My life on the island

Job hunting in London can be fun. Not. Ever. It feels like my working life is a reality TV programme, and I keep getting voted off the island. And I have to keep going back on to the island to be voted off again!

If I could do anything that meant I could cease the hunt, and leave the island of my own volition, I would do so in a heartbeat.

I send off applications and the wait feels like a results programme, complete with a loud heartbeat soundtrack. “And the winner is ….. not you!”

Please don’t feel sorry for me! That’s not the purpose of my writing about this. I’m a survivor. While I do allow myself the indulgence of self-pity every now and then, I keep praying and going and know – through gritted teeth – that this thick skin I’m growing will serve me well. One day.

I recently applied for a writing job with a charity based in central London. I sent in the detailed application form (it wasn’t the one where I mentioned mud-wrestling with Mathew McConaughey, promise!) and waited to hear if I’d been shortlisted. A few days after the closing date, I had heard nothing, so I knew I’d been unsuccessful.

However, I decided to make sure. I sent an email enquiry, and got a reply, which is unusual; I guess I should be grateful for small mercies. The emailer advised me that unfortunately I’d not been shortlisted, but said I was welcome to call her for some feedback. I arranged a suitable time to do so.

We eventually spoke at the end of the day yesterday. She said I had completed the form well and my application was strong. (“Good girl! You made that song your own.”)

She said the fact that my experience was largely South African, was a key factor. (This is the first time I’ve been told that directly, and somehow it felt discriminatory. “We don’t know that song. Is it big in your country?”)

She went on to say how inundated they’d been with applications, and also gave me some feedback about my style of writing, and saying that how I wrote the application form did not fit their brand. Fair enough. And whatever. (“Maybe you need to work on your vocals.”)

However, the gem is yet to come…

She said to me, “If I can give you some advice as you continue your job hunting, it would be to get as much UK experience as possible.” Seriously?

All possible responses escaped me. All I could do was listen in bemused silence. Gob-smacked, that’s what I was! What I really wanted to say was, “And you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”

Sunshine signing off for today! The tribe has spoken.


26 thoughts on “My life on the island

  1. A friend of mine moved to England (just south of London) about 10 years ago. She didn’t try for a job in the profession she trained in, but went for more informal temporary jobs to begin with. I think it helped her to be assimilated quicker. To the point where she had enough local experience to be taken seriously.

    Have you tried joining a recruitment agency?

    1. Thanks for this. Yes, I have registered with about a dozen recruitment agencies – not terribly impressed, to be honest, although some of them are helpful. I’m turning over every stone! Sunshine x

      1. I think what I am up against is a global recession, major government spending cuts in the UK, and a further spending review coming up in Autumn that has sent shivers down the spines of the public and private sectors. There is unbelievable competition for every role – freelance, contract or permanent – and just too many applicants for too few jobs. Hmmm.

  2. Oh, Sunshine…I’m so sorry! That’s one of the things that makes me really angry about immigrants in Canada…they might have been professionals in their native countries, but they end up doing something menial like driving cabs because their credentials are not recognized here. We’re crying for doctors here, but foreign doctors have to go through all kinds of hoops to get certified!

    Try not to take it personally…something will come along! You’re a talented writer, and a great person! Any non-prof would be lucky to have you…


  3. Gosh, Sunshine. That’s my experience entirely in Canada! Because of all my training and experience in the states, I don’t have equivalencies for Canada (because Canada, in it’s effort to compete with the states, went ahead and remade all the rules to make themselves come out ahead), so I can’t get jobs I’m seriously overqualified for. I’ve been told I need to go back to school and start over! (I have two university degrees.) So, it’s been five and a half years, and the best I’ve gotten is a customer service job at a computer geek store. (My degrees are in psychology.) I hear you. I’ve given up. Seriously. The last job I tried for, which was just last month, was a day-care job. I was actually offered the job, but I couldn’t bring my own preschooler with me. So I looked into daycare for him…. and after the expenses of daycare, I would be making about $3 an hour. Not enough to watch other people’s screaming rugrats for hours on end while my own had to be somewhere else! Crazy!!! I very much sympathize with you. 😦

  4. Oh. All I can say is hang in there. What a difficult time to be searching for work and then to have to run into such a discouraging phone call. I hope the tides turn for you soon!

  5. One thing I have learnt is that one’s qualifications in your own country does not always fit in with the country you are visiting or residing in. I know of quite a few SA people in the USA who are “not qualified” to do the job yet they are the people that everyone flock to for advice.

    The only way I guess one gains experience is to be out there in amongst the culture in the work environment on a day to day basis. Prehaps something different like proof reading or something else to get a foot in the door?

    The birds are cared for daily, it will happen. Having said that though it does not make it easy and rejection on a regular basis does not help with the self esteem but you ARE a SURVIVOR and SURVIVING brings perseverance and character, character brings HOPE which in the end will not dissapoint 🙂 (Just like a true Roman)

  6. Sunshine–
    “to get job experience you need a job but to get a job you need job experience”.
    man–you could hit your head repeatedly against the wall until bloody and this type of catch-22 thinking would still rule the world.
    hang in there!

  7. I am a firm believer that when something is meant to happen it will. Does take patience, however.

    This obviously wasn’t the job you were meant to have and something better will come along. I will you all the best in your search, Sunshine!

  8. Do you remembert the movie Field of Dreams? There’s this popular line that says, “If you build it, they will come…”
    I was offered a writing job recently and I was so excited about it that I planned on buying myself a notebook (for props really, because i wanted that ‘writer’ look). But then i decided against it because I thought it was pretty expensive. A couple of days ago I got word that the writing job was shelved (for the time being). I blamed myself, I knew I should have gotten that notebook! Haha.
    Anyways, hang in there. Everything will fall into place. Will be rooting for you.
    🙂 Supergoddess Me

    1. Thank you so much, Supergoddess You! I’m looking forward to everything falling into place, I must say. And I’m rooting for you to get the notebook and the job that are right (write?) for you!
      Sunshine x

  9. Hello Sunshine! Good for you pushing through! That is the problem with us forrin-ERS … I mean … really … how are you supposed to get that all important experience one wonders if you keep getting voted off the island!! xx

  10. I’m so sorry the writing job didn’t work out. I don’t think employers here in the States would ever offer feedback to a candidate. I know it’s frustrating, but at least you have a little insight into what British employers may be looking for. I’m not suggesting it was a fair criticism, but knowing how others might be reading your resume seems like it would be enormously helpful the next time around. Hang in there!

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