With the MA secured I really felt under pressure to earn some money, but it wasn’t only the issue of funds that was getting me down. I needed to have something to occupy me for those dreaded hours between 9 and 5 when I felt like a total loser because none of my friends would play with me. Then the excuses started for why they couldn’t meet after work, they were tired, or they had a big presentation to do for the next day, ‘why don’t we do something at the weekend?’ I felt like I was being left behind, I was forgetting my languages and my self-confidence plummeted. I started to think there was something wrong with me for wanting more, for believing that there was something out there that I would absolutely love. None of them really seemed happy with their jobs and I found myself repeating the phrase ‘well at least you have one!’ over and over to console them…so I thought I best ‘have one’ too.
If they won’t come to me…
I wanted to be using my languages on a daily basis so that I was ready for the MA when October rolled around. Where better to find opportunities using my languages than Earl’s Court Language Show right? So a friend and I bought tickets and set off, convinced that all the answers had been hidden in Earl’s Court all along, and we had found the magic key! An amazing CV is, at the end of the day, just a piece of paper to whoever is reading it. If you contact people directly, arrange meetings, or attend events like The Language Show armed with this CV, you become so much more to them, and opportunities seem infinitely more accessible.
One man I met at the show was a very successful freelance interpreter, and when I asked him for advice on making it in such a competitive industry this is the conversation we had:
Him: “Think of people that you would like to work for, carry samples of your work with you, find out where they socialize and be there when they arrive”
Me: “so your advice is basically to stalk people of interest?”
Him: “Well… yes, I suppose so!” (laughs)
Now, I wouldn’t recommend actual stalking, but certainly approach people directly, give them samples of your work, offer to work for free to prove yourself, and attend networking events which happen all over. I can personally recommend the Esc Wednesdays hosted by Escape the City, but there are so many more. (If anyone can recommend any others then please send them to me and I can share them with everyone)
My Fling with the city
Earl’s Court did in fact have a job waiting inside for me and 3 days later I was commuting in for my first days work with a language services provider. In the interview I was perfectly clear that I wanted to be using my languages and wanted to be challenged by the work. That said, I was so happy to be sitting in an interview with a slight glimmer of hope that I was going to get paid employment that I again didn’t listen to my gut. Two women who seemed utterly bored and unenthused interviewed me. At one point one of them said ‘oh god please just tell us about yourself, I am so fed up of this interview stuff’, then slumped over her desk. I should have seen that they weren’t going to invest in me or my future, they were just going to take take take. Nonetheless, I wanted to dress smartly and go for drinks after work. I wanted to sigh as I hurried through the crowds of fellow commuters. I wanted to feel part of something, and feel included in those moaning sessions about your job after work. (Reading that back, it seems absurd!!! But it’s the truth.)
Getting up to cram myself into a tube smelling people’s marmite breath on the way there, their armpits on the return journey. Walking 300 yards in heels on icy cobbles. Doing a repetitive, unchallenging job. Not getting the opportunity to use either of my languages. Not what I had in mind. The only thing that made it hard to leave was the fact that the people I was working with were amazing. They were all very well educated, all had high expectations and ambitions, and we all had one thing in common…we thought the company was dreadful. They hired 10 of us together in November and regardless of financial situation, pretty much all of us had left by February. Fridays became massive celebrations as we set yet another fellow idealist off on their journey to find something they really believed in, having realised that they were unwilling to compromise their values.
I’m sitting here now, reflecting on why I accepted a job that I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy, that paid terribly and was with a company I had no respect for in the first place. I think it was a reaction to the feeling that the people I had always had something in common with (and had spent the last couple of years at Uni with) were suddenly on a different path. What I have learnt is that it takes courage and a lot of effort and determination to persevere in finding a course of action you really believe in and will put your whole self into, but once you find it there is no stopping you.
No one will take us without experience for the jobs that sound interesting, no one will pay us to get that experience and so the reality is that there are thousands of really intelligent, educated people, who have so much to offer, wasting their best years having their idealism and optimism for the future ground out of them doing mind numbing jobs. Things have to change, and I hope Discerning Intern can go some way to improving the situation. (I’m just not sure how yet!)
Here are 12 great tips for finding a job that I wish I had read as soon as I graduated. They are all common sense but the desperation we all feel after months of searching for anything can make us too eager to compromise our values and needs. Remember… an interview should be a chance for you to see whether you think you would fit within that organisation or company as well as a chance for them to grill you!
I realise that not everyone has the luxury of being able to quit a job that they are not satisfied with, and I understand that everyone must start at the bottom and work up, but if you can look at the people at the top of the company you are working for and know in your heart that you never want to be them, then you should either quit or start searching for another job immediately. We are going to be working longer than any generation before us, so let’s all try to find something we love, so what if it takes us a while to find it!