Desperate times, desperate measures.
September 15, 2014 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Dangerously close to a quarter of a century old and I've really never really had an actual IRL, sit down and work job. Please help me, MetaFilter?

Full disclosure here: I'm 24, soon to be 25, FtM (if it matters, I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter as much as I think it does. I don't plan on revealing this to any potential employees as I'm also currently unable to change my real life name and gender -- I'm not a citizen of the country where I currently reside and using the embassy/consulates is a royal pain in the ass), have GA, ADH and clinical depression (all diagnosed, all currently untreated), and I've NEVER had a real job. Rather, I haven't had anything remotely job-like happen in over four years and am starting to feel like it never will, and that I'm one of those cases of people who never really find anything... and I'm terrified.

Now, the short -- in a nutshell -- story of my life: I do have a tiny baby amount of job experience I've acquired when I was around (and between) 18 and 20, which involved odd hours admin/secretary work for my family's company. It was unpaid and I was attending University at the time -- which I dropped from because of... well, by the time I was 20, I committed what I now believe is one of, if not the greatest mistake of my entire life (so far). I fell head over heels in love with someone and moved in him with, to another country (the Netherlands), one where I didn't speak the local language, and was basically isolated from the world (in the middle of nowhere, and that's not an understatement). For almost three years I didn't really do anything but be a "housewife", and use the computer to communicate with my friends (I didn't even have a cellphone) and slowly realize that no, this was so far from the life I'd wanted for myself. And that I should've never left my native country and/or quit University.

So I ran away (which is pretty much what happened and I had to convince him I was visiting a friend an returning within the week...) and here I am now. It's been slightly over an year, I am in a great relationship with a very loving woman, I am married, and I still don't have a job.

I've applied for many hundreds of jobs throughout the past year, have had a couple interviews even, but nothing that led to anywhere. I've tried applying to apprenticeships and I've tried doing some unpaid "work experience" (which is available here in the UK through the JCP) all of wish did nothing but add a couple new, blessedly recent lines to my C.V. The anxiety does stop me from doing a lot of things (I'm waiting to be referred to a therapist, which feels is never going to happen at this rate but we can't afford anything private, especially without a job...) but I feel like I'm looking to whatever I can possible to do and that if it happens happen soon, it NEVER WILL. And that I've wasted my life and... well, it's easy to just give in to that depressive spiral right there. I know I have for the past couple months.

So where do I even start? I've got barely any relevant experience in anything; I've finished no schooling past High School (or well, the equivalent, something like the A levels here) and I'm a next-to crippling mess of everything I've already talked about. Is it even possible?

I'm meant to go to a job interview soon and I forgot to re-dye my hair so it's a pink mess and I have no idea where I'm meant to go (I've got directions; I've never been to the city before) and I know the moment I step into that bus I will burst out crying and I don't know what to do.
posted by Trexsock to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you applying to food service jobs? Gas station attendants? Dishwashers? Store cashiers positions? Retail? Low paying customer service jobs are often available to people willing to work during the day (when students are in class) or late into the evening. You need to apply for the most entry level positions that you can find. These are often not posted online. You will need to go in person (during a slow time!) ask to speak to the hiring manager and drop off a cover letter and resume.

If you excel at these menial tasks you can move up to assistant manager, store manager etc... It's not glamorous work but it will give you a start.

There is a lot of competition for entry level admin/clerical positions and a HS only education puts you out of the running.

Also, unless it's at an edgy retail/dining location go in looking clean cut and boring. No visible tats, pink hair, piercings etc. Wear clean boring clothing similar to what the existing employees wear only one level nicer.

Good luck.
posted by saradarlin at 8:10 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it's important to note that the OP is in the UK. Low paying customer service jobs are not low-paying by US standards, and university degrees are perceived differently.

Trexsock, a couple of things:

1) Have you spoken to your GP about anti-anxiety meds? She can prescribe for you while you are waiting for your Community Mental health team to have an opening.

2) Are you eligible to re-enroll at university with a bursary?

3) Have you been collecting dole long enough for a training place?

4) Have you looked into Modern Apprenticeships?

5) What kinds of jobs are you applying for an are any of them in call centres?

6) Have you had a professional adult look over your CV?

And love, you are 24 and looking for an job at the beginning of the end of a historic economic crash. Unemployment and underemployment are basically typical at this point. You have not ruined your life.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 PM on September 15, 2014 [12 favorites]

I can't quite handle the whole question - there's a lot there! also I'm not in the right country for some of it - but lots of people in their mid-twenties have never had a "real job". Some of them matriculated from a university, but a lot of people also never attend or take a bit of a uni course and then stop, for whatever reason. Your reason is a bit less common ("fell in love and dropped out", super-common, "fell in love and moved to a different country", less so) but it's really not as freakish as your anxiety and the drama of your past circumstances are making it out to be.

Do you know about Mind? They have some useful stuff about living daily life with a mental health problem. Anxiety UK might also be of some help.
posted by gingerest at 10:59 PM on September 15, 2014

Gaps in the CV, even long ones, can be ironed out in time. You've still got time, but you will feel so much better when you can get this sorted out so you may as well start now! Getting a GP/therapist/psychiatrist's support will also be a big help.

My own route from 20s unemployment to employment (in a job I love, even if the pay's not super) was to get into the charity sector (which I find is pretty great to work in) by first working for a bit as a street fundraiser, which kind of sucks but isn't as bad as I was expecting and they'll let almost anyone sign up; then volunteering in an admin role and building experience/contacts that way; and finally transitioning into a full time paid role.

Skills with office tasks, databases/CRMs, and learning about the issues related are all helpful. Temp agencies, in or outside the sector, can also be somewhat useful (or can be frustratingly useless, so make sure to spread your bets and sign up with as many as you can, and keep pestering them regularly).

One thing that's been weird to me is going from perpetual interviewee to occasional interviewer. It turns out 90% of the details I used to fret about something hardcore were really not issues. A pink mess of hair would be fine really, as long as you show up reasonably well-kempt (may or may not apply to other sectors!). Even gaps in knowledge/experience are not the end of the world as long as you seem to know what you need to learn, that you need to learn it, and have sussed out at least the basic principles. Identifying an example of things you've done that are unrelated but use similar skills or knowledge is a big plus.

Stay engaged, friendly and conversational with the interviewer, be honest if you don't know the answer to something or would like the question repeated, and you'll do fine! Oh yeah, and one tip I found really good was to turn up like an hour before the interview, sit quietly for a while and go over your research of the company/area/job description.

I know you didn't ask for interview tips specifically but this is all stuff I wish I'd learned earlier. :P

Best of luck, I think you're gonna do great!
posted by Drexen at 5:35 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dangerously close to a quarter of a century old and I've really never really had an actual IRL, sit down and work job.

To be honest, I was in the same boat. 10 years down the road, I completed a graduate degree, landed an internship at a great job where I haven't left in seven years. I don't know the UK specific tips, but listen to the good advice up thread. Also general tips, make sure you're proficient + in any current, mainstream software. CRMs and CMSs have become go tos. Volunteer work in the long term to fill in?
posted by TravellingCari at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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