(This was first posted on Medium on 18/11/23 if you’d prefer to read it there it will rank higher and more people will come across it organically. The link is here)
We thank you wholeheartedly for your interest in the position and appreciate your offer to work for free on a trial basis but at this time we have made the decision to not proceed with your application.
It is a sad state of affairs when a message such as this makes you smile. When you are thankful to receive this email. When you’ve found a job description, researched the company, their products, their competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, adapted your CV specifically for that job and the company to align with their values, written a cover letter referencing all of this using the same language they use on their socials. When you have done this hundreds of times, for hundreds of jobs. And received zero reply or recognition. The bar is set so low by this repeated disappointment that you are grateful simply to receive a rejection letter. You find satisfaction in simply being seen as a person, even as an unwanted person.
This wasn’t intended to be a ‘woe is me’ article. I’m not inviting you all to the pity party. Some of you will be fully aware of what a mess the job market is in right now. Others may be comfortable in their position completely oblivious to what is going on. A portion of you will be thinking of leaving your job or changing career entirely and this post will fill you with dread. A good majority of the workforce is, rightfully, frustrated to their core at the situation we find ourselves in.
Many employers showed their true colours during COVID; thousands in the UK found themselves out of work almost overnight. We banded together and got through it. One positive was the ‘work from home movement’. Employers and employees alike realised we do not need to be in the office to work effectively. We can be at home, comfortable, without the commute adding to the stress and hours worked.
Disclaimer: not everybody benefited from this; for example I worked in construction as a self-employed individual, could not work from home and got zero help.
Somehow in the two years post-COVID the job market has got worse. Many employers have put a halt to the work from home movement, ordering employees back to the office regardless of the negative effects on morale and productivity. Economists predicted a boom once the pandemic was over but we’ve barely had a fizzle. New technology, skills and attitudes were meant to usher in a renaissance of sorts. The old ways are finished and new, young, fresh industry was supposed to give us job satisfaction along with work/life balance and actually care about the workers.
The companies that closed have not been replaced. Instead the companies that have stayed open have picked up more work, which means more work for the employees but they are at least reimbursed for the extra workload right? Not exactly. There may be a small, almost insignificant wage raise on paper year on year but inflation has ballooned out of control and we find ourselves in a ‘cost of living crisis’ with many unable to afford their utility bills and weekly food shops. National media has described the current situation for many as ‘heat or eat’, many cannot afford both. In addition the majority of people under the age of fifty have not been in a position to buy a home so instead rent privately, and of course landlords have seen the past few years as the perfect time to increase rent costs. Supply and demand, baby!
In summary the economy is down the toilet, the job market is a shambles, our bank accounts are empty and our mental health is barely hanging by a thread. But there is hope. From darkness cometh light. When times are hard and we, as a people, are forced to find a way then real ingenuity and innovation starts to shine.
There are bands of people that have turned their back on the traditional systems of work that have governed us for centuries. Some of these range from extreme anti-work groups and off-the-grid communities to ‘solopreneurs’ and creatives able to leverage their talent and hard work online. Many lament the internet and what it has done to us, with fair reason. We are completely ‘on-demand’ with information, entertainment, even food and physical objects available to be delivered to us almost immediately at the touch of a button. The revolution will be televised and the gratification will be instant.
Regardless of the many issues that lay at the feet of the omnipotent internet none can argue with the opportunities it has afforded us. Previously the arts were ruled by gatekeepers; one had to be exceptionally talented and lucky to break in, especially if they didn’t have the right contacts. But nowadays anybody can upload a video to YouTube, make animation on Blender, learn how to code online, and yes, even write an article on Medium.
It is not only access to the arts the internet has granted us. We are connected to the whole world and if we have a skill we can use it to help anybody who needs it, directly. In times gone by our skills were limited to the requirements of our immediate geography. If you live in a small fishing village good luck selling your stock-brokering services.
