Sit down, kids, it's story time.
A few months ago, I found a publishing house relatively close to me that didn't require experience or a degree. This, of course, is my dream, and I think I actually squealed when I discovered that they existed. I spent a week or two updating my CV and getting lovely people in publishing to look over my cover letter. (I'm still so thankful to these people. A section of the bookish community has my back, and that's amazing; I have yours, too!) The publisher didn't have any vacancies but it's always worth letting businesses know that you exist, should any suitable positions arise in future.
While I was on holiday, I got a reply. They wanted to see me! I literally had an interview IN MY DREAM INDUSTRY. AGED SEVENTEEN. Scream scream scream scream.
Long story short, it went really well, I left feeling SO positive about my future for the first time in a while, and... they had offered me a position on the spot. They didn't specify what I'd be doing, because the things I could bring to the table were new to them, but I was happy to do anything. It would be paid, they said, and they definitely wanted me on board. The people I met were impressed with me, enthusiastic about their books, and just lovely people in general - they got me really excited about the stuff they produce. They called me a few weeks later to talk details, we met again, and I eventually did an unpaid 4-week trial. Again, they were very impressed; I'd done everything they'd thrown at me and more: I'd got them coverage on huge websites, I'd built them a small blogging database, I'd got them followers across all social platforms. All was well. I was going to work in publishing! I pushed the boat out and bought a falafel and houmous wrap in celebration.
This process took two months overall. During this time, I was offered 4 or 5 permanent part-time jobs, but I had to turn them all down because I had this awesome publishing job lined up that was literally my dream.
In today's climate, you all know that jobs are hard to come by. I was very lucky to get the jobs I was offered. But I had to turn them down; of course I did, I already had a job - it just hadn't started yet. So, for those two months, I had a very small and sporadic income from doing sponsored stuff here on the blog, but that was it. Two months of practically no money (what's new) and no job.
It was fine though. I had one lined up. My dream job. Right?
A few weeks passed. Nothing. And then I got an email from the publisher. They offered me a sponsored review for £20, which I declined, because that's way below minimum wage and you have to stand your ground with this stuff, not to mention that it wasn't really my thing, and the fact that I'd gone to them looking for a job, not a blog post. Then they slipped in that, actually, they didn't have the funds to take anyone on right now, and hadn't done all along.
That position I'd been offered? I knew they didn't 100% know what I'd be doing yet, but I didn't know it hadn't even been accounted for in their budget or whatever. Why would a company offer someone a job if they couldn't afford it?
Because of my age. That's what I and everyone else thinks. They'd got what they wanted from me. A 17-year-old would be more than happy with twenty quid for their trouble, right? That'd make up for it...
All the jobs I'd turned down. All the time and money I invested in my trial for nothing in return. The bloggers who joined the blog tour I had to organise even though they ended up being pushed into things (not by me) that they didn't want to do - but they did it anyway because they knew I was on a trial, and they were willing to help me out. (People who did that blog tour, I LOVE YOU, THANK YOU, AND I'M SORRY.)
At the time of writing this, it's mid-November (and now, as I edit this before publication, it's mid-December!) It was summer when I sent my CV to the publisher. That's... three months of being unemployed when I could have been three months into one of the several jobs I was offered. Three months wasted.
So, kids, that's the story of how a company saw my age and experience, and decided to completely take advantage of it, whilst screwing up a large chunk of my year and my finances. And did they apologise? Nope. I was really surprised about that, actually... isn't that the first thing you'd do? They were completely relaxed about it in their response as if everything was fine. And it's not fine.
In case they ever somehow read this: I thought it was a great publisher. From the moment I saw it, I was enthusiastic and passionate about their books. The two people I met from the company in those two months were nice, and we got along well. However, this is a completely rubbish situation that I feel the need to warn people about.
So, moral of the story: know your worth, value your work, stand your ground, and try to realise ASAP when someone is taking advantage of you. If something seems too good to be true, it might well be. Be ambitious, let people know you exist - absolutely, I strongly believe in that! - but please don't make the same mistake I did, because the anger, sadness, unemployment and sad-looking bank account isn't great, let me tell you. Realising that you've been a doormat - an unpaid doormat - is not a fun realisation to have. I was so close to achieving my dream, guys. In fact, I did achieve my dream. I got a job in publishing. It just never actually happened because a company decided they wanted free stuff rather than the opportunity to nurture a young, aspiring publishing professional.
Side-note: if you don't take advantage of young people, I might like to work for you, so email me and let's talk. ...What? There's no harm in trying.
Have you ever been in a similar situation?
Edit: Funnily enough, I finally got a job - but it's a zero hours contract, and it's only for Christmas. So my point still stands and I'll be back to square one in January...