One of the central assumptions about unemployment is that a person who is out of work is to some degree contemptible. This assumption leads to a number of outcomes. Some are less humiliating; some more. Last week I met one of the midrange ones.
Because I've been out of work for x number of weeks, I'm required to attend a three day course called 'Passport to Employment' (P2E). The goal of the course is to equip people with the skills to seek and obtain work. Unfortunately, the skills in finding work today are roughly the same as they were when I left school two decades ago, so I'm being offered a lesson in things I already know (use your networks, take plenty of time preparing your application, and be enthusiastic in the interview).
What grinds, however, is the kind of blithe assumption that if one is unemployed, it's enough to help with platitudes. I have significant problems finding work: at the grand old age of 38 I'm considered too long in the tooth to be a good hire in the law. One law firm asked me discreetly "how do you think you'd go reporting to someone less experienced than you?". Another was blunter: at your age (when I was about 32!) you haven't risen as far as we'd expect; this is a major concern for us. And after all: why hire me when you can hire a recent graduate who will work for less? Beyond this, though, I hit three more issues: my degrees mean I'm overqualified for most jobs. They also mean I can't undertake much retraining except at my own expense (this is not financially an option). And when an employer sees I was a lawyer, they immediately think 'troublemaker'.
I pointed this out on this first day of the course. Unhelpfully, the trainer had nothing to offer in response except vague generalities, principally talking about how he'd helped a psychologist find work in a factory assembling aluminium windows (I'm not sure why he felt this would be encouraging). Then he assured me "if I can get a murderer just out of Barwon Prison into a job, I don't accept that you're on the scrap heap". The fact that we were having that conversation in the first place suggested, therefore, that I am in fact less employable than a convicted murderer. What a proud moment for me.
|Life right now|
I assume it was to motivate us that he repeatedly mentioned that in a few weeks if we weren't in work we'd be required to do "work for the dole". He certainly seemed to be waving it as something to be humiliated by. You know: just in case we didn't already feel like worthless pondscum.
As you can see, I wasn't feeling super positive
The course goes for two more days. Considering how demoralised I felt at the end of the first day I wasn't sure I'd make it.