What I learned from being a kitchen hand

Originally uploaded by The Clarity.

It’s a tough time for graduates and other young people in the job market at the moment. A BBC programme Up for Hire Live is exploring youth unemployment and recruitment, whilst following the experiences of four job seekers.

One of the themes that the programme explores is the perception that many young people are not prepared to do any old job in order to achieve their aspirations. Social media round ups throughout the programme revealed another side of the story. Young people ARE applying for these so-called menial jobs, but they are seen by employers as overqualified and uncommitted.

I’ve been in a similar situation a couple of times in my life. One was when I was trying to find a holiday job in the north east of England – never easy, even in the relative prosperous late 1990s. The second occasion was while on a working holiday in Australia during a brief period in late 2008 when employers had decided to put recruitment on hold for some reason.

My attempts to find an office job failed miserably, so I survived on my savings and from selling articles to UK-based publications. It wasn’t till the new year after I switched my efforts to finding work in catering when my lucked changed. I managed to snare a job as a kitchen hand at a catering college earning $20 an hour, a pretty impressive wage for a glorified potwasher.

The downside was I had to put up with somewhat snobby chefs (just two out of the four I worked with, thankfully) an embittered fellow kitchen hand, plus some rather ditzy students, which didn’t make my life particularly easy. It was also a 70 minute commute each way across Melbourne too, which gave me plenty of time to catch up with my reading.

Three months of working in that environment was enough for me and I was glad to get back on the road again. But that experience was still a positive one. It was very process heavy-work so I didn’t have to think very hard. That gave me space to think about other things, which I think can be a very healthy thing. It also motivated me to get back to what I am good at – my journalism.

I hope that my experiences in Australia proves that I have the flexibility and motivation to do pretty much any job. If I was an employer I would certainly view any candidate positively who was prepared to take on something out of their comfort zone. That is something I think that graduates struggling to break into the job market should bear in mind when applying for jobs that don’t directly relate to their career

And the young lady on Up for Hire Live who thinks you can be a reporter without having to deal with people might be in for a shock.

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