Having very recently graduated from a well-respected English university, it is with a relatively small amount of regret that I admit; I have not yet found myself a place on the much-revered graduate employment scene. I am currently working part-time at a supermarket, as I have been doing since I began my final year of study, for paying the bills’ sake. Of course, a considerable portion of the rest of my time since I left university has been spent on searching and applying for graduate jobs. Consequently, another regrettably sizeable chunk of it seems to have been spent being told I ‘have been unsuccessful’ in such endeavours. It really is difficult not to get slightly downhearted when faced with rejection email after rejection email, especially when you have spent a great deal of time, effort and money travelling halfway across the country for interviews. (I’m sure other graduates in the same position who might be reading this are nodding in dispirited agreement at this point). However, I have recently come to feel that there might actually be, as everyone keeps trying to reassure me, something positive to take from such experiences. Yes, even when I’m being unsuccessful miles from home, I’m still gaining interview experience and I’m still trying, which is better than not trying – but I think this particular silver lining may run deeper than that.
I had something of an epiphany a few days ago, when I was woken up by a phone call from one of the many companies to whom I’d just applied for a graduate role. In this particular instance, my application had been less than enthusiastic; a quick upload of my CV and a generic cover letter saying everything I can only imagine everyone writes in a cover letter, and a sceptical click on the ‘Apply Now!’ button. And they were calling me. This ought to be interesting, I thought.
The call lasted around four minutes. A chirpy-sounding lady asked me first of all what had attracted me to a sales-focused role; I responded with all of the usual stuff about being a ‘people person’, highly driven and motivated and possessing exactly the right kind of personality to be successful in the role – and of course I talked a bit about my ‘relevant experience’ (ahem…) and how much I’d enjoyed gaining it. Next, she asked me whether I considered myself to be someone ‘particularly motivated by money’. I (less confidently) assured her that I did indeed consider myself to be such a person – almost to the point of questioning what better motivating force there could possibly be in life. She then asked me whether I would choose progression over financial reward, in my career. That was when I surrendered, and began to tell the truth. I told her that actually, in perfect honesty I couldn’t really go for the latter. I told her that I suspected I would be much happier in the knowledge that my career allowed me to help people, to contribute something positive to the world and to end each day with a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, than I would be in the knowledge that a fat paycheque could be mine at the end of each month…
And that was the end of that. She told me that she had been assessing my answers against the company’s desired competencies throughout the call, and unfortunately I didn’t meet their some of their criteria so they wouldn’t be taking my application any further. I said thankyou and goodbye in my very best ‘could I be any less surprised?’ voice, and thus yet another ‘unsuccessful’ was added to my list.
…And the epiphany? Well, I suppose I realised that the highly successful, respected individual who handed me my BA at my graduation ceremony might just have been right in what was, for me, one of the more memorable elements of his speech; Do not stay in a job where you are not happy, he said. Had I somehow managed to bluff my way through every stage of the aforementioned interview process and bagged myself a graduate role in sales, I very much doubt that I would have been truly happy in that role. Of course you can’t knock something until you’ve tried it, but another undeniable truth in life (very often denied, all the same) is that some people just aren’t really suited to some jobs. I have never considered myself to be the salesperson type – nor am I a particularly brilliant liar – so from now on I will not be absent-mindedly clicking ‘Apply Now’. Although my current job may not exactly be desirable, and may not allow me to begin fulfilling my true potential, I am quite happy to let it keep me going until I can find my way into a ‘proper job’ that I can genuinely get excited about – and one that actually suits me. If that ends up taking a while, then So Be It. Everyone seems to be in such a rush these days, and I know far too many people who wouldn’t hesitate to take just about any graduate position, whether it remotely resembled what they wanted to do with their lives or not, simply because it had the word ‘graduate’ in the title and they couldn’t bear to feel or appear unsuccessful any longer. Perhaps I’m being foolish, but I’m sure that the people carrying out these interviews can tell I’m not being entirely honest as I talk about how I’ve always wanted to work in X industry and they ought to hire me because I’m essentially Superwoman. From now on, if it isn’t really anything like what I’ve always wanted to do, and isn’t something I can truly see myself being successful and happy doing for a living, then I’m afraid their graduate role advertisement has been unsuccessful this time, and unfortunately I will not be taking my application process any further.