By Larissa Clare
AFTER I FIRST MOVED to London almost two years ago, I mused to my friends about the difficulties of finding a job in this town. Now, many months on, the scene still hasn’t changed. I have changed though, in the sense that I’m now a beaten down, sorrowful and ego-less version of myself.
That’s what three weeks of unemployment did to me. And I know that in this day and economic climate, three weeks is nothing. A drop in a pan that is crowded with fresh-faced graduates and seasoned professionals alike.
While endlessly refreshing Twitter — I mean Guardian jobs – I commented to my housemate (equal parts applying for post-doctoral fellowships and procrastinating) that it was apparently the worst unemployment in the UK since WWII. I had taken great comfort in this fact, and used it to counteract my mamma’s suggestion that I walk door-to-door offering my CV (‘I’m looking for a job in media or publishing mum. Not a summer scooping icecream cones. And besides, it’s not my fault, it’s the worst unemployment levels since WWII.’ She correctly told me I was a lazy sot).
Housemate, in his fearfully intellectual way, said that my shiny little fact just wasn’t true. That we can’t measure unemployment so simply. That these days most people will spend a certain amount of their lives unemployed, added up over a career, while job hunting or something else. That in WWII time, people mostly worked one job for 70 years, dying with their hands on the tiller or whatever. He said a whole lot of other things too, but I mostly tuned them out, preferring to cling to my little fact (quoted from a friend, and apparently sourced from The Independent) because it justified my Kardashian-watching, Twitter-refreshing, icecream-for-breakfast existence while being one of those ‘unemployed’.
I did not deal well with the silent rejections from my numerous job applications. I dealt slightly better with politely worded rejections, as it at least indicated that my CVs weren’t covered in anthrax. I was offered a few temp roles in my three weeks of circling the drain. I let them go, as I was determined to hang in there for the proper job. The real job. The one that would get me some experience in London, preparing me for the kind of stellar job that would be so fabulous I wouldn’t mind the fact that I was back in Australia, my visa at an end.
But? Nada. Nothing…
As I watched my pounds dribble into pence, I decided I’d take the next role offered, no matter if it was for the most boring company. Which is what I have pretty much done. I am in a PA role in a financial company in Canary Wharf-ish area. And I have found out what is second worst to being unemployed.
It’s being underemployed.
Here I am with my smug degree. I’ve studied hard, and worked hard. I know that I’m quick, learn new systems easily, and have a whole bunch of creative energy that I’m dying to put into some kind of collaborative team effort. I get a kick out of doing a job well. Out of sending ideas out there to become a reality. Of pushing deadlines, and juggling commitments. Of being utilised. Of having my opinion count for something.
Instead, I am currently babysitting someone else’s Outlook calendar. I manage meeting requests. I take coffee orders. I bind things and I print things. I get lunch for those who are in back-to-back meetings from 8 am til 6 pm. I arrive at 9 and am ready to leave by 11, but wait until 5. I feel like I do so little that I don’t deserve to take home the hourly rate that I do.
I hate it. I hate coming home and answering the ‘How was your day?’ question with ‘Meh, nothing.’ I hate it because I’ve realised I am not content with being underemployed.
But neither am I content to sit in the flat for days on end, drinking black coffee because I have no reason to leave the house to get milk. I’ve been trying the shitty job thing for nearly two years now and I’m well over it. I’m undecided about whether having no job is better than having a shitty one: Black coffee-fuelled, failure-laden Kardashian sessions or mind-numbing boredom recategorising my post-it notes? I do like drinking though, which the shitty job allows me to do. So I guess shitty job? Damn circle of life…
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