Just Trying To Help… Spare Some Change?

I’m going to disclose something potentially damning about myself now: I’ve never had a paid, conventional, 9-5, full-time job before. Well, I’ve never had one that encompasses all these qualities at the same time.

Although I’ve been able to safely account for most of my “working” life by virtue of being at university* (full-time, or as full-time as an arts student can be…), and in volunteering, the often-uncomfortable fact is that, due most likely to a combination of circumstance and simple bad luck in that area, I’ve made it to nearly-thirty with less “working” experience than your average school-leaver, fresh out of the can.

*Also, I guess that spending those years at university investing in a degree which is probably one of the LEAST likely to lead directly to paid employment also hasn’t helped my situation.

However, this isn’t for lack of trying, particularly upon my leaving school with considerably poorer grades than I was hoping. At my peak, I was dumping around 5-10 of my proudly-tailor-made CVs per day upon the unwitting shop-bar-cafe circuit in my town; only a (child-size) handful of which actually invited me for an interview; almost none of whom actually offered me anything. Eventually, I would end up acquiring a very short-lived customer service job and a brief stint in “hospitality temping” – both of which I became certain I was suited to in NO way…

Furthermore, during those times when I found myself out of both work and education, I found myself actually WANTING to do something productive with my life. For me, finding work wasn’t just a way to earn money and make a living, it was a way to potentially enrich my life and to “make a contribution to society” – win-win.

Thus I was initiated into the world of volunteering. I started out helping in my local Oxfam store, which I grew to like enough to actually want as a paid position, except none were then available. I got a well rounded impression of working for a charitable organisation and felt… of-use. Then sometime later along came a full-time placement doing editing and graphic design for a local community project – full-time, but still technically volunteering.

Then in the middle of uni, I did more Oxfam time here and there, then when I graduated I had WAY more free time to fill, and job prospects which ended up being only slightly better than when I started my course. The trouble was that by the time of my graduation, the climate was such that not only were jobs scarce even for the most highly qualified people, but now competition for volunteering placements had grown so much that there were virtually queues out the door to basically work for free.

A few years ago, shortly before graduating, I applied for a mobile library role which would involve helping to deliver books to those unable to come to the library. After an intensive interviewing process and a thorough background check, I then heard… nothing. Ever again. I’m still not sure whether they were inundated with applicants in which I got lost in the shuffle, or they simply found a better fit for the role. Either way, it would now seem that even offering time for nothing in return would be a new challenge.

Something to this effect would happen a few more times between then and now. I would apply for a volunteering position with a view to “making-a-contribution-to-society” (and frankly, also to stop myself going insane), I would go along a few times, basking in the feel-good glow which comes from doing-a-good-thing. I believe I even dared to allow myself to feel a little smug on occasion.

Then the work-load would cease, or I would no longer be needed for the position, or communication would simply cease for whatever reason. Then I’d be back to square one.

I’m still not entirely sure whether I’m going wrong somewhere in the whole process of volunteering, or if there is just no place for a would-be writer/researcher/librarian (where my skills most closely lie, if anywhere) in this mad new world with far too many people also wanting to do-a-good-thing.

But in the absence of that ever-elusive full-time job which has been dodging me ever since I’ve been old enough to require one, I need to do something to keep the encroaching tide of ennui at a safe distance.

Or I might even be forced to take up running again.



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