9 shocking things I’ve learned while being unemployed…for a year

9 shocking things I've learned while being unemployed...for a year
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

“How have you been unemployed for a year?!”, “That was before Corona Virus started, what’s your excuse?”, “Have you been on benefits for a year?”, “Can’t you just get a job stacking shelves?”

Let me answer these questions…

My previous job told me they were selling up and made everyone redundant from the Managing Director down, including me. It was quite abrupt, very sudden and a shock to everyone.

In one meeting, my world tipped upside down and my anxiety went from a casual 50% to 110%. I had several panic attacks that day and my boss sent me home. I was a mess.

They made 7/8 positions within the company umbrella but that wouldn’t save 30 members of staff. None of the positions suited me or my skills so I was forced to take redundancy.

It happened shortly after the Thomas Cook disaster. So travel jobs became a tough market. Too many people applying and not enough jobs to apply for.

During that month I had 3/4 interviews, one being a dream position at a dream company but didn’t get the job despite making the last few candidates. I must have had more interviews that month than anyone else who was being made redundant.

Unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to bag one. Maybe my interview skills are a bit rusty even with some coaching from HR.

I couldn’t afford my rent in London so I left my lovely flat and moved back up north with my parents but not for long.

I decided…”fuck it“. Time for that once in a lifetime trip I’ve always wanted to do and booked a trip to Asia and Australia. What a trip it was!

I spent 6 weeks travelling to Dubai, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. I had the best time ever. I became a full-time travel blogger and set up several collabs with big companies and bagged a press trip to Australia. Things were finally working out….

Then the Covid pandemic hit.

I had to fly home back to the UK. I had to quarantine for 2 weeks and locked away for 6 months. I went from wide-open spaces to sit in my room for months.

Once National lockdown ended, I was looking for jobs again. However, travel jobs were nowhere to be found. I still haven’t seen one job…

But travel is something I “fell” into. It’s something I enjoy but never imagined I would do as a career. I actually have a degree in Television Production Management and always wanted to work in film or TV.

Since I started blogging, I’ve become well versed in Social media too. I even took some extra digital marketing courses over lockdown to spice up my CV.

I’ve finally been given the kick up the arse I needed to do something I want to do. But there are still lots of obstacles in the way.

Here are some things I’ve noticed which have shocked me during my job hunt:

 

The lack of and unwilling help for the unemployed

I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to people complain about only getting 80% of their wage. Try living off £90 for 6 weeks?!

When I got back to the UK, I immediately applied for Jobseekers Allowance. It was an online form and I got my first payment in a few weeks time.

The first/last time I was on jobseekers, I had to go into the Job Centre every couple of weeks with a list of every job application. As well as a 30-minute interview with a member of staff. Not this time.

Due to the Corona Virus, there was no phone call, no interview, no help, no evidence needed. They just gave me the money every 2 weeks directly into my bank account. Approx £140 a fortnight.

But Jobseekers only lasted 6 months and then they cut off as you’re only entitled to that long. Yes, because everyone can find a job during a pandemic in 6 months?!

After it ended, I applied for Universal Credit. This is actually more money but I didn’t know anything about it till someone told me on Twitter.

After the non-existent monitoring of Jobseekers, I got completely the opposite treatment with Universal Credit. They were all over my case.

I’ve had so many phone calls from them, interviews, provided evidence, filled in so many forms and got harassed by their online platform.

After jumping through all those hoops, I had to wait a month for my first payment and they only gave me £90. Apparently, there was an overlap with my Jobseekers Allowance but the last payment was 4 weeks ago which was only half the payment of £74.

That was a hard 2 months!? My savings took a massive hit too which I need to move out.

Finally, I’m getting my full payment on 1st November, which is approx £400 but that’s not really enough to live off is it!? 80% of your wage looks kind of nice right now doesn’t it?

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

 

Too many people, not enough jobs

If you look at Indeed and LinkedIn, you can see how many people have applied before you. Gives you a good idea of your chances but also the competition.

For the first few months after national lockdown, I noticed jobs closing down only an hour after being advertised. Why? Because hundreds of people are applying for the same jobs.

You have to be on it straight away and get your application in as soon as possible. I would suggest within 24 hours, preferably within a few hours of seeing it.

I also keep seeing business talking about it on the news. Including a bar hiring a bartender and had 500 applications in 2 days.

With furlough coming to an end, more people will be joining the job search and there’s just not enough jobs for everyone.

Make sure you apply quickly and as many as possible to increase the odds.

Tip: 1/ Set up alerts for particular jobs on job apps. They’ll send you emails so you won’t miss a decent job opportunity. 2/ Take the weekends off to have a break. Usually, people hand in their resignation on a Friday and HR are posting on a Monday/Tuesday.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

 

Word doc CVs are SHIT and won’t be seen…

So we’ve established that a lot of people are applying for the same job. Now imagine your the employer and you’re looking at hundreds of CVs. Do you really think your CV which you made in 2010 will still work? No. No, it will not.

