Another where-do-I-go-from-here thread
July 12, 2010 2:40 PM   Subscribe

UK English graduate can't find proper job. Keep searching, take time out, or get more qualifications? (Also regrets degree, wishes he'd gone science or IT. Would not be amiss to getting-a-second-degree-without-funding advice.)

So I'm an english graduate, cue laughter, and I can't get anything more than temp office work. I know the recession has buggered everyone's chances to find a job, but still: what would people say is the best direction to take job-wise, and what would be a good way of going about doing it?

As far as I'm aware there's three choices: keep job-searching; get more qualifications; or bugger it and do something 'fun' (travel, new hobby etc.).

So for choice 1, everyone keeps saying we're in a recession and that job-hunting just won't get you anything, but then there's other people saying it's perfectly plausible with the right techniques and graft. Also I suspect that more than half the reason I've not got a job is because I'm not putting in enough effort. I graduated two years ago and made about five job applications per month while searching. I currently make about, oh, zero. I recently bought a book on job-searching that said I should be doing at least five applications a day if I was serious about trying to find work. Have I just been lazy in my job search? Is five-a-day really the baseline standard?

Having said that, I can rarely seem to find anything I could actually do. I haven't got any specific, demonstratable skills (ie. proficiency in languages), there are no jobs that specifically require my degree, and all the general degree jobs seem to be marketing / management type things that require "bubbly, outgoing dynamic motivators with a burning passion to inspire others". I'm about as far down the other end of the personality scale as you can get without being an out-and-out recluse, and I really dislike postions of authority or those requiring lots of people-contact. (Okay maybe I am an out-and-out recluse.)

Which leads onto option 2: getting more qualifications. From what I hear, science and IT are good areas to go into and they're basically the things I'm most interested in. I work with computers all the time; and back when I was choosing what degree to go for I was wavering between Biology, Chemistry or English before finally choosing the latter (I did all three at A-Level, getting A, B and B respectively). I basically thought that any degree would aid in job-hunting and I went with English (the course was a pile of shite and I hated it but I stuck it out - got a 2:1 and won a departmental prize in my second year, and it seems to have been good for precisely zilch. Sigh. I actually regret not taking a science degree, and not just for the lack of employment... but that's by the by at this point.)

Apparently science is the best route to a job these days and I've always really loved studying it. But it seems like the bigger shift in direction from an english degree (writing skills being good for website building in IT, not so much for lab work), and the only route I know of into sciences is to go back to university. Which will a) take several years, what with refresher courses and probably only being able to study part-time, and b) be unaffordable since, as far as I'm aware, funding isn't available for second degrees any more in the UK.

IT looks like the better option job-wise. I think I'd be best suited to something like web design (although I base this solely on the fact that I can write a decent sentence and know my way around basic layout designing). Does anyone know of any good courses, or industiral routes? Would a degree help, if I got past the aforementioned problems? With regard to the industrial route, I tried joining an intensive 5-month program at a company called Zenos; they were all ready to take me, but then they found I have a degree and said "sorry, we can't take you". So apparently my degree actually makes me ineligible for further training, which is more than a bit of an arse. Anyone else had this problem / found a way around it?

As for option 3, deciding to say 'bugger it' does seem like an attractive opton, heh. And it's possible I could stumble onto something I could make a living out of. But it seems on par with buying lottery tickets to make a living, and to be honest it seems to me to be essentially the same as finding an excuse to slack off my search.

Still, if anyone has any advice on this branch as well, I'd be very grateful.
posted by Fen to Education (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Teaching English in another country? As per an NPR story today, non-knowledge of the host country's language is ok.

Hang in there. I went Eng undergrad, law degree, MFA in creative writing. I wished I'd skipped the middle part, although it did give me abundant writing material.
posted by angrycat at 2:42 PM on July 12, 2010

FYI Im an Eng/Creative Writing Grad of 2008 and live in N London. When I started uni I just assumed I would get a job, but I wound up on the dole for a good few months.

Im afraid things are pretty shitty right now for all of us. Im currently working what I think is a well paid (21k+) but menial office job and hoping for the best in the future. Its pretty lame but I would rather have money than do what my other friends have done, ie. got crap work/gone to the bank of Mum and Dad and pissed off to Thailand, only to return and start the process again.

Similarly I wish I could choose my degree again (I would do Social work) especially to one that was more...job centric. I am considering this at some point but with public funding and job cuts I dont think its right for now.

So what about you? You sound very similar to me in that you would feel guilty NOT working. In that case, go out, get whatever job you can stand and start adding to that skillset. Make sure to write a good cover letter which details what you said about getting into site design, someone might pick you up cheeply but be prepared to invest in you when you prove yourself.
posted by Neonshock at 4:58 PM on July 12, 2010

I did a double major in Psychology and English (ya, tell me about it) and my first post-graduation job was filing. I've been an accountant for the past five years, after spending the ten prior years in investor relations, being an executive assistant and running two offices. Any old job is easy to find, relatively speaking, since you've been able to get office work. I think you need to decide what you want to be--read What Colour Is My Parachute or whatever the contemporary equivalent is--and then come back so we can brainstorm a strategy for getting you into your preferred field.
posted by sillymama at 6:10 PM on July 12, 2010

Hello Me-As-Of-2003. I'm an English Lit graduate, and welcome to the post-graduation Year(s) of Crap.

I graduated with a 2:1 in 2003 and spent about a year doing minimum wage retail and temping work. I was an espresso-slinger for Starbucks for about 6 months of that time and then worked my way through a couple of temping jobs for banks here in Edinburgh. My first temping job was merging two HR department's personnel files, by hand. Over 5,000 files. Papercuts ahoy.

