The Next Step: 10 ways to make the best of it if you find yourself on the dole

As you stand there proudly clutching your white plastic cylinder, jaw aching from excessive amounts of unnatural smiling and looking like a strangely formal superhero as you get fed along the conveyor belt of the Official Graduation Photographer, you try not to entertain the thought that once this is all over you will be starting your new life as “jobseeker”. To go from being a respectable student with assignments and tutors and gorgeous overpriced moleskin sketchbooks (its so much more satisfying to draw in a pretty sketchbook) to signing on twice a fortnight with Babs as you apply for jobs as a sandwich artist (at least subway go to the effort of creating a title that looks a bit better on your cv), is really something of a depressing step down.

meg-in-a-phone

But unless you’re really lucky then chances are you will find yourself in this position at some point – if only for a short while. The problem is, as I discovered, it’s all too easy for days to turn into weeks. And weeks to turn into months. And months to turn into you, a matted mess of hair draped across your sofa watching re-runs of Songs of Praise, as even changing the channel feels like a poor trade-off of effort-for-reward at this point.

Employers aren’t big keen on seeing too much dole-time on your cv, so apart from applying for jobs if you can show you’ve had the initiative to be productive in other ways it can only work in your favour. Not to mention the fact it will save you from boredom-induced madness and feeling like this:

loser

So here’s ten things you can do to make a Sicilian cheesecake with gingerbread base from those unwelcome lemons that life dealt:

1. Learn coding
HTML and CSS may sound like OMG that’s FCKNG HRD but its actually OK (see what I did there). Get on Code Academy – its worth it if only for the little reward badges you accrue (and its free!). Its like cubscouts for code, except without the dib dib dob, which is surely an oversight on their part. But the point is, adding to your digital skills is a majorly good idea – the majority of the jobs are in this sector and if you have made the effort to even get your head around the basics this will improve your employability by like
<—————————————–> this much. Actually, more than that. That’s really not very impressive.

2. Develop your skillz 
If Napolean Dynamite has taught us anything it’s that skills are good. Skills will get you girls. They will impress your peers and gain you kudos points. They will boost your cv. And they will stop you losing your mind from your dol(e)drum groundhog day existence. Calligraphy, advanced Photoshop, sign painting, clattering bin lids to a rhythmic beat, you name it.

Drawing skillz

Drawing skillz

3. Join a collective
I did this. It was really good. It was ShellsuitZombie in fact. But there are lots of other collectives out there. Or you could start your own.

4. Put on an exhibition
They’re just nice aren’t they? Plus you can put together some really awesome non-commercial work like what you did at The University and keep your creative juices flowing.

5. Make a zine (see above)

6. Get some free business training
Getting business training means you can get some help with all the complicated freelance-stuff like contracts and tax, and learning all that business jargon to impress your friends with like ‘USP’ and ‘elevator pitch’ (they won’t be impressed). I learned the hard way that not having a contract just creates a looottt more work and headache down the road. You can sometimes get free business training from your uni, or, failing that, find a helpful business development organisation such as this (preferably one that specialises in helping creative startups).

7. Do a freelance project
Hell, do ten. When you’re first starting out, this will more than likely be low paid jobs for mates but beats the flip out of doing that third unpaid internship.

8. Go to networking events 
Dude, they even have free food at these things sometimes. I’m talking those little itty bitty cottage pie-in-breadcrumbs type shit. I spent the better part of an evening tailing waiters the last time they had these. On a more important note, you never know who you’re going to meet and what it may lead to down the road.

9. Do a placement 
Not ideal post-university when you envisaged that you would be in a studio as a fulltime paid member of staff. But doing the odd one of these ensures you don’t go too long without any studio work on your cv and at least gets your face known by another studio. You may even be able to find a paid internship which would be better.

10. Make a lemon Sicilian cheesecake with gingerbread base 
It’ll taste fucking awesome. Plus, I get to re-visit my cheesecake metaphore and, well, I need one more to fulfil my quota as I have promised ten in the title and nine just doesn’t sound as good.

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Anyway, so the moral of the story is if ever you find yourself on the dole, switch off the Christian hymns, become a conkers master, chase some purveyors of mini-cuisine through a crowded room of hipsters – and you will be just fine.