So, I've now been back from NY a while. The honeymoon period is over. I've no longer got the excuse of having 'just got back' from the States; it's almost been two months now. And having finished the couple of short-term work placements I had lined up for my return, I've now officially joined the thousands of others in the UK and beyond who are struggling to find full-time employment
A blogger friend of mine in NY (see sidebar on right, below) recounted her own experiences of job hunting in the States earlier this year, and the stigma attached to the notion of being 'unemployed'. Things aren't any better on this side of the pond. For people like me, who graduated within the last two years or so and are looking for a career in the media, arts & heritage or development work, the future is looking increasingly bleak. More and more people I know or have just met are giving up their quest for the job they really wanted, and opting for the guarantee of financial stability that comes with doing a law conversion course.
But what about people who are passionate about the arts, and couldn't bring themselves to go down that route? A large proportion of my contemporaries have done unpaid internship upon unpaid internship, sprinkled with stints behind a bar here and babysitting there, often rounded off with a Masters degree - and they still can't find a full-time job in the field of their choice.
During my internship at the Guggenheim in New York, I worked alongside (mainly European) girls who all have postgraduate degrees from the best universities in the UK, Italy and France, but are still working for free, either full-time or four days per week. One German friend of mine was (and still probably is) working full time at the Guggenheim, unpaid, with a PhD from the Sorbonne under her belt. She's in her early 30s, attractive, highly intelligent and trilingual. Another friend of mine is 27 years old, received a commendation for her Masters from La Sapienza in Rome and speaks 3 languages. She's still serving pizzas at night after working in the Guggenheim curatorial department all day, to make ends meet. The worrying thing is, she and several other Italian girls chose to move to New York because the job market is even worse in their home country.
Funnily enough, London is seen by my French and Italian friends as a place filled with job opportunities. This may have been true a few years ago, but it doesn't seem so now. My peers from Cambridge and other top universities are doing temping work and unpaid placements. I'm not saying internships like these are a bad thing - I gained so much experience, and also made some wonderful friends during my time at the Guggenheim and all the other journalistic placements I've done in Europe. What is bad, however, is the fact that after the work placements are over, there doesn't seem to be a 'next step', except doing another unpaid placement.
The problem is that there just aren't enough jobs to go round. So, for the few jobs that are advertised, the competition is fierce. Most applications these days require tediously long forms which take hours to fill in, and then at the end of it all you may not even be invited for interview. As a result, many excellent candidates are discounted before the employer has even met them.
What can we do about it? Well it seems that the current economic climate isn't going to change for a while. So I'm not sure if there's much we can do, except try and stay positive, keep persevering and in the mean time do some temping work - or become a lawyer. Unfortunately, that's one thing I just couldn't do...