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We Need To Talk About How It Feels To Be a Graduate Who Can’t Even Land a Part-Time Job

Anyone who’s ever applied to a university will know that one of the biggest selling points for a degree is the extent to which it’s going to up your career prospects.

Graduate employability is all but used as a bribe to encourage undergraduates to push for that first class degree, believing that waiting for them at the end of the academic tunnel will be a fantastic graduate job, or at least plenty of opportunities to find one.

You sit there on graduation day, listening to speech after speech driving home what a bright future you’re about to step out into, how you’ve thoroughly earned your place on the graduate job market, how everything’s going to be great from here on out. Even the most humble of graduates leaves those ceremonies with a slightly inflated ego. That’s not to say that all graduates are to some extent self-entitled; we are most certainly not. We know that, contrary to what we’ve been promised, our degrees don’t automatically open doors for us. We’ve learned the hard way that we also need, among many other things, experience, innovation, and, perhaps most importantly of all, patience.

You spend three years hearing stories about successful alumni from your university and watching as your friends land amazing graduate jobs, so it comes as a bit of a shock to the system when the same doesn’t quite happen for you.

Now I’m going to be candid. Like many other graduates who needed some time to figure life out after leaving university, I applied for a part-time job. With just over a year of retail experience under my belt, a 2:1 in English Literature, and those promises of a fantastic future ringing in my ears, I applied for a part-time Sales Adviser role in Lush. And like many other graduates who apply for part-time roles that aren’t quite the “real” career roles they’re aiming for but they’re a small step in the right direction, I was pretty damn convinced I would get it. Why wouldn’t I? I had experience and I had a degree, what more could they be looking for? A degree might not get you any job in a specialist field, but surely it will get you a part-time job in Lush, right?

Wrong. I got rejected. And it hurt. I didn’t even get to the interview stage. I barely even got an explanation for why I was unsuccessful, just that “competition for this role in particular was very high.” Well, great. If a degree and experience can’t make you stand out in a competition for a part-time role in Lush, when can it? Suddenly, the future had never seemed less bright. No, I hadn’t done a degree just to get a job, but that was a big part of it. And now I couldn’t even get a part-time one.

“University does a great job of preparing you for success, but fails spectacularly to prepare you for what happens when you fail.”

Why am I telling you this? Because no one ever talks about what it’s like to be a graduate who gets rejected from a job you, let’s be honest, thought was beneath you in one way or another. People don’t want to hear about how you paid £27,000 to get rejected from Lush. It’s like the unspoken side-effect on the back of your degree that no one ever pays attention to. You just think it won’t happen to you.

Even though I knew I wasn’t, I felt like I was the only one who’d ever gone through such a shit time. The only graduate to have been rejected from a job that wasn’t even the one they ultimately thought they deserved. As such, I didn’t know how to come to terms with it for a long time. University does a great job of preparing you for success, but fails spectacularly to prepare you for what happens when you fail.

So, although I hope this never happens to you, here’s a helpful guide for how to deal with such rejection, should you ever need it like I did.

1. Try not to let your emotions take over.

If, like me, you applied to Lush, don’t go into the shop and throw bath bombs around and shout about how much of a great employee they’re missing out on. OK, I didn’t actually do this, but I thought about it a lot. A lot. Thinking about it is fine for a while, but only for a while.

2. And definitely don’t become all bitter and twisted.

Don’t let this one hiccup make you feel like all is lost or that your degree wasn’t worth it. And, again, if you applied to Lush, don’t let it spoil your memories of the place. Like that time the super-friendly sales assistant gave you a hand massage and a free soap sample. Or when you bought that delicious-smelling shower gel that made you feel like a zesty glowing goddess. Yes, you could have been that person helping someone else have that same experience, but now you can’t, so let it go.

3. Put everything into perspective.

Shit happens. It could be a whole lot worse. You’re allowed to feel upset, don’t let anyone take that away from you. But you also need to keep everything in perspective. For me, this was a case of re-reading my adorable cover letter and coming to terms with how being rejected for a role in which I would be advising people on jellies that you’re supposed to rub on yourself in the shower doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing that job, just that I didn’t get it. Don’t extrapolate and apply it to all circumstances. Just because Lush rejected you, doesn’t mean that anywhere else of a similar calibre will too. If its a job for money, don’t be discouraged.

4. Remember what you actually want to do.

Getting rejected from anywhere might be a blessing in disguise. Did I really want to work at Lush? I would’ve enjoyed myself, without a doubt. But it wasn’t my ultimate career goal. People apply for part-time jobs after uni for all kinds of reasons, but it’s important to put working towards the career you want first, whether that’s working for free or continuing the job search for whatever it is that you’re passionate about.

5. Don’t give up.

Keep calm and carry on! Believe in yourself. You’ve got this. It may take a little more time for you to feel like it, but you do.

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