December 6, 2010 by Rhi
I got a call from the Jobcentre today. It’s one of their excellent schemes, they call you up at home with jobs they think you’re qualified to do. Today’s effort was more of the same – receptionist, clerical assistant. Things I did when I was 18. The same type of jobs I’ve been rejected for en masse for the last three months, for the simple reason that I’m over qualified to do them. Apparently, the Department for Work and Pensions is unsure what to do with a recent graduate, who has more than five years work experience in a number of sectors.
I decided to take the bull by the horns, and ask if they had anything requiring a little more skill. Being as I have this experience, and have no desire to apply for their 21 hour a week jobs (I’d feel awful – those jobs are for mothers looking to get back into the workplace. I don’t need reduced hours, I have no dependents), isn’t there something a little more… challenging?
Me: I was wondering, how do I go about changing the types of jobs you offer me?
Woman: Well, you can ask when you sign on next. Why, what’s wrong with those jobs?
Me: Well, without wishing to sound big headed, they are far below my skill level. I think this may be the reason I’ve been finding job hunting so difficult.
Woman: Well, have you been applying for higher level jobs? Because if you have, and you haven’t been getting them, then that suggests you really AREN’T skilled enough for them.
Me: Oh believe me, I am. But I’m not getting offered them, am I? You keep giving me jobs which require me to answer a phone all day. I got a letter back the other day from a application I made to be a clerical assistant, rejecting me because I apparently “don’t meet the criteria required”. I quite obviously meet the skills criteria, so there’s something else that’s holding me back. Do you really not have anything else?
Woman: Well, there is one job here. But… awww… you need to have a typing speed of at least 50wpm. So that would be no good.
Me: Actually, yes it would. I can do that.
Woman: But they’re asking for 90% accuracy.
Me: Well, I can do that too. But asking for that level of accuracy when you’ll be working on MS Word is a bit pointless. There’s spell checker, and proof reading, which will pick up any problems.
Woman: Gosh. Well, I’ll give you the details then. Not many people have applied for it, because it’s obviously very skilled.
Me: (thinking) No, it’s not skilled. It’s just for a different set of skills. Ones which I have, but which you clearly don’t believe that I have. (Out loud) Thanks for that. Have a nice day.
I hear a lot of people whining about benefit claimants, and people looking for work who aren’t looking hard enough. But is it any wonder, when that’s the support we’re given? Every fortnight, I have to trek to Parkhead Jobcentre, to sit in a room with ten other people, whilst a bloke with a tenuous grasp of English (and a questionable attitude to gender equality) tells us that we should dress smartly for interviews, and reads out a list of job vacancies. There I am, with a theatre degree, and a clerical background, being given the same generic advice as skilled tradesmen like plasterers and brickies, and women returning to the workplace after a decade away. How can that help any of us? How is that serving the people who are made to jump through ever shrinking hoops, to qualify for Jobseekers’ Allowance? It isn’t. And I’m fed up being made to feel like a whingy, overambitious idiot, because I’m asking for more help to get back into work. I’ve paid taxes, I’m not a scrounger. But everyone is equal in the eyes of the Department of Work and Pensions.
I’ve put in an application for the best job in the world. I’m waiting to hear back now. Given my recent experience, I’m not holding out much hope.