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Jobless London

November 7, 2011

* Slight disclaimer to the following post: I have a job.

I wrote this a few weeks ago in a fit of rage, but felt it might be a bit whiny and self-important so didn’t post it. Then I got a job. However, that was luck at work after months of playing the game, and I still stand by what I’m saying here. Strangely, it wasn’t until I actually had a job that I felt OK to post this. Anyway:

“We have reviewed your details with interest but on this occasion we will not be asking you to attend an interview with us as other candidates’ experience more closely matches our client’s requirements.”

For about four months now, I have been looking for work in London. During that time, I have received hundreds of emails like this. I have concluded that the job market here is absolutely non-existent to anyone not already in it.

I’m not unemployable by any stretch. I have two full degrees from a reputable University, one in Law and one specializing in Psychology. I have an excellent command of the English language, and in fact the Japanese one as well. I am bilingual, and studying Spanish under my own steam, soon to become trilingual. I have experienced a wide variety of living and working conditions, having worked in various countries, including volunteer stints around the world. I have been in some kind of work constantly from the age of about 12 through to the start of this year, and since then in patches. I have performed excellently in all my roles, my prior bosses and coworkers have nothing but glowing references for me and wish I was still there. My most recent solid block of engagement was postgraduate legal study at a respected University in Tokyo, which I undertook entirely in Japanese. I am smart and quick in conversation, come up with excellent ideas and am also able to adapt to others’ with no trouble at all. I work extremely well both alone and as part of a team. I stick to deadlines. I have a superb phone manner, and everyone who I meet in a personal capacity or in interviews with recruitment agents enjoys my friendly, comfortable presence. I can use, and have used, just about any commonly-used computer program you could throw at me well, and pick up new ones just like that. I have a typing speed of about 65 words per minute, and rarely make mistakes. On the odd occasion that I do, I pick them up immediately with my excellent eye for detail and satisfaction in a job well done. I have an artistic side to complement my analytic side, play musical instruments, have performed in bands, have created and presented short films in various venues and am an avid amateur photographer. And just in case someone wants to play the race card, I’m a white British citizen in my 20s from a middle-class background.

I’m your ideal employee. And I can’t find a single job in London. I’ve applied for everything. Sales consultant, sales assistant, marketing, translation, office work, receptionist, data entry, admin, secretary, legal secretary, paralegal, scientific assistant, scientific administrator, PA, junior assistant, document production, document review, reporter, teacher’s assistant, bar work, waiting. Full-time, part-time, temporary, contract. Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Nobody cares about anything I’ve done, or who I am. The one and only single thing anybody cares about is, have I done this job before? And we’re not talking transferrable skills. The only people even being considered are those who have done the exact same job with the exact same specs in a company exactly the same size wearing a name tag of exactly the same colour, for at least the last few years. You don’t match up and you don’t even get a look in. With so many unemployed desperately clambering for work (unemployment in “young” people is at a record 10%), I suppose companies can be as picky as they like. The only real paid work I have had in the last few years is teaching, but my qualifications don’t match up with what is needed in England, so I’m out.

And that’s it. I’m completely out. I’ve been applying for about 5-10 jobs a day, every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, for about four months. And not got a single job. Nobody cares about who you are anymore. People are judged solely on whether or not their peg fits perfectly into the hole they want to fill. I’ve tried dropping CVs into places over the counter, but I keep being told to apply online. The whole idea of humanity being important in a job is gone, and it basically means that everyone now not in a job will not get one. The economy’s bad, and with an attitude like this, it’s only going to get worse. Just because somebody has been working in a particular job for a few years is absolutely no guarantee that their work is any good. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of dealing with someone in a position where they couldn’t believe how badly the staff member operated. And yet that person will still get the job over someone like me ten times out of ten. It’s a broken system perpetuating the status quo, reducing competition, and ultimately dragging down the general ability pool which it purports to improve. I wanted to come here, work and get involved in the country but with such an uncaring, blind group of people in charge, I’m starting to look at other options in other countries now where I will be seen as more than just the sum of my CV parts. The system’s broken and needs some serious fixing.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. catlady permalink
    November 7, 2011 9:41 pm

    well !!!!- you sound pretty much like the perfect person…I,m sure some of your glowing self analysis is a bit tongue -in -cheek ,but can understand the frustration of constant , repetitive, sustained knock backs..big congratulations at persistently hammering away ,and very pleased that the final outcome has been that at last you have secured a job ..
    The economy is terrible and getting worse ,globally no one in a position of power and responsibility seems to have a clue what to do ,or how to fix it ,it is a massive worry ,and the prospect of ever increasing numbers of talented , capable people [and of those less able ] unable to find work ,and the sense of purpose , let alone the ability to survive [,prosper even ] ,and have a life plan ,funded by their own endeavours is soul destroying on an individual level and truly catastrophic collectively…I am glad that [ for the moment anyway ]you are on the positive side of the ledger.

