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Over-worked, under-paid and over here

14 Dec

Even though I’m aware of unpaid internships and I appreciate the value they can add to a CV, I am still amazing, even appalled, about the way some companies are taking advantage of the situation faced by so many people.

And it’s not just big businesses that are cashing-in on the current economic climate. Even charities are banking on people’s desperation to get that first step on the employment ladder.

Gone are the days where endless photocopying and tea-making skills were honed in the office (thank goodness!)  and instead unpaid internships offer genuine ‘at the chalk-face’ experience so highly sought after by prospective employers, but at what cost?

A former classmate of mine wrote this article about the effects this very situation is having on the people of Manchester. It made for interesting reading.

My experience

Unpaid internships were brought to my attention about 18 months ago. As seasoned justanotherwannabehack readers will know, a key element of my degree course was an internship.

I naively thought (hoped) that with such experience under my belt I would find it easier than other graduates to get a job.

It didn’t happen. And after numerous voluntary roles, diploma studies and futile job searches, I’m no further down the employment path, just more qualified and a bit poorer. And working in a restaurant. But I’m not alone.  

And it’s this hunger to get into graduate employment that drives so many people to take on grossly unfair internships.

Unemployed: more people desperately seeking work experience, but at what cost?

Typical internship

Take this advert, for  an Income Generation Internship with MyBnk. It is unashamedly a six-month, full-time, unpaid internship.

It’s located in London (naturally) and states that although the internship is unpaid, travel expenses (up to £10 per day) and a lunch allowance (up to £4 per day) is provided.

This equates to a maximum of £14 in payment for a typical eight-hour working day. The national minimum wage stipulates that a worker (over 21) should receive at least £6.08 an hour  but in this instance the lucky recipient of what is being sold as “a fantastic stepping stone into a career in the charitable, education or youth work sector” will be earning the princely sum of £1.75 an hour.

Based on a 40-hour working week amounts to £70. Min wage = £243.20.

During the course of the six-month placement equals £1820 (assuming no holiday or sick leave was taken, which again I’m assuming is unpaid.) Min wage = £6323*

Which if calculated pro rata means that would equal £3640. Min wage  = £12646. (However this would need additional calculations factored in to take into consideration London weighting.)

What an absolute disgrace.

Unless you have a base in London and can afford to live off a dependent other (parents/guardians/partner) you’re buggered.

The list of key skills and responsibilities are as long as any I’ve seen for a ‘real’ job. They are succinctly described as such:

Your responsibilities will touch on all aspects of income generation at MyBnk (fundraising, local authority & government contracts, direct sales and corporate engagement).

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds pretty much like a job as opposed to a work experience stint.

I think that at the end of the lengthy list of key skills it should read: must have access to a big pot of cash.

Financial concerns aside, I appreciate that an internship will equip someone with a very valuable skillset which may prove to be the deciding factor in getting a job in the future. However as I, along with many other young people in the UK, have found out that’s not necessarily enough.

Indeed the advert eludes to this by adding : Please note we cannot guarantee a job offer at the end of the 6 month programme.

This is not a hate campaign aimed squarely at MyBnk, it is merely an example. There are many other places that are advertising similar schemes which seem to replace paid workers with a near-constant stream of underpaid, over-grateful wannabe-workers.

What next ?

What I worry about it whether the jobs market will expand in the near future and open its doors to trainee-level applicants. Not only that, but whether companies will be willing to put their money where their mouths are and actually stump-up for its high calibre workforce in waiting. I really hope so.

Ready and waiting: the future workforce... and they want paying

For now it’s tea, crumpets (I decided to splash out), more job-hunting and Christmas shopping. Yay!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2012.

*Figures based on minimum wage earnings for over 21s. Six months averaged to 26 weeks.

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My get up and go has got up and gone…. almost

23 Nov

So it’s just over two weeks since I’ve posted. Naughty me.

