Trials of a redundant journalist: 11 days teach me that I sound like a fat layabout on the phone and I can’t act

A round-up of posts from this week’s activity. Redundant Journalist, resident FleetStreetBlues blogger, gets her first rejection letter, learns that she sounds ‘larger’ on the phone, and that she’s a terrible actress…

DAY FIVE: I have a voice like a fat layabout
I’ve been learning new things about myself. My visit to the recruitment agency opened my eyes in more ways than one.

Other than my nimble keyboard fingers, I also discovered that I sound like a fat layabout on the phone.

The recruitment consultant didn’t say so in so many words, but my other half has, cruelly, confirmed it.

Before we met, I’d spoken to the consultant over the phone a number of times over the previous week, and when we finally met in person, she revealed that I wasn’t what she imagined I’d look like, going by my voice.

‘What did you think I looked like?’ I asked, slightly perplexed.

‘Well, slightly taller and larger,’ she began, trying to look diplomatic, and my jaw dropped. It was a first for me, being neither tall nor fat.

She said it might have something to do with my laid-back voice, and suggested I try smiling when on the phone to potential recruiters.

Just a few months ago, feedback I received from one of the interviews I went for also described me as a ‘cool customer’. I wasn’t really sure what this meant, but I wonder if the two are related.

So, despite being a naturally dry, cynical and rather lugubrious character, I’ve been trying to smile and act happy while on the phone to people. I’ll have to let you know how I get on with that one.

DAY SIX: A 20 page job application
People are currently digging up the road directly outside my front door. The drilling is doing my head in and the only thing that rivals it is a 20-page job application I filled in recently.

Yes that’s right, 20 pages – PLUS covering letter! And to top it off, it’s not even for a journalism job.

I nearly lost the will to live whilst doing it – these sample questions will explain why.

Despite spelling out all my duties in all my past employment, there were 12 questions to answer, and you had to give three examples of when you’d demonstrated each of the 12 requirements.

Go on, you try finding three un-inane examples to illustrate these….

1. You must be educated to degree level.

2. You have a good level of spoken and written English.

You may also have lost the will to live just reading that. But the job was well-paid and easy – what more could you ask for in an interim job?

I also have to admit that what these application forms do give you a chance to do is to be…well, creative is one word. Someone else might use something ruder. And what I’ve discovered is quite a few of the more old-fashioned application forms have very similar questions, which means a lot of simple copying and pasting.

So, I admit, grudgingly mind you, that it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

DAY SEVEN: The dreadfully paid non-journalism job gets back to me first

Late last week, I went to register in person with a media recruitment agency that put me forward for a job and says the employer is keen to interview me next week. Not a dream job, and will be really tough too, but it’s a journalism job that could take me onto the newswires, so I can’t knock it. And it’s not like the offers are flooding in at present.

Then, home again, I fired off three job applications. One journalism, one half-journalism and one completely-not-journalism.

And guess which replied first? Of course it’s the completely-not-journalism one, and I’ve got an interview for it. To top it off it pays dreadfully, but I guess I’ve reached that stage where I have to just admit it – I urgently need some income, any income now, rather than nothing. Moreover, while I’m stupidly over-qualified for it, I’m also over-qualified for an Asda job, which is an alternative I may have yet to consider, and this other job is at least better than that. I hope.

Otherwise, it was completely unheard of for me to get a response so quickly. It was literally a matter of hours.

Actually that may help you job hunters out there. I asked the recruitment agency what the market is like at the moment, other than just being very quiet. Apparently employers are taking far longer to make decisions now, safe in the knowledge that they’ll get hundreds of applicants so they just sit and wait for a good one to come along. I had figured as much. They also told me that they’re advising everyone to just take the first job offer they get, being so few and far between these days.

I certainly am already in that mindset – so if any of you are sitting on a job offer, just take it – and count your lucky stars.

DAY EIGHT: My first Actual Rejection
Received my first actual rejection today, not including the ones where I’ve not heard anything at all, and the first one for a job I really would have liked.

It wasn’t a journalist job. But if I had never gone into journalism, it would have been my dream job, and I had perfect qualifications for it. At least they did let me know I guess. Their reason was that someone else had more suitable qualifications, though.

Very depressing.

In other news, applied for another journalism job today. I’ve got my covering letter to the stage where I only have to change a few words to adapt it to each job, which makes things so much easier.

