Signing On

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 antiNot sure what the 'plus' is supposed to signifycipated 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.’


5 thoughts on “Signing On

  1. Redundancysabitch says:

    Love this… You’ve neatly described my life for much of the past seven months. Glad to know I’m not the only one with the obsessive jobseeking habits. All the recruitment sites from the Grauniad through to Monster tabbed in my browser, me religiously hitting reload every hour, in between watching downloaded TV shows back-to-back on my laptop (I think I managed all three seasons of Dexter in one particularly gorey week.) Anything to avoid Homes Under the Hammer, Car Booty, or whatever drivel they broadcast during working hours.

    My Job Centre experience was relatively uneventful. After the post-redundancy freelancing dried up, I bit the bullet and signed on. What stood out the most were the number of people there who looked like me, ie completely alien to the place. But I was lucky enough to sign off just before the “job club” element (or whatever it’s called) kicked in. Well, I say lucky, but my new job was for a company that went bust five weeks after I started, having not paid me a penny in salary. So it was back to the drawing board.

    But there is a light at the end of this tunnel – I just landed a new, new job, for a stable company this time. Yes, it’s £12k less a year than the job I was made redundant from in December (and, truth be told, a step down the ladder). And yes, I’m delighted. I can only put it down to luck and a honed-to-perfection CV, so I don’t have any wisdom to offer other than to persevere and keep your spirits up. Good luck!

  2. Jonathan Saunders says:

    Is it the lack of desire to be a sub-editor or the lack of skills? Surely if you have worked in a high editorial position, you have most (if not all) of the skills to be a sub? (Which skills required to be a sub do you not have?)

  3. Hi Jonathan,
    I have no qualms at all about being a sub-editor. The point I was making was that the lady in the Job Centre immediately assumed that sub-editor was a role ‘one rung below’ editor and didn’t pay any attention to my suggestions otherwise

  4. Hi, quite a good post? I wonder though how long have you been looking for journo job? I’ve been looking since 2006 when I did NCTJ and magazine course, and then went off to Romania. It seems you have to jump through hoops now just to get in. Good luck with it all.

    View my blog at

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