Jobless in London


I wrote this nine years ago. Now that I am looking for a job outside teaching again, it all seems very familiar.


Well, I think that my job search has managed to go from bad to worse, today being the biggest disappointment since finding out Ben Kingsley wasn’t and then was Indian. It was a confusing childhood rife with misinformation. I blame Gandhi myself.

So I went for a job today, expecting to witness how a small ad company markets, plans and promotes companies with little money to spend on advertising. What I almost ended up doing was spend 20 quid to get myself down to Worthing to watch someone handing out Beauty Salon promos for no basic wage. And as a “personal task”, I was asked to get 20 people to do a dance for me.

Do a dance.

As much as the idea of approaching a complete and utter stranger on the broad walk and being able to say “Hello Sir, now you look like a man who can bogle…” appealed to me on a comic level, it wasn’t sounding a lot like advertising to me. I probably would have got on a train had it not been for another girl piping up, apologising for choosing to leave and giving me the opportunity to chime in and run off with her for a coffee and a bitch.

I should have twigged when I was sat in their office waiting, and caught a glimpse of their morning mantra/pep talk. People who scream and shout in order to prepare themselves for “sales battle” and then cant, and subsequently ruin, Ali’s immortal ” I’m gonna float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” are a bit too peppy for me. I’m more of a sarcasm and wine kind of girl.

I hope this spate of bad job interviews ends soon; it’s costing me a fortune in comfort shopping. Today I come away a little more jaded, but sporting some very nice Adidas superstars, next week I may return suicidal with a Louis Vuitton handbag. I think I shall make my mantra/job hunt pep talk “What doesn’t kill me, expands my wardrobe.” All that’s missing is another pervert, like the old Indian fella on the highroad, who told me that to be a sales assistant in his boxy underwear store I had to model the underwear. Right there and then. Never have I been more grateful that my dad is a) short tempered and b) owns a solid cricket bat.

I give up. I mean who do you have to stalk to get a job in this town? it’s not like I haven’t put myself out there, there has been a lot of putting out, and none of it fun. I blew my last job interview on the grounds that my interviewer didn’t think I would “fit into the team”. As far as I remember I tried to project myself as a hard working, affable, and enthusiastic. I must have been in Mexico way too long, because when I left London I was sure you got points for being professional. Ok, so I may have gone a bit overboard on the professional look, and was way more serious than I normally am, but in my own defence, I’ve been unemployed for a month now and if I was emanating a serious or even desperate vibe it was probably because I was sweating out the last of my deodorant stick, at the end of a travel card, in a suit that was about to fall apart at the seams. With that image in mind, I actually respect them for not giving me the job; I must have looked constipated and severe. Who wants that in the office? Even if it was a medical publishing company (yawn).

They tell you not to lie in interviews, and they’re right.

However, when that little pearl of wisdom was shared with us on careers day we all assumed the same thing: don’t say you can do, did do or have done things that you didn’t. Bit of a tongue twister, but it’s stuck with me for ten years so it must work. So, not telling them about my questionable extra-curricular habits, or pastimes which might paint me in a bad light, I assumed was just good common sense.

Ah careers week, I remember it like it was yesterday: all that time-wasting filling out a form with your career aspirations only to be stuck doing 9- 5 in Woolworth’s, because replenishing the pick and mix was preparing you for being a journalist. I learned about advertising by working at Wallis in Brent Cross, where the highlight of my day was Mark, one of the assistants, pretending to steam my boobs off with the industrial steamer. I was pretty flat chested back then, so it was more humourous than  paedophiley.

What did I know about the method to their madness? Did Mr Miyagi make any sense when he asked Daniel San to wax his car instead of teaching him to roundhouse Johnny to the face? No. But it all worked out in the end.

Anyway, back to my point: When they asked me what I did for fun, a mash up of tequila downing, frenetic dancing, rooftop smoking and endless walks of shame sprang to my mind, before I snapped out of it and told them I read and wrote occasionally. However, this seems to have been to my detriment. In my household, my parents instilled in me a “Don’t tell people your business” reflex. This kicked in whenever I was asked a personal question, and it was particularly active in interview situations. I mean, what did it matter that I drank my alcohol units and those of my other four family members on a Thursday night? How could that make me seem like a better candidate for selling the advertising in a medical journal? It was the medical journal that said it was bad for me!

How misguided I was. Had I known that they could see how well I interacted with others by how much of a party animal I was, I would have come to the interview in the Hooter’s outfit I bought off Ebay and got them to do jelly shots off me. More fool me. I thought I was applying for a desk job.

So how am I meant to sell myself to potential employers for a career in which I have no experience when the only thing I’ve got is my degree, teaching experience and a personality that you won’t really see until we hit a happy hour? It’s far more complicated then polishing the fixtures at Wallis and I don’t think throwing shapes is going to help me as much as it did Daniel. Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who likes to be measured by other people’s standards.

This is the moment when I realise that I can’t work for anyone else, and try to set up my own business, which then goes from strength to strength, ending with me admiring the cityscape from my penthouse, side by side with my gorgeous husband and a Martini.

Only I still haven’t figured out what I do that gets me a penthouse flat in London and a hot guy.

Call girl? Lottery winner? If they gave away penthouses for daydreaming I would be a real estate magnate. This lack of a grip on reality is probably why I put a on a suit and continue to update my CV. As much as I dislike the process, I don’t think I’m ready to work for myself. I may not be a fan of the whole interview dance and career changes, but it beats having the most laid back boss in the world who would let me watch reruns of Fraiser and eat French Fancies until I felt like doing something more productive, like eating mini Battenbergs and watching Only Fools and Horses.

Unless an opening for French Fancy eater opens up, I will just have to suck it up, keep ploughing through the ads and work on showing my personality sans alcohol.