New Year's Eve. A night where everything costs approximately five times more than it should. A night out on the town when the climax, at midnight, always seems to feel unexpectedly early and a time of the year when all newspapers and magazines are so devoid of content that they resort to producing BEST OF pieces looking back at the last year, basically shouting the words OLYMPICS OLYMPICS OLYMPICS OLYMPICS QUEEN PARALYMPICS OLYMPICS PARALYMPICS OLYMPICS OLYMPICS in size 174 font.
So, I thought of doing something different. Instead of giving you a ‘highlights’ and ‘lowlights’ of the last year, on something like UK youth unemployment for example (two things 1. If I wrote that as a topic that article would totally be the most uninspiring thing to read after Christmas and 2. *reads notes* there are highlights of youth unemployment?), I thought that it might be worthwhile to share with you some of the things that I’ve learnt over the last year during spells of unemployment and freelancing. Ahhh, hindsight. At this time of year we all experience it, as we look back at the past year in our thoughts, whether we like to or not. I might as well put it to some good use.
Here it goes:
Don’t get stuck into the same routine. Literally for about four months when I was freelancing / looking for work I swear that Scott Bryan was just replaced with an air conditioner unit or a microwave. I only did five things every day and I would have approximately three settings. I would get up at about half nine, after my flatmates had gone to work, and turn on the TV. I would then warm up my computer to plan a few cheeky job and internship applications. Check my Gmail. Spend the next hour or so tweaking my CV or ‘filling out details’ on the world’s longest application form. Check my Gmail. ‘Search’ for a job on the internet. Get slightly depressed with the lack of good stuff out there. Check my Gmail. Laugh at the prospect of watching This Morning, then do so for the next two hours. Scroll through generic websites to see if something took my fancy, before getting distracted. Check my Gmail. Chicken sandwich. Tweak something vague.
It was just a waste of time. Looking back on the last year I’ve found that nearly every opportunity that I’ve had, whether it was a job interview or an internship offered or something relevant or interesting to what I wanted to do, came from when I wasn’t doing that daily routine. I got an unexpected writing gig (this one!) after I contacted somebody on Twitter when I thought I was having “time off”. I got an unexpected internship after I spoke to someone an event that I was dragged along to by a mate, when I let my ‘I’m looking for a job’ guard down for a night. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve written my best application letters when I’m panicked or inspired (or just drunk) in ten good minutes than over six hours whilst in my routine in front of the TV.
So by all means, check your CV till your eyes start to bleed in case you have to forward it on to somebody and DO SOME WORK, but my real advice? Drop your routine out of a four-storey high building. You think differently.
Ask for help. Oh the amount of hours that I’ve spent thinking that I could tackle my lack of employment by myself. You would read job websites that say ‘Get someone to check your application before you send it off’ but you think “Nah, my own is TOTALLY up there as I’m AMAZING already.”
Little do you know, three months down the line when you’ve lost the will to a live, a mate of yours will be a secret George Orwell, Philip Larkin or C.S Lewis and will by chance glance at your application. Even though you are confident with what you have written and certain that there aren’t any errors in it, he or she will then recommend 167 changes that will make it 4758744 times better.
You’ll then look at the application you wrote before and pronounce “DID A THREE YEAR OLD WRITE THIS?”, or be convinced that actually a much better version of that application must be somewhere in your hard-drive and that you should show him or her said amazing draft... you then spend the next four hours looking for something that doesn’t exist.
So ask around. Don’t just ask anybody. Some friends, despite meaning well, may just look at your cover letter and just shrug their shoulders and say “yeah that’s fine” without getting cross at what’s on the page, or just offer vague advice. Get someone good. Pay them beer.
Expect the unexpected. My final bit of advice in this end-of-year ‘why isn’t this article about the Olympics, The Queen or the Paralympics’ column? Expect the unexpected. Nearly everything that has happened over the past year was not predicted. By just slogging on and taking advice where it comes, increasingly random events and opportunities were just thrown my way.
Don’t expect that what you’ll be doing now in a week, a month or two months, or even tomorrow evening, will be the same as you are doing now. Applying for a jobs is never a forever thing, it is just a ARRRRGGGHHHHH MY EYES ARE BLEEDING THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER thing.
The problem is that if you think it is going to last forever, it might end up doing so.