**This situation happened during my last meeting at the Job Centre**
I sat across from my advisor, my job application tracker (done in an Excel spreadsheet as the little green books I keep getting given fill up too quickly) and a list of short courses that I was curious about attending were sitting on the table between us. My advisor looked a little bit flustered by the amount of paperwork I had provided, he always seemed flustered by it, his face beamed red as he eyed it, wondering where exactly to start.
I shuffled on the seat, my legs shaking nervously…for some reason the Job Centre makes me incredibly nervous, it reminds me of attending exams at school. As though you’re just waiting to be caught out by the examiner because you haven’t revised for the test and had spent the whole time playing Zelda.
Eventually he motioned to pick up the application list, he fanned his face with it first, muttered something incomprehensible and then started flittering back and forth between the pages. As I watched his movements with all the interest as you would give to the dissection of a new animal species I was reminded of something my friend had told about when he had been a job seeker.
“Did you used to send people to an interview on the day they came to see you? If they were suitable for jobs you found on your system?” I queried knowing that it was through one of these automatic interviews that my friend had acquired his job.
“We did…well, we do” my advisor murmured while reading through my spreadsheet list of applications (now in excess of 160 jobs!).
“You do?” I couldn’t hide the surprise (and confusion I dare say) in my voice.
“Yes, we do” he still didn’t look up from the spreadsheet…if anything he was glaring at the words more intently than before.
“Why haven’t you sent me for anything?” at this he did look at me…questioningly at first which appeared to dissolve into a pitying stare.
“Because you’re fine as is” he said, shrugging, as though this explained everything.
“Fine as is?” I pulled my ‘are you shitting me?’ face before adding “I’m still unemployed so surely I’m not fine as is? I’m still sitting around waiting to be hired while trying to survive on the meagre amount of benefit you allow me”.
“Trust me – you are fine as is, you don’t need sending for interviews” his tone sharp, snappy.
I quietly contemplated this for a moment as he returned to my paperwork, scrutinizing each item on the list as though he was breaking a top secret highly important code and I was acting as an inconvenience to his task.
“How do you decide if I’m ‘fine as is’ and that I don’t need you to set up interviews with companies?” I uttered at last, eagerly wanting to know the criteria behind these decisions.
“You apply for work….so you are not high risk….you are a low risk claimant…as such we don’t need to send you for interviews” he explained slowly, as though speaking to a child.
“And these interviews….are they for very basic jobs?” my interest piqued.
“Not always…it depends on the jobs available, sometimes we even send people for trainee manager positions, we have a list of jobs that we can allocate people to” he waved a hand at his computer monitor as though this would instantly bring up this fabled system of allocated vacancies.
“Are these jobs on your normal system? Can anyone apply for them?”
“No, we have to send you to them…that’s what I mean by ‘allocated’”.
My brain started ticking over faster and faster as it processed his words…and then froze with a stark realisation.
“So…you’re saying that I could be being overlooked for jobs, overlooked for automatic interviews, because I’m applying for work which makes me a low risk claimant?”
“Exactly! You don’t need the extra help” he laughed dismissively.
“So because I’m doing everything right…you’re penalising me?” I kept my voice neutral, not wishing to cause a scene as I could sense the anger bubbling under the surface.
“No, not at all. We just don’t think you need sending for these interviews…there are people out there who don’t apply for work and who need to be in work…these people are high risk so we send them for interviews…they need this extra help”
I baulked at his explanation…then let go of the words I was trying to restrain.
“You’re giving interviews to people who don’t want to even apply for work and not asking those who are actually looking? Do you know how backwards that sounds? Surely it makes more sense to send those who want to work to interviews? Especially those who have been out of work for months on end, while applying for hundreds of jobs, who are qualified and experienced enough to do a wide variety of jobs and those who are going stir crazy sitting at home while going through the motions of application forms day after day….you’re saying I don’t warrant the same courtesy given to those who don’t give a damn?”.
My advisor merely shrugged and shuffled the papers before stating very clearly “you are not high risk enough”.
I wish I was bullshitting you all, I really do….alas I’m not.
PS – today’s song of the day: