Job-Seeking: Trying to find a specific needle in a pile of needles.

Recently I read an article which described an American Masters-degree holding jobseeker who, in order to grasp what his competition looked like, put a fake job listing on craigslist. Within 24 hours he had received over 600 applications. The people he was expecting for his run of the mill job were graduates, high schoolers, etc. What he realised quickly is that however high your education-level there will be a whole bunch of people with the same education-level and higher also going for that job (you know, the one that doesn’t look like a big deal but will pay the bills… just).

Hence, finding that job and standing out becomes in his story, one specific needle in a pile of needles. To me, on the other side of the pond, this is very real.

Alongside this we have the oh-so-(not)-wonderful Jobcentre‘s who have as a standard attitude: “You don’t really want a job, you just want benefits, don’t you?” This isn’t motivating, it’s also SO stressful when you know that the broadband that you’ve tried to cancel but will cost you more money than you have in your overdraft is also asking for a bill soon but, again, you don’t have money to pay for it. Then when you do look for jobs and they decide that your hard-earned degree, you know, the one that was meant to be a step-up when searching for a job, is actually going to put off any employers.

This is weird as I planned to study, and have had to put off most of that as I need to earn something to keep me and my husband in Birmingham. So currently I might have a job (part-time mind) soonish, but that won’t quite pay the rent. Then there’s art stuff around that (which if anyone wants to buy/commission/etc I would be very happy) I haven’t been able to pay any attention to because of move, job searching, helping New College, etc.

To add to that Bear has had to finish his degree. Due to some technicalities he had to redo a module in order to prove that he deserved the 2:1 the rest of his modules suggested. So I have also been job-searching for him too.. that’s been fun.

The other strange thing we have experienced with the Jobcentre is it’s inconsistency. Although technically a national system, there seem to be discrepancies to what you are told in Dundee and what you are told in Birmingham. In Dundee they were lovely to us, we explained our situation, they took all the facts, and said that we should be doing 16 “activities” in the job search each week. This seemed reasonable and we got to it. In Birmingham we were told to do 3 “activities. When we questioned that this seemed pretty low they said well of course it was a good idea to look but 3 was the minimum. Maybe that’s why there’s an issue with fake jobseekers claiming benefits?

We were also told in Dundee that because we had filled everything out online, and its a national system, it would be a simple live transfer once we got down to Birmingham. In Birmingham we were told that we had to fill in the entire paper copy of the form again, without notice (and therefore we did not have P45s, last payslip no., etc), and that they wouldn’t be able to use what the national system already had. This was less convincing when he logged in, looked us up and found all our information, as entered by us and the Dundee staff, on the screen. After 40 pages of forms I was not amused.

Finally we were told very clearly when we would get benefits and Dundee were very good to keep to what they had told us. 3 days after signing in we received jobseekers plus a little housing benefit and tax exemption. In Birmingham we were told they couldn’t promise anything and we’d have to wait and see. Then after having signed in twice and getting rather worried about the minus figures we were living on, we called multiple people to sort it out. Lets say it took awhile to get straight answers.

I am not one of these people who believes we are entitled to anything. I do believe that trusting people is important. I also believe that if you don’t want people to cheat the system by not looking, or barely looking, then give them a higher minimum “activity” quota. Either way it’s a pretty depressing state of affairs. It’s also pretty depressing that as a theology graduate, my best chance currently is administration work, and my IT-genius partner is struggling to find anything at all.

I’m tempted to do my own experiment to see what the competition is like out there, but I wouldn’t want to give people more reason to feel demotivated. What we don’t need right now is false hope, what we all need right now are jobs.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. gracar2002 says:

    I was told to do 25 “things.” Must admit that I’ve found their attitude to be “You’re a statistic, you make us look bad. You need a job. Any job.” I’ve also found them to be incapable of offering advice that has any relevance to me (teaching me to tell the time was quite patronising). I’ve started coming up with plans to waste time in the meetings having to get creative now… hehe.

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