So I attended my “mandatory meeting”. I intentionally dressed a little smarter, to deter being patronised and treated like lazy dole scum. I arrived armed with a new CV, rejection letters and copies of spec letters I’ve sent to, well, deter being patronised and treated like lazy dole scum.
It would seem that working for qualifications and being employed for the best part of the last 25 years now means nothing. It is entirely my fault I’m unemployed and I need to make more of an effort to get a job – any job.
I was given no time to ask, what is the point in getting interviews in other parts of the country if I have no money to attend the interview?
Instead I am advised to pretend to employers that I’m interested in their jobs and will stay long-term, while looking for work elsewhere. I’ve been told to play down my qualifications and experience in order to find an interim job. I have to visit employment agencies and “ask friends and family” about jobs.
I wasn’t told whether I had to pretend not to have an undergraduate degree. Or not to have an MA? I don’t know whether I pretend not to have done certain jobs, or how I explain the gaps in my CV from doing so.
I was simply given a list of agencies and made to feel like I was, well, lazy dole scum.
“Oh, you worked at [insert name of newspaper]”, the man interviewing me said, not looking up from my CV.
“You used to go into [insert name of public house].” With this he looked off into the distance, thoughtful, remembering.
“I used to manage that place. Some of those journalists were right up themselves.”
I thought “bear a grudge much?” but didn’t say it. I didn’t even say anything in response to the predictable “hacking” joke. I’m growing used to being treated with contempt for having worked as a journalist.
I hardly said anything. I saw no point. I’m merely jumping through hoops, helping them tick boxes and must be willing to take any job offered to me so I’m no longer an unemployment statistic: no more, no less.
I can’t get certain jobs. It’s not about having two degrees and being a cut above it’s also about having no experience in customer relations, sales, office cleaning, etc. My maths, as you may have noticed, is awful. Many years ago I worked in a bingo hall and, after selling bingo books and giving away tenners at the same time, I was told to check claims. I was pretty bad at this too and missed many, turning little old dears into potential killers. So I was put on catering where I happily burned customers’ food until I left.
Since school I have jumped through all the recommended hoops: I deferred gratification and studied as we’re told we should; I worked while at university; I got a second degree, while working full-time, to further improve my job prospects as is recommended, and I have worked as a volunteer for years gaining extra experience while “giving something back”.
Now I’m an unemployable smart arse?
I thought back to all the jobs I’ve had in journalism and can confidently conclude that no matter what path I took I would still be in this position today: agencies closed down; newspapers closed down; magazines closed down; redundancies were made and freelance budgets were cut. Journalism has been decimated and this is the fault of the owners, not the journalists.
I moved into academia thinking this would be a long-term career option: courses were altered, freelance budgets were cut, courses closed and more cuts are likely to be made before new staff are taken on, particularly freelances.
I would like to take this moment to officially tell those teachers and careers advisers that they were wrong when saying a degree would secure long term employment in a job I wanted to do. I’m now on the scrapheap and feel like I wasted my energy. I’m trying to remember what fun I had on the way to this scrapheap.
The grip of the economic crisis, bringing savage cuts in both private sector and public sector jobs, is why I’m on the dole. It is not because I don’t look hard enough, I’m not varying my job types adequately enough or being lazy: it is because there are not enough jobs for workers.
Those about to email – fingers poised above the keyboard ready to type “shut up moaning and get a job” – please think first because you could be where I am any day now.
Jobs applied for (I have found): 9
Jobs applied for (found by JCP): 0
Things that cheer me: I have food in, I have tea bags, Chaplin purring at his packet of Dreamies