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[personal profile] chimichanga
i am trapped, you guys. TRAPPED in a CYCLE of UNEMPLOYMENT. and today i got a phone call that, while well-intentioned, pissed me off.

let's set the scene. there i am, standing at a bus stop waiting for my bus. it's a bit too warm for my liking but i've just bought comics and won an argument with my bf about whether death of wolverine #3 had come out or not (it hadn't) when i receive a phone call from a strange local number. i answer it and i am greeted with a cheery voice proclaiming to be lucy or lauren or somebody from an agency i went in to see a few months ago. once she establishes that i am me, the following conversation occurs:

    her: i just saw your cv on reed, are you still looking for work?
    me: yes.
    her: okay, can i ask you a few quick questions? what are you doing now?
    me: well i'm unemployed but i'm currently doing a placement at the job centre.
    her: you're doing a placement at the job centre?
    me: yes. i'm working in the it suite, helping people use the computers and also doing some admin work.
    her: you're doing a placement in the job centre. what are you doing there?
    me: um... i'm helping people use the computers and also doing some admin work. it's basically a customer service role.
    her: okay... do you have any paid experience?
    me: no.
    her: what were you doing before this then?
    me: well, i also volunteer at bristol zoo doing some more customer service stuff and before that i was doing a degree.
    her: when did you graduate again?
    me: in june 2012. i took about a year off for health reasons and i've been looking for about a year, year and a half.
    her: oh okay well i don't think i have anything on the books for you now. everything requires experience. if something that doesn't comes up i'll give you a ring! bye!!!


i have several problems with this.

first of all, everything she asked me was on my CV. i thought she'd read it? second, i've been in there before so they should have my details anyway?? third, i've been volunteering since march of last year. why are my skills being discounted because i'm not being paid for them? (and fourth, i nearly missed my bus.)

it's not the first time i've come across this attitude. i went to see a recruitment agent a couple of weeks ago and she practically interrogated me -- i've blogged about this on my tumblr; it felt awful and i lost sleep over it -- but one of the things she said stuck out was that temping would help me 'gain skills'. i've already got skills, thanks? just that nobody's been paying me to apply them? why are skills obtained in non-traditional ways (i.e. outside of paid work) so undervalued?

i was trying to puzzle it out, but i don't quite get it. it's not as though unpaid work is a new concept; there's been a debate raging around unpaid internships for a while now. and there are several people not performing well at their jobs and still being paid for it. surely if you're unemployed, where the only benefit is, arguably, free time, the fact you're doing unpaid work at all proves that you're probably fit to be employed?

i don't know. i'm frustrated. i'm stuck in a loop of unemployed with no experience -> need experience to get employed, and when i try to break out of it people just seem to go 'oh well it doesn't count if it's not paid!!'. it just feels like volunteering my time is a waste of effort, but you can't not (and i wouldn't stop anyway -- i love what i do) because it's considered a baseline. it's completely and utterly absurd, and i'm sure i'm not the first person to complain but i'm absolutely sick of it.

job hunting is really shitty. anybody who says otherwise should try it.

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