My job saga

So I notice that it’s been seven months since my last post, and that’s probably because I’ve been job-hunting pretty much the whole time.

Are you ready to share in the long and painful story of my job prospects in 2017?

Let’s begin.

The saga starts in January when my girlfriend got a new teaching job starting in York this September. We decided to relocate from Newcastle to York, and I thought I’d get a job in Leeds and commute.

Just five months before, I had managed to snag a job at a Newcastle PR agency within one week. Literally one week . . . I sent my CV on Wednesday, had an interview on Monday and accepted the job on Tuesday!

I didn’t expect getting my next job in Yorkshire would be that easy, but I didn’t think it would be this hard either.

Here’s how it all panned out.

  • Over the course of six months from February to July . . .
  • I made around 30 applications . . .
  • Of which, I was invited to nine interviews . . .
  • Of which, I got five rejections, one ‘reserve list’ and two that I didn’t progress
  • I used up six days’ annual leave
  • I spent at least £323.50 on train travel (plus extra for petrol)
  • Longest wait for any reply after interview: 6 weeks (yes, weeks!)

As you can tell from all that, it’s been a pretty rough slog of a year so far.

Here’s the thing: I think of myself as very employable. I’m Cambridge educated, have had a good run of roles and employers, and have been promoted upwards too. It’s probably these that got me nine interviews (a pretty good record). So I hate to think of how hard job-hunting is for other people without a good CV on paper.

In general recruiters and employers were quite sympathetic to me as a candidate (though it didn’t feel like it at the time and just one day’s delay would send me mad!) and I got some good feedback too.

What frustrated me about some employers and interview panels was their complacency. When you have job security you forget about the wild fluctuations in emotion and the deep underlying stress of it all. You also forget that job-hunting usually comes with a whole load of other baggage. In my case, I was house-hunting in York, selling a house in Newcastle and planning a wedding.

I could see people on interview panels thinking that this is just another role and just another candidate, but hell it really didn’t feel like it to me. As time ticked on it felt like I was never going to get a job, my new life in York was a mistake, my career choice in general wasn’t suited to me, and so on.

And of course, after all that, I have eventually got a job offer and will be starting in the next few weeks.

It’s not the answer to all my problems. In fact it’s only the basis for a solid muggle life, and from here I have a lot of writing to catch up on. But it’s a start.

Advice.

I really don’t have much to offer for any job-hunters out there.

Job hunting is tough. And it’s as long as a piece of string.

One thing. I made a conscious decision early on not just to take any job out of desperation (in fact I could have taken a job in March) and instead to make sure I was getting the right role, salary and career prospects. Taking this approach set me back a long way, so I suppose if you want a job now then you could lower your expectations in the short-term.

A mentor told me “Keep going” and that’s what I did, but to be honest there’s not really much choice.

That’s my job saga. Does this ring any bells with you? Want to share in my pain at all?

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Why not being a writer is good for writers

I’ve follow Amie McNee for a while on Instagram and read her latest blog post dealing with that awful question for aspiring writers: “But what’s your real job?”

This got me thinking (and I never know where I fall on this debate so I thought for a long time!)

I find answering this question so awkward that I always say I’m a PR man who does creative writing as a hobby. So first of all: well done Amie and everyone else who proudly says “I am a writer!” It takes guts.

But there are things I don’t quite agree with – and I don’t think it’s just me being pedantic (though that has been known).

First off all a ‘job’ is whatever pays your bills, so if you ain’t getting at least some cashflow from writing, then writing ain’t your job. It can be your passion, your goal, hell even your life purpose (all of which are more meaningful than just a job) but it can’t be your job.

Secondly, just as we should be proud as writers, we shouldn’t be ashamed of our jobs. Loads of aspiring, and even successful, writers have jobs as teachers or PRs or freelancers or lawyers or whatever. If you’re in denial about the fact you’re not a full-time paid writer, then that’s not healthy.

Thirdly (and this is where my title makes sense) I think there’s a way of solving the writer-job conflict. I think we’ve got to embrace our shitty time-consuming jobs which take us away from our real passion. That’s right, cherish all of those frustrating emails and long meetings and 7-hours-a-day spent away from your novel.

I’m not just being facetious here. I genuinely think there’s merit in having a separate work life: it’s full of writerly material like characters and situations you don’t get elsewhere; it connects you to a different world in which your priorities don’t matter; its humbling; it forces you to analyse yourself and your environment.

For me, one of the worse sins that full-time writers commit is writing a novel about writers and writing. JK Rowling does it with Cormorant Strike investigating the publishing world. Richard Yates does it in Young Hearts Crying. Even Philip Roth is guilty.

These are the books in which you have a character or narrator who is a novelist or poet and they spend their time writing and thinking about writing. And it’s all because the real writer has nothing else to talk about. Professional writers have no material as compelling, no passion or drive as vital, as those of us who spend our time at some other job.

So I think we should use our jobs for our own purpose. To mine material, to make us more determined and focused. That’s what some great work-based novels do, like Heller’s Something Happened and Yates’ Revolutionary Road.

That’s why for me, not being a writer is one of the best things for my writing.