5 live Drive: Unemployment Blogs - May
They've met Employment Minister Chris Grayling to tell him about their experiences and concerns.
Each of them is facing different barriers to finding and keeping work, but all are determined to find ways to change their lives for the better.
This month, in their final update, the group discuss how their quest for employment is going and their daily battles to have enough money to live on.
I've been out of work now for around 11 to 12 months.
I have applied for a lot of jobs and have had no luck or even a reply. 5 live introduced me to my mentor for the show Tristram Mayhew, founder of Go Ape. I met Tristram at Matfen Hall where there is a Go Ape course. I spoke with him about how I've dealt with being unemployed and how I've been trying to get back into work.
Tristram gave me a lot of good advice and was very open and honest with me on where I need to improve on if I want to stand out in getting a job or career in the outdoors sector.
He helped me realise that just sending application forms off for work wasn't always the best option and that I need to make myself stand out by directly contacting possible employers. I have taken on a lot of his advice and tried to use it to my benefit.
Since February I've been on a roller coaster of emotions, some good and some bad.
This experience has changed everything in my life. My surroundings, my thoughts, my mind set, my passion, my confidence, my ambition.
I find it hard to remember what kind of person I was like before the program. I don't know if that is because I don't want to remember or if it is because so much has happened in the last 4 months.
The only thing I do know is that I feel alive again and I feel like the future has some good prospects for me. I am in no way shape or form delusional enough to think that my life is perfect or that I have reached my goal. If anything its far from it.
After I have paid my rent I have £23 a week to live off, London life is pretty tough but I am addicted to being out of my comfort zone and I thrive off being challenged. Each day is a learning curve. I'm not only learning new things about design and the industry but I am learning things about myself too.
I have been living in London for six weeks now and I am currently on my second internship with OllyStudio, which was supposed to end after a week, but I am now in my second week and I have been asked to do a third, which I have happily accepted.
The experience has been amazing so far. I have learned so much within the last two weeks again not just about design and the industry but also about my capabilities and myself as a designer. Every day I walk home with a smile on my face because I have achieved something.
I also do designs at night when I get home and at the weekends for Oath magazine. Every contact and opportunity that I come across I grab with both hands and use it.
I want to be in a particular part of the design industry so I need to focus on learning more from my internships and work experience so that I can eventually get my folio of work to a standard that would be acceptable to even gain an interview.
I spent two hours with my mentor Richard Joseph and that was the turning point for me. The advice and comments he gave me were invaluable. How can an advisor at the job centre have enough knowledge for every industry? It's impossible.
In total I have probably had six hours of professional advice. The cost of this can't amount to two years of being on benefits.
I also think more needs to be done for the people that are doing full time unpaid internships and work experience. Discounted travel or even a free travel card can make huge differences. Food stamps for those that are working for nothing should be considered.
Even though my experience so far has been tough I have never been happier. I have added an extra hole in my belt and I have a smile and a confident swagger as I now have a purpose in life and that is something you can not put a price on.
To thank those people that have been involved with this program, not just my mentors but also the people behind the scenes working hard researching etc, I don't think it would be sufficient to say 'Thank you'.
My way of saying thank you to everyone involved is to work hard and actually make my dream of being a designer come true. I say dream, but it's beginning to look more like reality now. This is just the beginning for me.
This month hasn't been the best for me. The work that I had is all coming to an end and I haven't had any offers of more work. It's so disheartening when things were going so well.
Apparently Job Centre Staff didn't receive the memo on how the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) actually works. I went to the bank on my payday and it was empty, no NEA? Strange.
So off I went to the local Job Centre, the first person I spoke to wasn't sure how the NEA worked and said my adviser would be back in the following week and I could speak to her then because know one else at the office really knew anything about NEA.
It's a little degrading to be made to feel like you are begging for the measly £33 allowance.
Luckily that afternoon my advisor rang back and arranged for me to have an interview with her the following Friday and apologized.
Week two and still no money. I attended the interview on the friday and was told everything was in order and I was told that my money should restart within three days. Three days came and went, still no money.
Three weeks without any NEA, I am starting to think that they intentionally make it as awkward as possible so know one tries to claim this allowance. It finally started again last week much to my amazement.
As for the rest of the month it hasn't been the best, I really can't carry on with the business as it is. I need to find a job so that I know I have a guaranteed wage at the end of every month.
My covering letters are getting quirkier and quirkier in the hope that my CV will be more memorable than the other thousand on the employer's desk. My most recent read:
"Fun Loving Vegetarian seeks retail position for clean and soapy fun" (For a well known Soap/ethical cosmetics firm).
I have loved this experience on the radio show and can only thank everyone involved. Especially Rosemary Parr who has been my mentor through this whole process, she has been fantastic I have spoken to her nearly every week, even when we haven't been on air. She has given up her spare time to help me anyway she can.
I intend to keep the business open and trading but I need a full time job in the meantime a guaranteed wage just incase the business doesn't take off.
I am going to keep my options open, keep sending CV's and hoping that at some point I will get a call back for an interview.
Thanks to everyone who's followed :-)
Being involved with the show has been very beneficial and I feel I've achieved a lot over the past few months.
I've done a lot of self evaluation and found out some interesting things about the nature of job hunting.
Having Claire Young as a mentor has definitely been a huge benefit. She's given me some great, honest advice and criticisms over the last few months. The best piece of advice I've had and will definitely tell people in the same situation as me is to get networking!
I've actually been invited to interviews whereas before, employers wouldn't even give me the time of day let alone read the first line of my CV. In the past few months I've had seven interviews for entry level and graduate positions and even though I wasn't successful in securing the roles I'm still feeling content with myself and my abilities.
The majority of the feedback I've had is that I lack experience (which if I'm honest, is starting to get a little tiring to hear because at least I do have some experience on my C.V).
I am working on this and currently working with The Scarlet Life - a marketing communications and event management company. I've only been with them a month and already I've composed a social media strategy for them, worked on client pitches, created a website brief and gained some on-site event experience at a charity gala managing VIP and celebrity guests.
I'm beginning to have a more positive attitude and I'm actually starting to believe that I too, am employable. This, to me, feels like a milestone because confidence (or lack of) has been my biggest barrier to job hunting as it meant I was under selling myself and my abilities.
I wish mentor programmes were more widely available to young people and students as it's helped me gain an insight into the world of work and opened up new options for me.
I'm definitely feeling a lot more positive about getting a job than I did back in February, I had pretty much lost hope in the UK job market back then and almost left the UK permanently.
Being involved with the show has given me a new found confidence and an ambition and drive that I thought disappeared over the years has resurfaced again.
I'm still looking for a more stable and permanent role that will provide me with the foundations to a long term career and eventually fulfil some personal goals of mine. This journey has also made me think about freelancing. I might as well create a job for myself if no one else going to give me one. It'll be an even tougher battle but, as they say, the skies the limit.
5 live Drive's unemployment series is a Wise Buddah / NOISEfestival production.
Jo Meek is a producer for 5 live Drive's unemployment special