Nicola’s experience

Graduate Unemployment:

A reply is really rare!

Graduate unemployment is a huge problem at the moment.  25% of 21-year-olds who left university with a degree in 2011 are unemployed (Guardian 02/2012)

In November 2011 I returned to the UK and joined 2.7 million unemployed people. I didn’t know that I was about to live through quite a few miserable months searching for that elusive job.

I returned to England and moved back in with my parents, presuming it would be for a month at most. At first this was brilliant because I hadn’t lived in England for 4 years so I felt like a tourist. I stuffed my face with as many roast dinners as possible, drank as much Ribena as I could manage and went on plenty of trips into the beautiful Lancashire hills (where I’m from) as well as my favourite local city of Manchester.

Rolling Lancashire hills keeps the unemployed mind active.

After doing the tourist thing I settled down to updating my C.V., writing personal statements and producing numerous cover letters I realised this was not going to be a quick and simple process. Firstly, as every unemployed person will tell you NO ONE EVER REPLIES!!!!! No matter how many job applications you fill in or cover letters you send out you will never ever get a reply, not even a reply to simply say,

“No, thank you.”

This can be incredibly depressing and it completely crushes all of your confidence.

How can you get a job if you receive no feedback from anyone you apply to?

How can you improve, build your confidence and get a YES next time?

Once, just once, after bombarding a school I had applied to with emails and calls (do you have any feedback, did I get an interview, if not why not…) they actually replied (shock horror) and advised that normally they would receive about 50 applications but this time they had received 250 applications so they couldn’t reply and give feedback to that many people. Oh dear.

Secondly, after coming to the conclusion that no-one was ever going to respond to any of my job applications I tried the job centre. Unfortunately they were not much use. Well, they couldn’t provide me with anything I wasn’t able to do myself. The internet is now an excellent way to not only find jobs but advertise yourself and the job centre seemed to be the opposite of this. They encouraged a lot of paper work,

“Check newspapers, notice boards, bring in paper evidence of completed job applications…”

The advice I was given at the job centre was very limited too, basically,

Fill out applications, send them and repeat.

The advisor I dealt with was lovely but I gained no new advice whatsoever. I presumed that I would at least be able to take part in free courses to develop my IT skills and further improve my C.V or to practice my interview technique but that wasn’t the case. I spoke to an advisor for about two minutes at a time, it was very rushed and they were clearly too busy.

Job Centre Plus… is it a good enough option for an unemployed graduate?

As the negative experiences continued I decided to stop applying for everything and focus on English Teaching jobs as that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I had wanted a change so that I could develop some different skills and try an alternative career route in England but it was proving too difficult. I contacted a large number of language schools as well as language centres within universities with my C.V. and a covering letter. I also went on the usual TEFL websites searching for jobs in the UK. However the only jobs I could ever find were for future summer camps which I could definitely apply for but in January that was quite sometime away. I can also confirm that from the MANY emails I sent out to English language schools and centres I only received ONE reply. That reply did make me feel a lot better, despite it being a no it was greatly appreciated as a reply is really rare.

I continued to fill in application forms, submit them (eat some more biscuits) and hope for a response. I also started to use my personal blog to advertise my C.V. as well as Twitter. Twitter was fantastic for gaining advice and guidance on job applications. I would recommend it to any unemployed person. For example, The Guardian Careers and The Guardian Jobs both have great Twitter feeds which constantly advertise jobs or give links to interview tips, C.V. tips and live web chats. It’s also useful to search job terms and see what comes up. I would often find jobs in my local area or interesting blogs to read about the unemployment/job search process. It’s nice to feel you’re not alone.

Twitter, a great place to search for a job or get advice on careers.

One of the hardest things about being unemployed is losing your independence and your ability to do what you want when you want (a lack of money comes into this too). I found this incredibly difficult as it had been about 7 years since I had lived at home with my parents. It was a massive shock to the system for all of us. They were fantastic and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to move in with them as many unemployed people don’t get that opportunity.

I never allowed myself to watch T.V. and be lazy during the day. I set myself a routine every weekday and treated a weekend like normal. I made sure I was up and ready in the morning at my desk. During the day I worked on the computer either with job related tasks or general blogging. I gave myself a lunch break and worked until about 5pm, keeping it as much like a regular working day as possible. I also tried (and often failed) to go outside and do some exercise at some point everyday to allow myself time to stop thinking about finding a job. I know everyone wouldn’t be up for an unemployment routine but I had to do this otherwise I would have fallen into daytime T.V. addiction and ended up snacking all day long.

I also made a point of not applying for too many jobs in a week. This might sound strange but if you apply for too many the quality of your applications will go down hill. You have to put a good amount of time into each application so that you can really convince the employer that you meet each and every criteria they have listed. Not only that but job applications these days are SO LONG they take forever to fill in!!! It would be hard to complete many more, the amount of time it takes to prove you have the experience the job requires is A LOT.

Why rush 15 job applications a week when you can take your time and perfect three of them?

The days kept plodding along and then BAM a lady from the Human Resources Department at The University of Lincoln called to tell me on February 14th that I had an interview (very romantic!!). I first applied for the Student Support Internship on January 20th so I had pretty much given up on getting a reply because it had been nearly a month! I was incredibly shocked on the phone and I could barely utter a,

“Thankkkksss.”

I had an interview a week later which I was ridiculously nervous for because I hadn’t had an interview in a very long time. Plus unemployment had beaten all the confidence out of me. A week after my interview my future manager called with the excellent news that I had actually got the job!!!! I had to get off the phone fast because to be completely honest I cried, just because I had lost all belief that I would ever manage to get a job especially one that sounded this promising. Unfortunately it took over a MONTH to actually start work due to lengthy CRB checks and all the other administrative tasks which have to be completed before you can start a new job. This wasn’t great because it was like being in limbo all over again, I knew I had the job but because it took SOOOOO long to get a start date I kept thinking that they had forgotten about me and given it to someone else.

Jumping for joy… I GOT A JOB!

Warning for unemployed people:

As you know it takes a long time to find a job and then it can take even more time to start!!! I applied for this job on January 20th 2012 and I didn’t start until 2nd April 2012!! The Government should do something to stop this lengthy process, unemployed people need to start a job sooner rather than later!

So there you have it my long and bumpy ride of unemployment which has brought me from Manchester to The University of Lincoln. I’m enjoying the job and I am learning a lot but I’m still quite nervous for what will happen at the end of the internship…

I think I best start applying for jobs now!

Thoroughly enjoying the randomness of my new job at The University of Lincoln. (Here I am recording a Student Finance radio show at Siren FM).

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