Tag Archives: unemployment

Some meandering shit about the dole

Just reading up on jobs, the unemployed, and how there’s about six people for every job out there, and not every job is enough to cover basic costs of living, and nobody’s allowed any benefits to keep themselves above the bread line and… yeah, uplifting stuff like that.

It’s made me want to reminisce about my time(s) on the dole. So why not, eh?

I had two stints on jobseeker’s allowance. First time I signed on was my birthday in 2005, which provided much hilarity in the job centre. “Happy birthday!” the man said, hilariously. It’s not that it wasn’t hilarious, it’s just that he beat me to the punch so I got annoyed with him.

My problem was never a lack of ability – I’m not thick and I am professionally qualified. In other words, so long as my CV sparkles or I have someone on the inside put in a word for me, I have a chance of getting the jobs I want.

This isn’t arrogance, just truth: I am not the usual millions of jobseekers out there.

The millions out there with less qualifications, less ability to do something as saleable or diversifiable as I can do – those that have to actually rely on the jobs available on those pissy little computers in the job centre… well, I feel sorry for them. Genuinely.

Part of the dole routine is applying for about three jobs every two weeks – might be more these days – which meant I had to root through the computers for things, even though I knew I didn’t want to do them. I ended up applying for a job as Santa at the Trafford Centre once, which was actually offered to me – but it turned out the cost of getting there and back every day wasn’t financially viable with the wage paid.

I also looked at a lot of security guard jobs – me, the massive pacifist (read: coward), doing something like that? Well, fortunately the job centre staff didn’t seem to know or care that you needed a special licence to work in roles like that.

There’s a hint, unemployed folk: if you don’t actually want a job, apply for the ones that need licences that cost hundreds of pounds to obtain. Seemed to work okay for me.

But god, some of the stuff was tantamount to slavery. The information handed out on the jobs themselves isn’t enough – a great deal of them simply don’t tell you how long you’ll work or how much you’ll be paid. Why would you apply for something without that knowledge?

But there’s the mentality: you’re on the dole, you should be taking anything you can get. It permeates through society. If you’re on the dole you’re a lazy dosser. If you’re taking benefits you’re stealing my tax money. If you’re jobless then you’re scrounging.

I was trying to get a job, but I was failing to get a job. But that was more my own laziness than anything else. The times when I really wanted – needed – to get a job, I got one. Both times. Almost straight away. So I’m not the finest example of dole scum.

But there are so many out there who are legitimately on the dole for the Right Reasons, who need help and support and are looking for what they can get. But they’re barely helped. They’re shat on. They’re treated like idiots by the (often well-meaning) staff at the job centre, and they’re dismissed as scrubbers and scum by many members of the public and the media.

But it ain’t easy. It’s not as simple as just taking the job because it’s there in front of you on the computer. Especially when you know nothing about it.

I lost my point here. It’s just aimless brain-wandering by now. I feel sorry for those genuinely trying to get out of the quagmire of hopelessness that is unemployment. Many aren’t as lucky as I am, and I’m not even very lucky.

I think I’ve depressed myself by writing this. YEAH.

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The Fear

I no longer remember a time when I didn’t have The Fear. Well, that’s a lie I’ve just made up for dramatic effect – I still remember being a child and having no responsibility whatsoever. That was great. I wrote things for fun then, and didn’t give a shit what people thought about them. Now I’m too wracked by self-doubt and lethargy that I don’t get anything done outside of work and here (this, of course, being used as an aid to keep my fingers nimble and my mind match fit). But that’s another topic for another time. What I want to talk about is something that’s been with me since I was 11 years old: The Fear.

Back in comprehensive school (hah! I’m poor!) we had homework. I would leave it until the night before – sometimes the morning – it had to be handed in before I would do it, and I would always get it done to a decent enough standard. Then came 6th form: same story. University was an interesting one, as while the fear was ever-present, I actually managed to go completely off the rails and nadger up my second year, actually missing deadlines and eventually dropping out. But that wasn’t the fault of The Fear: that was outside interference. No, The Fear has always been an ally; there to push me to get my finger out, to get the job done and to be more than just another failure working in a shop for the rest of my life. It’s what got me back on track when I re-enrolled at uni, and it’s what got me to write my 10,000 words of dissertation in under two days (the less said about the mark (I passed!) the better).

And then so came the Dark Years – unemployment, working in a shop, not doing anything of worth and generally being a bit shit. It took about a year of this before I felt the urge. I felt it picking away at the back of my neck, reminding me that I should get off my arse and… well, sit down and write some things. It was my old friend, back after around 12 months of travelling the world looking for more things to inflict itself on me with. Writing to deadlines again for freelance work, I was once more on the saddle riding The Fear. Since then it’s hardly been from my side.

I went from the Dark Years on to more schooling – again with homework, exams and portfolios to keep The Fear topped up. On finishing, I immersed myself in more of the things that had kept me tiding over before the course: daily work to be done, reviews, interviews and anything else to keep me writing. Then I got this job last year, and it’s so perfect for me it’s unreal. Yes, I get paid to play videogames and have opinions on them, yes it’s a magazine I read as a 14-year-old and yes I do enjoy it quite a lot. But the main thing that keeps me going; that keeps me happy?

This job is based almost entirely around The Fear.

I love The Fear.

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