It’s been a combination of being busy combined with not having a lot to say. And as my mum has reminded me over the years, if you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. So I haven’t.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to go into a sixth form college and speak to students about politics and how it applies to their lives. As a politics graduate who’s very keen to get young people enthused about, and involved in, politics it was something I was keen to do.

However there was the little matter about location. I’m in Wigan, the college is in Lincolnshire. So I had to grovel to work for a week’s holiday at the last-minute, on the proviso that I worked back-to-back shifts in the week leading up to it.

After many shifts and a three-hour trip down the motorway armed with my laptop and two plastic swords (part of a demonstration, not for crowd control purposes) I arrived in The Shire (alas no hobbit sightings) and awaited my fate.

Now I’m used to people not being that bothered about politics, thinking it either doesn’t apply to their lives or is a waste of time. But I was surprised at some students’ absolute hatred of the system and their defeatism in the face of political adversity.

Even examples of how the Arab Spring uprising shows that from small beginnings big changes can be brought about seemed to fall on deaf and disillusioned ears. The only thing they were passionate about was their disdain for the current government and a complete disengagement with the whole political process. Ok. Tough crowd.

But it was very much a day of two halves. Other students appeared to have a genuine interest in political issues and processes, and wanted to know the different ways they could make their voices heard in the hope of bringing about positive changes. Their optimism brought a tear to my eye.

However the previous groups’ cynicism must have crept into my psyche, because ever since then I’ve been a bit of a mardy chops jobs-wise. I have heard nothing back from job applications for weeks. Nothing.

All I meet is a deafening wall of silence from prospective employers which not only leaves me in the dark as to where I stand in the process, but also leaves me unsure how to improve my chances.

And although it’s great that people on my course have got interviews, and even first jobs, it’s making me question what I’m lacking.

Ah well, onwards and upwards. I’ll just take Brucie’s advice and keeeeeep writing.

Bruce in action on Strictly

Monday Monday

8 Nov

The Mamas and the Papas may have tapped in to the public’s dislike of Monday in one of their hit songs, but as I work weekends and had yesterday off, I rather enjoyed it.

I decided against scouring the Internet for journo jobs and instead embraced my inner goddess and went about my domestic duties – I cleaned, tidied and collected a parcel from the post office. How quaint.

After that I tackled a bit of early Christmas shopping, wrapped a couple of birthday presents and settled down to a belated Sunday dinner. Yum.

My cherry-on-the-top moment was an impromptu meet-up with one of my best friends, Louise. We go way back and have only ever had one major falling-out, back in Year 2 of primary school, I’m not sure what it was all about but we obviously got over it.

I was only meant to drop in for five minutes, but three and a half hours later we were still chatting, drinking tea and cuddling the newest addition to her household, an adorable ginger bundle of fluff, Cheeto the kitten.

Cheeto: 100% cute and he knows it

Louise is in a similar position to me work-wise, she’s a history graduate with a passion for teaching, but is facing something of a brick wall when it comes to getting on a training course.

She’s juggling a job a full-time job at a school with a sales job in the evening and voluntary work on the side. To say this girl has a busy schedule is an understatement.

Not that I’m biased or anything, but it would be criminal if she didn’t become a teacher. As Craig Revel Horwood would say, she would be fab.u.lous.

So after our mammoth catch-up I headed home, got myself yet another cuppa, and read my new issue of Cosmo in bed. Bliss.

So my Monday was pretty darn good.

Today it’s back to the day job. Have a good ‘un whatever you’re up to.

Another notch on the post

28 Oct

 No, not that  kind of post. Honestly your minds are in the sewers… I mean the rejection post.

 I’m the not-so-proud owner of yet another rejection email for a job that, although I didn’t particularly want, I would have accepted if they’d offered. You with me?

Not only was I told ‘no’ in a Family Fortunes-esque eh-uh kind of way, the one shred of hope I had that they’d got it wrong and wanted to try me out, was cruelly snatched away.

