Back in 1992 I graduated from the Museum studies course at Manchester University - I had already got an MA in History of Art and the effort that it took to get onto the Manchester course (hundreds of applicants 16 places) was meant to guarantee a job at the end of it.
But back in 1992 there just weren't any entry level museum and gallery jobs about. I attended a few interviews but they were either for jobs that didn't exist (they were already filled and the interviews were a formality) or were so poorly paid that they weren't real jobs. At one I asked about the salary assuming a misprint and was told that they were really expecting someone with a private income to take it.
Now we are back in a place where jobs are in short supply again, where people are graduating from University and facing a blank wall, where youngsters are fearing an unemployed future.
Over the past couple of weeks I have met acquaintances with children who left further education in the summer and who haven't had a job since. An awful situation, truly dispiriting, yet when I asked what the children been doing, I was told of how many job applications, how many rejections, how many unanswered letters.
None had been building a cv.
I run a small business, I am always short of skills, I can't afford to employ anyone else at the moment but I can certainly help people build up a cv. Marketing, computer skills, photography - all these aspects of the business get neglected, they could be formed into a project with a tangible end, something that looks impressive on a cv. This must apply to many businesses - its not a case of trying to get skills on the cheap, it is a way of building something which works both ways.
Back in 1992, in between signing on and applying for jobs, I worked as a volunteer cataloguer for Glasgow Museums sorting out the furniture for the House of an Art Lover, I volunteered in the office of what became a successful performing arts festival, I wrote a couple of education packs for charities. In none of these projects was I exploited, in all I learned a lot of skills, made a lot of contacts and got a couple of great references that eventually got me my job as Curator of British Art at the University of Glasgow. In many ways the 9 months that I was out of work was more of a training than the 9 months I had spent on my "prestigious" post graduate course.
I'm sure that people will tell me that it is much worse now than in 1992, and perhaps it is, but I know that when businesses are able to hire again it will be the people who have expanded and polished their cvs that will be first in the queue.
So that would be my advice to the youngsters who are out of work at the moment- approach a business or a charity or a council and ask if there is a project that you could do for free (not something that anyone else would be doing - this isn't a chance to pinch other people's jobs) with a specific time scale and a bit of a spark. It got to be better than sitting waiting for the post.