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When I graduated in July with a politics degree from Durham University, I thought getting a job would take no more than a month.
Even though we were in the middle of a pandemic, I felt optimistic and hit the ground running in applying for roles.
A 2017 survey of Durham graduates found that 84% were employed within six months. Even though these figures are likely to be slashed in light of the pandemic, I did not expect to be dreading the survey arriving in my inbox asking if I am employed.
But after almost six months since I graduated, here I am with no job – and it’s a problem affecting most of my graduate friends, too.
Since June, I have applied for around 20 jobs a week in the hope of securing my dream one in journalism, but I haven’t had much luck.
I began hunting for a job in March, prior to my graduation. While working on my dissertation and preparing for exams, I scrolled through postings I could apply to. There were multiple entry level and assistant jobs I applied to but had no luck with any of them.
With news of unemployment rising, this should have pre-empted the flood of rejections or – even worse – the lack of replies I was to receive. At that time, I wasn’t fazed by all of these knock-backs as I had only just begun and I put a lot of it down to the pandemic and still being in lockdown.
Towards the end of summer, I started to become more aware of exactly how long I had been applying for jobs with no positive results.
I moved back home with my parents after graduating so that I can get by without adding to my already momentous student debts and I knew I had to step things up.
Since writing an article for my university online magazine I decided that this was a venture I wanted to pursue. Being able to give a voice to unheard stories or uplift movements was and still is my primary focus when I think about what journalism means to me. Fusing this passion to communicate with my love of fashion is something I hope to have a career in one day soon.
Building my portfolio has taught me so much about writing for different editors and how to adapt my tone when writing. I have learnt so much from the people I have worked with and I hope this translates into my articles improving over time and increasing my chance of employability.
Unfortunately, I am yet to secure a full time job within journalism so I decided to branch out from my dream and apply to marketing and advertising, which I realise are equally as competitive, but what industry isn’t nowadays?
Like my applications for news outlets, I seemed to have the skills on paper that they wanted but either not the years of experience or an extensive enough portfolio.
But that’s what I’m assuming. It’s become quite heart-breaking to receive these rejections with no explanation as to why I was not good enough. Instead, I often get an automated message that says something like ‘I’m afraid on this occasion we will not be progressing your application.’
The routine receipt of these emails has become numbing with almost no room left for disappointment. I am a very positive, ‘can-do’ kind of person, but even for me, this had and still is taking a bigger hit than I expected.
Thankfully, I found yoga and pilates around the same time, which helped me relax and manage my mental health.
One morning in September, I received an email that didn’t actually use the word ‘unfortunately’. The sender wanted to arrange a phone call with me to discuss joining a writing internship, which would help me to build my portfolio.
I discussed my experience and have had the opportunity to have an article published with them, which has been great experience.
Receiving this feedback that the employer was impressed by my CV gave me back the attitude I had at the beginning of summer, which was a sense of hope. All the hard work that I had put in during my degree and through doing internships would hopefully lead me to a full-time job.
After receiving consistently bad news, this one email gave me hope that future applications would not be futile and even if I have doubts, it’s best to always send an application.
In the meantime – while I work towards getting my dream job – I have tried to keep myself occupied with online courses that may help my applications and fill a gap in my CV.
I intend to carry on pursuing my dream job but I will have to look into other ways to ensure I can replenish my bank account in the meantime.
Having applied to well over 500 jobs by now I have tried to fill this gap in my CV with short term experience as well as doing courses to help me gain the skills I may have been lacking from previous feedback.
While I am determined and hard-working, staying on top of my stress levels is also critical to use my time as productively as possible.
I hope that over the coming days, weeks, and months myself, and other 2020 graduates find the opportunities they are working for and reap the rewards of being a new graduate.
I think the only way of getting through rejections is taking a step to learn from the loss to help fuel success in the future.
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