Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Will you move for a job?" and other irritating questions.

Today I came home from work and cried. Not that this is unusual, I'm a known crier. But I cried out of sheer frustration after three conversations about my job hunting and lack of success.

It's no news that job hunting is exhausting. It's no news that it's no fun. What's even more exhausting though is the constant interrogation about it when people know you'll be looking for a job.

Now, there are various types of people in this scenario.

  1.  Genuine friends who listen to your answers and make comments/suggestions based on their    knowledge of your situation/personality.
  2.  People who genuinely mean well but don't know much about your situation. 
  3.  People who want to feel a bit better about themselves

1 and 2 are great. They mean well. 2 can get tiring when people don't get it, but it's not their fault, they genuinely mean well and wish you well. 3 well they're a pain in everyone's butt.

Let me give you an example of a conversation with someone from 1:

Friend: How's the job hunt going? or alternatively tell me to go fuck myself.  
Me: Go fuck yourself. 
(it's worth noting we then did have a real conversation about it, but the point still stands)

An example of 2:

Person: How's the job hunt going? have you tried X and Y thing?
Me: Bit rubbish, it's tough out there. I tried X thing but no luck and Y thing doesn't really help in my field. 
Person: Oh that sucks. Still I'll keep my eye out for you in case I see anything suitable. 

Person 3 however, will inform you of all kinds of 'wisdom' about what you're doing wrong, about where to look for a job, what to do when you apply. As if you never applied for a job in your life.

Person 3 will also make judgments about the kind of job you're suitable for, the kind of job that you're applying for. And many more things.

It's worth noting that none of today's job-interrogators were person 3. They were all well meaning person 2 types, who genuinely (I think anyway) want to see me succeed. But it's exhausting. And in every long conversation someone will utter the words;

"Well are you willing to move?"

Depending on the person type (see above) this is either a well meaning gesture to see if there are opportunities elsewhere. Or in the case of person 3 a judgment on your commitment to the cause of getting a job. Probably I might add having never moved further than the end of the road themselves.

Now let's put something out there: moving for a job is all well and good. But it's not as simple of  'I see a job in yonder field I shall to to it'. In particular being a single young-ish person it's assumed I'll happily bounce from city to city for a job.

But it's not that simple. Firstly, moving costs money. The 100s of pounds it costs in letting fees, deposit and physically moving is either a big investment or a whole lot of debt. Secondly doing all that again in 12, 15, 18 months isn't a practical or pleasant way to live. And given the perpetuation of fixed term contracts, it's likely that's the case.

Secondly I have a life here. I've been here 8 years, I have a life. Making friends and integrating into groups is hard as a grown up. I'm not sure I want to do that again. And as a single woman I would be alone-I'm not taking a partner or family with me. And you're either left with a great job and no life, or worse a job you don't like and no life. It's hard. And I'm an only child of a single, older parent with no extended family. And while my Mum would never stand in my way, that factors in to a decision in ways that people with siblings, two parents and extended family can't understand.

And where do you move to? it's always a gamble. I live in a pretty damn good city. Cardiff gives me culture and amenities, and being close to countryside if that's your thing...and it's a little thing but I can be pretty much anywhere I need to be in half an hour. I just like it here. So sue me.

So "Are you willing to move" isn't so easy. And it isn't as black an white as "If you wanted a career you'd do it"

Yes I want a career, but I also want a life.

And then there's the question of "Well what do you want to do then" well as I talked about in my last blog here I'm coming to terms with not succeeding as an academic, and you know what I don't actually know what to do know. I have some thoughts (which will be my next blog) some more serious than others, some more realistic than others. But honestly, right now, right this second, it's all fallen apart a little bit and I don't know. And some days that's fine, and some days it's terrifying. I feel like I do nothing but make poor choices in my career, and that it's already all too late and I've sacrificed everything for nothing. And I'm terrified of making a wrong decision again. And I grew up never having much money, and so the thought of being really poor always terrifies me. Not in a greedy way, but in the knowledge that you need money for security that comes from having times when there was none. And it's all consuming, and lends itself to fits of extreme anxiety and if I spend too long thinking about it all it's hard to breathe. So a lot of the time I have to force myself not to.

And to do that I try to make peace with it all, I make peace with the frustration and I just have some kind of blind faith that it'll work out. Because it always has, ish. I keep telling people I'll just get a temp job (or three) for a while, and they recoil in horror. But you know worse things have happened, no really they have.

Last week I was reading Matt Haig's brilliant book "Reasons to Stay Alive" and listening to Glee (which is probably proof positive I needed to read that book) and this mash-up came on:

Glee-Survivor/I will Survive

And I remembered that three years ago I started learning that in choir on the Monday. On the Tuesday my (then) best friend got me fired from my job.

Three years later I've got a PhD, held down and been good at and survived two more difficult jobs. Three years ago was job rock-bottom. This, this isn't even close.

So go ahead Person Three, ask me the stupid questions. Imply I'm lazy and not motivated if I don't move to Bolton, or the Shetland Islands for a job, be horrified at my return to temp jobs or a job in Starbucks (don't knock it I loved that job, other coffee multinationals are available...). Because I've been knocked down harder, and more often than this.

And of course if you hear of any jobs do pass them on, it's always appreciated. None of this is to say that genuine help isn't greatly appreciated. And I'm so very grateful for all the genuine offers of keeping an eye out for jobs, for suggestions of places to look. Or just the offer to tell someone to go fuck themselves. In what is undeniably a right shitter of a time in anyone's life, it's the good people that make it all bearable. So that's Persons 1 and 2. You make me less likely to cry.