Dealing with Rejection

I’m just going to hold up my hands and say it: “I am crap at dealing with rejection”. I mean, let’s be honest, when you’ve just been rejected (from a job you applied for, a relationship you may have/have not been invested in, turned down by friends), the last thing you want to hear are those well-meaning souls who tell you it’s just not meant to be, or something must be around the corner, or something better will come along. Sure, those are more than welcome but personally, I don’t want to hear them immediately after being rejected. I want to shout, scream, cry, and do all three at the same time. All I want from other people is maybe a hug and for them to whisper “they/he/she/it is a bastard”. Because in those first few moments, I want to just be completely irrational and I need people to just tolerate my “the world is ending” moment so I can just get it out my system. Then bring me sugary snacks, cups of tea, and help me pick up the pieces.

This week has been my finals week, and I am now officially finished with university. Unfortunately this week I also heard back from all the grad schemes and summer work experience opportunities I applied for – all with a negative. In retrospect, I can nod and say “Ok, yes, they were the biggest companies with everyone and their mothers applying, so the competition was incredible fierce, but at the time? No way. At the time all I wanted to do was cry and give up. I wanted to cuddle up in my bed with some chocolate and watch a feel good film whilst I sobbed at the fact that I wasn’t wanted. Because, at least for me right now, it’s not just because I was rejected. It’s the addition of the fact that it’s a job that I really wanted, and I’m a soon-to-be university graduate hoping to get into my chosen field. So getting rejected? Felt like a kick in the teeth. And to have them on the week of my final exam? Like an extra kick when I’m on the ground for good measure.

That’s when everyone brings out the corny sayings: they don’t know what they’re missing, if they knew you they wouldn’t reject you, they just don’t understand, you’ll just get something better next time, chin up chuck etc etc. Again, it’s all meant well and after a day or so I feel like I can take those lines and feel happy after receiving them, but just after I’ve been rejected and staring at the empty abyss with no certainty about my future? Telling me I’ll get something better ‘next time’ just doesn’t do it for me, as although the person saying that is just trying to cheer you up, both of you know that there is no actual truth in that statement – that we know of. Sure, something could come along that’s better, but something could just as easily not come along – I’m presuming, of course, that you can’t see the future.

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is to the plight of being rejected. I want to be the person who, when they get rejected, can just keep their chin up and move on. For now, though, I need that time just after – be it thirty minutes, an hour, or even half a day where I can just mope and feel sorry for myself. After a good angry venting session, it feels pretty cathartic. Once you expel those emotions it feels so much easier to move onto the next thing. And whilst it was a bitch to be rejected during revision, the revision itself had a strong enough pull for me to get my act together that I was able to move on relatively quick. Don’t get me wrong, I cried down the phone to my mum about how I was a failure, but soon enough after got back to reading about the contrasting presentations of the House of Fame between Ovid, Jonson, and Chaucer.

I think one thing does hold true though; whilst sometimes you need to have a cry or shout in anger, it does good to go into that next day fresh and determined. Instead of letting a rejection kick you down and keep you down, let it just knock you off guard for a moment before getting back into the ring and fighting on. At least, that’s what I’ll try to tell myself next time.

Here’s some advice

I’m at the stage where the end of my university career is within sight, and so the job hunt is beginning. Suddenly it’s like I’m eighteen again, trying to decide what I’m going to do for the rest of my life – except then I ended up continuing on in the bubble of education, and now it’s like someone is going to take a sledgehammer to said bubble, hitting me with taxes, even more bills, and no student loan.

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The past few months I’ve been attending various talks, panels, and discussions about the field of work I want to go into along with general job advice, so I thought now would be a good time to tell you (and remind myself) three of the best pieces of advice I’ve had so far. Let’s hope it works.

  1. If you come to me with a problem, have a solution

Ok, so at face value this doesn’t really look like advice for getting a job, but I still adore it. I was at a talk with some publishers and one of them said that this is what one of her past employers told her. I like it even more when I think of how to apply it to everyday scenarios, that when there is a problem you need to vent about or run around panicking, tot think of a solution first. It’ll certainly be helpful in the work place, and look good to any employers if you go to them with an issue but also suggest a possible solution.