You need to stand out of the crowd and there are people out there doing just that with incredibly creative CVs. I’ve seen people making their CV into a slide show of bitmoji avatars or videos. CVs made into on a game board, onto a chocolate bar wrapper or even a milk carton.

Don’t worry. No one is expecting you to get this out of the box. But a new up to date CV will help.

Make sure it’s on one page. Yes, just one. No one wants to know about your part-time job as a paperboy or that babysitting job you had when you were 15.

Tip: Use Canva. They have lots of FREE templates to make a great CV and all you need to do is type over the information with your details.

 

Find jobs on Indeed but DON’T apply on Indeed

NEWSFLASH! Indeed and LinkedIn are where you find jobs but NOT where you apply for jobs. Doesn’t make sense?

Employers post these jobs on those sites for you to find them but want people to go to their company page for you to apply directly with them.

Why? It shows you’ve been to their website, looked at what they do, what they stand for and that you’ve shown them interest. They want you to be interested in the company and not just the job.

It works. I’ve had a lot of interviewers saying how impressed they were I applied directly with them and not via the job apps.

Tip: If the company doesn’t have a career page, find their standard email address and email them with “(Job title) Application”

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

 

Beware of the post lockdown Employer god complex

Now more than ever, companies are getting more people applying for the same role. This means a great selection of candidates for their position.

They have the pick of the bunch!

This means a lot of people not getting the job or even an interview and a lot of rejections to send out. But not all employers will give everyone a notification of their application. Not uncommon but more so now.

I’ve actually had a lot of interviews with “young entrepreneurs” who to be quite frank are…damn rude and have the worst attitude.

I’ve had several interviews but have never received a rejection email of any kind. Sometimes, even after interviewing with them twice! So rude.

One of those interviewers got me to travel over an hour to their office, only to interview me for 5 minutes. Seriously, only 2 questions and left.

Prepare to be ghosted…a lot!

Tip: If you are ghosted or don’t hear back from employers feel free to contact them and ask. Also, ask for feedback if the can. Most of the time, they’ll just have hired someone more qualified or experienced but feedback is good to learn from and don’t take it to heart. It’ll make you better for the next interview.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

 

More hurdles to get an interview than at the Olympics

Getting a job goes like this:

  • You find a job
  • You apply for the job
  • You go to an interview
  • You get the job

Yes, this was true 5-10 years ago…

My mum still thinks you can just print off your CV and go into the company to ask if they’re hiring. Seriously.

Now, you’ll find a mountain to climb before you even get to meet the company face to face.

So what should you expect?

Well, there are now pre-employment assessments on Indeed, which include writing and numeracy tests. All depending on what job you’re applying for.

Obviously, you need a CV and cover letter but now these need to be tailored to the job you are applying for. Specifically, you need to read the job description, pick out the skills they need and give examples of your experience.

You may be given tasks to do to demonstrate your work and skills. One company asked me to complete a set of 5 tasks which took me 2-3 days to complete before the interview stage. These included written work, spelling tests, creative work, etc.

Then theirs the additional tests. Yes, more tests. One company sent me a personality test to do. It took me 20-30 minutes to complete. But I got an interview even though I felt the results weren’t great.

Companies may request to see a portfolio of your work. I’ve had this for creative and non-creative jobs. They may want to see emails, statements, results, analytics, templates, etc. I put all mine in a Google Drive folder. Makes it easier to have it all in one place.

Congratulations, after all, that you get….a phone or Zoom interview. Maybe even both before you get to meet anyone in person.

Lastly, it’s the face to face interview. You’ve made it. You’ve passed all the hurdles. No, now they want a presentation! Yes, they love to throw in another challenge to see if you’ll have a breakdown before you get to shake their hand…or tap elbows.

Tip: This looks like a lot. It is a lot. However, you probably won’t be asked to do all of these for every job. They’ll also be spread out too. Just try you’re best for each and take them one step at a time. For presentations, check out Canva.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Online courses really HELP your CV

Who knew online courses were so damn valuable?!

Before, I thought online courses forced on employees by their company or used to get a degree while working like Open University. Stuff like that.

I took a bunch of courses over lockdown, just so I had something to do. I was really bored and needed something to get my brain working again.

I took several courses on Udemy including, digital marketing, Instagram marketing, TikTok marketing, copywriting and Marketing Campaign Strategy. I even got my Mental Health Ambassador Certificate on there.

I added them to my CV and I’ve had so many comments from employers/interviews about those accreditations. They get you noticed!

Tip: Don’t just add them to your CV. Make sure you add them to your LinkedIn Profile too under “Profile selection” > “Background” > “Licences and certifications”. If you apply for any jobs on LinkedIn directly or if they look at your profile, they’ll show up and make you stand out.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

 

Knowing my worth

Probably my most valued lesson I’ve learned this year.

Knowing that after every rejection, every shit interview and every application, I know I’m good enough to have a job.

