Fruitless job hunt 'really tough'

Danielle Newton says she has applied for more than 50 jobs in her attempts to find work. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Danielle Newton says she has applied for more than 50 jobs in her attempts to find work. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
What is life like without a job for six months? It is a struggle, those at the coalface say.

During the past eight months, Dunedin teenager Danielle Newton has applied for more than 50 jobs but has not even had a trial.

The 17-year-old has lived at home with her mother since leaving school at 15, but she wants a job and a place to call her own.

''It's really tough,'' she said.

''I go into places asking for jobs and they say, 'Do you have any experience?'

''But I haven't got my foot in the door to get experience.''

She took part in a training programme with Kokiri Training Centre, something she felt benefited her more than school.

However, the qualifications had not resulted in any interest from possible employers. She was not receiving a benefit and would be happy to take ''any kind of work whatsoever'', but nothing was available.

The stereotype of unemployed people being lazy and living comfortable lives at taxpayers' expense was unfair, she said.

''There's no fun whatsoever. I sit at home in bed looking for jobs.''

''Your life is very limited. I have got no money. It sucks relying on other people,'' Miss Newton said.

Her struggle is echoed by Campbell Tobin, who has been unable to get a full-time job for two years.

He conceded he struggled because he had ''no real qualifications'' and got into some trouble when he was younger, but ''my life's turned around''.

''The one thing that's not there is a job,'' he said.

The 27-year-old lived with his partner and their three children and was committed to providing for them.

He, too, was at the point where any job was better than no job.

''I just want to work for 40 hours a week,'' he said.

Being unemployed for two years was ''very depressing,'' Mr Tobin said.

''When you do get an opportunity, so much rides on it that it almost becomes too much pressure to cope,'' he said.

Miss Newton and Mr Tobin both said they intended continuing their search until they found jobs.

''I'm not giving up,'' Miss Newton said.

''I just want to get a job.''



No doubt you are right. Some would be horrified. But I don't see anyone here suggesting male applicants apply for baby minding, hairdressing courses, beautician work. I am sure some do in the same way that some females might want to be plumbers, etc. But there is nevertheless the reality that there is a difference in people wanting to try careers that are unusual for their size, shape and endurance levels, and an expectation that they 'should'. It applies also to people with different health and intellectual abilities. It isn't helpful to suggest that someone of diminutive size become a sumo wrestler, any more than it is for someone who struggles intellectually to become a physicist. Nor to expect old people with bad backs to lift weights.People have to fit their job searches into some of their limitations and nobody knows that better than them.Some of what has been written is helpful. Some of it arrogant 'get of your butt' style comments that I don't see as helpful at all.

Don't assume too much!

Sparrowhawk: I know lots of girls who would bite your head off for suggesting they can't/shouldn't build a deck or do manual labour. Particularly if work is hard to come by locally. The last thing this girl needs is people telling her what she can't do. She needs to maintain a positive head space and an open mind to all jobs and indeed her comments suggest she is keen to try anything. This suggests she has the motivation to work on a dairy farm, in the military, in an orchard, in construction, or whatever. The various pieces of advice in this thread are hopefully useful to her and anyone else looking for work. 


?'s because it's too expensive for young Dunediners that are without work and therefore spare cash to get up to central, and it costs too much to live there. However I still fail to see ehat any of those jobs have to do with an eighteen year old unemployed girl. Can't see her cutting down your trees or building your deck actually.

to Gerald Cunningham

Because there is no affordable accommodation from Alex to Wanaka/Q'town. You want someone to do all these things but don't want to pay the cost of it. Are you in danger of socialising those costs perhaps?

"They" can get an accommodation supplement - "They" can get this or that benefit - just in order that you don't have to pay the full whack - actually - in relalty the full WACC.

So you had to pay a "large public company $2800...."  - which included the o'head for all their machinery, worker time when not actually on site, the o'head of the administration. Say $75 an hour all up = less than 40 man-hours.

I suggest that if you offered someone $50 an hour, you'd have been beating them away with a stick and have been ahead $25 an hour = $1,000 in your pocket.

Gerald, the reason you can't get labour in CO, is simple. It is the Free Market in operation. Demand pull - when the wages offered meet costs and allow a "profit", you'll get your labour.