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2. People love being asked for advice

Ok, again, I know I promised advice and saying one of my pieces of advice is to ask for advice doesn’t sound so helpful, but just hear me out. I really worry about bothering people, especially when I’m stuck, and so emailing all the contacts I have to ask for help isn’t something that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. But then at a panel last week, one of the speakers told us that people love being asked for advice. You forget that although you’re looking for help and a favour, it’s a huge compliment to have someone ask you for advice. It shows that they value your judgement and opinion and, let’s face it, if someone can help you bridge the gap between you and your dream job, an ego boost always goes down well.

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3. Act Like You’re One

And by ‘one’, I mean act like you’re already an *insert job title here*. At a talk I went to, one woman said that she wanted to move up the ladder from something like a senior editor to associate, and so at her next job she just started acting like an associate editor would, calling shots and making those decisions. Soon enough, she claimed, everyone – including herself – believed her to be an associate editor, and she hasn’t looked back since. Having that deeper sense of confidence is definitely beneficial, whether you’re in an interview or on your first day, and the only word of warning is to ensure that that confidence doesn’t come across as arrogance. There is always a step to far, and one example I have is of someone who started off at my part-time job but was so ‘confident’, that she started telling other people what to do and how things should be done – this was on her third day, addressing those who had been working there for months. Always good to have a dash of humbleness mixed in there.

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And those are my three favourite pieces of advice. I hope in the coming months I can put them to action and see what happens, fingers crossed that it works out. And good luck to anyone out there job hunting as well – let me know if you have any other great tips, I’m going to need them.

 

Revelations at the bookshop

I’ve had a mix of jobs, three paid ones to be exact and several unpaid. I’ve already discussed my joyous time at the pub (if you haven’t read it and are interested, click here), have briefly commented on the horror that was working as a hostess, but for today I want to talk about working in a bookshop and about retail in general. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the strange world of weekend jobs.

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I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I actually enjoy my job. Despite the fact that I lose every weekend, it’s a great environment to work in with great colleagues and, every now and then, some nice customers. However, there are a few things that become very apparent about people in society today just from the interactions between a customer and employee. What some people fail to understand, is that just because someone is an employee does not make you, the customer, their boss. In fact it does not put you in a superior position whatsoever. Most people will nod and say ‘yes, yes, I know’, but those same people do not then act like they know it. For example, I had a man bark at me the other day whilst I was in the middle of speaking to another customer, “You, get on the till, I need to pay”. Yes, I know, frightfully rude, but you’d be surprised at how many times I have this interaction daily. Some people treat staff as if they are there to serve them personally, and so they can treat them how they wish. From insulting someone’s drink they’ve made you to muttering how incompetent you think they are, already you’re assuming and placing yourself in a supposed position of authority which you do not have.

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Now it’s not all doom and gloom – I did have a customer last week recite me one of him poems because I had run all over the shop with him to find a book and then gift wrap it for him. It’s customers like that which brighten your day, because who doesn’t like it when people are nice? If only everyone thought this way.

There are stereotypes all around us, as we well know, but one of them that is always present in my mind is that opinion that the older generation seem to have in thinking that the younger generation, particularly teenagers, are all rude and disrespectful. Working in a bookshop, I can of course only comment on the individuals that frequent my particular store, but it’s still interesting to see. You may well be surprised to hear that my favourite customers are those that are usually under 25, especially the teenagers. If you have a long line of customers, it won’t be the teenager huffing and puffing and pushing their way to the front to yell at you because of course it is your fault that there are a lot of people shopping on that day. It isn’t teenagers who get angry when you make a mistake – more often than not, they’re the ones who laugh it off and say ‘don’t worry, I make the same mistake at my work all the time’. Now don’t get me wrong, of course there are a few bad seeds, but in my experience the vast majority of the younger demographic is that they’re understanding and perfectly nice. The older generation? It varies much more. That lady in her seventies approaching the till could easily be about to tell you that she likes your shirt and just wants to chat for the next ten minutes about her grandchildren, but she could also be about to snap about how long she’s had to wait and how unacceptable it is that I’m the only one on my till as my colleague is on their break (how dare they). I’ve often found older people to be generally ruder when they talk to me, as if I am clearly beneath them due to the fact that I work in retail. My favourite interaction has to be with an older gentleman who used a word and then went, ‘oh, I’m sure you don’t know what that means’ and began to explain it. I stopped him, informed him that I knew perfectly well what that word meant. He then apologised insincerely and said something along the lines of ‘you must read a lot on your days off work then’. He was very surprised to hear that I’m at one of the leading universities in the country studying Classics with English. He tried to dig himself out of his neat hole that he’d made by saying he assumed that I worked at the shop full-time, as if that said something about my intellect.

