever: I'm their first port of call. It doesn't matter if I'm in the middle of writing a cover letter, or waiting for a prospective employer to return a phone call; in their eyes I am completely free all day to do these things for them. And god forbid I should try to refuse helping them out after they've spent all day at work/school while I've been lazing about on my arse.

Applying for jobs is hard. I have three separate CVs directed towards different roles that I may be applying for. I completely rewrite cover letters for each job that I apply for. And I spend god-knows-how-long searching a range of job sites for anything that is even remotely suited to me. So it's really fucking annoying when anyone tries to complain to me that I don't do anything.

2. Every day is the same.
Every person who has ever spoken enthusiastically about their job to me has always said the same thing: "I get to do something different every day". People have told me that while I'm doing the same job as them and am already fully aware that they're talking shit. But that does tell you something: we love variety. And that's something that you just don't get when you're unemployed.

As I mentioned in my last point, the entirety of my day is spent at my laptop. I spend as much time in front of a computer screen as an average office worker - only they can break up their time by socialising with co-workers. The problem with being unemployed is that you have no-one to spend your day with.

When you're working you think "I'd love to have every day off. I'd have all that time to do all my favourite things". As it turns out, unless your favourite things include job sites and not talking out loud for most of the day, you generally need other people to do anything enjoyable.

3. You will not hear anything back from anyone.
Of all the applications I've sent out, less than 5% of them have ever sent me a response. Of all of them, only 3 have ever given me actual reasons for not hiring me. That's not 3%, notice. That's 3. Total. And I had to get to the interview stage just to get that.

One of them I did interview for told me that if I wanted feedback I had to email them requesting it. I did so, and was told that I could expect to hear from them within the following two weeks. After three weeks I hadn't received anything, so I sent a follow up message. Again I was told that my request had been passed on to the person in charge and I could expect to receive my feedback within the following two weeks. This happened twice more until I eventually gave up, accepting that - despite their claims - this organisation was never actually going to send me anything tangible. I'd have carried on trying but by that point a couple of months had passed and I realised that even if they actually did bother to try and help me it would be unlikely that the person who had interviewed me would even remember why they chose not to hire me to begin with. In the end I didn't get the job and I will never actually know why.

Last week I received an email from a production company in response to a message I sent them back in January about some possible work experience. Their email said that they had some placements available and would I still be interested in doing some work for them? Within an hour of receiving it I had responded with the affirmative, and I haven't heard a single word from them since.

The lack of communication between job hopefuls and potential employers is astounding. It's one of the biggest downsides of email - you can be easily ignored. If I turned up in person, or spoke to someone on the phone then they'd at least have to give me some answer. Even if it was a flat "no", at least I would know about it. When you send an application through email, you won't have any idea. You can still be hopeful about your chances of getting a job weeks after they've passed on you. Because most places simply won't tell you. And those that do will take an unnecessarily long time to do so. Which brings me to my next point:

4. Everything gets dragged out.
The last job I came close to getting was as a commercial writer/producer for a local radio station. I sent my application in around a week before the deadline. Roughly one week after the deadline (read: two weeks after I sent an application) they responded, telling me I had been shortlisted. They then asked me to write a thirty second script for an advert. I was given a couple of days to complete this and send it back to them, which I did. It was then another two weeks before they got back in touch, telling me that I had again been shortlisted and that the next stage was a telephone interview. This took place four days later. After this stage I didn't hear from the company again for another two weeks, at which point they told me that they didn't wish to take my application any further.

For those not keeping count, that's a total of seven weeks between my original application and finding out that I didn't have the job. And I didn't even make it to the final stage. If I had been shortlisted again after the telephone interview then I would have had to go for an actual interview - after which I would presumably have to wait again to find out how it had gone.

And that's not even an unusual case. A BBC job I applied for had a deadline in February. In March I was asked to complete an online test. In early April I was asked to go for an interview. In late April I was told I didn't get the job (I never found out why - see above).

When you're being forced to jump through hoops that are spread out with weeks and months in between it's extremely frustrating to eventually be told that they've decided not to hire you. To spend so much time focusing on completing tasks for this one job, only to be sent straight back to the starting line where you're trawling through hundreds of job sites and sending out CVs without getting any response again, is simply horrible.

5. People always try to give you advice.
I know that it comes from the best of intentions and people are only trying to help, but half-arsed advice from someone who actually hasn't been in the same situation as you - even though they're convinced they have - is just incredibly irritating.

You tell someone you're looking for a job in television or [insert wherever you want to work here], and they love to tell you "Oh, I know someone who's son/cousin/girlfriend works at [wherever], I'll send them your CV". At first you think "Great, I could be in here", but it's always wishful thinking. Without fail every time someone's passed my CV on, it's gone to someone who has absolutely nothing to do with recruitment, and doesn't actually care that someone who knows someone wants to work in the same place as them. Most companies have set recruitment procedures. They have people who do the interviews, they have databases where they keep the information. You can't just bring in a friend one day and stick him at a desk somewhere.

And so your CV's really just being passed on to someone who doesn't know you, can't help you and doesn't actually care if you get a job or not. And I feel bad for them, because they must have to put up with people doing this all the time.

And when they're not offering to pass along your CV, they're giving you other stupid pieces of advice. They're offering to show you their CV, because they managed to get a job and maybe it can give you ideas. Even though they work in a completely different area than the you're looking for and would have an entirely different structure to their CV.

Or they're giving you stupid interview tips: "Take a notebook in with you, you can write down what they're saying to show you're interested." "Don't fold your arms, it looks defensive". Like doing any of these will trick the interviewer in to thinking you're better than you actually are. Here's some actual interview advice: Stop focusing on all these hundreds of little things that people keep telling you, and concentrate on answering the damn questions instead.

Unless the person you're talking to is actually already working in the company you're trying to get a job in - and is actually the person you're going to be interviewed by, their advice is probably not going to be that relevant or useful. And it's irritating when they don't realise this and try to help you.

One final example on this point: My mother, who hasn't had to apply for a job in twenty five years, recently told me that I shouldn't be sitting at a computer all day, I should be "out there knocking on doors". Just take a quick look back up there at the sorts of places I've mentioned that I've been applying to. Radio stations. Advertising companies. THE BBC. Now consider the benefits of turning up at one of these places, knocking on the door and asking the receptionists for a job.

People are not good at giving advice.

6. You can't make any long term plans.
When you're unemployed, you have to remain hopeful that someone will give you a job very soon. When you're applying all the time you have to think that at some point during the day you're going to get an email from someone offering you a job. Otherwise there'd be no  point in doing it.

Unfortunately this means that you can't think about long term plans. You want to organise a summer holiday with your friends? You want to buy tickets to a festival? Well that's going to be difficult when you don't actually know when you're going to be available. You get hesitant at planning something even a week or two in advance, because what if you get an interview that day?

Looking for a job takes over everything. It's the single most important thing to you because without it you're left with no money and nothing to do. So you don't want to ruin your chances by having to say "Sorry, I can't come and interview this week, I've booked something else", or "I know I've only worked here a week, but I'm going on holiday for the next fortnight with my friends".

You have to be ready for something to come along at any time, and that really fucks up your long term plans.

And it's not only holidays and things that are affected. I've wanted to move out of my parents house for so long now, but I can't because that would mean limiting myself to only searching for jobs in one location. While I'm living at home and hoping to move out when I find work I can apply for jobs all over the country. But if I moved anywhere before finding a job - to, let's say, Manchester for example - then I can only look for jobs in Manchester.

Until you find a job everything else gets put on hold. And it sucks.

7. You can't spend much money.
Because you don't have any.

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