Open letter: to anyone looking for a job in a global pandemic

Dear job seeker,

OK, I have to be upfront about the fact I do have a job NOW. Finally. Fortunately. (Frustratingly.)

I got the fateful email after five long months of tearing my unkempt hair out, cursing at LinkedIn and regular emails to my local horse stables to ask if they needed volunteers (we might be unemployed honey, but we can still be bougie about it).

I left my last full-time job in March 2019. The following year was a delight of sporadic and increasingly well-paid freelance jobs, that somehow just fell into my lap. Between March 2019 and March 2020, I probably worked a grand total of 6 months and made more money than I’ve ever made. Then, in March 2020, just as I was experiencing similar symptoms, the working world lost its taste for me – and apparently everyone else!

I’ve been very blessed, nay privileged, thus far in my life to have had little trouble finding a job. I’ve worked in cafes, bars, shops, music venues; I’ve interned for travel companies; taken a spin as a travel writer, copywriter and consultant; and have generally gone from fun-employed to working-gal in a matter of weeks. Boy oh boy has this year been a shock to the system. Bank account. And ego!

Certain personal matters, plus the dearth of stand-up comedy, have also contributed to the shite bucket that is 2020. But I can speak from experience to the utter demoralisation and devastation that comes with struggling to find work. The slow depletion of your energy. The degradation of your self-worth. And the unshakable fear that you’re somehow being erased. If any of that feels familiar, this letter is for you.

On cover letters...

First things first, why the fuck are cover letters still a thing?! Why are serious employers, who have eyes and a copy of your carefully-curated CV, asking you to write a personal love letter to yourself when actually you hate yourself, clearly, because you’re applying for jobs and applying for jobs makes you hate everything. Why the fuck did cover letters not die out with the Motorola flip phone and everything else that was relevant when I was 16 years old and a ‘highly-enthusiastic individual’.

On applications...

Don’t even get me started on those applications that make you upload your CV, then ask you to write the whole bloody thing out into weird text boxes with complicated drop-down-menu-thingys, before politely telling you to punch yourself in the head and click ‘submit’. Be wary of employers that ask for too much up front. If they can’t tell whether you’re right for the job after a few reasonable tests and interviews, then there is something wrong with them, not you. You are a magical, talented specimen and shouldn’t have to give up your first born child to be employed.

On rejection…

This will likely be a familiar knife in the side by now. Though no less painful for familiarity. I used to appreciate when a job emailed back, even to say no. It felt considerate. Final. Easy to put to bed. But when you’re slinging out 50+ applications a week (praise be to LinkedIn’s ‘easy apply’ feature), getting as many NOPES back is paralysing. The worst is getting a rejection email from a job you don’t even remember applying to. Worst still, is getting two rejection emails for the same job on the same day, pre- and post-nap. Fuck, that was a bad day.

In truth, I have no idea what the solution is. I only know that I started to develop a distinct fondness for companies that ghosted me. Things I found helpful included: talking to a friend, having a cigarette (naughty!), having a cry, going back to bed, or both, or all.

The beautiful irony is that I applied to so many jobs that, even now I am employed, I still get the odd rejection email. And somehow, they seem to sting even more. It’s like these companies are saying: ‘Oh, you think you’re good enough now, huh? Well still not good enough for us!’. Fun!

On motivation...

They say applying for a job is a full-time job in itself. And that is true. To an extent. One of my favourite unemployment juxtapositions is that you have all this free time to ‘enjoy yourself’, but 90% of it is spent riddled with the anxiety of trying to not be unemployed. The trick is to set yourself HARD boundaries (I wasn’t great at this, mind).

If you work best in the morning, get up, do three hours of job hunting and take the rest of the day to do nice things – or run into a wall head first. Where you can, plan fun activities that get you out of the house in advance so you’re forced to step away. Also, stop checking your emails! It’s probably a rejection anyway, so factor that fucking joy into your ‘work hours’ to help compartmentalise the lows.

On having a plan b…

To all the wonderful mums/dads/grans/pals out there who suggest ‘why don’t you just get a job at a cafe’: absolutely fuck off! I’d like to clarify that everyone’s plan b will look different. There is no job that anyone is beneath or above. Money is money and how you make yours is fucking aces in my books.

Since I started working in offices in 2014, hospitality became my plan b. BUT this year, millions of cafes, bars and restaurants closed their doors, some permanently. This year, millions of hospitality workers were made redundant. This year, would mark six years since I have worked in hospitality. Why the jeffing hell, then, would someone hire me over the millions of talented hospitality staff that are currently desperate for jobs too? At this point, plan b is plan z and we’re all fucked! So, thank u next, that is not an option.

On being kind to yourself...

I would love to sit here and write that everything is going to be OK. That if you just ‘keep up the good work’ you’ll eventually find a great job. Chances are, yes, your hard will pay off. But also, the world is fucked and you deserve more than empty platitudes. If you send one application today, you’re doing amazing. Seriously. One is better than none. Get a cuppa tea. Bullet point a cover letter. Swear at a shit application form. Every tiny step helps.

Talk to your friends, family and people that support you. Tell them how tough it is. Because it is. Ask your parents for money if that is possible. Fuck your pride, life is tough right now and they’ve never lived through anything like this either. Research grants. Call a free advisory line. Ask for help. Get help if your brain just can’t cope anymore.

Maybe you need to stop for a week. Maybe just the day. Maybe today you just need to have an aperol spritz and a cry – which is very effective. Maybe don’t pop that on your CV though. Or do. Fuck it. It’s all about the cover letter these days anyway!

If you need support here are some great resources and numbers to call:

Samaritans, call on 116 123

NHS resources on where to get support from mental health charities

NHS COVID-19 info on coronavirus basic grants and support info