I’ve been in London for quite a few months now. Every so often, someone asks how long, and I sit there like a petooty counting on my fingers. I think it’s 9. Nine months. Long enough to have a baby. Three quarters of a year. Three seasons, in a climate that actually has distinct ones. A Really Long Time.
My Grand Plan for London (which I mused about here) was to arrive. Try not to sit in a gutter with my suitcase and cry. Upon achieving that, shake myself off, get a fabulous job, and proceed to live a glamorous working London life.
Ahhh, youth. Idiot.
I’m not the most go-getter person around. I have vague ideas about what I want (to work in publishing) and no very clear idea about how to do it. I’m not a door-basher. I’m not a person that pushes in your face with persistence. I’m what’s probably best described as a … wallflower. I guess? See, can barely make a definitive statement about what I am. I graduated with a pretty ace media degree, and worked in online communications (social networking administrator/media liaison-y sort of role) for a few months while ‘saving’ to get over here. While friends from uni have been off doing cadetships at the ABC, editing journals and magazines, doing feature writing, and stamping their bylines all over national publications, I’ve been doing … not much.
In my defence, I didn’t want to start work in Sydney. The thought of settling into a career job straight out of 5 years at uni was death. I was sick of the city, sick of the people (friends excepted of course. Love ya babes, all), and sick of stagnating. So ‘going to London’ was the perfect answer to what I planned to do after graduation.
I lived off ‘getting to London’ for a damn long time. I think it paralysed me actually. I got here, and then I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore. I’d ‘done’ what I’d been planning to do for so many months. Years even. Boom. The ‘what next’ question hovered around the periphery of my brain, occasionally becoming more persistent whenever I checked my bank account, or when my mum asked me how the job hunt was going. In the meantime however, there were meanders to be had along the Thames, and pints and pints of beer to drink.
And then I did start trying to get a job. Let me put this out there now: I’ve never applied for a job in my entire life. Aside from a job at the newsagents when I was 15. Other than that, I’ve never had a job interview, having always fallen into things. Which was great at the time, but has since made job hunting akin to stalking Medusa to cut off her braids. Where do you even start?
Job hunting sucks. It sucks balls. At first I optimistically sent off tailored CVs and accompanying cover letter with aplomb. Who wouldn’t want to hire me? According to the deafening silence of my inbox – everybody. Not a single reply. Nada. The continuous non-rejections wore me down. Down down down until I no longer read job descriptions with hope and a vague buzz of excitement, but rather with the particular feeling of dread that comes from the fear of being invisible. Was my CV so bad? I’d worked in an interesting role. I had a variety of random skills. I had good marks at uni. Why were my applications so crap as to not even require a ‘better luck next time’ consideration email?
Eventually I settled into café work (again, another job I didn’t apply for – thanks cousin Tim for the hook up!), and then moved onto another café (amazing the friendships you can make while drunk, and where they get you). I comforted myself with the thought that I was still trying, still looking at job adverts. Just drinking a hell of a lot of lattes in the meantime. Working for £6 an hour is nothing less than soul-destroying (do the maths – stand on your feet for 8 hours, and you still don’t even get to take home a full £50).
But I had new friends, and was an expert at flinging my drunken self onto the last tube home – result! There were weekend jaunts to Edinburgh and Prague and Paris. Day trips to Bath and Bicester Village. Summer lingered, and autumn turned out to be a beautiful display of crunchy leaves and cooling breaths. Believe it or not, the novelty of mittens, a knitted scarf from Zara, and mulled wine lulled me along for another few weeks. I was experiencing London. I was enjoying myself. I was just taking another path. I occasionally applied for jobs, and I’d at least had a few interviews by this time – one with a music company to do their social network/media management side. Another with an online retailer. Each time, I pictured myself in this new employed world, with money funding my starving shoe habit, and new groups of fabulous friends that worked in ‘the media’. Finally! Back on track! Until I met a new kind of deafening silence – the post interview silence. Which does get broken, ever so politely, with rejection. Awesome. I now considered finding a job in London to be impossible. ‘It’s impossible!’ I would declare to my mother, my friends, my grandparents. ‘Over 200 applications per role! Disgraceful!’ I would whinge to my similarly struggling friends. ‘Don’t give up,’ I would whisper to my own reflection. And everyone would murmur comforting things like ‘recession’ and ‘terrible times to be a graduate’ and ‘something will turn up’. Except for my reflection, which would either give me the finger and run off, or start poking at my newly acquired, Heathrow-Injection-beer-fuelled belly.
So for a long time I felt splinched between my plan (get a job) and my new plan (forget about getting a job, have fun). In an attempt to find a common sense answer to my splinching, I did what any sensible person would do: decided to try and work for free...