You wish a profit in your business ... otherwise you'd go up to CO every weekend and do the mowing ... but it isn't "profitable" for you to do this, in your calculations. Then substitute that cost and pay it to someone else. As I say, the Free Market in all its glory.

Incidentally, I pay $19 an hour for my labourers - the market rate in my rural community, where they can rent a 2 bedroom house for $120 with costs (power etc) of $20pw. No, it is not completely up the Boohia either, just not in CO. 


Unless... happen to be: too short, not healthy enough, over weight. Unless your skills are dress making and piano playing, and choral singing. Unless you are a pacifist and believe all things military are hurting rather than helping. Unless you have family obligations like sick mothers, or small children. Not everyone can become career miltary, no matter what sorts of diverse people you have met in there. But they still need jobs.

Jobless in Dunedin

This subject has attracted a lot of attention, but let me go back to my post of two days ago as I am still searching for an answer. Dunedin appears to be short of jobs especially for young people, while a two hour drive away in Central Otago it is impossible to get anything done! I recently paid a large public company $2800 to tidy the acre that I own in Central Otago. Last year I paid a family of Cook Islanders who came down from Christchurch looking for work $600 to fell and remove two trees on the property. Nobody local wants to mow lawns, and nobody wants to do gardening. I cannot find anybody local who is interested in building a deck onto my house. I cannot get anybody to spread some gravel on my driveway. I cannot get anybody to paint my roof. I cannot get anybody to paint and repair some windows. I do not have a credit problem and pay on completion of a job. Why is it that people cannot get work in Dunedin while in Central Otago it is impossible to get anything done? 

The Forces

Lightswitch: I'm not sure if you were responding to my 'header' or not, but it was an actual recruiting slogan for British Army in peacetime. Not mine, I'm afraid. Like really afraid, considering the actual purpose of Armed Forces after the training, the camaraderie and the posting to active duty.

Directly visiting employers still useful

Pauley writes...  "David_M doubts whether Ms Nixon is seriously looking for work if she is applying online from bed, before admitting he himself (like an increasing majority of employers) uses Seek to find employees.  Random doorknocking is a thing of the past.  And "good English" may be helpful in SOME industries but hardly sufficient as the many graduates unemployed or else in low-skill work attests."

While I have used Seek to locate employees in the past, the last position I filled came not from Seek but from a young man who visited my business premises and asked if there were any positions vacant. The young gentleman was well presented, clean, dressed as though he could start work immediately and spoke clearly, professionally and with confidence.

Two previous positions have also been filled without the use of Seek although two other positions were filled by a Seek-sourced applicant. To be blunt, I found that most of the applications received via Seek were bordering on completely useless with many having not adequately read the job description to know what I was seeking in an employee. Out of the many dozens of applications received, well over half of them were dismissed due to the atrotious lack of English skills. Approximately half a dozen applications were considered due to the applicants' demonstration of English abilities along with their professional resumes which answered the job description requirements.

Yes, the job market is tight for the younger members of our community, so they have to do something to stand out as a suitable candidate for any available position. It is good that Miss Nixon has furthered her education by undertaking additional studies. This is a point that will assist employers to know that Miss Nixon is willing to complete additional training for employment. By Miss Nixon approaching various businesses - especially in her areas of interest - she has a chance of getting past the Seek floods of applications for listed positions.

Get real, that is stereotyping

Unless you have been in the forces you can't comment on them. If you have then you would know and would not make such a dumb statement.

It does not take a certain person to be in the forces it takes also sorts. I have met Special Forces who you would think heck he is not what I imagined, like wise some of the best people I worked with were ladies and those who you never thought would last. I joined at 56kgs just under 6 foot tall and all my friends doubted that I would last. When returning to Dunedin 2 years later in 1990 some of my friends were on the dole and I'd been around the world twice, and visited untold cultures. In 1991 it was three time around the world.

It was very rewarding career and in my later years it was great to see shy, inexperienced people grow and develop as a member of the NZDF and become excellent leaders. One person who was not the sharpest person is now earning over $A200,000 offshore in Australia as a storeman. After 8 years in the RNZN. Yeah, he is lucky and had a break. I also had staff who were shy and never wanted to call suppliers so they were put on the phone calling suppliers to place orders because they didn't want too. Once that hurdle was over come she was away and one of the best staff members I worked with.

