Monday, 22 April 2013

Wanted: talented graduate who will work full-time in the centre of London for FREE

The tenancy runs out on my house in Leeds at the end of June, and so it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to be doing next. It's a thought that, quite honestly terrifies me. I think I know (vaguely) what I want to do with the rest of my life, but getting there isn't going to be easy.

I've been working towards the goal of working within the global aspect of charity work since I was at University (bearing in mind that I started Uni almost 5 years ago, that's quite a long time now), and yet I'm still nowhere near. In fact, I seem to be going backwards.

Since June last year I've been working at a small cafe/newsagents, and in that time I've been promoted to supervisor and am now pretty much running the whole unit. I am however, bored out of my mind and ready to move on. I work at least 50 hours/week EVERY week, and am paid a pittance for what I do; I rarely make it from month to month without struggling, and running out of money in the last week or so, and I'm by no means extravagant. I always said that I'd rather be poor and happy than rich and unfulfilled, but when I'm poor and miserable you know it's time for something to change.


Don't get me wrong, I love living where I do now; my house and housemates are amazing, it feels like home and it's in a great location, but I feel like I'm missing out on life. We're all in the same boat, and can rarely afford to do more than the bare minimum. We don't have time to socialise together very often, and when we do it's always on a very tight budget. We can't afford to all go out for tea or bowling, and so are often limited to a cheap bottle of wine or two and a DVD. Whilst this is fun, I feel like I've lived like a student for long enough, and surely by now I should be earning some proper money.

This however, is easier said than done. I'm willing to forgo a high salary for job satisfaction, but getting the job that I want is nigh on impossible. I'm broadening my interests, and am willing to do anything that's even remotely related to the career that I want, and yet I still have no luck. I'm willing to work for next to nothing, and I'm a hard worker; I'll go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that I do the best job possible. I'm willing to move ANYWHERE in the country, or even the world, make any kind of sacrifice possible - but what I can absolutely not afford to do is to work for free. Unfortunately, it seems that's what most employers want. Looking at entry-level or graduate positions, a lot of them are unpaid internships or voluntary opportunities, that 5 or 10 years ago would have been paid and easily-doable.


Surely I'm not asking for much? I know times are tough, and I'm not expecting to be paid a fortune. I'm happy to forgo a social life and luxuries if I'm in a job I enjoy and I can see I can progress somewhere, but I still need to live. That's not unreasonable, is it? I'm paid slightly more than minimum-wage at the moment, and as I said, struggle for money.

 I pay all my bills on time, and usually have enough food in the house, but that's it. No luxuries, no new clothes, no trips out, nothing. What am I supposed to do when these companies want me to work for free? Who is going to pay my rent, my bills, pay for my food or my travel costs? Most of these jobs are in London; are there some secret, free-rent, free-food places hidden away that only interns know about, or are these jobs only targeted at people who have wealthy families; whose parents can afford to pay for such things whilst they work for free.

If there were bursaries available that would pay my basic costs, I would happily work for free, but it's quite literally not possible. I cannot do it. Take these voluntary opportunities at Comic Relief for example:

I would love to be involved in any aspect of Comic Relief (preferably working with the individual aid organisations nation/world-wide) but their offices are in Vauxhall, London. Even if I lived in the middle of nowhere and commuted for 4 hours a day, I still couldn't do that for free. There's always the option of working full-time alongside it of course, but if I can't live now whilst working 50 hours/week, what hope do I have in London on far fewer?

So what? I've just got to give up on my career because I can't afford to live on the bottom rung? Of course not; I'm not going to give up but quite honestly I'm running out of options. I'm trying to be broad-minded, but I won't be able to save any money as it stands at the moment, and I honestly don't know what other options I have.

I know I'm not the only one in such a situation, and that's what makes me angry. There are so many people of my generation that are struggling to get the experience and contacts they need, because they cannot afford to volunteer or intern. Something needs to be done about it, whether it be assistance from the government, or the organisations themselves. We're not asking for much - just enough to live on would be nice.

I know times are tough at the moment, but we're the future. What happens in 20 years time when there's a huge skill-gap across generations, as most people have been forced to work in monotonous, unskilled retail jobs? Somebody throw us a rope and give us a chance? We can do it, I promise.

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