The Metropolis

Six stages of being aspirationally unemployed in London

Christian Ledwell | Monday 18 November, 2013 12:31

Stay on the Job Uncle Sam poster

London is guttingly expensive. Work is hard to find. And young people have it the worst: the latest Labour Force Survey found that a quarter of Londoners aged 16-24 are unemployed.

If you do find yourself young and unemployed in London, here, from bitter personal experience, is how the job search might go.

Stage 1. Prepare your CV

The first step in job hunting is to hone your Curriculum vitae, the Latin term for “the sum of all your life’s work condensed, wrapped in a thick gauze of clichés, and forwarded into oblivion.” The digital age has provided us with a wealth of massive, faceless job sites that let you apply for reams of jobs in a single day, launching your CV into the most desolate and uncharted depths of an HR department’s inbox. If, after emailing out your 50th CV without a response, you begin to suspect that it isn’t worth the paper that it isn’t printed on, you may wish to consider networking.

Stage 2. Fail at Networking

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many jobs are never advertised in the first place, and that the way into this ‘hidden job market’ is through the mercenary and self-serving approach to friendship called networking. If your friends are just as unemployed as you are, networking events in the city can be a good chance to drink toxic wine with people you have nothing in common with other than your ravenous hunger for gainful employment and the free sandwich halves going stale in the corner of the room.

3. Stage 3. Fail at Freelancing

As you begin to appreciate the difficulty of finding a job in London, you may consider freelancing to find a few scattered hours of paid work. And while there are a number of burgeoning web services to connect the intrepid freelancer with employers, mind that you don’t find yourself spending several hours transcribing a jargon-laden conversation that sounds like it was recorded in the Blackfriars bridge underpass, only to be denied your desserts — a princely sum of £4.90 — because the client objects that too many of the inaudible sections are marked ‘inaudible.’

Stage 4. Turn recruitment tests into exercises in self-loathing

As your applications progress, organisations may screen you before an interview by asking that you complete a skills test to prove your maths and language abilities. Tasks include completing sequences such as “750, 500, 1151, 422, 1628, _____.” One strategy for a task like this is to think of the decreasing numbers in the sequence as representing your slowly dwindling bank account, and the increasing numbers as representing how many minutes you’re pissing away by not looking for a different job.

Stage 5. Embrace the horror of the Video CV

In lieu of a skills test, some employers are opting to have prospective employees record a video CV on a webcam so as to avoid being in the same actual room as the clamorous, over-caffeinated jobseeker. As the video CV need only include the applicant’s head and shoulders, standard attire includes a formal shirt and tracksuit bottoms. For best results, make sure the webcam video is properly lit, if only to bring out the last dull glint of hope left in your eyes.

Stage 6. Retreat to the pub.

Because everyone has to eat and drink, including you. Catering jobs leave you well-placed to commandeer the sandwich halves other jobseekers don’t finish at networking events. Alternatively, approach the manager of a local pub — at worst, when you hear the “thanks but no” so ubiquitous in London’s job market, at least you’ll have a consolatory pint on hand.

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