Can't win

Yet again Hype, you're right on the money. I did all my schooling aimed at getting a job in the building industry, but there was fat chance of that in the late 70s as there was a big downturn going in the industry at that time. I guess I was lucky to have got good marks in maths as I ended up going into banking instead.

If only Helen Clark hadn't sold us down the river to China, there would at least be some jobs here in manufacturing for the young and unqualified to get some experience in. The experience of people out of work ranges from the most qualified to the least and makes getting a job that much harder. To make my point, about a year ago I applied for a position in a local supermarket that entailed cashing up tills and the Lotto and doing the banking. I have worked ten years for a major bank and 20 years at a local business including 7 years as manger. You would think I would have at least got an interview, but not even. 

Another problem I have found is that many positions are filled prior to the advert going out. This is just a waste of everyones time but they say they have to advertise, even knowing full well that the position has already been filled. 

There are only 2 answers to the situation: 1) Stop imports from China and get our manufacturing back up and running or 2) Start bringing down the retirement age which will get some of the older ones out of the workforce and make room for the younger ones coming through.

Back in the day, you started at the bottom and worked your way up through the business/company until you got to the top or retired. I'm a firm beleiver that it needs to go back to that way. People that have gone to uni and got degrees in this and that are now finding that they aren't worth the paper they are written on unless they are going into that particular field of work. For just about any other position applied for, said qualification is worthless. 

Days of Hope

Another great series this, quickly lost in the 70s. H, if there are no real jobs for the qualified, vocational trainers like polytechs should say so before students enrol. Education for its own sake is still personal development, but promises of career prospects should not be made. Volunteering is good, yes, but it is in effect unpaid labour with contracted working conditions.

Desperation of the jobless

It's surely time for a repeat of that excellent series, Boys From The Black Stuff, about people who had a job, lost it through no fault of their own, and now can't get another. It might remind some people of the importance of compassion. Experienced or new would-be workers can't get jobs that don't exist. Train as a chef and you'll find the job avertisements are for hammer hands.  Train in the building industry and it goes through a downturn, so then cleaners, 2 hours a day, are wanted - yeah, that'll pay the rent/mortgage.  
Apply to collect trolleys in a supermarket and join 100 other applicants with degrees, certificates and diplomas as well as those who left school at 15.  Be uneducated and get told you need qualifications.  Apply with qualifications and experience and get told you're over-qualified.  
By all means blame people who won't try, and never tried.  But don't blame those who are doing their best.  And don't blame those who tried and tried till their spirit was broken.  As a brief refresher for those who saw the series - there's more on youtube - try this 

This is not the 1970s

You could not easily get away with leaving school at 15 even in the mid to late 1980s, let alone nowadays.  It's a fact of life, whether that be offensive or not.  Dunedin is very very limited in regard to employment oppotunities.  That being said, perhaps doing some volunteer work for a charity or something would be one way to avoid gaps in one's CV?

It's a man's life in the British Army

I have met unemployed social psychologists and qualified overseas doctors who can't get work. We were on wages at the time as subjects for clinical drug trials. Good news in the paper about job offers for Miss Newton.

Get real

I dont think any of you have a clue what your talking about here. This is a young inexperienced woman, trying her best. You have to be a certain person to work on the land or joint the forces. Get real!

Try to remember being young and in the job market for the first time will ya? Try to get out of your macho mindsets (even if some of you are women). She is doing what she can and a lot of job seeking occurs looking at papers and ringing prospective employers....from home. Not all, but a lot. Have some compassion.


Yes, @dailyreader, it involves long days but that's why it's called "work". It's a financially rewarding career with huge personal satisfaction. I agree it requires motivation but I assume the people in question are as motivated as they claim so it's only fair to provide the information. I think @mike has made the best contribution to this thread though.

Hard to get a job

I know exactly how you're feeling. Although I have almost completed a post-graduate degree in applied management I have had no luck in finding a job. I have applied for over 40 jobs to no avail.

Join the.......

