An A-Z of Unemployment

28Sep09

Following the popularity of my A-Z of Journalism written earlier this year, I have decided its about time to give it the appropriate sequel of an A-Z of Unemployment.

A – Allowance. Or rather Jobseekers Allowance. The miserable fortnightly routine of queuing up to reel off the usual spiel about the futile job searches and interviews that came to nothing only to have your little grey book signed and a cursory £50 deposited into the bank. Although life would be a lot harder without the JSA, the process of getting your hands on it is like a constant battle with the Job Centre bureaucrats, none of whom seem to be convinced of your plight… Have you seen Harry Potter? The Job Centre consultants remind me of the goblins who run Gringotts.

B – Bank. You know your statements look about as impressive to them as a dead cat floating in a canal… steer clear and hope you can stay above the shark infested waters.

C – Curriculum Vitae. The daily grind of job hunting followed by the laborious but necessary task of tailoring one’s CV for the particular job. You find yourself using peculiar phrases in this and your covering letter like “I relished the opportunity”… even reading them back immediately after writing it you think to yourself, “I sound like a cock.” But we send them off anyway only to tailor the next one after clicking ‘send’ to find there is a howling spelling mistake in your opening sentence. Genius.

D – Day-time television. Sadly the 9 – 5 routine of our employed counterparts is reflected only in the GMTV – Paul O’Grady routine of the jobless and at home with special attention given to Jeremy Kyle, This Morning, Loose Women and Doctors.

E – Equal Opportunities. See F. But generally I feel very jarred telling people my ethnicity, sex, sexual preference, marital status and bra size in an attempt to bump out somebody’s Personnel Quota. And in the instance where you are given the option not to disclose, don’t you feel like that will be held against you?

F – Forms. Bloody forms. Job hunting can yield some interesting opportunities however if you are anything like me then all the enthusiasm flies out the window when you realise that it is an application form you need to fill in rather than the routine CV and cover letter. These rigid, awkward and tediously long-winded documents are designed to challenge your valour and enthusiasm in some HR gremlin’s world of quests and tests born out of a meaningless and bored existence. Sadly, applications forms tend to go through HR departments and paper sifting so only those who have completed their form exactly to the HR gremlin’s exact specification stand even a ghost of a chance.

G – Guardian. The Guardian jobs website is a hotbed of exciting, brand new, well paid media jobs. None of which you will even get as far as interview for as they are so popular it is highly unlikely your CV will even be viewed let alone considered for shortlisting. Worse than some websites, see H. I recently received a rare rejection from a job applied for via the Guardian telling me in no uncertain terms that I should abandon all hope now as no less than 400 people had applied for that particular vacancy.

H – Hold The Front Page. Journos only – this site is supposed the be the first port of call for job-hunting journos. Sadly, in the current climate each advertising employer can expect over 250 applications per vacancy from this supposedly little-known industry website. Still, odds of winning the lottery remain lower as of yet than getting a job via this website so I remain hopeful.

I – Interviews! If you are lucky enough to get any sort of interview the trick is not to do it like Spud from Trainspotting, although waiting in a bland lobby in your monkey suit being scowled at by the thing behind reception makes you wonder if drugs are indeed the answer to this Hell you have stumbled into. I prefer to go into job interviews with desperation written all over my face and a few bad jokes and some spurts of verbal diarrhea to add colour to an already dismal situation. If you are going for the job just for the money then for Gods sake don’t admit it in as many words.

J – Job Centre Plus. A hilarious little government organisation, utterly under-equipped for the current flux of  people who are either unemployed graduates, school leavers who have not been given the chance of a university place and have absolutely no experience in the job market, and skilled redundancy victims. I remain skeptical of their pearls of wisdom… after all, who should ask for careers advice from a careers adviser?

K – Kick up the backside. Swiftly too. We all need one occasionally, be it from the Job Centre, the thought of getting a fantastic job or family members who are sick of the sight of you.

L – Letters. Slim letters are nearly always bad… or contain a letter stating that your application was received but if you don’t hear back within 10 days it has been rejected and please don’t contact us because we can’t be buggared… which is basically a rejection written by somebody who hasn’t got the balls to tell you so. One line that keeps on resurfacing in my growing collection of rejections is ‘Unfortunately due to the unusually high number of applications…’ And you needn’t read any further. Fat letters are considered good, they contain organisation pamphlets, maps, equal opportunities forms, reference forms to send on to your inundated (and irritated) referees. But sadly fat letters are an endangered species, rarely glimpsed owing to the current jobs cull.

