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Many of our clients are HR Managers, Learning & Development Managers and/or Business Owners. The key issues for all businesses in 2016 and beyond include:

  • key skills shortages, especially digital skills
  • employee engagement and
  • succession planning.

This is the story of a young Northamptonshire college leaver who has spent 6 months looking for a job since last summer. We’re glad to say that he’s with The Development Company for 8 week’s work experience.

My journey through unemployment

Hello, I am Brandon Smith and this is my journey through unemployment.

Growing up in education I was always told by elders that jobs are becoming increasingly more difficult to get, and to keep, however I never realised just how true this is until now.

A bit about me…

I finished school at 16 and I was disappointed with my GCSE results.  Moving to college was a brilliant change, as it meant I developed in subjects that I chose.

At college I studied 4 days a week, so I began looking for meaningful work experience. I was looking for either a part time job, or a summer job to enable me to learn and to stay productive.

I didn’t get much luck, in fact, I didn’t even hear back from companies for most of the positions I applied for.

As I wasn’t spending hours a day doing it, I just carried on focusing on my college work, and I thought ‘Oh if I really try, obviously I can get a job’.

Approaching the end of my last year at college, around Christmas 2014, is when I began a real push to get a job, and I hoped to start work in July 2015.

I felt positive at first, as I was at least hearing back from a lot of companies about my application.

In fact, during the first week of applying for jobs, I got 3 interviews for the following week.

It’s hard attending an interview when you don’t have the skills. I’d only had one interview before, and the developmental advice they gave was to “try to lead the group more during group activities”. The constructive feedback they gave me was about my politeness and my high results in the multiple choice test.

I must admit that I started off slowly with interviews. I found I became shy; just being in a completely new environment made me take a back seat during the interview. I wasn’t coming across as confident, which is what I think the interviewers must like.

I carried on applying and eventually a fast food restaurant offered me an interview – the next slot was for a month later.

During the wait for the interview, I continued to apply for positions, but with no luck.

I kept thinking ‘I have this interview, so no real worries’. I went to it and I felt like it went rather well.

A full month went by and I assumed they hadn’t bothered to let me know that they weren’t interested.

Then I got an email offering me the job.

I confirmed that I was still interested, and they said they would get back to me with a date to come in. They said they would order my uniform and I gave them my bank information for my wages.

I got a date to go in and we went through a LOT of information, however none that seemed relevant, like which area I’d be working, the hourly rate and even how many hours a week I’d be working.

I looked into it online and I found a news report about lots of people being offered zero hour contracts there. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘No hours set in stone’.

I still applied for jobs, as I didn’t want September to come around before finding a position (when I would have to sign on at the Job Centre).

I was on the fence about working for a fast food company to begin with, but as I wasn’t having any luck, I kept my head down and went for it, so I could financially help my mum out AND start my working life.

I went to collect my uniform from the restaurant in the last week that I was at college and they told me about a problem with the employee website.

I call this time in my life the ‘back and forth’ period.

I went in a couple of times a week in the end to try and get to the bottom of why their site wasn’t working only for them to find it was an error on their side. I was growing desperate – it was looking like nothing would happen, as they hadn’t been in contact with me at all since they told me about their website problem.

I went to an agency for a warehouse job down the road from me. I knew they always needed people, because my friend worked for them. I went for a job in the food department, however when I was writing down my information, a manager from a different department approached us and said that they have an opening for a different shift with them. The hours worked better for me, the department had a better pay rate and it would also be lighter work. I agreed and was due to start a 3 month temporary contract the day after.

I worked for a week before getting a poorly written text saying ‘off day tomorrow, contact to see for next day’. Having not understood why, I rang the agency and was told that they had taken too many people on and because I was the last to join, I was the first to leave.

By this time, I had already told the fast food restaurant that I had got another job. In a week I’d gone from two possible jobs, down to none.

It’s four months on and since then I’ve applied for jobs in around 350 companies.

I’ve tried lots of different ways of applying including:

  • multiple online job boards, including industry specific ones
  • emailing my CV to local companies on the off chance they might have a vacancy
  • applying face to face in store
  • applying on the company website
  • signing onto agency websites.

I’ve had 10 interviews since and feel much more confident with each one I attend, which is positive.  I feel like I stammer a lot less and can get my point across in a more interesting way.

I’ve been messed about by companies a lot.

I’ve attended a 3 hour group interview session and not even heard back to say ‘we won’t be considering you’.

It’s frustrating and it seems to be getting worse for everybody in my position. If you’re lucky enough to get driving lessons paid for you, and a car given to you by your parents, then you’ve got a lot more of a chance.  I don’t have this luxury, and in order to start driving, I need a job. It’s Catch-22.

After three months on job seekers allowance, you have to do work experience which is what I really want. The Job Centre Plus staff are really helpful and work with organisations who are willing to provide meaningful work to young unemployed starters like me.

The first placement I was given was a supermarket. I went to the interview and there was a huge pile of information for all of the people that had been put forward for work experience. When I didn’t get that, it didn’t make me feel positive. I thought ‘To think that I’m not even good enough for free labour’. It hurt my pride.

I then got accepted for an interview with The Development Company. When I was briefed about the company it sounded very positive, they are a training company and a small team to work with. I thought ‘I will feel a lot better working for a company like this, as they will appreciate me more and in return, I will appreciate them’.

I also knew they could really benefit from somebody new helping them with their business rather than a multi-billion pound supermarket chain, getting free labour for 8 weeks.

The work experience is going really well so far and I’m learning a lot about not just the work I’m doing but the world that I’m now in. I’m at work!

I know once I have finished, they will give a fair reference to anyone that contacts them about me which is bound to be helpful with whatever I end up doing.

I’m coming up to around 4 months on jobseekers allowance now, and although I was coming to a point where I was demotivated, I feel as if I can get back to really putting the hours in where it matters and hopefully this time next year I will have not just a job, but a career.


Brandon Smith, January 2016

To read Brandon’s second blog on work experience to payroll advisor, click here

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  1. Jo Beirne says:

    Disappointing and frustrating start to your working life Brandon. It will get better.

    Use your time at The Development Company, look, listen and learn. Ask Kay and Adrian lots of questions. They can teach you the basics up. Key to whatever you do is good attitude, can do approach and positivity.

    In any business area there are rules for how to conduct yourself in a working environment, it’s different to school and colleague. There are basic standards that employers are looking for, neatness, cleanliness, punctuality, manners, team player and office etiquette (tea runs, not leaving the printer with no paper in, etc.). Learn these skills with TDC then you can add them to your CV and you will have more confidence in going into a working environment!

    Remember when you are working for a company you are employed to fulfil a role they have. All roles are important whether you are just starting out or have been working for years. All roles support other teams and functions within the business. Starter roles are fundamental to you building your core experience and learning what you want to do and what you don’t.

    From reading your blog I think you have what it takes. Keep trying and good luck

    Never give up!!!

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