New strategies: job hunting

OK, so I had made my way back. I had bought myself 3 years to find a way of remaining. I would need to review my strategies and begin to search for a job that would allow me to get a word visa post-PhD. I had already organised to do some volunteer Front of House work for the History Festival, which I really enjoyed doing but was unpaid. I thought I could relax a bit in the first few months as I still had money coming in from my freelance translator work, and therefore avoid wasting too much time and energy in dead-end jobs in hospitality or retail. Don’t get me wrong, a job is a job when you really need it and I have massive respect for people who work in those industries, as I did too during my undergraduate years, but at this stage I needed something to make my CV more attractive to recruiters in the arts and academia.

Just before leaving Brazil again, I had applied to an Assistant Director job with a company specifically seeking an AD that could speak Spanish. I got my rejection email the day after I arrived back in Edinburgh. As usual, no feedback other than ‘we’re not taking your application further, but will keep your CV on file for future reference’. The first email I received was also not meant for me, but for someone called Alejandro – I had to write back and request that my own rejection be confirmed.

Within the first week of being back, I also contacted another organisation about an advert they had put out for a part-time administrator and I never heard back. I also got in touch with someone doing a theatrical project involving multiple languages, who was looking for someone to join the crew. We met and had a great chat, but didn’t end up working together for some reason that I can’t even recall now. I got in touch with a translation agency that I had done some work for before, asking whether they had any in-house vacancies and they said they didn’t. I applied for jobs at the Edinburgh Art Festival and with a publisher, both fruitless. Within a month, I cracked and found myself requesting application packs from a wine shop, which I couldn’t proceed with, as they were advertising full-time positions only and I am restricted by my visa to working no more than 20 hours a week. Just before Christmas, I managed to secure an interview for a customer service role in a well-known tourist attraction. I thought I had done well both at the group and individual interviews, focusing on my previous experience working with walking tours and Edinburgh Castle, but I was turned down. When I asked for feedback, I was told my skill set did not quite match up what they were after. A fried who worked there then told me they weren’t impressed with the fact I was wearing a thick knit jumper for the interview, and that was the real reason why I was turned down.

I tried expanding my search to jobs in Glasgow. I applied for a receptionist position at an art studio, unsuccessfully.

When 2016 started, I applied for Development Officer and box office positions that either never got back to me or just said no. I was worried now. I had been back for nearly three months and hadn’t even found a low-profile part-time job. This was when a good friend stepped in and offered me a temporary gig selling books for Blackwell’s at my old university campus for a couple of weeks. It was minimum wage, it involved some heavy lifting, and it was in Musselburgh, but I was very happy to have that. It was like running my own tiny bookshop and I got to catch up with some former lecturers and update them on what I’m doing now (playing the long game here).

It didn’t solve any of my main problems but it helped me relax for at least another few weeks and get on with stuff. I could do my own reading while on shift during quiet periods, and because the bookshop was set inside the library, it was handy to do some PhD work too. Also, the staff discount to buy my own books was much appreciated.

I would have to face the job hunt again later that month, but for now, things were OK.

 

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What now, José? Joe Gets the Job

What now, José?
The party’s over,
the lights are off,
the crowd’s gone,
the night’s gone cold,
what now, José?

(“José“, by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

I counted. Between January and November 2014, I applied for 39 jobs (2 in Brazil, 7 in Spain and 30 in the UK). I was only called for 1 interview. I’m still jobless a freelancer.

The Brazilian job market is weird. There are so many rules and regulations that do not benefit either the employer or the workers, only the government. It’s hard to find a job with a good career plan in Brazil, yet people tend to be tied to strict contracts – freelancing is still a reasonably new thing and part-time jobs are practically non-existing. Flexibility isn’t a thing in the land of Carnaval.

I didn’t spend enough time in Spain to have a better idea of how it works there, but they are still trying to crawl out of their big economic crisis and there aren’t that many jobs going – and the few vacancies that you might find will certainly go to Spanish people, they won’t be hiring foreigners at this time.

My UK job hunt met similar obstacles. HR people can swear as much as they like that nationality does not count, it’s only your CV that gets assessed, but I can’t shake off the feeling that the moment I tick the ‘non-EU’ box, that’s my application chucked in the NO pile. I can’t blame them, with all the restrictions imposed on employers as well, it is much easier to hire someone with a similar experience to mine, but who won’t require all the immigration faff.

All that said, I am aware it sounds like an easy way out simply blaming the political and economical context of countries for my lack of a job when the answer could simply be my own incompetence – which could mean either lack of knowledge/experience required for jobs I’ve been applying to, or bad CV/applications writing skills combined with weak powers of persuasion and inability to suck up to the right people. I thought back to the days when I was looking for a teaching job after graduating from my first degree in Porto Alegre and how hard it was for the first couple of months – despite an awesome TEFL CV. I realised I kept telling people at interviews that I was planning to move to Scotland within the next year or so, so they obviously didn’t want to invest on someone about to run away. Once I stopped saying that, I started being offered jobs and ended up working at two good schools (well, there was the Catholic school that rejected me because I revealed my atheism in the interview).

The thing is, I can’t quite figure out what I am doing wrong now, which is where my skepticism of HR neutrality comes from, particularly when I’ve had two near misses, both in Glasgow, when the people on the phone sounded mad keen to have me working with them right away, but were disappointed to find out I wasn’t a EU passport holder and therefore could not hire me due to the Home Office restrictions.

This whole experience reminded me of the story of José Zamora, who was having trouble finding a job in the US until he changed his name to ‘Joe’ on his CV and started getting loads of offers. Paradox, paranoia or coincidence? Open to debate.