Open LinkedIn, punch in ‘graduate jobs’, scroll, click, apply. Repeat process. Again and again and again.
This was my daily routine for three months, the very same ritual that thousands of other graduates have religiously maintained since leaving university this summer. Inboxes littered with job alerts from Milkround, Totaljobs and Indeed. In a digital world where my social media knows that I am dreaming of a ski holiday and yearning for new pair of shoes, I had high hopes for the A.I. systems used by these recruitment sites. Alas, they seemed intent on sending me ‘targeted’ adverts for roles requiring 5+ years of experience and starting salaries of £80,000.
Agitated by this mass bombardment of irrelevant information and hours of trawling the interminable depths of such job sites, finally you will strike gold. ‘Looking for a self-starter, graduate with 2:1 or above, start date immediately.’ How many have applied? 400 applicants; could be worse. Cover letter written, CV attached, and email sent. A moment of excited imagination overtakes; sitting in that ‘young, fun office’, enjoying ‘team meals on a Friday’ and all whilst being paid a ‘competitive salary’ that will certainly get you that pair of trainers and maybe even stretch to the ski holiday too. But, all of a sudden, you are dragged back to reality by the recognition that you won’t actually be in an office, but instead working in your dingy kitchen and not eating out with anyone on a Friday due to the current purgatorial state of lockdown.
However, even these sad realisations prove to be merely inconsequential mirages when weeks later the ping of your inbox rings clear and the inevitable bombshell of that automated rejection email surfaces on your screen. ‘Unfortunately, we will not be progressing your application.’ All you may want to ask now is ‘why not?’ But, expect no feedback, no help – nothing.
For me, this process genuinely became comical. I could no longer take seriously the eternal state of rejection I was in. I was convinced that I was experiencing some sort of labour market-induced insanity. Reaching breaking point, I slammed my laptop shut and found the first part-time job I came across. Packaging food deliveries in a dimly lit warehouse sounded comparatively pleasurable to the torture of the last couple of months. I took the job in an instant. Then everything snowballed. Within a month I was no longer packing dear old Betty’s weekly groceries but found myself in a silk draped poolroom interviewing an elderly gentleman about his remarkable life. I still can’t quite comprehend the turn around. How I found myself ghostwriting a biography remains baffling, but the point is this; if I had not broken the cycle that I was trapped in, I would not be where I am now.
To those of you out there in the position I was in, barely able to find the emotional energy to sustain another rejection, just stop. In the toughest labour market for 75 years, with graduate job openings shrunk by 77% since the start of the year and more than a quarter of all UK business reducing the number of graduates they recruit, it is time for you to change things up. The old model no longer works so please stop trying to make it. Sign up to TaskRabbit; build an Ikea bed, help someone move house, walk an old lady’s dog. You will be shocked at the wealth of opportunities that are born from these situations and at the very least your eyes won’t burn and your ego won’t hurt from spending your days scrolling LinkedIn.
The ‘Lost Generation’ of the 1920s that has always been held in nostalgic esteem is not so different to the Class of 2020. A world reeling with the despair of war and disease is far too relatable right now. As poor as they were, Hemingway and Fitzgerald did not let themselves to be crushed under the pressure of the past but, instead, used it as inspiration. Obviously I am not asking you to drop everything, take up the bottle and start writing some of the best literature ever produced. I am, however, imploring that you take the current situation we are in and, like these creatives, become more innovative. If you are scared of such a prospect, always remember this: what is there to lose? Given the current job market for graduates, I would argue, absolutely nothing!
By Henry Crane
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