Job Seeking in a Cut-Throat World.
Updated: Jun 18, 2021
Earlier this year I was a casualty of a business decision that led to my redundancy. In the past six months, I have applied for hundreds of jobs, been to a handful of interviews and made the final round for two different roles.
I spent hundreds of dollars compiling what I like to call, “Job Boxes”. I wrote a story that outlined my career path and printed it on a high stock card, bought tea bags, cookies, made personalised cards, placed them in beautiful document boxes and sent them off to publishers and editors around the country. I was filled with a sense of hope and really thought that I had made the impact needed to stand out of the crowd. Alas, nothing came of that, so I went back to the drawing board.
I reached out to people I admire on Linkedin. Made a few contacts, had a few conversations but still very much unemployed. I went back to the employers that didn’t hire me to see if any opportunities had come up. You wouldn’t believe it; one magazine actually did have something available. They asked me to come in for an interview. A week prior to this call being made, I sustained an injury that resulted in a herniated disc. Nonetheless, I got in my car with my sick daughter in tow, handed her over to her dad, who met me outside the office, limped up the stairs and sat through a thirty-minute interview, fighting back tears of searing pain. Just to really bring this cliché home, a thunderstorm rolled in out of nowhere. The role was a junior position, I maintained that I was prepared to take a pay cut and be a team player, in the hope of career progression and getting a foot in the door. And I meant it. Once again, my hope was revitalised. I joked to my friends that I had to stop watching Real Housewives and start reading so I can be around intelligent people.
The next day, the magazine informed me that they would advertise the position and get back to me in a few weeks. A business decision that makes perfect sense and is completely understandable. I don’t envy those in a position of hiring people. It can be a really tough process and I know that it is never personal. That’s business. But this last blow hit me hard.
It’s very possible that my injury and recurring back problems have played a big part in the feeling of helplessness. So far I have been told:
· I’m overqualified
· I have too much experience
· I don’t have enough SEO experience
· I’m too senior for this role
· I’m too junior for the role
· My salary expectations (which continue to dwindle) are too high
But my all-time favourite rejection email went as follows:
Thanks for applying for the role of editor of ------
The standard of applications was ridiculously high. After a long process, we have appointed our editor and unfortunately, it’s not you!
That is an email I received from an actual human being. I’m not sure if the person who sent the email thought it was light-hearted and a humorous way to let someone down. Perhaps they did, and that’s fine. In the past when I have had to call or email unsuccessful candidates, I did so with a touch more sensitivity. Maybe because I’ve been in this position more times than I care to admit. Who knows, perhaps this email will be funny when I am employed?
So after a steady spate of rejection emails, writing lengthy applications and trawling through job boards, I gave myself a moment. I thought back to a comment a friend made after I told him about my experience looking for work,
“The writing world seems cut-throat”
Yeah...it is. The reality is, there aren’t many jobs available and a bunch of talented, smart writers ready to fill the roles. That got me thinking; maybe I can go back to uni and get another qualification? Perhaps I can do an apprenticeship and learn a trade. I could even establish a whole new career utilising transferrable skills I have learnt along the way. The world is my oyster.
I seriously contemplated a flower arrangement course and seeing out my days creating bouquets and centrepieces. I completed six different career quizzes and got some interesting results: academic, performer, journalist, writer or scientist.
The fact is I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child. My parents would yell at me for reading at the dinner table, staying up too late reading in the dark, getting distracted because I desperately wanted to get back to a book. I’ve always loved reading, especially fiction. I’m blessed (and sometimes cursed) with a vivid imagination that allows me to be transported to a fictitious world through carefully curated words.
When I was 14 years old, I would block out my Saturday morning, buy the Sydney Morning Herald (it was huge back then) make a pot of coffee and read section by section. I would think of the journos typing away in the busy newsroom and longed to be part of that world.
From a very young age, I would write observational pieces, not quite journaling, more documenting the world around me. My thirst for knowledge and genuine interest in people made the writing process very easy. But I wouldn’t dare show anyone my words. Although I longed to be a writer, my gregarious nature and ease of networking led to a career in advertising and marketing for newspapers. I still made it to the newsroom, just doing a different job on the other side of the glass wall. I befriended the writers and the journos and asked thousands of questions. I fell in love with them and I still consider them family to this day.
After five years in the game, I was brave enough to ask an editor I worked for, for a chance to write. He happily gave me the opportunity. Furthermore, he saw the makings of potential talent. I continued to write gaining more confidence with every published piece. First, it was friends that published me, then strangers, then actual editors that paid for my words. It was crazy to me that I was finally doing what I had always longed to do.
My first role as an editor was such an incredible experience. I managed a small team, raised the profile of the publication using my marketing experience, networked to gain more advertisers and wrote my little heart out. It was perfect. The job paid about 5 cents an hour and it was a whole lot of work (I was pregnant and had a two-year-old, working from home) but I did it, and I did it well. That was the game-changer for me. I finally called myself a writer. I said the words out loud to anyone who cared to listen.
After 20 years in media, working in many different roles and organisations, four redundancies, and a splash of heartache, I find myself always going back. Perhaps I’m a masochist. Or maybe this is a passion that won’t burn out. I want to write, I want to be an editor, I want to be in a team with thought-provoking, intelligent people that I can learn from. So here I am again, dusting myself off, giving it a red-hot go. I’m nothing if resilient.
So if you know someone in need of a writer or an editor, (even an apprentice florist) let me know.