The first email entitled Application Update  read: “Thank you for your application for a role with _______.

I’m sorry to advise that unfortunately, on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful following the shortlisting process.”

So far, so familiar. Though I don’t like the use of the word advise, I prefer inform, but perhaps I’m being a tad fussy. And shouldn’t ‘shortlisting’ be two separate words, or hyphenated?

It continues: “We received a high volume of applications for this particular role, therefore, feedback will be available on this occasion.”

I’d use the word ‘number’ instead of ‘volume’ – it is referring to applications after all. I don’t like the overuse of the comma. It’s not a sub-clause so I wouldn’t bother with the second one.

And I’m fed-up of hearing about my failure ‘on this occasion’. Which other occasion could they possibly know about? Do they read this blog? Perhaps.

I’m delighted that given the high number of applicants they will work hard to give me feedback.

Then an hour later my email inbox pinged. It read: “Please ignore the previous email sent.”

Huzzah! Interview potential? The dawn of a new employment era? Erm no.

I scanned down the rest of the email which was a copy and paste job from the previous one, apart from a useful addition which read:

“We received a high volume of applications for this particular role, therefore, feedback will NOT be available on this occasion.”

Hopes dashed, big fat rain cloud over my new era, back to square one.

It concluded with a wishy-washy, generic, thanks-but-no-thanks and good luck with the future statement.

I don’t want your best wishes. I want job stability, a monthly wage and your pension scheme.

Perhaps I should have a new approach and instead of getting upset and annoyed I should use the rejection for the greater good like this chap:

 

 

 

 

It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you

26 Oct

Given the economic climate, the jobs market and the saturated graduate recruitment pool, the latest figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) are hardly surprising.

AGR statistics reveal that the number of CVs submitted for each vacancy has doubled since 2009. The largest employers receive on average 83 CVs for each post, with some companies receiving as many as 150 applicants per job. Crikey.

So how on earth are you meant to stand out from the crowd? Well there are two important things to bear in mind: targeting a CV or job application specifically to the job advertised and harnessing the potential of social networking.

Casting one’s net far and wide might seem a good idea, however prospective employers will see through the generic and throw your not-so-carefully-written application out of the window.

Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Britain’s largest private graduate recruiter, told The Independent that the figures suggest students are hedging their bets by sending out CVs en-masse.

“I think the sheer number of applications – which far outstrips the number of students graduating each year – shows that students are trying to send out as many applications as possible. That might seem like a good idea but I’d actually argue that those who send fewer, but more focused and targeted CVs, tend to do much better.”

It would seem that in media roles, it’s particularly bad form to go on fishing expeditions of any sort.

That’s partly why it’s been quiet on the old blogging front (mea culpa). I spent two days filling in a job application form which required the usual information (qualifications and employment history) but also how my training and experiences fulfil the key skills criteria.

It doesn’t sound that difficult, but when you’re desperate to impress someone and it’s a HANDWRITTEN application (shock horror) it takes longer than you’d think. One typo and the whole lot needs to be re-written. And it did.

Secondly it seems the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has a new web 2.0 spin.

Greg Johnson, a business executive and careers coach, recently wrote a blog post on this very subject.  Although it’s essentially advertising a workshop on how to utilise social media in a job search, the second paragraph got me thinking:

“It is not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

That little add-on went round and round my head. Perhaps subconsciously I had recognised this, after all I have been attempting to get people to know me. I have this blog, I have contacts through Facebook and Twitter, and I keep in touch with colleagues from previous jobs.

I then decided it was time to be serious about this social networking for employment malarkey and join LinkedIn. Cue confused face.

So I’ve joined, but my profile looks nothing like the others I’ve seen. It needs some serious work.

I’d rather have people ‘know me’ through LinkedIn thinking I’m a potential asset to their company, rather than thinking “What a sad case, she can’t even grasp how to use LinkedIn.”