M – Misleading adverts. Usually posted by crafty agencies who actually have much more banal jobs in mind for you.

N – Not a sausage. Self explanatory.

O – Optimism. Very important to distract ourselves with optimism otherwise we are reminded of the reality of the situation. See Z.

P – Profiling. Some websites offer to send you jobs alerts that are relevant after you submit a generic CV and tick a lot of options. In the case of ticking the media box you end up getting a very full inbox thanks to the constant stream of minimum wage call centre jobs cleverly relabeled ‘Media Sales Executive’. Do not be fooled, this does nothing but hinder your daily jobs search thanks to this meaningless and time-consuming inconvenience.

Q – Qualifications. Mean nothing really. Its more who you know than what you know or how many certificates you have to back that up…

R – Return to Work Session. Yes the Job Centre makes another appearance on the list thanks to the bright spark that thought that an additional weekend seminar on how to search for jobs online and let everybody know about agencies and volunteering would get people off  Jobseeker’s Allowance. Either because they would miraculously find a job through that hour of their life they will never get back or because people won’t bother and so won’t be entitled to benefits the next week. I hope he/she did not get any sort bonus as a result of that piss-poor brain fart.

S – Statistics. I am one of the 2.5 million registered unemployed in the UK this year. Numbers that big don’t really mean much and it does little for our solidarity to be reminded of the 947,000 20 – 24 year old unemployed demographic… a group I am also classed under. Lets see if it shrinks after Christmas.

T – Tests. We did them in order to get to this point in our lives and we are still doing them now. Not the metaphorical ‘test’ of will that unemployment forces you to battle with day in day out, but the tests they made you do when you register at agencies. You know the sort, the ones that ask you to do simple tasks but only give you one click of the mouse before the program takes it down to be a wrong answer and you are branded an underachiever at Microsoft Word, which, lets face it, my generation are pretty much pre-programmed to tackle. Nevertheless, tests in data entry, making pie charts on Excel and typing speed are now an essential process in the humiliating circus that is Job-Hunting.

U – Unpaid work. Work experience, voluntary work, call it what you like but it cannot guarantee a job at the end, however it does keep your CV fresh even if the jobs you are given are thankless tasks and you have to spend another week of your life sheepishly desk hopping around a newsroom with one too few desks asking journalists for something to do because you’ve been spell-checking and re-reading the same bleeding picture story for an hour now. Take heed as some Job Centres inexplicably dislike the notion of you receiving your JSA on top of working unpaid for an organisation in an attempt to maximise your employability.

V – Versatility. An important and essential thing to get across especially when applying for jobs that you really do want but have little actual experience in. Versatility means offering an employer a lot of good things sort of like what they are looking for and hope that nobody applied who is extremely competent at the one single thing they are looking for. Usually crops up in CVs under the adjectives, flexible, adaptable and ‘ready for anything’. The versatility ruse hardly ever works but if it does then you have to maintain the pretense.

W – Waiting. Waiting for that call, for the reply, for the email… waiting for any kind of news even if it is a rejection.

X – Xanax. A drug commonly prescribed for anxiety and moderate depression. Self explanatory.

Y – Yard arm. Important constraint to maintain when driven to drink.

Z – Zero. Zero job, zero money, zero plans. Lets all jump off a bridge together!

And there we have it. A rather slim towards the end alphabetic attempt to quantify unemployment.

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4 Responses to “An A-Z of Unemployment”

  1. 1 Julia

    I know I spend too much time on Facebook when I’m looking for a ‘like’ button…

  2. 2 Elizabeth

    rose your writing is witty, poignant and insightful all at once. it’s a testament to how tragically shitty times have become that someone with your talent is unable to even get a job. that said, it really does help me to know there are people like you in the same situation–it stops me from falling down the slippery dark hole of thinking ‘is it me? am i just crap and unemployable?’ we’re not crap. but the situation definitely is. 😦

    keep blogging!!

  3. 3 StephB

    Poor Rose. Don’t give up my lover! The West Briton Today is looking for someone. It does mean living in Cornwall and probably having to edit the section written in actual Cornish, but a job’s a job right?! You can come and stay with me.

    Anyway the rest of your life is pretty awesome, just focus on that whenever you feel really down. I can’t complain about the money I earn, but it’s life-consuming, emotionally draining, and most of all, an extremely lonely, often unhappy existence. The grass isn’t always greener!! x x x x x

  4. B is for Benefit Sanctions lol…

    My A-Z of New Deal is taking much longer to do hmm

    You might find my site interesting, especially my article on the Jobcentre’s failed job distribution system.


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