Unemployment

The Struggling Musician

The Starving Musician in Santa Clara, California, May 2013.

Just over a month ago I posted an article about myself returning to England after two years away in Canada. Within a week of being back I began to look for work as my coffers had been somewhat depleted since being away. I also began the process of ‘signing on’ so that I would receive job seekers allowance and I’m going to talk a little about my experiences so far.

Although as a teenager I received a small amount of pocket money from my parents I learnt early on that I would have to earn my own money if I wanted to buy brand name clothing or the latest computer games.

Having a strong work ethic, and possibly a little luck, I have not been out of work since I was thirteen. As a teenager I had a paper round, I worked cutting up chips at a local fish and chip shop, I worked at the local amusement park and I worked as a pot wash at a local pub that has now been reincarnated as part of the Hungry Horse franchise.

Black-Bull-Folkestone

The Black Bull Public House. The earliest records of this pub date back to 1742. It was rebuilt between 1880-1881, and as of 2014 beongs to the Hungry Horse franchise.

As I grew older my jobs became a little more interesting. I have been a Shift Manager for McDonalds, a Learning Support Assistant for South Kent College (Now East Kent College as of 2014), and I worked as a Cover Manager for the Folkestone Academy before disappearing across the pond to the Great White North.

So a few days after returning to England I updated my resume, typed ‘jobs in Folkestone’ into Google and scoured the various websites seeing what I could apply for.

Here are just a few of the websites that I searched on:

  1. Indeed.co.uk
  2. Jobsinkent.com
  3. Totaljobs.com
  4. Jobsite.co.uk
  5. Gov.uk/jobsearch

I applied at local supermarkets, I applied at local bars, I applied at recruitment agencies and any job that I had any experience in or had the remotest chance of securing an interview.

On one day I walked to the job centre in order to sign on. This was something I was very reluctant to do because I have always prided myself on being able to secure work placements on my own but then I thought “Hang on a minute. I have paid my taxes since I was a teenager and in my time of need why the hell shouldn’t I take a little out of the system that I have paid so much into.” After all when a job comes along I will take it.

The job centre is a very depressing place to be and it’s understandable why. There are people of all ages from school leavers to adults who are almost at retirement age, who come in for their appointments with the advisors. I was wearing jeans, trainers and a t-shirt and I felt overdressed.

I approached the greeter and asked who I should speak to about signing on. She informed me that the initial application had to be done online. I have become so use to this type of foolish bureaucracy that I didn’t even question why I couldn’t just fill out a paper version of the application since I was there. Instead I sighed heavily, trudged home and completed the application online as instructed. A few days later I received an email telling me to come at 10am for an interview with an adviser and that I would need my passport, resume, P45 and utility bills.

A few days later I went as instructed, and after taking my passport details and establishing I was who I said I was, the adviser explained to me how the system worked. I would need to apply for at least three jobs a day and keep records of the jobs that I applied for. Every two weeks I would need to come back to the job centre for a meeting with my adviser to see how I was getting on and to ensure I was actively seeking employment.

Because I had lived out of the United Kingdom for two years I would need to fill out several other forms in order to prove that I wasn’t living abroad, working and still claiming benefits. This seemed a little pointless to me. Even if I lived and worked in France and returned every two weeks to claim my fortnightly £150 it would cost me around £80, maybe more, to catch the ferry back to England. I would then have to travel from Dover to Folkestone on the train before returning to France. If I got caught being fraudulent the penalties I’m sure are severe. For an extra £70 a fortnight, it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

I also informed my adviser that I would be away in Ireland for the last two weeks in August 2013 and so would be unable to attend one of my appointments (My parents had very kindly offered to take me on holiday as a treat because the last few months have been rather stressful what with relationship a break up and relocating back to England and all). The adviser informed me that I would need to begin the signing on process again once I returned to England.

“What the whole process? Bring in my passport and filling out the forms again?”

“Yes”

“Why?”

“It’s Government policy”

I no longer believe in Government conspiracies. Why? Because if they can’t keep hold of my personal data without me reminding them of what it is every five seconds then how the hell can they mount an intricate cover up and keep it from the public? My date of birth hasn’t changed and yet they need constant reminders of what it is. What could they be doing with it all?

I finally received my jobseeker’s allowance. No job offers as of yet though. It seems employers don’t want competent and experienced staff who might tell them that they cannot do their own jobs properly let alone train new ones.

Do you have similar stories about unemployment? I would like to hear them.

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