So today chaps, it’s Operation Sort out Profile.

What are you up to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting an interview: how to make an impression and bag that job

17 Oct

If you’re looking for guru-esque advice about how to pass an interview with flying colours, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.

The blog title is more of an aspiration, rather than a ten point how-to guide.

In fact being invited for interview is something of an achievement at the moment.  I’ve lost count of the number of applications that I’ve filled in.

And I’m not talking a copy and paste exercise from one application or CV to another. I mean full-on in-depth analysis of the organisation, its values and principles and how I’d hope to fit in.

Of course 99% of the time I’m unsuccessful, well I assume so as no-one bothers to reply, but on rare occasions I get a reply which says: “We would like to invite you to interview.” Exciting times indeed.

Now as I’m just another wannabe hack, you may assume that I’ve not been all that successful in the interviews I have had. This is partly true. However I do have a decent track record in some respects.

As part of my degree I had to organise a 12-month placement in Westminster. As I was interested in going down the media route I opted to apply for a placement at The House Magazine.  

It wasn’t a given that they would take me on, but I must have done something right during the course of the 30-minute interview as I was offered the placement there and then.

On the train back up to Hull I did what any self-respecting successful applicant would do, I toasted my success with a half a bottle of rosé that I had smuggled onboard from the King’s Cross branch of M&S.

Runaway success onboard the Hull-bound train

I passed an ‘interview’ for my waitressing job and I also passed the interview I had for a temporary admin role. Granted they weren’t the most difficult.

And let’s not forget the post-grad journalism course I’ve just completed – part of the application process was an interview, along with a written test. But let’s face it, it would be pretty dire to fail an interview for a course I was intending to pay for.

Since completing my NCTJ this year I’ve attended two interviews and failed to bag that elusive first media job.

The first interview involved a five-hour round trip travelling by trains and taxis. It wasn’t so much an interview, as half a day’s unpaid work.

I had to undertake a number of typical journalism tasks including re-writing news stories, editing copy, researching the latest updates from the emergency services and compiling lists of potential leads. After three-and-a-half hours of doing that I was then taken into a back room to be interviewed.

It was more of an informal chat than an interview, and after a cursory glance at my portfolio which he noted contained, “all the usual student crap” he asked me the grand total of three questions:

(1)   Why do you want the job? (Insert lengthy explanation with examples here)

(2)   How would you handle a death knock? (Same as above)

(3)   Are you willing to relocate? (Yes)

As we shook hands he promised to get in touch regardless of the outcome. To be fair he did, four weeks later. And he said no.

The second interview was a two-day affair which involved me working (for free naturally) on a Thursday and Friday.

I wrote, chased and filed copy, conducted interviews and organised the photo diary over the course of the two days, with the only interview aspect being a five-minute chat asking how I was getting on.

My portfolio of work wasn’t even mentioned. Again I was told I would be informed of the outcome by the following Monday.

I wasn’t. Instead I found out the following week that I hadn’t got the job by virtue of the fact that a mutual acquaintance had accepted the role two days earlier.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?

(1)   Most places don’t respond when they say they will.

(2)   My portfolio isn’t as important as I imagined it would be.

(3)   An interview is essentially a licence for an organisation to get a bit of free work out of as many applicants as possible.

(4)   A lot of it is down to who, not what, you know.

(5)   It will inevitably involve some chasing on my part to find out the outcome of the interview.

(6)   You need extremely tough skin to succeed in this industry.

 However the following is still important:

(1)   Dressing smartly

(2)   Believing in yourself

(3)   Taking a portfolio with you (just in case)

(4)   Researching the organisation

(5)   Knowing your own experiences, skills and how they meet the criteria.

(6)   Identifying your own weaknesses and how to improve.

I’ll bear all this in mind the next time I’m lucky enough to be invited to a job interview.

For now it’s tea, toast and yet another application form.