25+ Part deux

Continuing on from my post about my experience with JSA and the 25+ cut off point.

Yesterday, was my usual sign on date and went in to sign on when I was informed that now that my claim was reaching it’s 6th week, the process for 25+ year olds is now slightly different and I have to go to an obligatory skills testing that will last 2 days from 9.30 – 3.30pm. The assessment day apparently consists of your basic numerical and verbal testing and then the organisers will then look at your CV and discuss any training possibilities needed or on offer. It seems to me that it is a pretty good idea for some people who need some help with their CV and its always to get a second opinion but I’m not sure why I will have to spend a total of 18hrs at this assessment thing.

I previously questioned the 25 year old cut off as the definition of being classed as an adult and found out something interesting whilst preparing for my return to Paris, I have been looking up various details and have found that over in France – it seems that their youth/adult cut off point is 26 years of age. Well… I’m still stumped..
Skills assessment days next Tuesday and Wednesday and then Paris the Tuesday after that. Bring it.

Struggling

I’m struggling with so many things right now. What I want to do with my life? What am I going to do if I go to Germany? What am I going to do if I get the scholarship to go to Germany? When am I ever going to finish my dissertation? Should I go to Paris while waiting for the job in Germany? What should I write about on my blog?

So many questions going on in my head. I feel like I’m going to explode or implode? Another question.

It is actually really hard work to keep up a blog and to keep writing so I’m kind of happy that I decided to do this because I’m a real procrastinator and I will do anything but commit to anything and this blog has pushed me to do something and the comments that I receive from kind strangers about my life is encouraging.

I have been doing a lot of things lately, and also doing a lot of nothing. But, I’m happy to report that I completed a certificate for Microsoft Excel 2010 and yesterday, I started the introduction on my dissertation so I’m finally pretty positive today. But, I think the highlight would really be speaking to my friends on skype last night. They were surprised to hear how “chipper” I was sounding, considering that I live in the middle of nowhere, have no friends, no job and no life, but, somehow, feeling content, which is unusual for me.

Also, for once, I had a pleasant experience at the job centre. Another sign on day, but not another horror story. I had the same woman as I had two weeks ago and this time she didn’t suggest that I go into Accountancy or Teaching so the visit was all-in-all quite painless as she saw that I had been applying for jobs and I had been to 2 interviews in the last 2 weeks.

After that, I decided to go to a recruitment agency that had called me up yesterday, and here lies my mistake. I should never have gone there, it was a sheer waste of time as usual. There were trying to push me into doing a night shift at a call centre catering for Canadian-French speakers. I’m all for work and doing things to get more experience but I’m really not interested in doing shift work anymore. I did a lot of that when I was a waitress – 55hrs a week finishing at 2am/4am. It’s not a life. So I kindly told the recruitment consultant that I wasn’t going to be interested and she made me register with her anyway – the registration consisted of filling in a form, a signing off a couple of agreements as well as an aptitude test which was ridiculously easy with a few simple calculations and matching up so stuff. She then had a quick chat about what I was looking for and I told her that I was only really looking for office work with normal office hours and she said that it was unlikely that she would be able to help me with my limited experience. It’s so annoying this whole “limited experience” thing. I have a year’s experience in a office and degree in French – but somehow I’m not qualified to do some filing and admin work and my job pool is limited to serving and call centre shift work. Where am I suppose to get more experience if I can’t even get temp work. Recruitment consultants are only interested in making money and will never be interested in helping me find a job, they just saw “French” and tried to push me into a call centre job. Well, no thanks.

Side note: a receptionist position that I applied to a month ago, now wants to interview me. How random.

Stupid questions

Another visit to the job centre, another horror story.

I went in today to “sign on”, and I happened to get the woman I first met at the start of my JSA journey back in November. As I walked up to her desk when she called out my name I knew that the experience was going to be excruciating. I sat down and she said immediately to me

Tell me about your job search then, what have you done?

Sure, just have a look at my notes on Universal job match. She scrolls through my job search and comes across a note I made about receiving an email from a agency recruiter telling me that I was “unsuccessful” and that my CV wouldn’t be passed on to their client.

Did you ask for feedback?

Feedback from a recruiter about why they didn’t send my CV across, of course not. If I did that I’d be making a lot of calls.

She looked at me for a second and said I recognise you actually, we’ve met before. You’re the girl that spent a year in France or something. I said yes, I am indeed, I spent five years actually. She then asked me the most ridiculous question:

Is it really that hard to find a job?