Join the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ex Kings High School. I was from Dunedin and joined at 17 way back in 1988, only intended staying 2 years stayed 23 travelled the world, got paid for it, spent 6 months in the Sinai peace keeping, had a great time. met lifetime friends 

Only regret is I wished I was still in the RNZN.

Body piercings ok

Hype.O -  I have ten body piercings including 3 in my face and 5 in my ears, and it has never ever been an issue with employment, including in hospitality and professional offices. It's not the 1950s any more. 


Sv3nn0,  there is a good reason that the dairy industry is crying out for workers, it's hard work with long hours and requires a big commitment.   Cattle can be creatures of habit and know when to go in for milking but sometimes their care can't be within set hours.  Not everyone is going to make a good dairy farmer and the industry should not be a last resort for job seekers.  It takes a lot of hard work and the best dairy workers are the ones who have a good understanding of, and compassion for, the animals they are caring for.  It is the animals who bear the brunt if the job isn't all the worker expected it to be.

illogical and cynical justifications of the inhuman

Lily23, I think it's you who needs to "get a grip". How do you know Ms Nixon isn't already applying for "lower" fast food or cleaning positions?  Why do you assume that your personal employment experience must be the same for everyone? Surely you have also heard about recently advertised positions at various large employers who were utterly swamped and overwhelmed by unsuccessful applicants?

David_M doubts whether Ms Nixon is seriously looking for work if she is applying online from bed, before admitting he himself (like an increasing majority of employers) uses Seek to find employees.  Random doorknocking is a thing of the past.  And "good English" may be helpful in SOME industries but hardly sufficient as the many graduates unemployed or else in low-skill work attests.

HypeOThermia, an employer, at least understands that for low-skilled jobs one's skills and qualifications are actually of little value except as a "filter" for excluding the mass of applicants who could in all probability do the job just as well. His own selection criteria are somewhat vague and obvious though. 

focusing on the symptoms of an insane society

The comments of anniebell are offensive. How much education does one require to perform the majority of entry-level and minimum wage work, e.g. filling supermarket shelves, data entry, cleaning, factory work, waitressing etc etc?  I would say a couple of weeks maximum in most cases.  I believe the Kokiri course completed by Ms Newton covers the basics necessary to enter admin, hospo and other industries over a period of several months.  Mrs Newton has gained these basic skills and would be happy doing "anything", and thus has as much of a right to "earn a living" as anyone.  

But focusing on individual choices just obscures the real reasons for unemployment, playing into the hands of the powerful and wealthy. The fact is that far more people are looking for work than there are vacancies available (20% seeking f/t work according to Roy Morgan poll), and this wouldn't change if everyone suddenly had PhDs. Unemployment is a necessary result of our capitalist economy, in which employers constantly seek to minimize labour costs and increase profits, which they do partly by replacing workers with technology or shifting production to countries without basic worker protections. 

Perhaps instead of taking this insane scenario for granted and asking, like anniebell, what use can workers have for employers, we ought to reverse it and ask what use are employers for the rest of us? Rather than asking how workers can further the profit margins of their bosses, we ask how the vast social wealth created by generations of workers may be used to satisfy their own basic needs for material survival and meaningful activity?


Good for you Mick. I  too am baffled by the ignorance and very judgemental comments posted by some. Like you said, no promises, but at least you are willing to have a chat with these young people. Nice to see some positivity against the nastiness!

Get a grip

There are always jobs in fast food and cleaning if you are willing to "lower" yourself to serving others. I always am and I have never had too much trouble finding a job. I saw loads of unskilled jobs at Fresh Choice, full time, not that long ago. 50 jobs in 8 months? That's only 2 a week, not that much of an effort really. Unemployed for 2 years? - you could have learnt a trade in that time. Despite my criticisms, the blame does not entirely lie with job seekers - there are many people who do not know how to prepare a cover letter, CV or how to approach the search for employment. Having worked in HR, the problem is the same from PhD-level to starting out - terrible terrible communication skills.

I blame the parents and employment regulations

Back in the 70's whenIjust passed School Certificate,Ihad no desire to return to school either as half my friends were working and had money to spend. AndIwanted a motorbike.

My parents stated thatIwas not leaving school until I found a job. That was the last thing I wanted to hear but in hindsight, that was great advice. Sure, I had to return to school for a few months but if you're serious about getting employment, you're not about doing your school work. School with no pressure so to speak.

