Thursday, 20 December 2012

Funemployment 3 - The Job Centre

Call me old fashioned, but I like being able to pay my rent, buy food and you know generally have money, so given that my numerous job applications had not led to actual employment it was time to register for Job Seekers Allowance, or JSA as it is more commonly known. 

After my first eight attempts to battle with the registration part of the website had failed, I half gave up, made a cup of coffee then prepared for round nine. No website was going to stop me from receiving the money back that I have paid in through income tax! Eventually, after much swearing I was in and registered. 

The next day I got a text informing me that I would need to come into my local Job Centre Plus for an initial registering interview, to confirm details, have the process explained etc etc. 'Excellent' I thought, 'that was much quicker than expected!' Only problem, the time of the interview was when I would be on a train heading back to London after visiting my Grandpa on his 93rd birthday.

So I called the number to rearrange my interviews and was greeted with a pre-recorded message informing me that they were 'only open 9-5 Monday through Friday', so why text me at 6:30pm?! Clearly someone was there or else the text would not have been sent!

The next day I had slightly more luck, I got through to a person, was transferred to under 25s department and was met with a very surly man for whom customer service was clearly not his vocation. This is the conversation that followed;
Me - Hiya, I have had a text come through for an interview for JSA, but I cannot make that appointment and I would like to change it.
Man - Why can't you make the appointment?
Me - I have a prior engagement.
Man - Oh, so what is SO important that you do not feel that you can turn up to your JSA interview?
Me - Well, my Grandpa is turning 93 so I am out of London visiting him and I'll be on a train then heading back to London. So you can make my interview then but I won't physically be able to attend.
Man - oh. So what day can you attend?
Me - Any day but Monday.
Man - *sigh* fine, I'll let them know and they'll give you a ring, but I can't promise anything.

Three hours later I had a 30 second conversation with a women who moved my interview back by one day and said that it was no problem at all.

It is at this point I should have realised what my experience in the Job Centre would be like.

After my initial registration interview I had to return to put all of my details onto the system and check that my approach to job hunting was correct etc. As a person who is qualified and under 25 I am classified as 'High Priority' as my only reason for not working is simply that I do not have a job. My conversation with my adviser was what could politely be described as 'an experience' and some part of the conversation follows;
Job Centre Adviser (JCA) - Highest level of education?
Me - Masters Degree.
JCA - What's a Masters Degree?
Me - Pardon?
JCA - What's a Masters Degree? Is it like a degree?
Me - Yes, I have an Undergraduate Degree and a Post-Graduate Degree
JCA - So you have a PHD?
Me - No, I have a Masters.
JCA - *looks lost*
Me - PHD is the highest qualification you can get from a University, then it's Masters, then BA. I have the second highest level of University education.
JCA - Oh! In what subject?
Me - *bracing myself for the usual response* Russian...
JCA - Oh cool, so are you Russian?
Me - No, I'm English I just studied it at school etc etc
JCA - So do they need many Russian speakers in Russia?
Me - *slightly bemused* Erm... well yes, but they also need them in the UK too.
JCA - So do you think you'll go back to your home country?
Me - I am currently in my home country, I am English.
(some more time is spent explaining that I am in fact English)
JCA - So do you speak any other languages?
Me - Yes, French to A-level standard and Czech to A-level standard
JCA - How do you spell Czech?
Me - C-Z-E-C-H
JCA - What does to A-level standard mean? Like, can you speak them and read them?
Me - Yes....
JCA - Wow, you speak a lot of languages, clearly they are you thing!
Me - Well I am a language student..
JCA - Any other languages?
Me - Well, English obviously
JCA - *looks blank* what? You speak English?
Me - Well, yes that is what this conversation is taking part in....
(some more time and conversation elapses where I am asked where I have been looking, I list some job sites and am told that I have the correct approach, we then move on putting in my job choices on the database)
JCA - First job preference?
Me - Translator, interpreter, you know that sort of thing.
JCA - In which language?
Me - Erm... Russian?
JCA - And second?
Me - Content writing.
JCA - Context writing?
Me - CONTENT writing, you know articles, papers, blog posts that sort of thing.
JCA - I'm not sure what that comes under *searches database* erm it's saying writers and authors, does that sound right?
Me - yes...
JCA - Third choice?
Me - Teaching or tutoring.
JCA - So you want to be a Primary school teacher?
Me - *slightly confused as to what is happening* no, I can't legally teach in a school I don't have a PGCE but I can tutor children or adults one-to-one.
JCA - Ah ok, in what?
Me - Russian......?
JCA - Cool. Right that's all done. Can you just check the details and then I think we are done.
(I check the details then point out that half of them are in fact wrong, they get corrected and we continue)
JCA - Oh.
Me - What?
JCA - it's not saved.
Me - *look of despair that we'll have to go through everything again*
JCA - Oh no wait it's all fine. I just have to check that you know that you have to come here on a weekly basis?
Me - *resisting the urge to cry and shout something like oh God I have to come in here for this EVERY WEEK!* yes I am aware of this, every week until I get a job.
JCA - Until you get a job?
Me - well, yes because then after than I will be employed so I won't need JSA....
JCA - Oh yeah! 

After this conversation there were some more details about other ways to find work, I was informed that I was clearly qualified, I knew what I wanted and that to be honest their database probably would not be much use as my area was so specific. It was at this point I was about to ask why I was even being put through this until I remembered that this person is the one who has the authority to allow or deny my JSA payments so I simply smiled wished them a Merry Christmas and headed for the nearest coffee establishment (not Starbucks) to try to work out whether or not I was on some new reality show or if that had actually just happened. It turns out it had. My motivation to get a job is now even higher. If you are a future employer reading this, please hirer me!

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