Well, look what the fat cat dragged back in. Hello all. Since I was last here I have retrained. I have hoop-jumped, aspired and succeeded like a good worker should.
I still have 25 years experience as a journalist. I still have almost a decade’s experience of teaching. I have a teaching qualification and a rather exciting PhD proposal.
But now I don’t have a job. And if I don’t find one soon I’ll be in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit again. Plus ça change.
You see the bosses have shifted the hoops, they’ve ignored my aspiration and they’ve limited my success because – no matter how we buy into the fantasy – we really have very little control over our work or our access to it.
I’ve drunk expensive wine with media types in modern, minimalist apartments. I’ve been stressed and excited in equal measure in busy, noisy newsrooms. I’ve walked with confidence across campus, carrying texts books and fresh coffee.
I’ve recreated all these aspirational images, suitable to magazines and job centre posters intended to inspire young workers to aspire, to achieve … but now I don’t have a job.
Some 181 local newspapers have closed in the UK since 2005. Unpaid internships are commonplace. Writing for nothing to prove your worth is also familiar.
Cuts in academia have seen job losses, courses closing, a reduction in pay – and fewer sessional and full-time teaching staff.
My short-term contracts have all ended. My qualifications and experience remain the same. My willingness to work is unchanged. My ambition, aspiration or whatever the latest buzzword is remains.
But there are no jobs for which I am qualified and experienced.
Cue the inevitable “there are jobs but you’re being a job snob” or “there are jobs but you’re not looking hard enough” or “there are jobs but you decided to work in the wrong industry/sector”.
You see the rhetoric of aspiration and ambition are currently nothing but words to encourage people to blame the jobless.
We can jump those hoops like the most cheerful clown – but if someone decides to spice things up by setting a hoop on fire then it’s our fault if we get burned.
I can’t get any job. Why? Because:
1. There are too few jobs for everyone who needs one.
2. I am not experienced in many jobs. And I can’t assume employers will let me have a go because, er, they won’t.
3. I have no qualifications for many jobs. And I can’t simply get other qualifications because they cost money I don’t have.
4. The assumption I can work as a cleaner or supermarket shelf stacker ignores a number of things: these jobs are finite, these jobs are being done by unpaid staff, these jobs demand NVQs I don’t have.
5. I am knocking on 46 and have the sort of maturity, qualifications and experience that simply doesn’t fit with any and all jobs.
And finally, most significantly.
6. I don’t get to choose. The idea that aspiration will get a worker a job disingenuously suggests a worker has control over job options. We don’t. The public and private sector is not altered to meet our needs – we’re expected to adapt to meet the sector.
So I adapted. I retrained. I gained more skills. I gained more qualifications. My contracts still ended.
Now I don’t have a job.
I do have Chaplin with whom I will need to sit down and discuss the move from Sheba to Aldi’s finest cat food.