Job hunting? You just gotta have faith

Lauren Davidson navigates the highs and lows of life after university


By Lauren Davidson, November 8, 2011
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Being Jewish has always worked out pretty well for me. At school, I was never without a topic for show and tell. In a UCAS interview, I could rely on an anecdote from my unusual background to talk about. At university, I gained an immediate circle of friends.

I wouldn't swap my religion for anything. But, lately, I've started to realise that the lifestyle can sometimes be more maror-and-saltwater than apple-and-honey.

Knock knock. "Who's there?"

"How did the job hunt go today?" asks a weary parent through my closed bedroom door. "And this is not a joking matter."

The dole would only enrich me 50 odd quid a week, and that's not going to pay for my United Synagogue membership

I lob back a non-committal chirp that I hope relates optimism, dedication and a mature outlook as I close my 57th minesweeper game of the day.

It's not that I don't want a job. Of course I do; the dole would only enrich me 50 odd quid a week, and that's not going to pay for my United Synagogue membership – which is ironic, as it seems my loyalty to the US is what seems to be coming between me and a nine-to-five.

In fact, I'm starting to wonder if the famous saying has been misquoted; I'd wager the original was, "It is not so much the Jews that have kept Shabbat, but Shabbat that has kept the Jews out of employment".

The problem starts – but by no means ends – with my CV. I didn't go to a Jewish school, but between years of youth movement work, a gap year in Israel, volunteering for Jewish organisations and running the university Jewish Society, there's a clue in there somewhere.

Not that a giveaway is such a bad thing. A recent interviewer began proceedings by telling me about her brother's upcoming wedding in Jerusalem, wink wink. She didn't look Armenian, so I'm guessing we'll have some friends in common – which is not always a good thing.

Even if I accept that the CV is my yellow Star of David, the question remains: how specific should I be? For example, should I mention which youth group secured my allegiance through weekly meetings, summer camps and a gap year? If my interviewer happens to be Jewish and was involved in the same youth movement, then Bingo. It's like saying, "I see your bagel, and raise you a cream-cheesed chunk of smoked salmon."

But it's a risky business. The interviewer could just as easily have been involved in a rival movement – one I had mockingly chanted about, perhaps – or worse, no youth group at all. Old grudges die hard.

And it's downhill from there. Even if your CV manages to retain interest, and you make it through the interview without blemish (except for those awkward few seconds where you pause, struggling to find an appropriate translation for dafka before resigning yourself to using the Yiddish), there comes the moment Jewish job applicants dread.

It happened to me in September, just before Rosh Hashanah. Extending a hand and a warm smile, my interviewer asked before concluding our conversation, "Are there any questions or comments you have for me?" I took a deep breath. It had to be done.

"Well," I began. "I am really interested in this job opportunity. But I'll have to miss work on Thursdays and Fridays for the next month. I'll never be contactable on Saturdays. And I'll need Friday afternoons off."

I can't think why they wouldn't want me.

Lauren Davidson has recently emerged from three years at Cambridge University and is now one of London's young professionals - or trying to be. Follow her on Twitter.

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Last updated: 5:29pm, December 13 2011