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Coping with unemployment
The unemployed stigma
When I was young, the thought of being unemployed just meant more time to loaf; more time to go slouching around town with my mates or lay in bed until God knows what time of the afternoon.
But then I got older.
By this time--and I mean well beyond my forties--I'd become tired of not having anything or being able to have anything and I have hopes, plans and dreams. I've been to college to study for something I hoped would enable me to realise some if not all of the above, but then life threw an unexpected curveball; that kink in the otherwise straight road I thought took me to a happy and comfortable retirement.
At first, I thought I would get something quite quickly, move on to pastures new and be able to pick up from where I left off--well, maybe a bit below that, I mean, let's be fair, no-one is going to take my word I'm good at what I do and I knew I'd have to have to start from lower down the food chain.
However, time dragged on and suddenly I found myself much further down the line and my experience, my training, my qualifications don't seem to be cutting it with the employment agencies anymore.
It's surprising how long you can remain buoyant; how long you can kid yourself that you can see that light at the end of the tunnel, convinced it is the exit and not a train that's hurtling towards you.
I'm lucky enough to have a wife (well not quite a wife, but after twenty-three years, who's going to argue?) who can hold things together while I try, try, try to get something that will get me back to work, but I know it can't go on for ever.
A problem shared is a problem halved and that for me has been the saving grace, but it doesn't always make for the best way to live. Yes I cook,clean and I write hubs, stories and other articles as well as try and train from home for a new job, but every so often, the waste products collide with the air conditioner and it all goes down hill in a hand basket--whatever the hell that means.
Basically, what I'm saying is, it doesn't matter what the situation, there's only so long you can take having no money and only so long you can take some overly made-up teenager on the other end of the telephone telling you you're not experienced enough, or that your experience isn't recent enough.
Meanwhile, my self-esteem has been plummeting faster than a falling rock and I was beginning to feel as if I'd failed completely. I was starting to question every little thing about myself, trying to cope with anxiety; cope with depression and how on earth I came to be in this position.
Worse, I had to try and pull myself out of it.
Teaching your Granny to suck eggs
Since this last change in the British government, the rules have changed. How the hell was I supposed to know?
I wasn't even in the country when it happened.
It's complete madness.
So anyway, I came back and after having been signed on for just two weeks, I was sent on a "Back to work session'.
I have never felt so insulted in all my life, which just added to the depression I was already feeling. Not only that, but I wondered how they could possibly feel that dealing with people en-masse was a good idea, when all of their situations, skills and experience would differ. To me, it felt almost like a doctor trying to cure two dozen patients at the same time in the same way, without one iota of consideration for what was wrong with them.
I listened as they rattled on about networking, cold-calling on companies, checking out the internet--you know, the basics, just in case by some strange quirk of fate, they happened to say something which might not be trying to teach granny how to suck eggs.
Okay, not everyone has my experience, but come on. Who's going to believe their BS about most people only being out of work for six weeks, especially when they've already been unemployed for over six months?
I certainly wasn't.
What the powers that be expect
Alright, so I must sound like a grumpy old git with a really big chip on my shoulder.
I just get peeved when people who think they know what's best start telling you what you can and can't do and what is or isn't possible. The shame of it is, that they're about as wide of the mark as it's humanly possible to be.
My other pet hate is these people--presumably to sound more up-to-date and cool--start throwing in American buzz-words like "touch base" and suggesting that we "network with our families", despite the fact that the English don't talk like that and hopefully never will.
The upshot is that now, I'm expected to try and find new and interesting ways to find myself a job and seriously, I wonder what planet these people are on.
I can't go to Tesco's and get a job there as they have suggested, because as an ex software engineer, systems analyst, chief cook and bottle-washer, I have been labelled as "over-qualified". What this means is that they don't think I will stay put for very long and will run off as soon as a job with better pay and prospects comes along.
If there had been one of those available, I'd have taken it before I applied to a bloody supermarket.
Apparently, that's not what they like to hear. Who'd have thought?
So what about being a softy or some other form of techie? Well now there's the rub. I can't get back into that as an employer at a company, because despite fifteen years of experience and having worked in Whitehall for the MoD with security clearance, the NHS as a consultant (for their IT not as a doctor) or for one of the world's largest companies who hired me to design systems that are currently running in Qatar, Naples and several in England, I apparently don't have recent enough experience. So I'm stuck right where I am unable to move up or down.
I just want a damned job for heaven's sake!
So what do the powers that be expect?
I don't really know. They haven't been able to put anything my way and yet they still expect me to go and attend these complete waste of time seminars, fill out silly bits of paper telling them what I have or haven't done to find work and you want to know the real kicker?
I'm doing all this not for unemployment benefit, but just to get my £2.40 NI stamp each week.
Working as a contractor
Is what got me in this mess in the first place.
Since my last assignment, I've not been able to secure one single job.
Now I know what you're thinking and it's crossed my mind too. Perhaps I'm not as good as I think I am.
I'm good, but my first mistake was going to work for the MoD. It wasn't technical enough and now, here I am looking at university qualifications that now mean sweet FA to any potential employer and having to look in another direction--any other direction--in order to make anything of my life, save my relationship and all in time for tea.
But all is not lost.
I, like so many people out there am doing a home study course.
I'm doing mine in Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash, but let me tell you, you need nerves of steel and unbelievable self discipline.
I find it very distracting being at home, trying to figure things out for myself and even finding the discipline within myself to do the damned thing. In a nutshell, it's really easy to find other things to do like writing hubs, stories and trying anything else I can to find work.
On top of that, as far as Jobcentre Plus is concerned, I'm only allowed to a training course for 16 hours a week.
Don't ask why.
I don't know how these people think they can police you in your own home, but hey, rules are rules.
You'd have thought they'd have only been too pleased to increase the chances of getting you off their books.
Well, the upshot is, training is only part of what I have decided to do.
Work for myself?
Am I mad?
I'll make a horrible boss and I'll hate me in no time flat.
It's a risk I'll grant you, but at the end of the day, the unemployment people are prepared to pay me for thirteen weeks and if at the end of it I can't get anything going, I sign back on again.
I have my hubs, which I shall keep persevering with and during that time, I should be able to get even more training courses through the government to help me towards my goal of running my own business.
Sounds more like the American dream than an English one, but in all honesty, sitting around at home waiting for someone to tell me I'm good enough to work for them is a waste of time, not getting me anywhere, so what's the worst that can happen?
I'll be a sole trader, not a limited company, so I don't have those kinds of risks anymore and there are grants that I can apply for to help with machinery or premises if I should ever find I need them.
I'm pretty nervous about it too, but really, it's no worse than trying to find a job and I'm confident enough in my abilities that I'm sure I can make a go of things.
Besides, what else is there?