'Thank you for your application' - COVID-19 and my unemployment struggles

Welwyn Hatfield Times reporter Dan Mountney

Welwyn Hatfield Times reporter Dan Mountney - Credit: Danny Loo

Our newest reporter Dan Mountney shared his story of losing and then finding a job during lockdown.

When it comes to COVID-19, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I am yet to have it, and most of my friends and family have steered clear of the virus too, but the pandemic has taken its toll on me in other ways. 

I am absolutely delighted to be joining the news team at the Welwyn Hatfield Times, but when I received the call from our editor Anne Suslak last Monday to officially offer me the role, my immediate feeling was not one of joy, but of relief. 

A relief that after months of getting emails and phone calls that always started with ‘thank you for your application, but…’, I finally heard the words I’d been waiting to hear. ‘We’d like to offer you the job.’ 

A relief that after a year of struggle, I could get my life back on track, that most of my worries would go away and my confidence would return. I truly felt the weight lift from shoulders. 

I lost my job nearly 12 months ago as COVID-19 brought the world to its knees. While I’ve been lucky enough to avoid catching the virus, the financial and mental struggle of unemployment in the pandemic hit me hard. 

As a young twenty-something, I unfortunately still have that feeling of invincibility youth brings, while my inherently relaxed nature is both a blessing and - as the past year has proven – a curse. To put it simply, I had not planned for a crisis like the one I was about to go through. 

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With very little saved and rent and bills to pay each month, the stresses of my precarious financial situation greatly impacted my mental health. I had countless sleepless nights, coupled with seemingly endless worries about how I was going to survive and what would happen next. 

It wasn’t just my financial situation that impacted my mental health, with the feeling of endless job rejections severely knocking my confidence. Name a job and I more than likely applied for it at some point as I desperately searched for any work I could find, but to no avail. 

When I wasn’t worrying about money, I found myself critiquing every aspect of my character. I needed to know what was wrong with me. Why did no one want to employ me? Why wasn’t I good enough? What was I doing wrong? I was completely and utterly trapped inside my own head. 

At one of my lowest points my grandfather told me a story of his struggles. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he found himself in a similar situation to the one I was in, all be it under different circumstances. After struggling to find a job he went to work in Iran before returning to the UK and leaving his northern home to work down south.  

The hurt he described at having to be away from his family  was one of a number of things that really put my troubles into perspective, while his wise words made me realise that I was doing all I could and things would work out eventually. 

I’m glad to say he was right – and the commute to the WHT offices is certainly easier than going to Tehran. 

When remembering that testing time in his life, he recalled how both he and my grandmother would sit at the dinner table most nights while my mum ate and they had nothing, choosing to sacrifice the little money and food they had for her. 

Thankfully for me, like my grandparents before her, my mum stepped up when I needed her most, and I will forever be grateful the support she has given me and the sacrifices she has made over the past year. 

The past 12 months have been gruelling and draining, but they have also been eye-opening. I’ve learnt new things about myself, my outlook on life has changed, but most importantly, I have realised that even the smallest bit of kindness can lift the mood of someone who is struggling. 

The pandemic has affected us all in different ways, some worse than others, but a smile or a friendly hello – even from behind a mask – can make a world of difference. 

Despite more and more people receiving the vaccine and the Government’s roadmap to normality providing light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, we still have some way to go, so we must help each other in any way we can.  

We’ve all had our struggles. That was the story of mine.