Adventures of a young jobseeker
Órla discusses her obstacles and triumphs through looking for a job, inspired by SpunOut's Compass
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I came out in tears, deciding I didn't ever want to attend a job interview again."
Getting a job as a younger person can sometimes feel as difficult as climbing Everest. Most employers want experience, but how can we get experience if no one will hire us? This vicious cycle remains one of the most difficult employability challenges to break. The key to finding a job as a young person in my experience is to keep persevering. I started working as I approached 17.
I'd just finished my Leaving Cert, made a complete mockery of my CAO and decided I needed a break from education. Off to work I go, but nothing's ever that simple. I found myself being shut out, spending all of my money on printing CVs that were going nowhere but the recycling bin and applying for every type of job I didn't even really want but just for something to do.
Hiring managers can be difficult and somewhat vicious to young people too. A particular interview with a well-known supermarket chain will always stand out to me because of the attitude of the interviewer towards me, and young jobseekers in general. At 17, eager to take a leap into the working world and having one of my first big job interviews was the most exciting feeling yet. I remember getting the call from HR, my heart swelling with pride that finally someone wanted me for a job. I got all dressed up for my interview and set off into a dimly lit office to face my faith. I came out in tears, deciding I didn't ever want to attend a job interview again.
The cause? A HR professional who spent 40 minutes completely berating my choice to take a gap year to save for college. Why didn't I go straight to college? Didn't I know I'd find it difficult to get back into education? Did I really think I could get a good job with no qualifications? Where would hire me with just a Leaving Cert? She all but told me that taking some time off to work would be my demise. I was in pieces and my already weak confidence was completely knocked. I didn't get the job. Hurt from this experience I trundled on, continuing to apply for every job possible. I handed out more CVs than I had hot dinners and spoke with managers and shop owners and people in FAS offices (now Solas) and still nowhere would hire me. I now completely understand the disarray and dismay felt by thousands of young jobseekers everyday; it's gut-wrenching, painstaking and totally draining to continuously receive rejection notes (and even worse then this, the radio silence of being ignored).
I've had my fair share of bigger nightmares, too. I've attended open interviews for big-named companies in which I sat in tiny rooms with 30 other young people fighting for two positions, and I’ve been grilled by suited men in hotel lobbies for jobs with companies that definitely weren't legit. A few years ago I got a job in a hotel in which I applied for a role as a waitress. On arrival I was trained in as a hotel maid, put to work in a laundry with several Eastern European ladies with little English in searing summer heat and paid almost half the minimum wage. When I questioned it, I was told I could leave if I wanted. I did. Eventually I found a break. A local garage opened in the area and by luck I got chatting to the manager who needed a new shop assistant. I was hired and finally left the vicious cycle that is jobseeking; five or so years later and I haven't left the world of employment.
I just needed the break and this is all any young jobseekers need: someone to believe in their abilities and not just see an inexperienced child when they see an underdeveloped CV. Being a young person looking for employment is difficult. Being a young person in the working world is even harder; the working world is vicious especially when you're the "baby" of the workforce. We’re forced to fight harder, develop thick skin and learn quicker because of our age. I've not been taken seriously on several occasions in meetings, with suppliers, in interviews and with clients because of my age. Why should my digits define what I can and cannot do? I am one of the lucky ones that have been in steady employment relatively since I was of age.
I'm about to graduate with a Honours Degree and I can already see myself and my peers being tossed back into the vicious world of employmentseeking. As graduates, we'll enter the work force at the bottom of the food-chain—my experiences as a teenage jobseeker already setting me up for the fight for recognition and equality that I can already see on the horizon ahead of me. I am ready for the challenge of proving my worth but I really should haven't to prove anything merely based on my age. Age doesn't define my abilities and my efforts, and it shouldn't damage my opportunities.
To me age shouldn't define anything. At 22, I may not have as many life experiences as those with years on me but that doesn't mean I have any less brain capacity or ability to work hard in anything I do. We're a generation defined as lazy because of the high youth unemployment rates but we're far from the oafs we're being made out to be by society, by our politicians and by the media. We’re just not being given the opportunities to show what we can do. Give us the chance and we'll succeed. Invest in us and our abilities and we'll show the world what us young people can do!
Órla also blogs over at ohheyorla.wordpress.com