As a past employer, I will tell you why the young struggle to find employment. In my experience, many have no committment to the employer or desire to work hard and are only there for the paycheque. The other problem arrises when after they have been employed to a permanant full time position, their work ethic and commitment often slackens to the point you want/need to get rid of them, but can't.

If that new car you bought turned out a lemon 6 months after purchase, you get rid of it. If you cannot operate the same way with staff that turn out to be no good, it should come as no surprise many employers are reluctant to hire someone without prior experience or work references. Many have been bitten often in the past.

Another problem is with job adverts, have any noticed how much they all sound alike? I would doubt if the previous employee or most in the country would fit the bill perfectly as to the emlployers wish list.

Granted, there are not a lot of jobs available in Dunedin. That was the case in the 70's & 80's also. In many jobs, to progress, you had to move north and that still applies today only these days it's to Auckland, not Wellington.

Move North young people, your destiny and many opportunities await  for you there.

Realistic expectations

''There's no fun whatsoever. I sit at home in bed looking for jobs.''

If Miss Newton is in bed, how is she seriously looking for jobs with any expectation that she will receive them? Whatever happened to getting out and actually visiting potential employers to put your request to them face to face?

Having placed a few job openings on Seek over the years and receiving hundreds of applications, I find it rather easy to weed out the masses who are not seriously looking for a job. I cannot begin to count the number of resumes that are in no way related to the position or have such severe spelling or grammatical errors so as to make them almost incomprehensible.

Having an education is a vital part of being employable for many positions and the best advice I can offer Miss Newton is to complete her education, preferably with an emphasis on English. Nothing boosts the chances of getting an interview than to have an applicant who is articulate and has an application without spelling or grammatical errors. Once Miss Newton has this education she then needs to get out of bed and go visit potential employers.

There are vacant positions in Dunedin but you have to actually look for them instead of staying at home and attempting to do everything online. Employers are not going to go to the job seeker. The job seekers must visit the employers.

Real work not collecting certificates

Had AnnieBell read the article all the way through she would have noticed this: "She took part in a training programme with Kokiri Training Centre, something she felt benefited her more than school.

However, the qualifications had not resulted in any interest from possible employers."

"Courses" and "Qualifications" are in many cases of limited value except to make jobs for providers, and ways to limit job applicants. This is of advantage to employers not necessarily because the training is useful but because when low-level jobs are advertised there are so many applicants that any filter is a blessing to reduce the number to be short-listed then interviewed.

The kind of person who is good at amassing certificates from one course after another is not necessarily right, maybe their main strength lies in attending courses. As an employer, though, you're looking for someone who can pick up the practicalities of "this" workplace, quickly cotton on to "how we do things here", use commonsense, be dressed and groomed appropriately and show understanding that even if their "real self" expresses in ink, piercings and fabulously original costume, it's no employer's duty to find this acceptable.

The young woman in the photo accompanying the article appears to have grasped the essentials. I hope an employer gets in touch very soon to give her the opportunity to prove herself on that vital first rung of the ladder.

This girl

This girl has it , the factor required to just get up and say it like it is for her .. not others  just her .She will not have a job she will manufacture a career for herself, simply because she has the attitude and drive. I left school at 14 , hated it, but made a wonderful life from business .. easy , it was with something they don't teach at school ...pride and attitude.  

Marketing skills

The story itself reveals that Miss Newton is persistent, goal oriented and with communication skills that make her situation newsworthy. Qualities supposedly valued by employers, if they are not blinkered by need for formal qualifications.


Anniebell, I believe you are being unnecessarily critical of this young girl. I don't hear her blaming anyone, she is simply stating the difficulty she is having finding work, and this is a plight shared by many unskilled young people. Yes, she left school quite young, but she did continue to study at another facility, however that has not assisted her ability to find work.

She has applied for over 50 jobs, is not on a benefit and relying on her family for support. Eventually her persistance will pay off. I would not be the least bit surprised if she is offered a job as a direct result of this article. Not all young people flourish in the school environment and leave without the necessary qualifications. They need support and encouragment for at least trying to get work, not criticism.  

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