‘I’m trying my utmost to ride the storm’: an unemployed graduate’s story

The transition from college to work can be tough. A student who hopped over hurdles to the finish now wonders: where’s the prize?

It’s 5am. Hot tears and heavy sobs. Completely defeated. I’ve worked far too hard for this. Student of the year three times in a row; 530-point Leaving Cert; 2:1 degree; plethora of awards, and voted welfare officer of DCU student union.

I’m usually abuzz with positivity, but I’ve lost my sparkle. I don’t think I’m too good for social welfare. I know so many people before me, hard workers, who have ended up on the dole, completely out of their control, as a result of bad management and poor decisions made within businesses and companies.

This time last year I was invited to a formal dinner hosted by Martin McAleese; now I’m biting the inside of my jaw trying not to burst into tears in the Intreo offices while my jobseeker’s forms lie despairingly on my lap.

I have a heavy heart. I never thought I would be in this position; in the same position as people who have never pursued goals, never had ambition, engaged in lives of debauchery and who are currently, in the eyes of the government, on a par with me. I’m being punished for something I didn’t do, a crime I didn’t commit, an economy that claims to be turning a corner.

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I know I’m lucky. I have a home, I’m healthy, never hungry or cold, and have a mother who would give her last cent and breath to ensure I don’t go without. I genuinely appreciate all of the above. However, I can’t help but feel defeated after studying so hard and giving so much to my community, especially in DCU, where I worked vehemently on issues such as marriage equality and mental wellbeing.

It's so difficult to continuously answer the question, "So Eve, what's next?" I want to scream, "I don't know. Stop asking me". But I politely smile, try not to grimace and say, "I've applied for a few different bits. Hopefully something will work out."

I’m realising I’ve set the bar too high for myself. Success after success, win after win, and it’s now expected of me. Life on Facebook is not reality. Holidays, nights out, fun gatherings: that’s what we post online. Who wants to see a picture of you crying hot, silent tears at 5.15am?

There definitely aren’t enough, if any, efforts being made to bridge the college-to-work gap, and I feel this is the case in colleges across the nation. I was lucky enough to sit on committees as welfare officer, which gave me access to wisdom, guidance and advice, yet still I remain unsuccessful in my pursuit of a job.

People speak of the 1980s and the stream of rejection letters from employers. At least employers back then had the decency to inform you of your misfortune. I’ve applied for countless jobs where they haven’t even bothered to formulate an automated email saying “unfortunately the position has been filled”. Surely that isn’t too much to ask?

Where’s my prize?

I’m armed with my degree. I hopped over every hurdle and sprinted to the finish line. Where’s my prize? I know there are people without third-level certifications, with young families and more responsibilities than I have, and I cannot imagine how difficult and demeaning their lives must be. My problems are minute in comparison and I genuinely sympathise, as I realise the hardships they must endure.

I’m creative, a writer, a thinker, a defiant defender of equality and a bit of a dreamer. I don’t want lavish cars and notoriety. I just want to be happy in my job, proud of my achievements and to not have to worry about bills.

On a school trip to the National Ploughing Championships, while my friends were scurrying around meeting boys, I was enchanted by the RTÉ tent and particularly excited about meeting Evelyn Cusack and Bryan Dobson. My life goals included peace of mind . . . and being invited on The Late Late Show. And I still hope I'll achieve them.

I hope people in my situation will get some solace from this and realise they are not alone. I’m trying my utmost to find humour in the situation and ride the storm. I will continue to apply for jobs, chance my arm and maintain the little bit of sparkle I have left. I hope my fellow dreamers can retain theirs.