The Art of Getting A Job (And Why It's Okay To Suck At It)
At the beginning of last year, I decided I definitely did not want to go back to university. I made a game plan instead - finish my foundation degree, get a job, work on my photography, beat the world and be fucking amazing.
That didn’t happen, of course! Instead, I’ve learned a whole lot about the world of jobs. I’ve applied to way more than I can count on two hands and two feet, been rejected just as many times, and spent whole days on my computer, scrolling through Indeed, Monster, and even Gumtree. I’m definitely not an expert by any means, but I think the things I picked up could help someone. This is a pretty long post, just a heads up, so settle down with a cup of tea!
But first things first - remember that a job does not define you. You work to live, not live to work. And your value as a human being is not based on your income. When you remind yourself of these things, the job hunting process becomes a lot less stressful.
Apart from forgetting this, my other problem was that I was running before I could walk; I applied for jobs that were way beyond my qualifications and I had zero chance in — and then I’d be heartbroken when I was rejected. Temporary jobs came and went, resulting in me never holding down a job for more than 3 weeks at most (I worked for three shifts at Selfridges. THREE). I was more focussed on what the wage was, than whether I could actually do the job which is where my first horror story was formed.
I’d successfully gotten a job as an ‘admin assistant’ in a big tourist attraction company. I’m pretty good at computers and all that stuff — so, to me, there was no issue. In what way could this possibly go wrong?
Fast forward a couple of weeks into the job. Suddenly the big team I had worked with on the first day had disappeared, leaving me to control ten different email inboxes and a phone line, 5 days a week, 9 hours a day. It was like being a damn hamster in a wheel, running as fast as I could but the little numbers indicating impatient customers would never, ever go away. I was promised training countless times, yet it never came, resulting in hundreds of mistakes being made on my end. One Saturday at work, I fucked up — big time. I’m a person who panics when I make a mistake, and this felt monumentally catastrophic (honestly, it still does). After walking out the office and a hysterical phone call to my friend, I called it quits.
It took me a month to realise that the job wasn’t for me, and in that month, it did almost irreversible damage to my mental health. My confidence was knocked, I was physically ill, phone calls gave me a whole wave of anxiety, I had lost my sense of direction and I was ready to give up.
I didn’t throw in that little story to put you off. I’m telling you because, despite the mistakes I made, it wasn’t the end of the world like I thought. Following this, I decided to take a month to gather myself together. No job hunting, no pressure, I was just going to let myself breathe. It’s important to take time like this, whether you are currently in work or not. Mental health is just as important and as delicate as your physical health, so keep an eye on it, be good to it and let it breathe.
The month off did me good, and while I still wasn’t ‘better’, I had - somewhat - gotten back on my feet. Trying again is probably the hardest part of job hunting; it’s so, so tough to convince yourself to do it and it often feels like nothing will come of it, but believe me, I’m proof that something will! It was around this time, two months after quitting, that I started picking up my camera more often. Giving yourself a project to focus on on a daily basis is a huge help. Whether its something you’ll present publicly or not, putting your heart and energy into a project will become an accomplishment to look back on. Take up a new hobby, study something new, volunteer — anything to take the focus away from making money.
Fast forward another month. I started job hunting again, combing through pages and pages on Indeed to find something stress-free, close to home, that I was qualified for. I would refresh the page constantly for updates, check every single morning for new posts, and for a long time I was convinced I would just have to suck it up and take something I knew would make me unhappy.
Then I found a sign in a shop; they were looking for a store assistant and someone to help out with social media. It wasn’t my dream job, but at this point I was applying for cleaning positions, just to make money. I took a deep breath, and sent off my CV.
For a week I heard nothing. Then I was called in for an interview; at this point I’d had so many that I almost wasn’t nervous for them anymore. It was simply a part of the whole rigmarole, getting dressed up smart with a big smile to present myself.
The interview turned out to be nothing like I expected; the manager and I talked for half an hour about ideas, the shop, our past experiences and what I’d be doing. It was safe to say that I liked them and they liked me.
The pessimist in me was still pretty vocal in my head; I was anticipating trouble around every corner, waiting for the catch to something so good. Almost two months on, it still hasn’t come. It astonishes me to say that I am pretty happy in my job, and it allows me time to work on the blog and on my photography. Okay, so, it took me about a year to get here! But in this past year I’ve learned a lot about prioritising my health over money. In a world where the first question you’re asked by strangers is, “What do you do?” it’s hard to grasp this concept. It’s hard to let go of the notion that unless you’re permanently climbing a career ladder your value to society decreases. This is absolutely not true. Kudos to the people that have known what they wanted to be since they were five years old, but if thats not you? Thats okay! We are not rats in a race, and if the process of working brings you down then I strongly recommend you visit your GP who can help you manage this.
At the end of the day though, I am very lucky that I was not in a position where I was forced to pay bills; my parents supported the house financially, giving me a chance to rest. Not everyone is as fortunate as this, I get it. But please, please, keep your health at the forefront of your job hunting - nothing is worth damaging it. Listen to your gut, know when to take a deep breath or a step back, and when to dive in at the deep end.