20 November 2017   |  Last Updated 24-07-2014 03:35

      Why does unemployment have a big black cloud around it?

      Job Center by Helen Cobain via Flickr

       

      We have all been there at some point in our lives. Whether it was because you were made redundant, you retired, you left, or you just got sacked. Unemployment affects everyone, but why do people get sceptical?

       

      When you mention that you are unemployed to somebody, the instant judgement is that you are lazy and sucking every penny out of the taxpayer’s wallet in order to pay for your luxury lifestyle.

       

      With more and more reports about Benefit Street and tabloid newspapers publishing story after story of unemployed people who embrace free education, healthcare and so on, it seems like it is on the rise.

       

      But actually, a lot of us who are seeking employment are doing so for different reasons. My last rejection letter was so close to getting the job they told me I had it before saying, due to my university commitments, they wouldn’t be able to fit me in with their hours.

       

      From this, (and a few others) it felt as if being at university was a crime and you are unable to work part-time.*

       

      Aside from this I’m sure there are other reasons why out of the many jobs I have applied for I haven’t heard back. Perhaps there was somebody more qualified. Fair enough.

       

      I’m not so angry that I haven’t got a job yet, it takes time, we know that, and one usually pops up when you are about to explode in rage. What angers me is what the label “unemployed” carries with it; people tarring you with the same brush as the extreme cases carefully selected by the tabloids and on Benefit Street.

       

      The dictionary definition of “unemployed” is: "(Of a person) without a job but available to work."

       

      It states: “available to work”, this does not infer anywhere that you do not want to work, like the more common phrase deduces. So when you mention that you are unemployed and you get the usual eye rolling and look of inferiority shot at you, it makes you feel worse that, for some reason or another, you haven’t yet found that elusive job, and believe nobody wants to employ you and you really are just taking up space.

       

      For me to be labelled as unemployed is heart-breaking. Anyone who knows me understands that, I need to have a plan, I need to be busy, and I am certainly not the sort of person that would happily watch The Jeremy Kyle Show all day and sponge off others.

       

      If I moan that I haven’t got a job yet, it is because I’m frustrated that an employer cannot see that I am hardworking, versatile and diligent. There is only so much you can write on paper to dance on the fine line between arrogant and confident, and with most application forms only letting you have 1MB to post your CV, you certainly cannot get it all in, especially if you want to put some creativity into it.

       

      I am sick of being compared to those unwilling to work and seeking benefits, because I know that I am different through and through. It is extremely painful to get up at the same time as those going to work, to sit and watch BBC Breakfast until 9:15am whilst doing exercises and trying to plan a super exciting day when the only things to do are washing and cleaning. The same washing and cleaning you did yesterday… and the day before; meanwhile catching OCD in the process just to kill time in picking up crumbs with tweezers.

       

      Even to fill my day up with swimming, cycling and running, it is all alone because everyone else is at work. And also, most sessions are in the evening – AFTER WORK!

       

      An example of my work ethic is last summer from around June – September when I had finished my A level exams and had no real plans until I found out if I had got into university or not. I remember begging my manager to give me more hours just for something to do. The money was a bonus, it just went into savings for the next step of my life. The most important thing was that I could fill my days up with something. I even recall sitting in the staff room for an hour after a shift ended talking to a colleague because it was mid afternoon and I had nothing else to do.

       

      A job isn’t always about the money… aside from the role, one of the first things I look at when applying for a job is the working hours and if it will fit around university. And the last thing I look at is the pay. I believe to be working puts you in a category that shows many things. Some reasons include: that you are willing to work and earn a living, that you are committed to something, and that you have goals.

       

      I was always taught that to get a new job, you must find and secure one before you leave. That is something I have always stuck to until my circumstances changed and that rule couldn’t be applied due to different reasons.

       

      As I am seeking employment I constantly feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, and as if I am continually being judged for having no goals and aims, no work ethic, and not committed to anything.

       

      University is there to better yourself; ultimately to enable you to be more intelligent with in-depth knowledge of a particular subject. So to have a job taken away from me due to university commitments seems ridiculous.

       

      In addition, we all know the stories about graduates stuck in part-time jobs waiting to leap out into something new and exciting they have spent years training for or, alternatively, being “overqualified”– what does that tell you?

       

      University is a stepping stone for some people to learn the knowledge and practice to help them reach their desired job. For others, it’s a form of higher education that gives us a better perspective of life to discover what we want to do, whether that is in the chosen subject field or not.

       

      Commitments to education should not stop you getting a job.

       

      Another frustration with the judgement that comes with unemployment is that no matter how many times you list the jobs you have applied for, you still get the look of “no you haven’t”, as if you love having nothing to do all day. 

       

      It pains me to be unemployed, but so be it. And until an employer wants to take a risk in employing somebody hardworking, intelligent, committed and funny(!) please don’t tar me with the same brush as those without any goals, quite content in taking everybody elses fair share of taxes.

       

      So it seems by writing this I am reaching the point of rage. There are only so many books you can read, so many times you can wash upand complete the pointless tasks that should be left for when you revise. Fingers crossed something may come along soon.

       

      And to the employer I met today, I want to change my answer: yes, I have applied for many jobs, because I am desperate for one!

       

      *Excluding Cambridge and Oxford students

      By the hardworking and thoroughly employable Niamh Lewis

      @lewis_niamh

      Read more from Niamh Lewis at her blog

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