After that I processed invoices for the Accounts Payable of the same bank. Basically calling up branches in Little Whingington and finding out why they hadn't paid their window cleaners. Pretty dull stuff.

What I did do though was to read an invoice for a big consulting company (had never heard of them at the time), think 'Crikey, wonder what they do' and go looking for them in the Hobson's Directory. I applied and spent two and half years working in the training and comms side of IT consulting, which was a massive eye-opener and got me to the job I'm in now, managing all consulting work outside of London for a communications and advertising agency.

Which is to say, a decent job will come along where and when you least expect it, but you have to put yourself out there for that to happen.

Also I suspect that more than half the reason I've not got a job is because I'm not putting in enough effort. I graduated two years ago and made about five job applications per month while searching. I currently make about, oh, zero. I recently bought a book on job-searching that said I should be doing at least five applications a day if I was serious about trying to find work. Have I just been lazy in my job search? Is five-a-day really the baseline standard?

What are you doing all day, if you're not applying for jobs? Are you living with your parents still? Bless them, but they can make it pretty easy to sit back and not get down to it.

The job market is pretty bad, but it's slowly improving - I work in recruitment marketing and we're starting to see graduate campaigns coming back, albeit much smaller than they were 2-3 years ago. But the Invisible Hand of the Market isn't going to come down out of the sky and give you work simply because you have a degree. You need to be applying.

Five a day is, in my opinion, an unsustainable rate. However, you should really be applying for at least one substantive role every day. As in, writing a tailored covering letter, making sure your CV is appropriately tailored and posting off or emailing your application. Every day if you can. And it doesn't hurt to keep a good generalist CV around for firing off quickly to roles which look interesting but aren't your dream job.

Applying for a job once a week (or once a month) and waiting is a recipe for heartache, depression and not getting a job.

I do this stuff for a living and I have a pretty good idea of what a good CV should look like, what hiring managers are looking for and where to look for specific types of roles. Feel free to Mefimail me and I'll see if I can help.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:31 AM on July 13, 2010

If there is anything at all that you'd like to specifically make a career that you're lacking qualifications for, then obviously go get those qualifications. If you're meandering and would like to just start working and getting on with a career then there are administrative jobs to be had and you are fully qualified for them. This is where I was when I graduated with a degree in English (seven years ago) and I chose to just get on with working whatever jobs I could; I've regretted not getting specific qualifications and it's not something I've entirely ruled out yet, though it just gets more unlikely the longer you've been out of school. The problem, as you pointed out, is that things aren't the best for individuals who need employment right now, but this doesn't affect the best candidates so much. Jobs are limited, which means that less desirable candidates are the ones staying out of work longer. The best candidates can still get work. As far as office/admin work is concerned, you're limited only in your lack of experience. You also sound fortunate in that you could do most any type of general work and aren't limited to a specific field or speciality. If you're able to get temp work then taking it will help you secure a full-time position.

I work in London and we are constantly hiring for entry-level positions that you are qualified for--I can tell you this based on your post alone. Sometimes these positions don't even require a degree (crazy, I know). For such a job I think you could expect £16-22k to start, but again, the difficulty is outshining all the other candidates (although we are hiring frequently, the number of applicants for each post is high). So if you work on polishing your CV and cover letters so that you can get interviews and are applying for a job every day (basically exactly what HappyDave said) I don't think your employment situation is hopeless. It just takes a while to get started sometimes, so don't give up.

Finding a job is a lot of work. Realising this and acting on it is the only way I've ever gotten interviews.
posted by Polychrome at 2:17 AM on July 13, 2010

I graduated in 99 in English Lit & History, so I can relate. I’m currently in a job I love – communications and marketing for a charity.

It took me a good few years to get my head around the world of work. I had to realise that my learning was not enough to get me a job – surprisingly enough, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to pay me for a Marxist reading of Sense and Sensibility!

The 2 important questions I asked myself were what exact skills I wanted to use. (In my case, I wanted to write) and where did I want to use them (something I could be really passionate about and feel like I was making a difference to the world).

Before you jump into another big uni course, I’d encourage you to do this kind of thinking. Friends who did straight science had exactly the same challenges as I did – a Physics degree doesn’t get you a job any more than an English degree. If you are going to spend time and money going back to study, be very clear what you are hoping to get out of it.
posted by sleepy boy at 5:35 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Happy Dave: Thankyou for the offer - if I can take you up on that it'd be very helpful. (Just got to update the damn thing first, heh). Regarding my time-usage, my job-application process is unfortunately something of a crawl. An average cover-letter or application usually takes me about three days if I dedicate myself (As an extra indicator: as of this sentence, I've been writing this post for 50 minutes :-/ ). I suppose I should be asking for concentration techniques instead, heh. But I don't just go clicking through Wikipedia (not all the time anyway). I can get myself to sit and go through the application without succumbing to distractions, but stuff just doesn't come.

I know, I need to kick myself up the arse. I write fine when I'm half an hour from a deadline. I get absolutely p'd off with myself for being like that, as well. I never do change, though.

Also, to all reading: I think I implied in my opening post that I've been basically unemployed since leaving uni, but I was only fully unemployed for a month or so - I was a bartender for a year and a half along with being a charity shop volunteer assistant, and my current job is 9-5 four days a week. I actually don't mind the job itself, and if it paid enough for me to get a flat etc. I'd be happy as a clam.

Polychrome, Angrycat & SillyMama: Thanks for those suggestions :) I'll have a look into those.

Also, Neonshock: I'm an Eng/Creative Writing Grad of 2008 living in the Midlands, heh. I don't suppose you studied at Hull? If so, the internet is a smaller place than I thought :P
posted by Fen at 3:58 PM on July 13, 2010

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