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I feel the need to insert another funny customer story here to ease the tension, so I’m going to go with a personal favourite. It was a normal Saturday and a rather attractive guy strolled into the store with some friends and began looking around the notebooks. I, like the great employee that I am, went over to offer some help to see what he was looking for. ‘A present for my friend who likes writing’ was the answer and, boom, I’ve got this in the bag – was the first, naive thought that passed through my brain. I skip over to a display of fun books, one of them being a great book called ‘642 things to write about’ which has, literally, 642 different things to write about. They range from asking what you’ve inherited from your mum to describing your ideal partner – it’s a great book. Anyway, as I’m pitching this product, I say ‘let me show you an example’ and open the book to a random page. I point down to one of the ideas and we both look down as I start to read it out loud, only to discover that it said ‘Describe I time when you tried to orgasm, but couldn’t’. I was mortified, he was mortified, and I ran away with a ‘well, they’re not all like that, but I’ll leave you to browse’. Ah well, he still bought the book so it’s a success in my mind.

Back to the bad stories. The last ‘revelation’ if you will that I want to discuss is that I’ve found how far we are from equality. I’m bloody lucky that I am a white girl from a family that isn’t struggling and grew up in a really lovely area. I’m bloody lucky that I got into a good primary school that had great teachers which helped me get into a good secondary school which forced me to work my arse off to then get into a good university. I don’t encounter much discrimination directed towards me, especially as I went to an all girls school, but I do of course experience what most girls do: catcalling, wolf whistles, derogatory comments, disgusting individuals on public transport, misogyny – all that good stuff. Your typical issues of an everyday white girl, and the usual issues that some people call ‘white feminism’ typically deals with as we don’t also have to worry about whether the colour of our skin affects this as well.

I’m going to stop myself here from getting too into this discussion and get back to the bookshop interaction.

Sexism still exists, clearly, but it has never been so apparent as it has been since I’ve worked in retail. There have been several times when a customer, 9 times out of 10 a male customer, has approached the till and, despite me being the closest and saying hello, they’ll move further along to address my male colleague. There have been times when I’m dealing with a customer – again, the usual is a middle-aged or older man, typically middle or upper class – and when I answer one of their questions, they’ll usually ask me to check with someone else. For example:

“Do you stock Filofax?”

“Sorry sir, I’m afraid we don’t.”

Customer spots male colleague, “Well, can you check with him?”

Goes up to colleague, earns a frown because we’ve never and never will stock Filofax and I’ve known this from day one, return to customer and say, “No, we don’t.”

Every. Damn. Day.

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I really wish the world were a better place sometimes. I truly do. For now though, I’ll have to keep dealing with people that have authority issues and problems with women saying no. Till next time.

Why every teenager should have a job

So many people disagree on this topic, but I feel like it’s one that needs to be brought up – then again, the best conversations to have are often the ones that many people disagree about.

I got my first job at the age of seventeen by applying online, working as a hostess at Wembley stadium. My second came in the same year during dinner out with my parents and overhearing the landlady of a pub complain about how they needed extra help, so I offered to work for a couple of days a week. I stopped working at the pub after school finished and I stopped working at Wembley last year after becoming a bookseller at my third, and current, job.

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There are a few things I want to say about the topic of teenagers having jobs, and by teenagers I mean from the age of sixteen up. It’s at this time where you actually learn about the ‘real world’ and the true meaning for working for something. I mean, sure, you can argue that working for grades at school is the same thing, but let’s be honest – nothing quite hits home like getting your first paycheck after working your arse off at a job you may or may not like. You learn about people from all walks of life, far more than at school (at least, that’s how it was for me), and, maybe more importantly, you learn how to tolerate these people. There’s nothing worse than having to serve or work with an utter arsehole, but you have to learn to keep you calm and just get on with it. You learn to appreciate people more – no longer are you going to be that awful person strutting into a store only to bark out orders to employees there like you own them, because you know from experience of being that employee that those people are the worst people.