Ha, do I have an answer to that question? Well, I’m still here claiming the dole aren’t I so yes it really is that hard. She then suggested to me that I should look into accounts or book-keeping. Why is becoming an accountant always the answer for getting a job? I am not in the slightest bit numerical and I dropped maths as soon as I hit A-levels. She then scrolled over my CV and said

Oh, well you have catering experience – you’ve worked in restaurants, why don’t you just do that?

Urgh… I don’t know, because I don’t really want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. It’s interesting how the job centre staff just want me to get any job – be it cleaner, waitress, factory worker. They don’t care and they wish to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible each visit. Yet, everyday, in the news, we are reading out a benefits lifestyle and benefits Britain. Why aren’t they chasing after those people who actually don’t have any intention of finding work?

Luckily, tomorrow, I have an interview for a translation company so I’m feeling pretty optimistic at the moment and I just spent a good half an hour chatting to the recruiter – so basically being spoon-fed some answers for the interview tomorrow. Apparently, it will last about two hours – a traditional interview and then three practical exercises – answering an email to one of the “clients”, e-tray exercise prioritizing tasks for a typical work day and a spelling test.

Then, next week, I’m going to Germany next week for another interview. I can’t wait to get out of this rut.

25+

As my previous posts will reveal, I’m not having a good time in the UK, this is probably the weirdest year of my life and it’s only March.  The significance of graduating might not seem so big but right now I think I am going through the transitional stage in my life. My journey to find work has taken an interesting step.

Since I accepted a temporary placement with an agency, I was obliged to close down my jobseekers claim even if I only worked for 6 days. Today, I had my appointment for a quick reclaim. When I arrived this morning at 9am, I saw the usual crowd of people smoking, waiting to “sign on” and I didn’t feel particularly good about joining in with the crowd. When the mad rush was gone I went up to the woman on her tiny counter and said my name, surprisingly she told me that my appointment was downstairs and I should wait for the sofas. I sat down with my clipboard and questionnaire on if I was able to use the internet to find work and waited for the advisor to call my name. A strange balding fellow with huge glasses called me over finally. He asked me the routine questions – had my situation changed i.e address, partner, children, illness. I replied “no” and he said to me: “Oh, but everything’s changed now.  You’ve become older and consequently claims from people, 25  and over are handled by a different team of advisors “downstairs”.

So it was official, I’ve moved age brackets. I’m no longer part of the 18-24 bracket – youth is no longer applicable. I’m now a fully fledged unemployed adult claiming jobseekers allowance and looking for my first serious job and when I answer surveys  I have to tick the 25-35 box. Who decided these age groups classifications? And why is 25 the cut off point to being young?

Boredom

CV’s sent: 10

The three events of today, the email rejection, the phone call and the forum post

Thank you for your application for the position of Graduate Trainee. Unfortunately, in this instance, your application has not been successful. We had a really strong response rate and one outstanding candidate who has now accepted. However I’d like to thank you for your interest and time taken in applying and wish you every success for the future.

Yours,

Tim

I always love waking up to rejection. Not. I can only question why he signed off the email with “yours”, is that normal email rejection etiquette? This was followed by the usual recruiter call from XY recruitment to ask if I was interested in doing a temp job at a call centre for Coca Cola. Yes, great, of course, send my CV! That’s what I always say but I never hear from them again.  For example, yesterday, I got a call from the recruiter at Reed who informed me that admin position she had put me forward for a few weeks ago and that I had never heard back from had just become available again and would I still be interested. She then informed me that the position had become available because the previous candidate’s excel skills were not strong enough so she would need me to do a few online excel tests ASAP that she would send me by email – No sign of that, and no response from her after I sent a polite email today reminding her that I had yet to receive these “tests”.

Anyway, today, was a particularly boring and unproductive day. The thing about being unemployed is that everyone thinks you have so much free time because you’re not working. And then all of sudden you’re lumbered with school runs and doing little errands for people. I don’t live in London but I come down often and stay with family because I find that the capital has the largest accumulation of job vacancies and I can pretty much come and go as I please. I repeat I can pretty much come and go as I pleased. I have found that since being unemployed, I have turned into a babysitter for my auntie, I am also in charge of picking up my cousin from school. I’m not particularly bothered about doing it except for the fact that I can’t actually parallel-park and fighting with mums for a parking space while they try to pick their kids up from school is a particularly scary experience. Luckily or unluckily, this week is half-term so i have spent the day running around after a 5 year old and have watched both Tangled and Cinderella and tomorrow I’m supposed to go to the cinema with her to watch another Disney film. Then, on Saturday, I am apparently supposed to drop off my gran to Stevenage on my way home.

