The best way to describe job-hunting: Throwing your CV into a black hole with the hopes that someone will see it and contact you. 

Except you do hear back from them and 90% of the time, it’s a rejection – woohoo!

There was a particular kind of shame I felt when I was unemployed. It was a feeling that entrenched my soul because I felt that I did absolutely nothing with my life. I felt time passing and each day that went by was another day wasted. I slept every night knowing that the next day would be the exact same routine. I’d wake up extremely late, check my email and find a bunch of rejected applications, feel hopeless, and spend most of my time locked away in my room. Some days, I didn’t even leave my bed. As long as I had my laptop with me, I felt that I could job hunt, watch shows, and retweet memes in the comfort of my own bed. Leaving the house would sound exciting at first but I’d instantly regret being social and crave my own solitude. 

Once a week, I covered a shift as a carer for my mum’s home care agency. That’s the only day I forced myself to get up and try my best to finish the work efficiently, whilst the stress of finding a job still poisoned my mind. Having a nonchalant demeanor helped in this case. I’ve mastered how to hide any stress or anxiety that I’m going through. It’s definitely not an effective way to get through it, but I didn’t want to talk about it. Whenever someone asked how the job hunting was going, I’d literally feel my mind going crazy, thinking of how to reply and just end up saying: “You know, it’s just stressful as usual but it’s okay” and hope that they’d stop caring and move on to another topic.

Attachment:

During the past year, applying for jobs in London was a nightmare. I’ve applied for more than 200 jobs minimum. And I’ve had 10 interviews. In 12 months. I sent off so many applications and hardly got anything back and it was frustrating.

Because of how spaced out the interviews were, I became attached to every single potential lead. Each time I got invited for an interview, it was like a breath of fresh air. I was on a high. My energy would spike and I’d feel happier. I’d research the company, check out the website, do my homework and *believe* the job is mine before attending the interview. 

Yes, it’s good to be confident. But I became too emotionally attached to jobs that weren’t even mine yet. I’d imagine myself working there, google the address and even figure out how long my commute would be. Of course, this meant that the excitement I had for each interview made the rejection feel like a kick in the gut. That process would be repeated each time and I told myself not to get attached again. Boy was I wrong…

In January 2018, there was a particular job that I LOVED from the moment I saw the ad on Indeed. It was just everything I wanted in a job. Not only did their requirements match up to my skills, but the environment and nature of the company was fun too. I usually hate typing out all of my employment and education history instead of just uploading a simple CV, but for this job, I happily spent 30 minutes bragging about myself. I got an email 2 days later for an interview. 

As you can imagine, I was over the moon. Out of every 10 jobs I apply for, there’s always 1 or 2 that I prioritize and pray for. I rank them as my “favourites” and this job was definitely my top priority. I received another email that same week for an interview at another company. 

For the first time in a long time, this was when I felt like I was getting somewhere. I had 3 interviews in the same week and it was a big deal. This was January 2018. 

For the first interview, I spent 3 hours in their offices, being interviewed by two different people and then completing writing and math tests. I was called back the following week where I had to write a blog post and present it to the Marketing Manager and HR. They loved it and told me they’d get back to me in a few days. That same day, I travelled to east London for the second job interview. 

I spent the next couple of days anxiously waiting by my phone in case anyone called and continuously refreshed my Gmail app. Simply staying awake was too difficult. I set my alarm clock for each hour, fell asleep and then checked my emails whenever it woke me up. Sleep was like that friend that always helped you forget about your problems temporarily.

By the end of that week, I got rejected by all of the jobs I got interviewed for. The first job (the one I loved) gave me great feedback: “We loved you at the interview. We thought you did so well!” But I didn’t get the job simply because there were “4 people to choose from and we just had to pick one.” I asked them if there was anything I needed to improve on and she didn’t give me at least one reason as to why I got rejected. It was just a random selection apparently. What was it that made someone else a better candidate? That’s what I wanted to know. 

That phone call was probably the hardest.  All the other rejections didn’t hurt as much as this one. I was so frustrated because I didn’t know what else I could possibly do. I knew I put in 100%. Not only did I lose out on one job, but I also lost all three opportunities. 

I definitely know for a fact that it affected my confidence. I distanced myself from family a lot more to avoid any questions, I stopped applying for jobs and for about two weeks, I limited the time I spent on social media. 

I questioned everything – from the way my CV looked to my own name. Does the name Sawiya Ali sound too foreign? That was the scary reality. Was the workplace I applied for not diverse enough and I just never stood a chance? Is London too competitive or does my CV just get lost in a pile on someone’s desk? I questioned everything. 

It’s a painstaking process. It’s unbearable. It makes you angry. But you have to continue searching.

The decision that changed everything

After taking a few weeks off, I got back into my job hunting mode. This time, I told myself that whatever is meant for me will come.

I decided to broaden my search. As much as London is an alright city, I didn’t want to limit myself at all. I’ve worked in Toronto and I loved it. I can do whatever I put my mind to.

I applied for jobs in Birmingham, Manchester AND Coventry, yes Coventry – a city that has hardly anything in it. Anything will do, I thought. 

It took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t the problem. London just wasn’t ready for me yet. 

During an interview I went to in Birmingham, I was told how great my CV was and how it’s shocking that I didn’t get hired sooner. I reflected back on the past year and remembered how much I doubted myself. I didn’t give myself enough credit. 

Good news: 

I’m officially hired and I’m working as a Digital Marketing Manager in Birmingham. 

 

What did I learn from it all? 

  1. If a situation is not changing for you, try something new and take the leap of faith.

  2. Unemployment can really take its toll on someone. Be there for anyone who is struggling to find a job.

  3. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

  4. Finding a job is really about being the right fit for the right job, at the right time. Sometimes the employer will make you feel that you are a suitable candidate, until someone better comes along. Picking yourself up after all the setbacks is so important.

Is there anything I’d change about this experience? 

I’d push myself to do some volunteering, join social clubs, and get involved in different activities because I had all the time in the world! 

Who am I grateful to? 

Supportive family and friends. Thank you to my sister Sumaya who just understands me whenever I go through my moods. Thank you to the infamous family group chat (Shay, Tim and Aladdin) who put up with my frequent rants. And one more shout out to those who have sent me supportive messages along the way, I’ll always appreciate you.