Let me introduce myself: call me Jack. I’m 22, recent graduate of a Russell Group university with a 2:1 in Modern Languages. I speak German and Spanish fluently, and French rather well considering that I only took it for A-Level. I did work experience in Germany (twice) and taught English in Spain, and have expressed this on my CV in a way that makes all of these experiences sound relevant to a graduate employer. However, it turns out that being 22 and never having had paid work in the UK isn’t looked on as being too impressive. Since graduation, the only paid work I’ve had was £20 for feeding an incontinent cat named Pinklepurr.

Jobseeking’s not fun by any means, but at times the suggestions I get are so ridiculous that they make me laugh. For example, here’s an email I received after making a profile on a website for language graduates:

“Please let me know if any of the following roles are of interest:
1) German Customer Service, Athens, Greece
2) German Customer Service – South Africa
3) German Speaking Customer Service, Lisbon, Portugal
4) German Customer Service, Belfast
5) German Customer Service – Dorset, England
6) German Customer Support, Dublin
7) German Customer Service Advisors, Louth, Ireland

For context, I live in Sheffield.

Even better, here’s an opening paragraph from advert from the same site. You may notice that it doesn’t actually say anything about the job:
“Home to the Game of Thrones film set, Belfast invites you to visit the beautiful scenery from Westeros. While enjoying the city during the week, you can explore the homeland of your TV heroes during the weekends. May it be Castle Black, the Kings Road or Winterfell – it is all just a stone’s throw away! And who knows? Maybe you will get a glimpse of the heroes themselves.”

The fact that information about the role is so low down makes me more than a little bit suspicious.
In fact, the same company is advertising quite a few different positions in Belfast, some in German, some in English. What they all have in common is that they focus on the city rather than the job itself.

Last week, I bit the bullet and applied for the dole. My appointment for the assessment at the jobcentre was on Saturday (yes, the jobcentre was open at the weekend, though they assured me that it usually isn’t). I found it strange enough that the support worker in the jobcentre kept typing up my answers verbatim, which I discovered this because the screen was angled towards me and I could see what she was typing. When I pointed this out to her, she said that they were supposed to.

What really made me laugh, though, were the questions. Because I said that I’d lived away from the UK for more than 13 weeks (as Modern Languages students do) the computer system didn’t think that I was a UK national, and asked me a series of questions that don’t make a lot of sense if you were born in South Yorkshire, such as:

• Is anyone in your family going to join you in the UK?
• Do you have any formal qualifications in the English Language?
• Do you think that your language could harm your chances of getting a job?
• Do you have any pets abroad?

And of course, I don’t have any qualifications that prove that I can speak English.