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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Have you considered…?

Yes, I have. I know, I know, you’re just trying to help and I’m being rude. But trust me, I have investigated all possible routes to go back to Scotland legally. No, I have no intention of doing it illegally. I want to go back to continue my work in theatre that I started in 2006 (yes, I’m counting from 1st year as I got involved with extracurricular activities pretty soon), not to hide in someone’s basement living in fear of the racist vans.

After failing twice to get an Exceptional Talent visa, I looked into other categories. Other Tier 1 and 2 (work visas) that I could potentially get included the General/Skilled Migrant and Entrepreneur visas. The General work visa is a massive catch-22 situation: I can’t get a job that fulfills all requirements because I don’t have a work permit, and I can’t get a work permit unless I am offered a job that fulfills all requirements. The main requirement being a £21,000 salary. I love explaining that to friends that work in different fields. Those who work in finance, business management, teaching, etc. don’t think it’s a big deal. The ones in the arts scream in despair that it’s too much money. There aren’t many jobs that offer that level of pay in the arts, and the few that do will have hundreds of people applying. Tough. But what about my other occupation, as a translator? Can I not just get a job doing that? Money-wise, if I dedicated myself to translating full-time for a UK-based agency, I would probably make that in a year. The problem here is that most agencies work on freelance contracts, and the Home Office really doesn’t like that word. That takes us to the Entrepreneur visa. I have a theatre company registered as a business in Scotland, but unless I have £200,000 invested in it (or a £50,000 grant), I am not eligible for this one. Remember that bit about not managing to make £20k a year? Yeah. That’s the Entrepreneur visa out of the picture too.

No, I don’t have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or just a really generous friend who makes £27,000 a year and wants to marry me either. Yes, it is all about the money. I’m not being shallow, the Home Office makes the rules. I’m not comfortable putting such a burden on someone else’s shoulders and the additional stress is too much. I’ve read and witnessed enough stories of people torn apart and to pieces because of this one – epic ordeals, long and expensive legal actions, humiliation, resulting in heartbreak and terrible damage to their physical and mental health. I’ll steer clear from the Spouse/Family/Unmarried Partner visas too, thank you very much.

No, I can’t prove any European ancestry, sorry. It’s quite evident that at some point someone moved from Spain or Portugal to what is now known as Brazil, carrying my family name and white(ish) skin with them, but that was so many generations ago that I can’t even find them. Spanish and Portuguese colonisers weren’t as good at keeping record and sticking to tradition as the Italians and Germans, so it would be almost a miracle to find out which of my great-great-great grandparents came from where. My dad didn’t even have the same surname as his brothers, all born to the same father and mother and I still don’t know why that is. So no, unlike most Brazilians with permanent residency in the UK and beyond, I can’t acquire a funky second passport with a EU stamp.

I’m left with two choices: the Tier 5 – Temporary Creative Workers Visa and a new Tier 4 Student Visa. Biting the bullet and becoming a postgraduate student is very tempting at this stage – not only for immigration purposes, but I’ve been told over and over again that I should invest in further study because it’s the thing to do these days. I need to consider institutions, courses and funding, though. Alternatively, I can try and get involved with a temporary project that will help me get a Tier 5 seal of approval. This is late November, 2014 – still taking advantage of my visitor visa, I decide to stop looking at long-term solutions and buy time instead. To be continued…