But not just any job. A job I want, a job I’m good at and a job I bloody deserve.

Tip: Only apply for the jobs you really want.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

 

You’re not alone

The BBC recently reported:

The most recent unemployment rate – for June to August – was 4.5%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is an increase of 0.4% over the previous three months and meant that 1.5 million people were unemployed. Between March, when the lockdown began, and September, the number of people claiming these benefits rose 120% to 2.7 million.

You are not the only one going through this and neither am I. There’s a lot of us out there struggling with interviews, filling in application forms and just trying to get through the day.

You’ll have some tough days but keep going. You will get a job. This won’t last forever.

Tip: If you’re feeling down. Talk to someone. This process can be really frustrating so vent it out. It helps.

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

 

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Are you unemployed? What has shocked you during this process?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Natasha Atlas
Natasha Atlas

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3 Comments

  1. 30/10/2020 / 10:18 pm

    I can totally relate to your experiences, Natasha! You’ve listed some really great tips here – I really liked the one about applying directly to an employer’s website. I will deffo try this in future. I also have applied for hundreds of jobs and then in August, I was ghosted after two face-to-face interviews with an employer. To make it worse, they were really complimentary about everything with no hint of constructive feedback before they then never contacted me again!

    Good luck with your search, you’ll no doubt get a fab job in the end. 💚

    Anneka @ New Shades of Hippy
    newshadesofhippy.com

  2. 15/11/2020 / 8:09 pm

    This is so well put together, thank you for sharing! I lost my job this hear due to the pandemic and it’s a minefield out there. I’ve decided to try freelancing for now and see how I get on, but it’s not easy!
    Best of luck in your search if you’re still looking xx

  3. Danielle
    16/11/2020 / 11:28 am

    Hey Tash,
    Great article. For anyone reading this, I was also made redundant from the same company as Natasha last year and although I have a part-time job at a gift shop down the road (currently closed during lockdown), I have also been looking for a ‘real’ job for about 4 months.

    Just a few things I would like to share. I took free courses through my local council on getting a job (its been 20 years since I last did this). This was so great to get me up to speed and also for my confidence and just to connect with others in the same situation. Here are a couple of things I learned that might help.

    Your mom isn’t completely wrong about approaching companies. In this climate, many of the jobs you see posted online could have been up for grabs for weeks, even months as many big companies will have advertised in-house before posting outside. People in the company could already be referring friends etc. to the role (see networking below). By the time you (and hundreds of others) see the post, there could already be several front runners for the role. It takes time and resources for busy companies who may have downsized and are already running on minimal staff, to get the word out there. This includes creating a job description, advertising in-house, contacting recruiters, etc. etc.

    I was advised to spend 20% of my time looking for jobs online and 80% elsewhere. This includes sending ‘Letters of Interest’ to companies you are most interested in working for. If you are applying for jobs in one industry, you can create one letter and send it out to multiple companies. Or better yet, drop them off at the office (when things open up again) and try to speak to someone there. Even if you don’t get a hiring manager, you can ask the people you do encounter about the company. What they like. Get a feel for the place and maybe get some important names of who to chase later. In most cases, they won’t be hiring but if they are, and they haven’t yet posted anything online, you not only show initiative and motivation but also save them a lot of time if you’re fit for the role. If they aren’t hiring, your letter may be held and you might just stick in the hiring manager’s memory as a candidate for future roles.

    Look where there is growth or change. A company setting up a new sales region or new product, staff being replaced, start-ups, merger acquisitions.

    Another way to find ‘hidden’ jobs is NETWORKING (not cold calling or asking anyone for a job). Just put yourself out there and let people know what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. A recommendation from a trusted colleague, family member or friend (of the family), can go far in this competitive climate. Take time to consider your network. I know its time consuming but write down everyone you know who you can contact by email. Don’t discriminate. Think of 6 degrees of separation and consider this. If you have 150 people in your network then your 2nd degree connections could be 15-20 THOUSAND people! Once you’ve made your list, concentrate on people who are ‘connectors’. These are people who know a lot of people. Think of people who can strike up a conversation in an elevator. People who are naturally curious and friendly and who may have connections to those in your industry. Once you’ve connected with someone who responds and is willing to help or has recommendations, ask for advice, set up meetings to learn more about a role or industry.

    Also, if you are posting your CV to recruitment websites, remember to upload it regularly because it will fall to the bottom of the list. You just need to change one or two things so that the bots won’t see it as a duplicate. Can be something as simple as some punctuation or changing a sentence.

    Tash, there were also people in my courses who were in theatre and acting and ‘Gig Economy’ was discussed (this goes beyond zero hours like UBER and deliveroo drivers). This is particularly valuable for people in film, TV, theatre, tech crews, musicians, catering, marketing and art. Worth looking it up.

    Hope this helps anyone out there looking. (PS, I am waiting to hear back from a 6-month contract role with the NHS as part of COVID research). Fingers crossed!

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