Student Abroad: The Perils of Job Hunting
Words by Adam Philpott
Now I have emerged from my pit of midterm assignment stress, I can resume normal dietary and hygiene habits, check in as safe on Facebook, rediscover social engagement, and – mind your head as you jump up in joy – find time to write another blog.
If you’re wondering why I seemed totally unprepared for midterms it’s because I have been deprived of a proper Summer break and am feeling somewhat burnt out (while I enter week 10 of semester, freshers’ week at my home university in the UK has only just finished). The urgent need to work only overcame the ‘relax, you’re on exchange’ mindset the day before deadlines.
Now it’s time to move from one stressful phase to another – the perils of job hunting.
Job hunting has been one of my biggest concerns of late, followed closely by weeks’ worth of dirty laundry and the financial fallout of long island iced teas in Argyle. After a two-month honeymoon period of boundless spending, gallivanting about Sydney, and booking trips to Tasmania and New Zealand, I have come to accept that I need to get a job. I still have another nine months in one of the most expensive cities in the world and a bucket list that is only getting longer; they’re going to take some funding.
So, over to Broadway and Newtown I went with a bag full of CVs, handing one out to each shop, café or restaurant I liked the look of, which was pretty much everywhere as my desperation trumped any considerations for job satisfaction.
In hindsight, my approach was quite arrogant. I’m easily overqualified for many of the jobs I’m applying for, lots of places in a big city will be looking to hire, I’ll have something sorted within a fortnight – I thought. That’s how I justified booking trips to Tasmania and New Zealand. However, I quickly realised that my initial arrogance was naïve. With no offers and only politely-worded rejection emails in my inbox after two weeks, frustration started to set in. I soon found myself on page 25 of Indeed mulling over the job of advertising sign spinner for far too long and resorting to asking the guy serving me post-club grub at 3am for a job. That’s one I’m glad I didn’t get.
I wondered if I was being rejected just because I’m international (though this wouldn’t make sense since I’m an English native speaker) or if I accidentally put down the wrong contact details on my CV despite triple-checking. How am I meant to find a grad job if I can’t even get low-skilled part-time work?
Experience, that’s my downfall. One of the most annoying aspects of job hunting is that literally every employer requests minimum experience, but how on earth is one meant to get such experience in the first place? A trial shift at Bondi Pizza in Broadway, my first ever go at being a waiter, ended with the all too familiar lack of experience rejection, despite my own positive assessment of the experience: I didn’t drop anything, mess up an order, argue with customers, or steal food. I just didn’t have the required experience.
At this point, over 30 applications and several edits to my CV later, I decided to play to my strengths. Rather than apply to anything I saw that mildly interested me, I focused on jobs I had a bit of experience of; those being in retail and journalism. Christmas casuals in retail would probably be my best bet, I thought, since I’ve done them before and employers are going to be less fine-toothed combed as they urgently need the extra staff.
Soon enough, some positive news came. I got a job as a mystery shopper. This achievement was somewhat overshadowed, however, by my suspicion that everyone and his brother would probably be accepted; but it’s something. Though it’s not exactly what I’m looking for, the flexibility of the role is certainly attractive.
I still, however, need to find something more substantial if I am to tick off as many items on my bucket list as possible. By now I have probably sent out around 50 applications; while I have been rejected by some, I am still yet to receive a response from a majority. I’ve learnt that job hunting is a tedious, frustrating, sometimes demoralising, process which requires a lot of patience and persistence. I’m still confident that I’ll find something proper soon, but right now I better go and refresh Indeed.
Now that’s the version of this article that I wrote not long before getting a job as a copywriter. I didn’t want to change any of it because that is an honest documentation of how frustrated and demoralised the whole job-hunting process left me. My patience and persistence were finally rewarded. Hallelujah. Pour me something stiff.
First day of new job
One usually makes the extra effort to be early on the first day of a new job. I, however, was running late, frantically refreshing Google maps in the futile hope it would find another route that could shave a few minutes off; but inevitably had to accept my fate – I was going to be late. Not for my first shift, however, but for an interview for a retail job I had scheduled an hour before starting my copywriting job.
To make matters worse, my bus eventually turned up on the other side of the road. Stupidly, I had been waiting on the wrong side for a good 7 minutes of what precious little time I had. With no way across the road before the bus pulled away thanks to morning rush hour traffic, I was now going to be beyond acceptably late.
I whipped out Google maps to learn the repercussions of my incompetence. 20 minutes late was the best it produced. At this point, I considered not even turning up; but quickly dismissed that thought since I could fall back on the excuse that I’m an international student still trying to gain familiarity with my new surroundings. But put a slightly less excusable way, I’m an English native in an English-speaking country – I should know how to bloody catch a bus.
A short walk to Paramatta Road was to be my next attempt to catch a bus. I have bad history with this stop because of the traffic lights. I’m always waiting to cross the road while I watch my bus turn up and leave before the little green man has illuminated and the retro game-like beeping sounds. This time was fortunately different.
Sat on the bus, I didn’t want to watch the time reach 9am, so I slyly watched someone play Candy Crush instead, like that’s still a thing? I also came up with a genius idea. Sydney should design its roads such that buses never have to stop for a red light, because they were certainly out to prolong my lateness.
When I got off the bus at Hyde Park, I could have ran the few hundred metres remaining, but I was already excessively late. I didn’t want to be clothed in sweat as well.
30 minutes late, the job was surely not going to be mine. I turned up, however, to something quite unexpected. Not only did it not matter that I was at a stage beyond late, the interviews were conducted in a speed dating format, with the start times there just to manage the flow of interviewees as they whizzed through people quicker than an Aldi worker can scan items. In other words, my lateness was insignificant.
As for the interview, I thought it went well and I was soon on my way to starting my copywriting job on time. It was during this first shift that a colleague uttered perhaps the best piece of advice for my year abroad: “Enjoy your experience, just don’t get overdosed.” Now that’s not the sort of thing you say to a stranger. I wondered what assumptions he had made of me. Thanks anyway, Carlos.