A few years ago, I decided to quit my job after 87 days because in my mind, “if you don’t love it…change it.” As it stood, I was then part of the NEET club—one of the thousands of 18-24 year olds “not in education, employment or training.”
Well, let me tell you how I felt—I felt like Superwoman. I did something I was afraid of. I felt liberated and, oddly enough, I felt a sense of achievement. I had figured out what I didn’t want to do and, knowing what I know now—that’s when you’re halfway there.
The first two months were fun. I caught up with friends, had sleepovers and was out on “school nights.” I travelled back and forth to Leicester and faked the student life: house parties and 10% discount in Topshop using my friend’s student card #DontJudge #NoRegrets.
When in London, I applied endlessly to roles that I thought I might enjoy, but again, the lack of direction was evident. I received rejection letters on a daily basis. After two months it all became very real—Leicester stopped because the little I’d saved had ran out and 10% off clothes wasn’t that exciting when you couldn’t actually afford to buy the remaining 90%. Suddenly, what was fun and somewhat liberating became worrying and extremely restrictive.
Yes, unemployment is hard. But you were never meant to be unemployed for more than three months. You have a Law degree from a top university. You are employable. And there it was—the false sense of entitlement playing havoc again. I was plagued by the disillusion that it would somehow take just three months to land my dream job and this would obviously be everything I had been holding out for. I wanted to be fulfilled; to contribute. I wasn’t interested in merely living to pay bills or to simply make money. I wanted to change the world.
I soon realised that finding a role—a career—takes a while. It takes an incredible amount of effort and focus.
Three months passed. I was waking up for what seemed like nothing; watching one of my brothers leave for school at 8:00am and my mum leave for work at 8:45am. I would call my friends for a chat, but it had to be before 9:00am or they too would be at work. I felt purposeless.
It is not in my nature to not be engaged, to not be mentally challenged and to not learn. The 21 years of my life so far had been filled with just that—developing, growing…and yet here I was sitting on my laurels doing nothing. I was broken. I was still applying and getting very little traction; I was desperate. However I did learn that the easiest way to lose focus on a dream is to be distracted by another. Don’t lose focus.
Four months passed. I genuinely couldn’t believe I was still unemployed and by this point I had no money. I was fortunate enough to live at home with my family, but what had previously seemed like small outgoings—phone bills, car insurance, contact lens prescriptions—all become huge expenses. I had to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance, a measly £50.00 per week and the stigma society attached to this was even greater.
The Jobcentre sucked the soul out of me. Quite frankly, the office stank. The air was stale; a mix of bad BO and urine and the atmosphere was cold. You felt like all eyes were on you; you could just hear the judgmental thoughts as you walked in—“another one skiving off the Government— why can’t she just go and work in McDonald’s or something?” I often left feeling even lower than when I entered and nothing had changed. Every other Thursday I would do it all again.
Yes…unemployment is hard.
I can’t really tell you what changed, but I can tell you that the fifth month sparked something. I had spent the earlier months languishing, applying, crying, applying, signing on, crying and crying some more. I knew that I was the only one who could change my destiny. I was in charge of my future. Opportunities do arise, but if they don’t—create them. And if they do appear, make sure you’re ready.
Learn about yourself, assess your own skills, read more, be comfortable with who you are and plan where you’re heading. Ask yourself:
- Who do you want to be?
- What are you happiest doing?
- Where do your skills lie?
I took various online psychometric tests around careers, skills and finding your passion. I researched roles that encompassed these skills/attributes. I researched industries and companies alike. I found role models on LinkedIn, studied their journey and then I began networking.
I joined a specialist recruitment firm who recruited for my desired role and tailored my CV. This time, I stuck to my dream. I constantly applied for these targeted positions until I got traction. There were no distractions this time and no stopping me.
Six months after beginning that journey, I was offered a (dream) role as a Business Development Manager at a small IT and Telecoms Firm. I loved this company, it provided a firm foundation for who I am today and was my stepping stone into the corporate world.
So I urge you: keep on not settling, it will all be worth it in the end.
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Written by Melissa Owusu; you can read more from this contributor at www.melissaowusu.com. Photography by Flazingo Photos. If you are aged 18—24 and looking for help launching into your dream career, check out our Star Track Fellowship Programme.