The Grief of Unemployment

At 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a company with whom I had been interviewing for several weeks. The application process had gone on for even longer than that, and involved multiple tests demanding that I could demonstrate numeracy, editorial accuracy as well as being able to write to the company’s specifications.

Once I had passed those, I was invited to an interview and then a second round interview. The days before both interviews I extensively researched the company, its projects and the people who were to put the questions to me. I found out about their previous work, their education and how one had been on a fun run two months previously. I had questions prepared and I forced my housemate to sit me down and run through the possible questions that I might face, not once, not twice but three times. I took overloaded trains to their offices on the outskirts of town and then back again.

I have been a bad interviewer before, having not prepared adequately and not shown the zeal to inspire an employer to take me on. But this time was different. I had made every effort to persuade the company that I was the outstanding candidate for the position, only to receive the following message:


It was lovely to have met you and, I have to say, I was impressed with your enthusiasm and skillset. The interview process has been extremely competitive, however, with one candidate standing out amongst the rest. An offer of employment has, therefore, been placed with this individual.

Thank you once again for your time and efforts. The best of luck to you.


Now let me say first off that this is not a plea for pity or compassion. Or even a job! Hundreds of thousands of people in this country are in far worse situations than myself and I’m able to keep going on meagre bits of work.

The problem is this feeling of having nothing substantial to do and having this feeling compounded by having nothing to do in London. This is a city that people come to for the hustle, they put up with deranged prices and overcrowding because they know that this is where the action is, this is where people make their mark. And not to have the chance to do it is just horrible.

Graduates like myself with good degrees from good universities are finding themselves either unemployed or underemployed, and it’s embarrassing. To have no job is to have little in the way of self-identity or self-worth. The first question that people tend to ask you upon meeting is ‘What do you do?’. This is part of the way that we define ourselves.

There are our friends who are in the process of buying their first house, getting married and settling down. Meanwhile, there are the rest of us who nimbly poke around the reduced items aisle of the supermarket in the hope of picking up a cheap pizza.

At present, there is a feeling propagated by those in power and the media that those who are without work are scroungers, work shy and unwilling to get themselves into the workplace. The reality is that many of them are the products of a short-sighted approach to our economy and long-term structural issues such as manufacturing and education.

So if you’re out there looking for work, good luck to you. Even if you and I are going for the same job. Because if that happens, and you get it ahead of me, I’m not going to be jealous. Believe me, I’ll know that you’ve earned it.

Image by HelenCobain courtesy of Flickr

4 Responses

  1. Sandra Boga
    Sandra Boga


    I was about to write a similar post as I too find myself in the same depressing predicament. However, nothing could sum up exactly how I feel better than this.

    I too resent the fact that a job is what defines us and gives us self-worth however we’re all victims of this.

    And to be standing still in bustling London, makes it all the more tortuous.

    It’s all a numbers game now so goodluck and keep writing.

    Fellow London Wordee,

  2. Lynsey Ford

    I can totally relate to your opinions. I had experienced a nine month hiatus from work after a long term role finished after four years. What annoys me is that when you apply for jobs, they don’t put a cap on the number of applications received. For example I went to a job for a leading library in Central London to be told I am one of forty-seven candidates….just a little off putting, like I am waiting for my number to be called at a cheese counter! I can honestly say that qualifications sadly are not always enough – a lot of personal and professional contacts of mine have stated that they have degrees and some are doctors who also don’t get shortlisted. I also think it is so rude nowadays not even to get a line to acknowledge your application – the argument is that is ‘saves resources’. I guess what I am trying to say is if you have the chance of investing in a skill you would like to develop, try some volunteering until you get that break.

  3. Nicole Mullen

    Brilliant article. Especially important that you touch upon the constant propaganda pumped out by the government/media – that all unemployed people are worthless scroungers.

  4. Alice P

    Unemployment is such a difficult subject, it really can feel like you are stuck with people seeing you in a stereotypical way. There are a lot of people that can help even if sometimes it does feel like you are going around in circles. I found recruitment consultants really helpful as they gave me a lot of confidence and talked me though being a good candidate, it is worth looking at all the options.

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