All these tasks got me thinking, how much time on average should we be spending on our job searches per day, per week, per month. And what should we do in the meantime when we can’t find work? I remember that my advisor at the job centre told me a few weeks ago that I should be spending at least 35hrs a week looking for employment (so basically almost the same hours as a full-time job in France haha). Is it really productive to spend all that time searching for work? Sometimes the opportunities and vacancies just don’t match our own personal profiles what are we supposed to do then. Yesterday, I was on a student forum where I was trawling around correcting French GCSE’s essay’s when I came across a thread about an OP that was asking if it was worth signing on to JSA. Another graduate that was having trouble finding full-time employment and had registered with a couple of agencies who had proposed him a cleaning job which would allow him to earn less than he would if he signed on. Well, I replied that there is absolutely no shame in claiming JSA while looking for a job, it’s called JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE (as I have previously mentioned in my post entitled job snobbery) but to be wary of Job centre’s because they like to organize work experience like factory work for jobseeker’s that basically add no relevant skills to your CV and to be honest, its cheap labour isn’t it. The work experience that they organize is usually full-time or at least 30hrs but you only receive the same amount of JSA. I was merely pointing out that I thought the Job centre’s were doing a pretty crappy job of helping grads get back into work. But anyway, I was then accused by another poster that I had an attitude and that the government shouldn’t subsidize my “lifestyle” because I won’t accept work that is beneath me.

Except that is absolutely not true, when I came back from Paris, I applied for a customer services position in Call centre for Mastercard, accepting the minimum wage and the shift work but my interview was unsuccessful even though I have a fair amount of customer service experience. The job centre then decided to arrange work experience for me at the same call centre to do exactly the job that I was rejected from but on my JSA wage. I am merely stated the ridicule of the whole situation. Working essentially for free for job that I was deemed unsuitable for.

I am a firm believer that we should all follow our dreams and aim for our chosen careers, however, let me state that I am not at all promoting a “lifestyle” of staying on the dole until that dream job magically hits you in the face.

P.S I am also not looking down on voluntary positions! By all means, it may even be the best way to get a bit more experience.

Job snobbery

Why we shouldn’t feel guilty to “sign on”

I’m writing this blog post today because Tuesday’s are the days that I sign on. Every two weeks, Tuesday afternoon at 2.30pm.

There is a lot of debate at the moment in Britain about benefits but I don’t really want to get into that. What I want to talk about is graduate jobseeker’s guilt and if we are really committing job snobbery.

My experience of the Job centre plus has left me utterly infuriated. The first time that I went to sign on, I was received by old lady and what seemed to be an intern, the old lady asked me to fill out a form to ask if I had internet etc. and how I could use it to facilitate my job search.

On seeing my address (I live with my parents and they own a Chinese takeaway) she asked me if I worked at the takeaway. I replied that I didn’t so she continued with the application – savings, when I graduated, how much was my student loan, why I left my last job (My answer: Well, I was living in Paris and now I’m back in the UK, does that answer your question.) So, all in all, a complete and utter waste of my time as it consisted of just going over the online application in person. I was then asked to wait again and to see her colleague, who printed off my “jobseekers agreement” informing me that I had to take 10 steps in order to find a job (HELLO, I’m sending out 50 CV’s a week). The positions that I am looking for administration work, receptionist. The second woman then told me that I should pop down to the recruitment agency Blue Arrow and register as there are currently looking for warehouse operatives for Amazon (it was Christmas.)

I was then allocated a personal advisor, who was in fact the only nice person in the job centre I feel. What was funny about her was that she tried to get me to do some work experience that I would have willingly done – however, working in a call centre for free whilst still claiming jobseeker’s allowance was not exactly the type of work experience that I feel would add to my CV.

I think it is no wonder that graduates can feel guilty about “signing on” but maybe I just have no shame. Every time, I set foot into the job centre I can overhear the staff talking to a fellow jobseeker except that they are not actively job seeking. Today, I over heard the job centre woman saying that the woman didn’t even know how to send off her CV when she had seen practically every single member of the staff there, and another, that just doesn’t even bother documenting or taking their steps to find employment, but somehow I am judged for not applying to menial work. One fault with that, I am applying, but I am never shortlisted for an interview. Sometimes I will I receive a polite phone call from the HR department if it was a direct employer asking me and I quote: “Why would you want to work here when you studied at the Sorbonne?” I will then be invited to a polite interview but the response is always the same – “Thanks for attending the interview but in this instance, we feel that you are overqualified for the job. But with your talents, you will be going places.” Well, I won’t be going places anytime soon. I can’t get a graduate job from lack of experience, lack of a practical degree and I can’t get any experience because I don’t have any experience or I’m over-qualified.

However, I am still optimistic, having tried to work in a sector that I didn’t enjoy, I know that there is no point in entering work that you simply don’t care about. We should still find our passion and we shouldn’t be ashamed to want to follow our dreams.