Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why Can't I Get Paid For Blogging? Oh, That's Right...I Suck.

You know what? Sometimes I just feel like screaming.

My job search has been going on for nearly three weeks now, and I’ve not heard so much as a whisper (Not counting the ‘account manager’ position that translates into ‘door-to-door salesman, and the countless ‘Earn 65 billion a second working from home!’ junk mail).

I mean, I’m not asking for much. I just want an office job with decent pay. I’ve got the experience and qualifications, what more do I need?

As of today, I have about 12 different applications out there doing their thing, but here’s the problem: Very few places even acknowledge the receipt of your resume, and only about one in a thousand actually inform you if you’ve been unsuccessful.

So my point is, I have 12 applications out there. I don’t know if they’re still accepting applications, if my application is in the pile with the others waiting to be reviewed or if the HR guy has already looked at my resume, decided the job wasn’t for me, and dumped my application in the trash.

I’m simply scanning all the job postings on the internet, and if I’m capable of doing a job, and the job is in my general area, I shoot off a copy of my resume.

So what do I do? Play the waiting game and hope one of them eventually contacts me? Or just keep applying?

I mean, it’s not exactly a good first impression when you get a phone call asking you in for an interview for an admin position and you have to say “Errr, you’re one of about 50,000 places I applied at. Which one are you again?”

I think my worst problem is the things I’m qualified for and actually interested in are extremely rare and highly sought-after jobs.

I’m perfectly qualified to be a film critic. Unfortunately, this career path involves at least 5 years writing for a local paper for free, in the hope that you’ll get ‘noticed’.

I can build a computer with my eyes closed, and could do a basic help-desk job standing on my head. Unfortunately I don’t have the bit of paper that says I’m qualified to do so, so it’s a dead end.

Thanks to taking Media Studies, I’m a fairly talented film-editor, can use a range of non-linear editing suites, and can create a fair range of TV quality special effects (Morphing, cloning, rotoscoping, overlaying, compositing etc). However, I might as well head to Hollywood and start sending agencies headshots. The chances of becoming a film-editor are almost as remote as becoming a film actor.

You know, I’m starting to think that going to college and getting a degree was a complete and total waste of time. I mean, what exactly was the point?

I thought the whole point of further education was to get a good job. Unfortunately, you can have all the degrees in the world, but without the experience, you’re going to be starting at entry level anyway.

My last job was a complete pile of crap. The standard conversation was “So, how did you end up lumbered with this job?”

I had a conversation with a former workmate about this, and we both had the same experience, but from opposite sides of the fence:

I said: “Well, I went to college, got my degree, but every place I applied for required at least 5 years experience, so I got stuck here.”

She said: “I didn’t go to college, and went straight to work. I had 15 years experience doing the actual job, but when I left, no one else would hire me because I didn’t have a degree.”

Spot the vicious circle? When you’re starting out, you either have the experience or the qualifications…not both.

I’m reminded of the story about the University Lecturer who started his job with a Bachelors Degree. 20 years later, he’s called in to see the Dean who informs him that from now on all lecturers are required to have at least a Masters Degree and preferably a Doctorate, so he’s forced to go back to school. In his first course, he discovers that the textbook he’ll be learning from is one he actually wrote.

So, can someone please explain to me why I spent three years of my life at University, got myself 10,000GBP in debt through student loans, when it doesn’t even give me the slightest head start?

I think I can best sum up my situation by an event that happened over five years ago:

I was fresh out of university, left my part-time bartending job and went out into the job marketplace. I found an ad for a company that specializes in finding jobs for new graduates. Here’s how that phonecall went:

Me: “Hello? I saw your ad in the paper and was wondering if you could help me. I recently graduated.”
Them : “I’m sure we can. What type and subject of degree did you get?”
Me : “Bachelor of Arts, English Language, Literature and Writing Studies.”
Them : “Fantastic. What sort of position are you thinking of?”
Me: “Anything, really, anything you can get for me. I was thinking maybe something in a library?”
Them : “Ok, and what experience do you have.”
Me : “Experience?”
Them : “Yes, work experience.”
Me: “Well, none really, I was doing a full time 40 hour a week college course, not including study time at home. I didn’t have time to work. All I did was part-time bar-tending.”
Them : “Oh, so nothing we can really go on.”
Me : “So what can you do to help me?”
Them : “Fax us a resume, and we’ll keep it on file, when something comes up, we’ll contact you.”

Guess what? It’s now 5 years later, I’m still registered with them, and they still haven’t contacted me.

Apparently, here are the average school-leaver’s choices:

Leave school, and because of a lack of qualifications, get an entry level job and work your way up.

Leave school, go to college, leave college, and because of a lack of experience, get an entry level job and work your way up.

Why add that extra step for no reason?