And tonight, although I really can’t be bothered, am going to do some networking, virtually gate-crashing a PR company’s drinks night with one of my old employers. I know they don’t have any vacancies at the moment but I might as well remind them that I’m available face-to-face.

DAY NINE: Schmoozing leads to good advice
I’m glad I went to the networking drinks last night – caught up with old friends and all their latest gossip, chatted to some really nice PR people and got the heads up on three potential jobs.

It is definitely good to remind people in person that a) you exist and b) you’re ready and available, and a friend at the event also gave me some excellent advice.

Like most people probably, I’ve been guilty of sitting here, sending off applications and just assuming that they’ve been unsuccessful because I’ve not heard anything. However, the advice I received and have already taken up is that you should always follow up your applications with a phone call to just let them know that you’re still interested in the job.

So I called a few of the people up this morning to ask them to check if they’d received my CV. One of them didn’t have any record and therefore I was asked to re-send it (that was a near miss); one checked their email as I was on the phone, therefore actively re-looking at my name and hopefully making a positive connection with my keen phone call; and another very kindly emailed me to confirm that they had my application and gave me an indication of when I could expect to hear from them.

All in all, I hope it won’t be wasted effort and that it works, but in the last case, it was particularly helpful to receive the extra information about the time-scale – something I wouldn’t have got just sat here on my bum staring at the computer, so go on, pick up that phone!

DAY TEN: I cannot lie and I am a bad actress
Had an interview at recruitment agency for a non-journalism job the other day that really tested my ability to lie.

I’m not a good liar and a terrible actress, and unfortunately it’s pretty clear that I still want to be a journalist.

This job I was going for required me to declare that I wanted to change my career entirely, even though it had billed itself as a contract job. Being completely unprepared for this (I thought it was just going to be for the six months it stated) I was therefore too honest when asked the question ‘where do see yourself in five years’ time?’

To some extent, you have to feign enthusiasm and interest for certain journalism jobs, especially if they are trade magazines in industries you know very little about, but deep down, at least you are not lying about wanting to be a journalist.

So, at least I know that if I don’t get this job, it will be because I didn’t lie well enough, rather than because I’m not capable. (I hope.)

A useful lesson to learn for the next non-journalism job interview I’ve got coming up next week, methinks…

DAY 11: I am told I am ‘bright’ but it’s a no
I had an interview for a journalism job the other day. It was going great – I passed their writing and numeracy test, I was confident and personable and seemed to get on with the interviewers.

But then the next day I phoned the recruitment agency to give them my feedback, saying how much I really liked and wanted the job. They immediately went to their client telling them so but then yes, you guessed it: ‘Sorry, it’s a no.’ Reasons given: although they liked me and said I was ‘bright’, they thought I was too ambitious and would be using them as a stepping stone and, crucially, they preferred someone else.

At least I only had a day of wondering, but it was pretty crushing. It really is useless bothering to do your best at these things when all it comes down to is they just see someone else they, for one reason or another, prefer.

I’m trying not to keep count of the number of days I’ve been job hunting now as that will depress me even more, but anyone out there with any tips on how to keep spirits up while job hunting?

A blog series which will run until our guest blogger, The FleetStreetBlues Redundant Journalist finds a job or gets too busy to blog. Follow the Trials of a Redundant Journalist series, by the Redundant Journalist, here. She is also posting her updates on FleetStreetBlues.

One thought on “Trials of a redundant journalist: 11 days teach me that I sound like a fat layabout on the phone and I can’t act

  1. jason brown

    My suggestion?

    Think a little more strategic. Weigh up the costs to your psyche of activities that nearly cause you to ‘lose the will to live.’

    Because, mark my words, all those emotions repressed in the name of the being a good little consumer and plunging back into the job market straight away will, one night, come back to whisper in your ear. Soon enough they become an endless scream.

    Counselling is not cheap, or, if it is, not easy to get to, nor is it easy to find one that synchs with your psyche.

    But even if a job was to appear tomorrow, what you have to realise as a journalist is the trauma done to your self-image including the necessity to reverse professional practice and lie about your intentions, just to get a foot in the door.

    That trauma will do your professional abilities no good whatsoever. So, think strategic. Line up your ducks, including your counselling ducks, and winkle out the angst that will otherwise come and bite you, hard.

    Whatever free services are available, use them.

    And never forget that there is no shame in being the victim of a system that collapsed due to a lack of truth, not an excess of it.

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