Maybe I just want everyone to work in retail for a week so I won’t have to deal with those people. Oh well, a girl can dream.

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The main argument I hear is about how teenagers in school need to focus on their studies, not worry about having a job and earning money. In many cases, some teenagers are lucky enough – and I was one of them – to have parents  who are able to support you. Having a job was not a necessity for me, but for some it was an absolute necessity. There are so many children and teenagers and, hell, anyone, who studies for school or a degree or any kind of exam, and does bloody fantastically, as well as having a job. It can be done. In fact, having a job on top of everything else means that you’re forced to sort your life out and prioritise getting work done. Last year, before I started working every weekend all weekend, I did absolutely nothing with my weekends unless I had a shift at Wembley. Saturdays I would sleep as long as possible, shuffle to the kitchen to rummage around for food and a cuppa, go back to bed and read, maybe take a nap, then repeat. This year, however, I’m having to sort out my schedule to make sure I have time to get all of my university and journalism work done in time. No more kicking back after uni if I finish late, I need to read all of these articles and take notes and read these books (not for pleasure) and get these essays planned and written and god knows what else.

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It’s interesting, really, talking to teenagers in school who have jobs and who don’t have jobs. It’s all well and good if your child is poet laureate or if they’re the star of their school play, but after applying for university that normally means absolutely nothing to everyone else. So what? You don’t really know about proper work. Great if your parents can buy you cars for your 17th and flats for your 21st, but do you know what it’s like to work a nine-hour shift pulling pints for rowdy blokes making crass innuendoes about how to ‘give a good beer head’? (Spoiler: it’s crap) But that’s the sort of thing you have to learn to deal with. You need to work and bust a gut doing work for awful money. You need to see that nobody cares what your mummy or daddy earns or who they are. You need to try and do something for yourself and earn your own money for yourself.

One comment I get is how I’ve been ‘so lucky’ with my jobs, as if I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, standing around with my arms wide open ready to catch something falling from the sky. Many people get jobs, again, because of their parents, and they’re not jobs involving pulling pints in a grotty pub I’ll tell you that. I worked hard to get my jobs. For the hostessing, I researched online and applied for loads of different jobs. When my profile was given the thumbs up, I kept my details updated, emailed incessantly about when I was free until they gave me some work. With the pub, I put myself out there and offered to help. The temptation to just not say anything was right there, but instead I marched up, unapologetic for eavesdropping, and offered myself up like a lamb for slaughter. (Honestly, it felt like that after working there a while). I left my details, took their number, called when I didn’t hear anything. Finally, with my current job, I applied online as well as going in store to hand in my application, managed to do well in my interview and get the job. It’s going the extra mile, not sitting back like the world owes you something, waiting for that job to fall out of the sky straight into your lap.

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It’s obvious that I wasn’t too fond of my first two jobs – honestly, there aren’t many people who were fond of their first few jobs. I dealt with having my bum pinched, having crude comments flung my way, smelling like grease after work, having to massage my feet after wearing heels for nine hours, learning to not burst into tears when someone insulted me.

When you’re a teenager, you need these things – you may think you don’t need them, nor do you want them, but you do. You learn to tolerate people and, more than that, understand them. You learn what working for yourself is really like. You learn to follow rules not set by your parents and putting in the extra effort in the hopes of getting some praise and maybe a promotion.

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Hell, I’ve perfected my fake smile and laugh, which have come in handy many times. My favourite thing about my jobs though? The people I’ve met. The same people who will listen when you tell them about this customer who told you ‘stop being silly’ or that one customer who said ‘I bet daddy pays for everything, doesn’t he?’ (Yes, because that’s why I’m here, working, serving your pretentious arse), only for them to reply with awful customer stories of their own, of how someone snapped their fingers at them or those blokes who took a selfie with their bums.

Those people? Yeah, they’re the ones worth knowing.