I’ve started to accept that fact that I didn’t get the job I just chased: the one I wanted, the one I was excited about, the one that would’ve felt like a genuine achievement and look to the future. This has manifested itself by my lying awake for most of the night.
I’ve gone over what I could’ve said, should’ve said in my interview, of course, but I’ve also tried to remember the lyrics to old songs, had imaginary conversations – and desperately tried to stop the theme tune from Pointless playing on a manic loop in my head.
I know later in the week I will have to be positive for Jobcentre Plus, play the game of looking like I’m dealing with this situation as an individual, pretending I have some control over my future. I think this frustrates me the most. As 2.6 million people search for work, faced with half a million vacancies, we still have to look like eager, go-getters. On an income of £67.50 per week we still have to look the part, to be energetic and positive. It’s exhausting and a fraud.
We can’t feel self-pity, though, or even be honest and refer to the recession because that way blame lies: then it’s our fault we’re unemployed because we’re miserable – and who wants to work with a misery?
The Fairy Jobmother is the biggest fraud who tells us positive-thinking will get you that job. As the Guardian said when interviewing her last year, “For all her compassion, and for her care which takes them there, I’m unconvinced by Taylor’s evangelical conviction that the only thing stopping anyone from working is their attitude, and that positive thinking can solve everything.”
The Guardian article continues: “Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Switch and Bait, encountered precisely this belief among American jobseekers, who had internalised their own unemployment as a symptom of their failure to think positively – rather than recognised it as the result of economic circumstances beyond their control. If the jobs don’t exist, I say to Taylor, it doesn’t really matter what’s in my head, does it? The jobs still don’t exist.
“So why can’t you create the jobs?” [Fairy Jobmother] flashes back. “You feel good about yourself, and you have self-belief, and you have total courage of your convictions, and you think I can go out there and do anything I want. So then you have the most fantastic idea, you go out there on a self-employed course, create your own job, and maybe create jobs for other people.””
I’ve been positive. I’m now verging on past caring. When you’ve been ignored when applying for posts for which you’re over-qualified; when you recognise you can’t convince an employer you’re going to stick around in a job your qualifications and experience show you don’t want; and when you exceed your Jobseekers’ Agreement week on week and still don’t find work you’re entitled to be a bit disillusioned.
I’m also tired – as I think many journalists would be fairly quickly – of this pretence that freelance is the way off unemployment: the self-employed still rely on others for commissions, to buy their products, to use their services – that is, to have the funds to pay for their fees/products/wages. I was self-employed for three years and doing well: then editorial staff were made redundant, newspapers closed, education funding was cut and I was among the first to go because I was freelance.
I refuse to become delusional, manic with positive-thinking: if I think I’m in control of my situation then I have to accept I am at fault and I’m not. I agree with Barbara Ehrenreich who, on seeing this blame-shift towards unemployed Americans, says,
“It’s cruel to take people who are having great difficulties in their life and tell them it’s all in their head and they only have to change their attitude.”
I was positive at my recent interview and believe I did the best I could. I will do so again when I get the opportunity. I won’t, though, accept that I have control over my future in a global economic crisis by being positive. I do not control the purse strings. I am not in control of job creation. I am one of many millions unemployed worldwide.
My solitary positive-thinking won’t fund university courses, won’t create jobs, won’t stop bean counters from closing newspapers – it won’t even top-up my gas meter.
A BBC World Service survey found today that unemployment is the world’s fastest-rising worry with 18% of the 11,000 people interviewed in 23 countries citing job loss as a fear – six times higher than in 2009.
They’re not wild with positive thinking and, like them, I’m a realist.