How I Got Here

I guess it makes sense when writing about being unemployed and finding work, that I should explain how I got here. People become unemployed for a number of reasons and handle it in different ways. Some plan it and others, not so much. I’m a bit of both.

Let’s flash back a couple of years ago. I was half way through my degree and had just accepted the fact that a degree might not be enough to secure a job. I had been working my internship for about six months at this point and it was coming up to the end. Instead of leaving, I extended the six month internship and stayed for a total of two years.

I had heard that the university I was studying at would count an internship towards your degree but had a very tight criteria to meet with no assistance. So rather than quit the internship I already had as you weren’t allowed to use any previous experience towards your degree, I decided to stay and take a different route.

The internship program the university ‘supplied’ was a two week internship which didn’t seem like the logical way to go when I could get two years of experience. So I stayed put and instead, enrolled in college.

This process wasn’t as simple as that. I had to find a way to make my hours at college work around my hours at uni, work and my internship. Talk about juggling! So I spent a semester emailing back and forth with the university and college, lining up dates and accrediting criteria, paperwork and deadlines.

Once I had been reassured by both parties I could get my diploma accredited from my degree as elective subjects, saving me a semester, I enrolled at the business college. This was a bit of a challenge as I had to persuade them I could complete the mandatory face-to-face hours required to complete the course. After a small argument, reassurance from another staff member and an incredibly understanding tutor, I was enrolled and on my way to getting a diploma of business.

I laid out the remaining two years of classes I had at university, figured out which ones would be canceled out by my diploma and was able to study part-time at university whilst studying full-time at college, working and interning.

Somewhere in this time, it had been pointed out to me at the internship that the next time they hired, they would most likely just give me the job, as my internship was unpaid and I was their best bet of knowing they had hired someone with strong journalism experience, especially in regards to the layout of the papers they publish.

After juggling work, the internship, university and college, I reached a point where I realised that I wanted and very much needed a travel break but knew I wouldn’t be able to pick up this workload upon returning. So I stuck it out and planned a getaway once I had finished my classes at university.

I spoke to my boss at the internship about my travel plans and he was really happy for me, being a traveler himself. I couldn’t tell anyone that I worked with in retail as my position was casual and very much not guaranteed so it remained a secret until the end. I continued studying and working with the comfort of knowing I would most likely be hired by the publication company I interned at, once I returned from Europe and graduated.

I made it very clear that I wanted to travel in-between my classes ending and my graduation ceremony as I didn’t want the trip to eat into any prime hiring period. Given the gap between class and the graduation ceremony, I was left with a very decent chunk of travel time, four months.

I graduated from college and got my diploma accredited at university. This was a little hiccup. The time period I had been told that it would take to process was shorter than the time it actually took, which knocked me back a semester and left me with one course left. So I continued studying for an extra semester but only studying one course which was frustrating given I had tried my best to avoid it happening but it gave me another semester to work and continue saving for my trip.

As I mentioned, I spoke to my boss at the internship about my travel plans. I also booked my trip 10 months in advance, meaning I gave about a years notice before I left for four months, reassuring that I would be back in time to graduate and be available as soon as I graduated.

I kept working, interning and studying at university through this final semester. About two weeks out from leaving, my shifts at work got cut significantly. Given I was a manager and creating the roster, this wasn’t very appreciated as the changes were made without my knowledge. So I went from working about 40 – 50 hours a week to four… Aren’t I glad I spent two years saving!

I had always planned to quit this retail job before going overseas as I thought having a diploma, a degree and years of journalism experience would be enough to be hired in no time. Besides, I basically had a job lined up at the internship anyway.

I was initially going to give work two weeks notice but given my shifts had been cut so much, I just finished the roster and emailed my resignation and requested a certificate of completion and that was that.

I then went to do my second last shift at the internship before my trip and found someone at my desk. I assumed he was a new intern that had been sat next to the head journalist to look onto her work, receive training and guidance. So I didn’t say anything. I sat at the neglected computer at the back of the office with my back to everyone and did my work.

My next shift, two days before I flew to Rome, I arrived earlier hoping to beat this new intern to my desk and found he was already there. Confused again but of course not wanting to kick up a fuss, I sat at the neglected computer at the back of the office. Again.

As I’m continuing my work, not wanting this new intern to bother me, I overhear him being talked through the time sheet. Something I’ve obviously never had to do given my two years of work were unpaid. Still telling myself he was a new intern, I thought this may have been a new way to log hours, especially if he was interning through the university with its tight criteria.

Then my boss drops the bomb;

Make sure you do this on time so that you can be paid on time…

I turn to look at the back of the ‘new intern’s’ head and make my way to the kitchen. I didn’t want to hear any more of him being paid. I boiled the jug and tried to regain myself when the head journalist came in. She apologised profusely, insisting everyone else had put my name forward once it was known they were going to be hiring but the boss had made his own decision. She definitely wasn’t happy about it, gave me an amazing reference and remains as my top referee.

I sat back at my desk with my coffee, kind of relieved I had the computer at the back of the office so I didn’t have to look at the guy who had just taken my job. The head journalist, bless her, went out and bought me a gift from the office for my trip and a card thanking me for all of my work over the years. Something I know came out of her own pocket and the boss wouldn’t consider necessary in having a share in.

The boss then asks me when I’ll be back. I explained, as I had previously, that as a qualified graduate I refused to continue to work for free and if I wasn’t going to be paid for my published articles here, I would have to find a job that would support me and at least pay the bills as I had quit my retail job. As he knew.

His decision to hire the other person was financial, and I know nothing personal. But it hurt. A lot. It was the way it was handled that made the whole thing horrible. I then spent my trip worrying about what I was doing and how I was spending my money as I now had no financial security and no guarantee of having one when I returned as I had initially been lead to believe.

From the internship I got a portfolio, a wonderful ‘work mum’, good friend and experience so that I am thankful for. I had been completely honest my entire time there so it was extremely disappointing being lied to but I believe that says more about the boss’ character than my own.

Though it wasn’t all bad, this is where my misadventure began and how I got here…


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