How to Be Happy, Young and Jobless
A survival guide for when society thinks your life has no purpose.
Surprised that the intellectual tag team of your anthropology degree and raging sense of entitlement aren't getting your foot in the door of the "creative industry"? Don't worry, it's not because you're delusional, massively under experienced and a liability to any employer who might be generous enough to pay you to do shit for them. It's because, apparently, the country is in something of a pickle; with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job in Britain rising last month to 974,000.
It's official: Youth unemployment is rising like chlamydia during wartime, but you aren't the only one. So don't sweat it if you find yourself trying to remember what you got at GCSE drama to pad out your pathetic CV, we'll get you through this, A-to–Z style.
A - Art School
You too, huh? Yeah, it was a great four years of dicking about and "expressing yourself through a set of aesthetic criteria", but did you have a backup plan? Because the Hackney Picturehouse isn't looking for ushers right now, and most magazines will make you do a 12-year internship and happily watch you get scurvy before they even consider giving you any cash for being yelled at by angry ladies in long black skirts. Just kidding about the backup plan – only dorks and immigrants have backup plans. Welcome to unemployment.
B - Band Members, Listen Up!
The last year it was possible to make a living wage from being in an average-selling guitar band was 2006, so spending your best years unemployed with a view to getting rich off something that it's impossible to make money off is lunacy. You can't even get laid from being in a band any more, so there's literally no point whatsoever. A good rule of thumb is that if more than three of your friends have got mortgages or had kids and your band still hasn't moved 75,000 units, pack it in and get a job. Sorry, it'd be nice if it wasn't like this, but it is.
C - Crass
But do they really owe us a living? Who's "they", anyway? The University Of The Arts London? BBH? The Old Blue Last?
D - Drugs
Here's the rule about drugs: you're allowed two weeks of partying after you've been made jobless – a kind of narcotic golden handshake, if you will. But after that you don't deserve to take drugs or do anything too fun until you secure an interview. That's called keeping it together. You'll thank us later when you're coming out of Pod with your Superfood Salad and you bump into a mate from uni who's been on a three-month 2CB bender.
E - Every Day Is Like Sunday
That's the name of a Morrissey song about Southend, but it may as well be about moping about the house in trackies for weeks on end with nothing to punctuate the vast expanse of grey but visits to the toilet and trips to the all-night garage to buy toilet paper. Try to get a bit of exercise, have a shave and freshen up. We're all rooting for you, buddy.
F - Facebook
If you can possibly avoid it, don't look at Facebook until you're out of your slump; you'll just feel awful when everyone's opulent, smiley holiday photos go up. They all got together and hired a villa without you because you've not really been around a lot, you see. Sorry, maaaate.
G - Going Freelance
Ask yourself: are you 100 percent sure that you're a natural hard worker with great industry connections and a thirst for success? Are you willing to trade constant security for the miniscule chance that a fashion magazine headed up by an oligarch's wife for tax purposes will think that two quid a word is an acceptable rate? Because if there's even a one percent chance that you're a natural slacker with great weed connections and a thirst for sleeping in, it's a bad idea to go freelance.
H - Housing Benefit
Filling out housing benefit forms is great preparation for filling out the necessary paperwork for getting into North Korea on a journalist's visa. But unless any grain of decency you once had has been shredded away by poverty, you'll get an intestine-clamping sense of bohemian guilt watching your hardworking, self-starter, came-over-here-with-nothing Turkish landlord sneer at you when you request a letter from him to the council as proof of address.
I - Interviews
Interviewer One: Mr Murphy, do you see yourself as having any weaknesses?
Spud: No. Well, yes. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, actually. For me, it's the best or nothing at all. If things get a bit dodgy, I can't be bothered, but I've got good vibes about this interview. Seems to me like it's gone pretty well, eh?
Interviewer Two: Thank you, Mr Murphy. We'll let you know.
Spud: The pleasure was mine!
[Spud crosses the room to shake all interviewers by the hand and kiss them.]
J - Jobseeker's Allowance, Collecting Your
While Jobcentre Pluses are usually staffed by thoroughly decent, corduroy-jacketed liberals who've been dealing with people like you since the bad ol' Thatcher days, they ain't Thorpe Park either. They aren't the flea infested money pits full of roguish scamps that people of various political persuasions will have you believe. Instead, they're more like Wetherspoons. Soulless, clinical, full of wipe-clean surfaces and – of course – broke people. There's a reason why people who go to job centres usually want jobs, it's because they're absolute hell-holes.
K - Ketamine
Bumping this stuff with every other drink really saves on booze expenditure, and even though it's nothing like coke, you feel at least a tiny bit baller because there's still white powder going up your nose. Even if it's more likely to be used by a country vet than a footballer. NB: This practice is only socially acceptable if you live in Peckham.
L - Loans
Don't get one. Things are bad enough. If you spill a glass of juice, do you burn the house down? Don't make things worse than they already are, kids. You'll end up eating packed lunches every day for the rest of your life just because you thought you deserved eight nights out a week on a wage of zero.
