I did think about writing a blogpost on this subject before, but it would have been so dull and miserable and whiny that everyone who read it would almost certainly have wanted to punch me in the face – not least myself!
However, the seemingly endless stream of “anti-scrounger” rhetoric currently pouring from Tory HQ is making me feel slightly less whiny and a lot MORE angry. Not because I don’t have a job. My lack of experience is almost certainly the number one reason for me not having found anything yet and no one is to blame for that apart from myself.
The thing that makes me so angry is that unemployed people are increasingly being made to seem “other” – we are unwanted, outcasts, not part of Dave’s cosy little “Big Society”. We are non-productive parasites feasting off the hard-earned wages of the decent British public.
As if the endless rounds of jobcentre visits, mind-numbing application forms and the bitter disappointment of yet another rejection were not enough cope with, people are now being stigmatised for their inability to find work. The idea of punishing people who already feel useless, unwanted, unskilled, untalented and utterly miserable is just piling Pelion upon Ossa – and shows a callousness and lack of understanding that would be shocking if it hadn’t been so depressingly predictable, on top of benefits cuts and the introduction of farcical new taxes.
I know that there are now more people with degrees and fewer jobs for them to go into. I know that work experience is absolutely vital in order to get some work (this bitter little irony is particularly vicious) and without it, the only jobs that are easily obtainable will be those offered by graduate schemes. I know that we are just coming out (or still in the middle, depending on who you speak to) of a recession and that the situation in other European countries is hardly better – and in some cases much worse.
But that knowledge does not help when you are faced with the soul-crushing (and it really is that bad) realisation that no one wants to employ you. When you go for an unpaid internship and get rejected (again) and the woman giving you feedback tells you that you should probably get more volunteering experience, when you advertise yourself on Twitter saying you’ll work for free to gain experience and someone replies that you should “have some self respect” and “solidarity with fellow professionals”, when you start volunteering somewhere in the hope that it will give you some much-needed experience and then the job centre says this may negatively affect your benefits, when you’ve applied for 200 jobs and have only been offered one interview – this is when the feeling of utter hopelessness begins to sink in. When the days seem interminably long and empty and you start to feel claustrophobic inside your own bedroom and you don’t even have the motivation to keep applying any more, because what’s the point? Nobody wants you. You have no skills, no talent and – most devastating of all – no value.
I am lucky. I am able to live off my savings, so I do not need benefits, and am therefore spared the frequent jobcentre appointments and the compulsory number of job applications per week. But the shame and stigma of not working are universal, whether you are on JSA or not – unless you are retired or genuinely have no wish to work. The vast majority of people, however, do want to work, not just to provide for themselves and their families, but because it gives them a sense of pride and worth, or enables them to fulfil a creative need. Sigmund Freud said:
“Love and work are the cornerstones to our humanness”
And although I think he was quite wrong about any number of things, sometimes – as in this instance – he hits the nail squarely on the head.
So what can you do, if you are unemployed, struggling to find work and beginning to despair? I think one of the hardest things about not having a job is the isolation – because you are usually sat at home alternately filling in application forms and weeping about your sorry state – and therefore not seeing very many people. So keeping in touch with friends, in particular those who know what it’s like to be out of work and can therefore sympathise, is extremely important. Furthermore, actively supporting your friends who are out of work is also of incredible benefit, whether that involves telling them about a job vacancy you’ve seen, checking their CV, or simply listening to them bitch about the incompetent fools who work at the job centre.
Do not allow yourself to become isolated. You are not the only one – far from it! There are many other people struggling to find work right now. Keep doing things that you enjoy – hobbies and leisure activities. If you can’t afford the things you used to do, find cheaper ways to amuse yourself. It is so easy to sink into depression and despair when you have little else to do but wallow in your own dark thoughts and feel yourself slowly losing motivation and hope. Go out. See friends, socialise, do things that make you happy. I know (dear god I know) how hard it is to remain hopeful when you’ve had so many rejections you can’t even count them and you don’t know what else to try, or even whether to bother trying. But please do try. Don’t give up, not yet.
The government are so very very wrong when it comes to unemployment. We might forget the exact things that have been said, but we will never forget the way we were made to feel. And when the next election comes around, I hope we will all remember it.