chimichanga: (Default)
this afternoon i had my last appointment at the job centre, for what is hopefully going to be a long time. it didn't go well, and i am upset. that is what this post is about.

but first, a few pertinent points:

point one: for about a month and a half, i have been interviewing at a small company that makes software for online retailing. i had three interviews and three assessments, and about two weeks ago i was offered a job.

point two: coincidentally, my job offer came just after i'd left the job centre to sign on. the next appointment i had been made was for a 'quarterly review' -- i was looking forward to telling the advisor i had been offered and accepted a job in a field i was actually interested in. i missed the appointment, though, mostly through my own fault (it had been scheduled a week earlier than usual) so i when i went in yesterday, i was made another appointment to handle my signing off.

point three: for the past five weeks, i have been doing a voluntary unpaid work placement with bristol city council, because my main obstacle to finding work has been my lack of experience. (it was supposed to last eight weeks, but i got offered a job.) it has essentially been a full-time role, 40 hours per week over five days. prior to that, i did a six-week placement with the jobcentre itself, also unpaid. i was still expected to do my 35 hours per week of job searching on top of my 35-40 hours per week of working. it sort of worked out with the DWP, but it quickly became apparent it wasn't going to work the same way with BCC. i tried to explain it to my advisor, but i had done about 8 really awful applications on sunday night so she just sort of gave me a blank face.

so, before i got my offer, i had been struggling for about three weeks to do my job searching. when i got the offer, i, i think understandably, stopped applying for jobs.

today i was informed that despite the fact i had received and accepted an offer and was doing 40 hours a week of work experience, not having been applying for jobs during this time meant they couldn't pay me the money.

at the time, this seemed reasonable. i went, "ok, i can't really do anything about that, then," and continued filling out the form. then i went away and thought about it and actually became really upset.

it's not about the money. i am fortunate enough to have a good financial support network. my parents and my partner are both very generously helping me out. no, i'm upset because the jobcentre had treated me awfully and i shouldn't be ok with it.

i don't blame the people -- when i worked there, everybody was lovely, and they all worked really hard. i spent an extra bit of time saying hello to everyone even when i came in after finishing my work experience and they were all so pleased for me when they heard. (my ex-supervisor sent me the sweetest e-mail; it nearly made me cry!) it's not their fault the system is crap.

but at the same time... i have been signing on for six months, doing exactly what was expected of me and more, and for six weeks everybody at the jobcentre witnessed that. in that time i have gone through about five different advisors in the time, especially in the latter weeks, which made it really difficult to feel like i was being valued.

at the same time, my last advisor didn't make it clear that my appointment was going to be a week away.

at the same time, even though i told her i was probably going to be offered a job, she didn't tell me i'd have to keep searching in the meantime. neither did anybody else.

at the same time, i was expected to do my hours of applying even though my circumstances had changed.

and because of the chain of negligence, of which i take partial blame, i won't be getting my measly £114 for these past two weeks.

i am the epitome of the perfect job seeker. degree-educated, knocks out twenty applications a week, actively volunteers to do work placements, walks around deliberately looking for vacancies, keeps in touch with recruitment agencies, never turns an interview down, blah blah blah... i don't say this to brag (i have, after all, spent the past 2.5 years unemployed), but to illustrate that you can do everything right but even that's not good enough for the DWP. and it's balls, and i'm pissed off.
chimichanga: (Default)
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.
chimichanga: (Default)
or rather, i followed around a bloke who did.

which is a bit odd, really, because i went in today for an interview, not a day on the job**, but a day on the job is what i got anyway. it was certainly an adventure, if nothing else!

(* no grannies were harmed in this process, although a poodle did get a cuddle)
(** not a job i even wanted tbh)

so on friday... )

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