M - Mum's House
Guess where this handy guide is being written from? That's right – dear ol' mumsy's putting me up at the moment because the city got to be too much, and returning to the 'burbs with my tail between my legs was my only option. Three square meals a day and some ironed clothes make the humiliation almost worthwhile, but not quite. You might think you'll end up in some kind of Adventureland style fantasy, get a job in a video shop, meet a moody suburbanite you fancy, realise that it's not all bad and maybe start up a burgeoning new party scene in Isleworth. But you won't. You'll just get really into watching Pointless.
N - Netflix
At first you'll think you can catch up on all those World Cinema classics you were too busy getting wasted to catch at the BFI. You'll think that, at the very least, making it all the way through 8½ will give your slacker spell some cultural worth. But then you'll realise that the selection is shit and just end up watching movies with Method Man in them.
O - Onions
Eat like the special little prince you believe you are without breaking the bank by simply going to the self-checkouts when it's busy and weighing in your posh ketchup and sirloin steak as "loose onions", the cheapest (yet nice and heavy) thing in the supermarket. You need to be quick and you need to be inconspicuous. Work out how to do it in one single movement, but don't get greedy and weigh in cans of beans, too. You need to get some actual items scanned in case of a spot check or a "Checkout Captain" getting all up in your grill.
P - Poundland
The Jobcentre was going to try to make you work there for free, but someone went to court about it and now you don't have to. All is not lost, though. At the very least, you probably won't die of starvation – you can still do a lot of great grocery shopping there if you're in dire straits. They've even got pesto in some branches!
Q - QI
A great way to get some routine in your day is to learn the Dave channel schedule and conduct your day around that. They've recently broken up their wall-to-wall Top Gear daytime marathons with a cool show about repo men called Lizard Lick Towing. Oh, and there's a Man Vs Food double bill at 7PM, but I wouldn't recommend watching that if you're stuck on eating microwave pasta bakes for every meal; you'll get murderous food envy and end up sending Adam Richman threatening tweets. QI's on at 8PM, time dinner for around then.
R - Reverse Sleeping Patterns
You know how it goes: it's 7AM and you're online, 76 pages deep on a site dedicated to user-submitted true ghost stories, having browsed all available white supremacist forums and gore photos on the internet. Stop this nasty habit and its subsequent terrifying mental health consequences by banning your laptop from the bedroom and picking up one of those paper things with loads of words in them. You're welcome, brain.
S - Sales Jobs
There never seems to be any shortage of sales jobs on all the online job sites. Why is that? Does anyone know anyone who's actually taken one? What does it entail? Is it about cold calling? It's a job for the "smashing targets"/"complete ledge" crowd who high five each other in B@1, right? Seems like there's a lot of sweating and shouting involved, but who can really know for sure? It's amazing how little you learn about normal-person life if you really go out of your way to avoid it.
T - Temping
This is a great way out of your situation. Data entry and reception work are the perfect off-ramp from a three-month period of stone cold chilling into the world of having to pay attention again. You can still get the job done hungover, no one's going to ask you any difficult questions, you get to wear trainers and you clock off the same time every night. Fuck it, maybe this is all anyone needs, ever; careers seem like a whole lot of bother. Just bang in some numbers in the day, bang out the gak at night.
U - Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area
You've fucked up the "onions system". Abandon your shopping and get the fuck out of there before the supervisor gets called and you end up waiting in an office with a security guard who treats you like you've just kicked his kids' dog to death on Christmas Day. That's until a thoroughly disinterested policeman comes and gives you a moderate (but embarrassing) ticking off and you slope home, empty-handed, head dropped, like Snoopy were he in his mid-twenties and battling chronic depression.
V - Value, Tesco Everyday
Budgeting is a hateful occupation for miserable, awful people. That said, there's a special circle of hell reserved for foodies and fussy eaters, so if you're not cheating the self checkouts, the value range pasta, juices, cereals and vegetables from Tesco are all just as good as anything else. Don't be a whinger.
W - Wanking
For the first three weeks of joblessness, you're going to beat it so much that you cum dust and get a tent peg every time Jane McDonald talks about her sex life on Loose Women.
X - Xbox 360
...or any gaming system, really. Nothing will get you to a place of reverse sleeping patterns and bleary-eyed unwashedness quicker than buying Mass Effect: Trilogy on the day you quit your job. Over 75 hours of story content you say? Online multiplayer you say? By the time your dad was your age, he'd had two kids and was paying a mortgage.
Y - Generation Y
They say that Generation Y are self-serving, self-obsessed wastrels, and that's why we're all jobless. But they said that about Generation X, Generation Strange (which I think is what Fred Durst called his generation) and the baby boomers, it's just the older generation getting butthurt about the younger generation. It's gone on for centuries and, in some ways, it's the story of mankind. Tell your parents to ignore that Telegraph op-ed they read; you'll be fine in the end.
Z - Zzzzzz
Jim Gaffigan has a joke that goes, "What are those people who don't enjoy sleeping all day called? Oh yeah – successful."
Top image by Marta Parszeniew – follow her on Twitter: @MartaParszeniew
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