Sometimes on social media, you come across something that stands out. And amidst a sea of tweets and Facebook posts this week, I spotted this heartfelt note from a local graduate looking for work.
It simply read, “Smiley, creative trained journalist and English graduate shamelessly seeks employment. Based in Derry will travel.”
It struck a chord, and I hadn’t even read the CV yet. It struck me that here was the human face of Derry’s dire employment record.
Her name is Fiona McCallion and she’s actually done some past work experience with the ‘Journal’.
She’s a writer first and foremost, with a blog that she updates regularly. I’ve dipped in and out of it, and it’s good.
Entitled, ‘Life, lyrics and lemoncake’ Fiona covers a wealth of topics, and her writing style is assured and confident.
Yet, this week she made her first trip to the ‘dole’ office.
She told me, “It wasn’t that bad. The advisor was genuinely lovely but even she was very open to the fact that there aren’t very many jobs out there.
“She also told me there’s over 5,000 people signing on in Derry every fortnight. That’s a lot of people.”
It is. And now Fiona is joining them, despite “waiting as long as I could not to.”
She is 25, and still lives at home with her parents and seven siblings.
“They’re so supportive and they respect that I’m trying to find work that I really want to do. But this week, four weeks after finishing my journalism course, I had no choice but to sign on. I feel bad that I’m not contributing that much.”
So, with Fiona’s name now added to the unemployment figures, isn’t it depressing to see that she’s on there despite having a writing talent, being a breath of fresh air - someone who should get a job in a heartbeat.
Explaining how this makes her feel Fiona said, “I took two years out before I went to university. I wanted to decide on a course that would give me the qualifications I needed to get a job. Now I’m not so sure a degree is the be all and end all.
“I really want to work in the creative industry. That’s a huge area, with lots of opportunities, but giving myself a wide base of opportunities still doesn’t seem to have worked.
“My sister went the other way, specialising in a very specific science subject - and those jobs only come about once every year or so.
“It seems there’s no ideal way to educate yourself in order to get a job.”
She also alluded to the old way things worked, “It used to be that you got a job for life, but what’s out there now? “
It’s not just Fiona that questions. Her peers do too. “My friends are worried too. And those that don’t are in further education, doing PhD’s and the like. Maybe staying in education is the answer.”
Otherwise it looks as though Fiona is going to have to look outside of her hometown for work.
“It seems as though any media jobs available are in England or Scotland.
“I’ve never really lived away from home before, except when I went to Belfast to study for my English degree, and even then I was back every weekend.
“But this time I think I’m going to have to look elsewhere for work, and move if necessary.”
It’s such a shame, because surely Derry, as Northern Ireland’s second city, should be able to retain our young. Give them job opportunities outside of working in a shop or call centre.
Instead, Fiona decided to think outside of the box.
“I was writing in my blog, which I set up in 2011 and I simply decided I wanted to do something, anything, that would help me get a job.”
The ‘Alternative CV’ was born and it is definitely the kind of promotion that should get employers looking at Fiona.
It’s refreshing, upbeat, honest, yet she includes information they need as well, regarding her education and work ethic.
Most of all though, it shows off her personality and in any job interview, that’s what it usually boils down to.
Maybe it will work ...
And the Alternative CV went like this ...
* Craving creativity.
* A trained journalist with a degree in English and a little bit of Philosophy.
* Passion for books and reading and words. A logophile.
* A love of listening to people’s stories.
* Social media bug arising from a desire to connect and reach out to people.
* 11 GCSES with a smattering of starred A’s.
* 3 solid A Levels.
* A need to avoid retail.
* Six years experience in a busy Opticians which was customer orientated, retail and reception and more.
* A hard worker, a friendly face, a good team-mate.
* A keen learner, a curious discover, creative minded.
* Appreciator of beautiful things. Clean designs.
* Fan of old fashioned snail mail for correspondence.
* Volunteered happily at children’s book festivals ( a volunteer manager!) and children’s summer schemes.
* Six months placement experience at a busy local newspaper. Plenty of bylines I could show you.
* An award for excellence in Journalism.
* Three years solid creative blogging.
* Genuine person with a lot to give!
* Confidence newly blossomed in the last few years.
* Give me Journalism. Give me publishing. Give me a book review job. Give me means to write a novel. I might break my retail rule to sell books for now. The wishy washy Arts have my heart.
* Let me use my strengths and loves to earn a wage and be dignified. Allow me to grow and find my way and feel fulfilled.
* Half tongue in cheek. Half serious. Get in touch allusive UK creative head hunters!
* References available on request. Also normal CVs.