  2. Joe Bloggs permalink
    November 7, 2011 9:45 pm

    This is always true, it is exceptionally hard to expose incompetence and harder to actually correct for it in the workplace. It is often the good people who have to carry the weight of others. We live in a world, where we are the 1% but by virtue of numbers the world revolves around the attitudes and desires of the apathetic, ignorant and incompetent 99%.

    How can you fix a system that the majority of people rely upon.

  3. November 9, 2011 8:39 am

    It’s an issue alright, things are getting worse which should be some indicator that things need changing. It’s hard to correct for incompetence in the workplace but places seem reluctant to let people go. You’d think there would be a little more to the test of hiring someone than “have they done it before”, as it should be clear by now that that’s hardly a measure of ability. I don’t know if the numbers are as skewed as you say, but there are plenty of people in the system who do nothing to help it, and in fact act only to bring it down.

  4. Margy Rydzynski permalink
    November 9, 2011 5:24 pm

    Man, that sucks. Keep plugging. We all know how hard the job market is these days, no matter where in the Western world you live.

  5. November 10, 2011 10:50 pm

    Thanks, Margy. I think we could all do with a bit of luck!

  6. November 22, 2011 10:50 am

    The truth is that it is actually the aim of the power structure, or certain people within the power structure to have people like yourself unemployed, or employed carrying out tasks far below your capabilities. Not because they dislike you personally, but because they are in a position of power, and the option to use that power for your benefit defeats the purpose of having that power in the first place. There is no satisfaction in knowing that they have made a logical decision that goes un-noticed and un-appreciated. Power by definition is only noticed when a force is exerted against another. If you are truly becoming powerful, and want to see how powerful you have become you exert your force on an ever increasing scale until you find your limits. In the current case, financial crisis etc, creating conflict between young people and the power structure is a way of testing that power. In fact it is being exerted against almost everyone, and whether they know it or not the choice they have is either to fight it or join it.

    A human being is not truly considered to be that valuable in most businesses. Most people can be replaced by a computer or some other machine, and the great majority of jobs which people fill net no gross benefit to society.

    The fact that you need money to feed and house yourself is only of interest to the power structure insofar as it provides the most basic means of controlling you. It cares not if you starve to death (the most care you might get from it may be your inclusion in a statistic), but it is pleased when you are forced into a menial role where you are stripped of your individuality and ability to satisfy your creative needs, and are given scope for personal development.

    I have been looking for a job for 4 months now also, to no avail. I have exactly the same gripe as you. In fact I have been trained to be a HR Manager, to do the hiring and firing for a major corporation, and am therefore trained in the arts of subverting the desires of the individual to achieve the goals of the management of the corporation.

    No one wants to hire someone smarter than themselves. No one wants to give someone the opportunity to usurp them of their throne. So if you are a well educated free thinker with potential to do a better job than your boss, you are pretty much the last person they will want to employ. The trick is to create a job that gives you no scope that you will happily accept, so that they continue to have you comfortably in their realm of control so that they can push you and pull you as they please until you save up enough to move again.

  7. November 30, 2011 8:49 pm

    I agree to an extent, but it seems like you are saying that the higher-ups are deliberately removing all jobs from people simply for the ego-boost it gives them watching the peons scrabble about, which to be honest seems a little extreme.

    I do see that, depending on the job, drowning individualism for the sake of the company is a plus, and that people do perhaps like to keep a cap on potential competition or challenges within their command, but somebody has to be doing these jobs, and doing the job well must surely be better for the company than doing it poorly, which is why it makes no sense to be cutting out people you think might be “too good”. To me, it seems more like the people are less deliberately rejecting competition, and more simply being lazy and filling people into cookie-cutter positions, popped straight out of wherever similar shape they have just come from.

    One thing’s for sure, and that’s that the system is no good, and needs a drastic rearrange.

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