Gis’ a job

February 29, 2012 at 11:34 am | Posted in Career, work, Youth | 4 Comments
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In this week’s Grazia, four Warwick University graduates discuss their battles to find any work, let alone a graduate position.

I can relate well to their struggle, and it is a struggle particularly close to my heart, as I am a Warwick alumna. In 2006, I graduated with a 2:1 in English and German: my graduation photo shows me sporting red lipstick and a slightly tipsy smile (the German Department enjoy a drink, apparently). What you may not realise, when looking at this photo of me, is that I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life.

I spent the summer pretty depressed about leaving Warwick. Not because I wanted to be a student forever, you understand, but rather because I didn’t know what else to do forever. I went back to Berlin and Amsterdam with a couple of friends, and spent the holiday trying to disguise how depressed I was. At one point, I went to a blind restaurant in Berlin and sat there in the dark, crying. Not a highlight of my first adult summer.

On returning from my holidays, I worked in a residential home and then started a journalism course that September. This course failed to inspire me; I know how precious that will sound, but learning shorthand and the ins and outs of local government was not how I wanted to spend my days. One Monday, instead of getting the train to Farringdon, I stayed in Croydon to job search. A girl came up to me and asked if I would read her the letter from the DSA in her hand. It was then that I determined to do something with my life, and never to end up in similar circumstances.

And so I left the course, and spent the rest of the year interpreting and translating in an insurance office in Canterbury by day, and working in a pub by night. The interpreting was fascinating; one day, a man phoned from Germany to tell me that his colleague had lost a foot in an accident. I had to then snap out of my shock to ask my boss from the compensation was likely to be.

From January to March 2007, I booked ferry tickets for German speaking customers in P & O’s Dover call centre. The job itself was tedious, but paid reasonably, and I enjoyed speaking to Germans again, particularly those in Berlin.

However, I left P & O, as I had decided to become a teacher, and after spending yet another summer at the residential home, I took up the position of Graduate Teacher Trainee at St Edmund’s R. C. School in Dover. Fittingly, the words, ‘baptism’ and ‘fire’ spring to mind when I think of the five months I spent teaching. I sank into depression again, regularly falling asleep as early as 630pm. Teaching children The Tempest when they cannot even construct a paragraph is utterly pointless.

As I was pretty rubbish at it, I was forced out of teaching, and I’ve never been so glad about anything in my life. I was not a natural: I lacked that essential patience you need to communicate alien concepts to teenagers, and I certainly lacked empathy.

So I spent six months unemployed and out of my mind. I applied for nigh on 50 jobs, which I realise is far fewer than some people apply for before they are offered a position, and even had to chase some of the firms to find out the outcome of my interview. Eventually, a very nice man called Neil offered me the role of bookseller at Waterstones Thanet, and I can say quite honestly that I have never been happier in a job. Most days, I wake up thrilled to be going to work, and I can’t wait to become assistant manager at Waterstones Tenterden.

So I would like to tell those Warwick graduates not to give up, and to take any job they can. In the six years since graduating, I’ve been a cleaner, residential home carer, market researcher, call centre worker, translator/interpreter, barmaid, teacher and bookseller. I am still nowhere near earning a graduate salary, but I have found a job I love. And after all, what’s more important?



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  1. I have done all kinds of interesting/rubbish jobs in my life. Street cleaner on the Isle of Dogs, safari truck driver at Port Lympne, market researcher and spring factory worker among them. I too found refuge in bookselling. Money isn’t everything is it?

    • It isn’t everything, although that is easy for me to say, as I’ve been able to buy a house with money left to me. But I’m not bothered about making lots of money. If I end up managing a large branch, brilliant, but I wouldn’t be doing it for the money.

  2. This really struck a chord with me at the moment. I finished my undergrad. degree in Eng. Lit. in 2007, after a failed attempt to study archaeology for a year, and a gap year. I was 23, older than most of my fellow graduates, with no idea what I was going to do with my life. I ended up moving to Durham for a boy (it didn’t work out, surprise surprise), but I’d found a job in an independent academic bookshop. I moved to Newcastle, found another, wonderful, man and continued to work in the shop. I’m now manager, and have loved it, bar a few occasions.

    The only problem is that it’s closing in May, due to the pressures of the internet, and I’m being made redundant. I’ll be almost 29 and, once again, will have no idea what to do. I’d really like to open my own second-hand bookshop, but it’s virtually important right now. It’s so scary.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble, but thanks for giving hope to those of us who are/will be job-hunting!

    • Hi Sarah, sorry for the late reply, and also to hear that your bookshop is closing. I wish I could help in some way. I hope that you manage to stay in bookselling.

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