Of course, there are some jobs that require a degree, experience or no, such as jobs in the computing field. Unfortunately, whereas working with computers was an excellent career path 5 years ago, today there are far more qualified people than there are jobs. Where a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer could pretty much write their own ticket 10 years ago, today it’s more of a case of “You’ll be doing this job for minimum wage, if you don’t like it, there are a hundred other people behind you who are simply gagging for this job. Take it or leave it.”

My other big problem with the experience versus qualifications thing is with the British school system. You see, the way it works in England is you go to regular school until you’re 16, then you can continue (if you want to) with two years at college doing A-Levels, then after college, you can go to university.

The big problem with this is that you’re expected to have chosen your college courses by age 14, and your college courses effect what university courses you can take. (In other words, if you want to do English Language at University, they’ll require you get at least a ‘B’ grade at A-level.)

Who knows what career they want to do when they’re 14? At 14 I was still watching Power Rangers! I’m supposed to have my whole career path mapped out by then?

You see, as much as education broadens your career choices, it also severely limits them.

I originally wanted to be a journalist. So I took English Language, Media Studies and Information Technology at college. (Information technology was a big let down, and a completely mislabeled course. I was thinking it would be about networking, programming etc…it was essentially ‘Microsoft Office Applications 101’.)

However, I’d based the whole journalism career path on the fact that I liked to write and of course, at 14, I had very little idea what being a journalist actually involved, or how crowded and difficult that job-market is.

So towards the end of college, after doing the in-depth research the British School system expects you to do before your voice has broken, I decided that journalism wasn’t really for me. So, I was left with three choices when it came to University. I could take English, media or Information Technology.

Information Technology was a big no-no. That course required an in-depth knowledge of things like networking, SQL, C++. I could have taken the course, but I would have failed. While everyone else was talking about configuring Unix Servers, I’d be talking about how I can create a kick-ass spreadsheet in Excel.

Media Studies was also a no-no. While I would have passed with flying colors (my college show-reel got an A+, and is still used as an example for new students at my college today…I used to actually get ‘recognized’ by students from my old college 4 years after I left: “Hey! You’re the dude from that video!”), Media Studies would have severely limited what careers I could choose…and limited me to a very crowded field. Think of it, how many people do you know who want to work in broadcasting?

So I chose English. I’d always loved to write, and I figured: “English is a good academic subject and can be used in lots of jobs. If nothing else, it shows I’m intelligent.”

Yep, English can be used in more or less anything. Unfortunately, it doesn’t explicitly qualify me for anything. I can’t even teach it because I don’t have a teaching diploma, and there’s not much call for British English in schools that teach American English.

So, in conclusion. Looking for jobs sucks.

…and to that end, THIS is going to be an advertisement for me. What do you think?

Need some writing doing? I’m your man! Rates on a per-word basis! Special offers on bulk jobs!

Send me your video footage, and I’ll do you an ILM quality Lightsaber, $50 a pop! Amuse your friends with a video of five ‘yous’ having a conversation!

Need some admin work doing? Drop me a line! I’m great!

Computer frozen up? Gimme a call, and I’ll talk you through getting it up and running again, and I’ll charge you a hell of a lot less than most Tech-support lines!

I’m also accepting donations from people wanting to invest in “English Paul’s Gaming Emporium” All your gaming needs, with a touch of European flair!

I’m also a qualified money-tester! Send me cash, I’ll spend it, and and tell you if the money was accepted or not (Unfortunately all money sent to me can not be sent back or refunded in any way.

Oh, and if anyone out there is looking for an 80 inch plasma TV and La-z-boy tester…I’m your man!


MC Etcher said...

Yep. I didn't go to college right out of high school largely because I had no idea what I wanted to do.

(Well, I wanted to go to school for English Lit and writing, but I had no interest in teaching or being a journalist, so that seemed like a waste of time).

At the time, I didn't know that a lot of employers just want you to have a degree in something - even if it was Philosophy.

I suppose any sort of degree proves a certain level of discipline and communication skills - but they should be able to glean that from the interview.

I can totally sympathize with the whole qualified to do something (like computers) but having no piece of paper that says so. I guess you could pay to get certified in PC maintenance. Pay someone else to give you a piece of paper... Why not print your own Certification? It's not like anyone is going to contest something like that.

The Girl said...

Let's see if I can help you out a little.

I was doing the unemployment circuit for almost six months so I know all the places to look.

Check with all government agencies (city, county, state) for their job listings. Check the local unemployment agency because some local employers will only list with them. Run the web and see what larger companies are in your area.

Are you opposed to admin work? If not, sign up with temp agencies. With a degree in English, you could probably substitute teach or be a teachers assistant. Check at the local community college for their job board as well. Also, law firms would drool for a good typist/ proofreader with proper english skills.

I have my degree as a legal secretary and worked less than 6 months out of the past 14 years as a legal secretary. I totally understand and I just paid off my student loan last year.

Good luck!