Picture by Sean MacEntee Although I should be the norm, I’m one of the lucky few. I got an interesting job matching my qualification shortly after I graduated. 8 months after the end of our studies, I’m the only one from 75 students in my promot …


Picture by Sean MacEntee

Picture by Sean MacEntee

Although I should be the norm, I’m one of the lucky few. I got an interesting job matching my qualification shortly after I graduated. 8 months after the end of our studies, I’m the only one from 75 students in my promotion with a permanent contract.

The 75 of us are all very qualified people. We all speak English (despite the French’s reputation) and several other languages. We all have one or two masters from a prestigious private university who promised us that employers were waiting in line for us. By now, we all gathered a year of experience here or there. And yet most of us are struggling with unemployment or endless internships. Others decided they weren’t qualified enough and signed up for yet another master at the very expensive and exclusive College of Europe.

Looking for a job is a difficult experience. It makes you feel worthless and somewhat gets you out of society. In the process of finding a job, you’ll find well-meaning people to advise you. And while we all need advice, I don’t think everyone not finding a job is doing it wrong.

You should have studied business or engineering

During my 3 months of job hunting, I went to ALL the meetings and workshops the job agency offered to young people. And while I found presenting myself 3 times a week to a bunch of other jobless newly graduates like me rather useless, I got something from it: there were as many marketing/business/engineering/finance/informatics jobless people as social sciences people. So it was a clever choice to study something I was passionate about instead of going for what we assume is a branch that could interest “the market”. So if you don’t find a job, it’s not because you didn’t chose right.

You should have more qualification/learn more languages

One time, I got fed up of not getting answers on my applications and well decided to know what I was doing wrong, harassed one of the organisation I hadn’t heard of. Their answer confirmed what I should have known, it’s not me, it’s the job market: “We received over 300 applications”. I just didn’t stand out.

I have two masters from two very good universities in France and Germany and am fluent in three languages. So are we all in my field. I could have done a PhD but then I’d be too qualified and not “practical” enough. Or had I been a little less lazy and stupid I could have seen the Arab spring coming and could have learn Arabic.

Qualifications are important. But we have them. And if it were the issue, older people (on the job market you’re a “senior” at age 45) wouldn’t have such a hard time finding a job.

You should have more experience

I think everyone gets the irony of telling someone trying to get experience that they should have more experience.

I felt more clearly on this point than on any other the direct responsibility of political leaders. In Germany, university is flexible enough to let students get a part time job and stop for an internship about whenever they want. At the end of their studies, Germans are mostly a bit older but have gathered more experience than most of their European counterparts on the market. It doesn’t ensure them a job but makes it maybe a little easier.

In France, lectures are all day long and don’t offer much flexibility. Stopping for a semester is out of the question and a one year break is synonym of failure. In these conditions, gathering experience is as good as impossible.

But don’t be fooled, it’s going to be your fault anyways.

You should change your CV/send them per post/call

There are basic rules everyone is following, like sending personalized applications, trying to put a name on the cover letter, etc… But in the jobless milieu, you also hear everything and its contrary. If you get a no (or more likely no response), you’ll always find someone telling you that you should have put your picture on your CV (or not put it in case you did), that letters/emails/phone calls are better, etc… But unless you have insider tips on the company preferences, one thing is certain: whatever means of communication you used was probably right. And if not, you couldn’t know so it’s not your fault.

When I got the Holy Grail in form of a job I love, several friends asked me for my CV, hoping to find out what was the secret of a successful application. Because obviously, they thought (just as I did) that there must be something they can do better (and that it was thereby their fault if they didn’t have a job). I think they were pretty disappointed it was the same CV that got me rejected by about 30 other organisations. And that it was fairly similar to theirs.

Maybe you’re not looking hard enough

This is by far the most infuriating comment a jobless person can get. OF COURSE we’re looking hard enough. Sometimes, there were days I wasn’t able to write a motivation letter or change my CV for the billions time. And I felt guilty about it and thought of myself as a failure. But one has to be positive and self-confident when writing a cover letter. Selling yourself is looking for a job 101. When you graduate, there is a moment of grace where you feel your years of hard work will finally pay off and the world will open up for you (yes, you’ve heard there’s a crisis, but you did so well, how could someone not want you?). Which makes every rejection even harder.

I’ve probably never felt more worthless than during the very short period I looked for a job. Not being in the student or in the work life isolates you and makes everything about finding a job. Or not finding it. For many friends of mine it’s harder. Because their parents can’t support them during that time, because they don’t have the money to travel through Europe for interviews, because it’s been too long, because their ego is even more fragile than mine, because they’re from a country that is hit even harder by the crisis…

And I just wanted to tell them that they are wonderful and deserving people and that IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT. Or are a quarter of young Europeans (and 60% of the Greeks) just lazy louts? Making us believe that we’re not trying hard enough, that we’re not qualified enough, that we didn’t pick the right field of studies is just an easy way for politicians to hide their failure at creating jobs. Years of austerity have crushed the job market and left millions of people unemployed. Globalization and neoliberalism have allowed companies to treat people as disposable adjustment variables and to lean towards profit maximization without any moral consideration.

As a consequence, millions of young people are looking for a job. MILLIONS. For every job posted on the euractiv job platform (the job bible for young people trying to make it at EU level), there are between 300 and 400 applications. It allows employers to be overly picky and demanding, to not pay according to qualifications and to use less and less protective forms of contracts. And it’s not our fault. It is politicians’ fault for being fooled by neoliberalism and still refusing to implements politics creating jobs by fear of not pleasing the markets.

Of course, I’m not saying it’s impossible, and I’m even less saying one should give up. But we should stop feeling guilty or bad about not succeeded straight away. And one thing you CAN do to improve your job search is to vote wisely for the European elections.

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Aurélie Wielchuda

Aurélie is a feminist based in Brussels.

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