Until very recently, I was totally at a loss with what I was going to do with my career. It had been a wet and cold summer; filled with unpaid work at music festivals, getting eaten by midges and trying to explain to drunken teenagers that they can’t come in without ID. Then, I finally managed to get an interview at an organisation called the Youth Community Support Agency. I had found the advert for the position of Office and Volunteer Manager whilst trawling through the pages on Good Moves, and although believing that I would not be qualified enough – I applied. And it was on the site of the inaugural Mugstock festival when I received the email inviting me to an interview. Frankly, I was shocked. I thought… this can’t be happening, I’m stuck in Mugdock park, when on earth am I going to prepare? The email stated that I was invited to participate in ‘a group interview… assessing values based interactions’. I panicked! What did this even mean?! As I was working in the box office, I had access to a laptop and the internet, despite being in the middle of nowhere. I turned, as one does these days, to the God of answers, Google.
The answers that I received seemed fairly straight forward. Base your responses around a particular value; simple right? When I arrived at the interview (extremely early I might add) I discovered to my horror that I was woefully unprepared for the questions, and worried that everyone else in the room was far more experienced than me. The funny thing was that in spite of this, I left feeling oddly empowered. It was a case that, no matter the outcome, I had gained an experience. I would be prepared for next time.
To my surprise I received a second interview involving an IT test and a one on one. The test seemed simple enough, although not finishing either of the exercises in the time frame left me in a “Que cera cera” sort of mind set. And so I gave it everything, tried to be as natural as possible and definitely babbled for far too long… But from the moment I left that building, I think I left with something intangible, an energy that had made itself a home inside my head. And so when I received the call offering me position, that energy blazed inside me and left me with a hopeful outlook I hadn’t had for months. I could not have known how my life would change on that single sunny day, lying in the Botanics, listening to the man on the end of the phone tell me that I had potential. And I think that’s what is so brilliant about YCSA.
We believe in seven values which shape the work that we do. The RESPECT acronym stands for responsibility, empower, support, potential, equality, challenge and trust. The values, the logo, the branding of the organisation all demonstrate YCSA’s vision and ultimately the decision to hire me was informed by that value of potential. When I learned that, during that crucial phone call, it was like being told that someone had just thrown me a life line. As a person who had been rejected on countless occasions for various positions, to be told that you are being believed in based on your potential to grow was truly empowering.
Of course, I was far from being alone in being knocked back for interviews. After graduation, all my friends seemed to fall into two camps: those who went straight into their field based on their degree and those who did not. I was in the second camp, landing a full time job in retail. And as anyone who has ever worked in retail will know, it partially destroyed my faith in humanity. The various tales of customers being horrible could go on for quite some time, so I won’t bore you with the details. I reached a point where I was so miserable I felt totally trapped within my own head, and to get out of that unhappy space I had to make some sort of decision. So I decided to go part time in the shop, and focus on volunteering instead. This meant a drastic pay cut of course and the anxieties which go with it, and almost 12 months of uncertainty.
During this time I learnt valuable lessons; not only about the practicalities of only earning £6.50 an hour but also about the importance of self-belief. It’s hard in today’s society to have self-belief, when you are competing against all your fellow graduates. You know the types: the girl with the first, the guy who was student union president… It makes your experience and degree seem rather diminished. At the end of the day though, we are all just looking to make our way in the world.
In the long run, however, I will never regret the decision I made to start working part time. If I had stayed working full time I knew there were so many opportunities which would potentially pass me by. I couldn’t have carried on knowing that a different life was out there. I was 22 and needed to change; because to quote Emma Watson, “If not now, when?”…
I had to trust that if I jumped, someone would provide a net. And that someone was our Chief Exec, Umar Ansari.