Dun dun duuuuuuun. It’s happened. I’ve signed on for Job Seeker’s Allowance. I am officially on the dole.
Despite all the propaganda depicting smiling, presentable women looking over the shoulders of smart-looking young adults as they fill in simple paperwork while sitting at ergonomically designed beech effect desks, I at best anticipated my first encounter with the Job Centre to be tolerable. And in fairness, it was tolerable. I didn’t storm out effing and blinding like the kid who was fifteen minutes late and subsequently missed his appointment. I didn’t stand in the middle of the room shouting my mouth off about the ‘stupidity of it all’ like the fellow whose benefit had been stopped because he hadn’t signed on for two weeks. I didn’t even make a racist slur against the receptionist when she told us they were running late, unlike the young woman sat next to me with two mixed race children. The fact, then, that I emerged from the building without upsetting any of the staff or other ‘customers’ (that’s right, I’m a customer) would suggest something of a passable success.
However, if these fortnightly meetings with my ‘dedicated employment advisor’ continue in the same vein as today’s, I may well become that person standing in the middle of the room, shouting incoherently. Nothing personal against the lady in question; I’m sure she’s spent many years reeling off the same speech to disinterested mouth-breathers and bright, articulate folk alike. However, I did take slight umbrage with the disparaging look she gave me when I mentioned that she’d spelled ‘The Gardien’ incorrectly. And her stand-offishness when I told her I do most – nay, all – my job hunting online. ‘COMPUTER NEEDS A NEWSPAPER’ were her actual words (hence Gardiengate).
Then she gave me a sheet of paper with boxes to fill in every time I ‘do something proactive towards employment’. I told her that I complete, on average, three job applications a day and check all the relevant job sites, on rotation, from the moment I get up, to the hour before I go to bed (even though I know I won’t find anything new then, I just physically can’t stop myself). ‘Well you only need to do three things a week,’ she replied, to which I quipped, ‘If I only did three things a week I’d never get another job.’ Cue more disparaging looks.
Then we had a little chat about the kind of work I’m looking for – assistant editor, editorial assistant, etc. ‘So, sub-editor, then?’ she announced.
‘Um, not really no.’
‘Well, if not editor jobs, then something below it, right? So a sub-editor. I’ll put down sub-editor.’
‘Well actually, that’s a completely different role.’
More disparaging looks.
And finally, just before I left, I was told that if I hadn’t found employment within nine weeks, I would be required to attend a course that would teach me how to ‘effectively search for a job.’ Something in my otherwise stony-faced expression must have twitched then, because I got another disparaging look and was told, ‘We can’t all be sub-editors, you know.’