The Graduate Dream

Big dog head taken by photographer

© The Shortlisted

I graduated with a degree in Sociology and Criminology in 2009, right in the height of recession but surely that wouldn’t be an issue for a desirable job seeker like me?

I was a grade-three guitarist, had captained my school’s football team (a slight embellishment, since I was usually a sub) and was – according to my CV – “ambitious,” “determined” and “enthusiastic.”

Furthermore, before university, I’d taken a gap year where I’d experienced new cultures, made international connections and found myself (in reality, I drank too much, tried with little success to romance foreign women and lost my passport).

Which employers wouldn’t want me? Surely the world was my oyster, and my student loan would be wiped out within months.

I put on a smart shirt and shoes and traipsed around town handing my CV to every recruitment consultant I could. But they didn’t have high hopes on me.
“OK, you can give me your CV, mate. But we’ve got no graduate jobs. I don’t even know if I have any jobs next week.”

I spent a couple of fruitless weeks watching Loose Women and submitting my CV to exciting opportunities in fast-growing companies! on recruitment websites. Some of them had OTE’s of £50k.

There’s not much I wouldn’t do for £50k.

Sadly, when I dug a little deeper, most of these positions were either commission-only sales roles or non-existent. I since steered clear of any job adverts that contain exclamation marks and/or question marks like: are you a dynamic go-getter?!

Finally, a bubbly recruitment lady called, saying that something had arisen. It was an ambiguously-titled administration role but they were looking for immediate starters. I scored sufficiently high on a typing test for her to put me forward. An interview wasn’t necessary, she told me.


The following Monday, I put on a tie, a spray of aftershave and gelled my hair. Here we go, I thought, my career starts here. I couldn’t drive at the time and it was an arduous bus journey to get to the office.

The office, it turned out, was a windowless back room in a warehouse on an industrial estate. The other new recruits and I were met by a middle-aged lady who looked short on sleep.

She explained our duties. My role was to stuff leaflets into envelopes, seal them and put them in a box.
For 9 hours a day at minimum wage. Why had I needed to pass a typing test?
I was not allowed to sit down or to talk to my colleagues.
If the middle-aged lady deemed that we had stuffed enough envelopes, we were allowed to listen to an irritating local radio station for the final hour of the day.

The graduate dream.
I lasted three days as an envelope-stuffer before moving on to a data-entry role in a bank, where my typing skills could be put to use.

At least my time there was brightened up by sitting next to a witty out-of-work pilot who charmed the girls in the HR department and had more dates in a month than I’d had in my whole life.
I’ve spent all my (eight) years since graduating working in numerous crap and not-so-crap jobs, including care homes, insurance companies and even a spell as a recruiter.

Our speciality was, guess it, commission-only sales role.
I was terrible at this job and was sacked after failing to find enough people willing to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door in Bradford.

The most enjoyable job in my twenties was a three-year stint teaching English in Asia. I would recommend this escape route to anybody who is clueless and demoralised by their work.
It’s rewarding, good fun and pays reasonably well. Unfortunately, there’s not much room for progression and you will have to come home eventually, won’t you? I was concerned I might wake up in a hammock one day in my fifties, thinking “what happened?”
Bad jobs are character building and help you to learn and develop.

My debut novel, Bright Nights and White Lights, was published in 2015 and much of the material came from my own experiences.
Bad jobs also make you appreciate it when you’ve got a good thing going on.
It’s important to remain positive and to continue to think that you will get there in the end.
I’m happy to report that today, aged thirty, I’ve finally landed a decent job in social services which I like.
And I’m now allowed to sit down for starters.

★ Liked this story and want more tips for early career job seekers? Also read how to get your first job and how to decide what to do after graduation

About The Author


Andrew Carter is an English novelist. His debut novel, "Bright Lights and White Nights"was published by Proverse. He is currently working on his second book. You can follow him on Twitter and check out his Facebook page for regular blogs, short stories and book updates.