These skills I alluded to that can be sold online are exactly that — skills. Not natural talent or even life purposes. They are skills. And skills can be learned by anyone. Of course, it makes sense for one to learn skills in a sector they have experience or interest in, though it is not essential. From a young age I have adored writing and been fascinated with technology and it is these categories that I aim to become knowledgable, skilled and valued.
Creating characters to act as, building worlds to get lost in, making up stories that fascinate and writing poetry that entices. There is something about eliciting emotion from others that fills me with wonder and energy. There is nothing I love more than solely using my imagination to make someone laugh, cry, dread or demand more. I have written many stories and have many, many, MANY more I’ve yet to write but while I still struggle to see writing as anything other than a hobby I have to be somewhat pretentious and acknowledge it is a skill of mine that is of a decent level. I have interest plus experience (even solely on a personal level) and there are people out there that need writers.
We didn’t have much growing up but I do remember us having an Amiga gaming system. It definitely wasn’t mine, there was a chain of command in our house and I had to get my dad and older brother’s permission before being allowed to play. It was essentially a keyboard, mouse and hard drive the size of an American football that plugged in to your TV. It completely blew me away. The games came on floppy disks and two I distinctly remember was Theme Park and a simple program where you could type anything you wanted and the computer voice would read it back to you. Nothing was funnier to 5 year old me than hearing a computer swear or attempt to read a page of incomprehensible button bashing. Better gaming systems arrived every three or four Christmases but it was when we got our first home PC that I really got to scratch that technology itch. Even before we had internet you simply could not get me off the thing. I wanted to know everything you could do on it, how it worked, what I could manipulate. When AOL internet came around the sound of the dial-up modem connecting was sweeter than any symphony I could ever imagine.
I have other skills, experience and interests that I’m sure will help me or may even offer a completely new endeavour in time but for now my focus is on writing and technology. I plan to write regular articles on Medium, find freelance work on Fiverr and UpWork, pivot my website from a glorified journal into a reputable writing blog, and grow my socials around this interest of mine. As for technology I plan to expand my knowledge and skills using introductory coding sites and courses as well as Google Digital Workshop. This may be basic level stuff and laughable to seasoned veterans but we all have to start somewhere and if the skills I learn aren’t worth people paying for then I guess I’ll just have to learn more and keep going until they are valuable.
So while kind people on the internet paying for my services may appear to be my employer this is not true, they are clients. I am the employer, finding work. I am also the employee, doing the work.
Not only am I the employer and employee, I am also the problem. The only obstacle in this pursuit is myself.
Consistency has been a problem for me even in times of comfort and contentment, never mind times of desperation. Another issue is resilience, though it is a strength of mine. Life has thrown a lot at me and while I may struggle I have kept going and largely remained optimistic that everything will work out. The issue I have with resilience is not to keep going when times are tough, it is to keep going when nothing is happening. The thought of posting articles, fiction and social media updates regularly and getting nothing back but radio silence does fill me with dread. Just like the lack of responses to job applications I talked about at the start of this article. It is the nothing, the silence, the void that kills you. I’ll take rejection and criticism all day.
I just have to fight through and remain consistent. Maybe it will take ten thousand posts before I get any attention at all but when that happens I have ten thousand posts to look back on and a skill I’ve refined and honed over and over. Everybody lauds a boxer’s knockout punch, a footballer’s exquisite goal or an Olympian teetering on perfection winning gold but what they don’t see is the thousands of hours the individual puts in to that one specific skill or the years of hard work behind the ‘overnight success’.
One more barrier of my own making is the fact I have barely shared anything I have created with anyone I know. The thought of my family or friends seeing something I have written is anxiety inducing. For this reason I am still debating creating entirely new social media accounts and doing my best to ensure only internet strangers see my work. But if I am to be successful I’m sure one day people I know will see my work so this is something I will have to learn to overcome. And if, by chance, you do know me in the real world and happen to uncover my internet endeavours feel free to ignore my claims that silence is worse than criticism, I would welcome you saying nothing at all — although maybe in time I will be open to a kind word or two.