A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

Category: How To Survive Unemployment

Conclusion

You finally find employment: is it worthy of the pedestal you’ve put it on while you’ve been struggling for money?

A return to daily unpleasance, gossipy malice, back-biting/stabbing/breaking from ‘friends’ when they find out you’re making an extra two hundred pounds per year than they are because you have an unemployed partner, and children; and all the usual worries that don’t apply when you’re down and out: taxes, rebates, salaries, appraisals, titles, over-payments, under-payments, having to set up direct debits because you can’t keep track of all the bills, insurance contributions, who gets the new computer and who doesn’t, inter-departmental intrigues, office situations, the pursuit of vacuous materialism, upgrades of phones, personal computers, dishwashers and electric tin openers.

Having to pretend you’ve read fashionable books so as not to feel left out of ostentatious discussions on the serious message that we all must take from the latest instalment of the Harry Potter series or The World According To someone oafish and nondescript. All of your time being devoted to work, even though you don‘t particularly enjoy it; never seeing your partner, or never having time to find one. No longer being able to talk to strangers without bringing up the details of how much you enjoy a job that you’ve already grown to despise; having to talk about what a lovely day it is outside to people who – like yourself – are unable to enjoy it. Returning home late with a headache and a cold setting in, only to find the sink full of dishes, you have to cook something to eat but your food has been taken, and nobody has walked the dog, despite that fact that they were in all day doing nothing, and have left the detritus to prove it.
And remembering all of the things you miss so deeply about being redundant: rolling out of bed as you please; not having to take sick days when you’re ill – not having to drag yourself in to work when you‘re feeling unwell but have no sick days left. Stress and anxiety were there admittedly, but centring on worthwhile things like a lack of food or money, rather than meeting a dead-line for writing a tedious article about responsible clothes for adults or feigning an interest in a managing director’s plans to cut health insurance in return for a vending machine.
The way you spent your free-time. Buggering about with your dogs. Making ’forceful’ comments on blogs and – in a convoluted way – it actually being a more purposeful use of your time than the rest of your day: you’re contributing to democracy – to debates that really matter to society; like whether one type of cell-phone is better than another. Moreover, you lose track of contemporary vernacular, and so begin to feel your age: what does ‘twitter’ mean? Is it as irritating as it sounds? What is a you-tube? How does one apply it? Where is it supposed to fit? What does ‘T.O.G.F.O’ stand for? What, precisely, is a M.I.L.F.?

And then a vague feeling of sadness returns, and you begin to see all the inconsiderate, pompous and self-absorbed people who made your own life so needlessly difficult as human beings, not essentially different to yourself – attempting to keep their heads above water in the ruthless cut and thrust of society, in which if you don’t keep abreast you sink under, and descend swiftly. You realise that everybody around you is searching for happiness and bliss, and chasing it down blind alleys. Perhaps it occurs to you: ‘Man does not live by bread alone’. There are riches in poverty unlike any to be found in wealth. But this is no consolation when you’re unhappy either way.

And then finally, one nondescript day, a customer walks into your workplace and asks you if you can point them in the right direction. You could, if you wanted to – but you’re tired and worn, it’s late in the day, and you have no real desire to labour on someone else’s behalf when your efforts merely meet with ingratitude or churlishness anyway. So, instead of being helpful, you reply ‘No, sorry – I can’t help you’. And then you never have to worry about unemployment again.

So what then, in conclusion? How do you deal with unemployment?

You don’t really. You bear with it at best; and fall apart if you don’t possess the inner resources to cope. You have my sympathy; and hopefully not my luck (see ‘Maudlin/self-pity’ elsewhere).

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Turning points: re-assessing your options when they’re all that you have.

New ambitions

Searching for employment is one thing; knowing exactly what to look for is another. This means having to consider a career. But what, and why, precisely? Well, let the following inspire you:

 You have an irrational hatred of children?
– Become a teacher – it only takes six months now to qualify for a role that has erudition as its cornerstone.
Perhaps you have an irrational hatred of teenagers?
– Become a police officer; or a fire officer if you’re planning to develop one in the future.
You have a semi-rational hatred of the general public?
– Bar-tending, waiting, office work, sales assistance – all of these provide excellent opportunities to exercise personal vindictiveness.

There are several misfires that can take place here, however. For instance: you may love books, but this does not make employment in a bookshop advisable. People who read books can dishearten those who enjoy them. Consider the following:

Q. Can you recommend something?
A. Well, personally I really like Chekov’s short stories; or there’s a great book on Islam’s inspiration of the Renaissance. You know, not a lot of people in the west know about that.
Q. Eh? I was looking for something more in the vein of The World According to Clarkson.
A. Oh; well, we have a copy of The God Delusion somewhere, I believe.

Perhaps you like children? Becoming a play-worker seems ideal – but ambitious parents can prove the contrary:

‘How’s Louise been today?’
– Oh, fine. She was making sandcastles with some of the other children this morning.
‘Oh, yes. I know. She loves playing in sand. She’s shown signs of genius in fact. She already knows how to use a funnel’.
(Don’t ask ‘For what?’ – some journeys of the mind are best avoided).

Perhaps – like most men – you’re obsessed with sex; or – like most women – you’re secretly obsessed with it. This is all well and good; but if you take employment in an ‘adult shop’, you’ll never be able to feign an interest in the subject again as long as you live. If you don’t know what scatology is, the revelation is unlikely to grant you an epiphany of delight.

In fact, little else in life is as dispiriting as having a job doing something you enjoy and care about.

Personal well-being

When you’re unemployed, mental health can be an issue. For one thing, your life lacks purpose: you have no reason to get up in the morning. You have to bear with continually pressing anxieties such as money or food dissipating; you encounter an invisible wall of smugness, arrogance and rudeness from all comers, and you constantly have to smile politely and say ‘thanks anyway’. What psychiatrists term ‘depression’ sets in; or what people who are more sound of mind than psychiatrists may call ‘being unhappy, out of sorts, and faintly miserable about the things you have to bear with’.

For this, day-time television – while anodyne – may prove cathartic in its own unique way. Emerson once wrote ‘Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity is to genius the stern friend’. Emerson had not seen television; less still during the day (nor had he experienced the internet, and mired himself in sleazy depravity, for that matter. see ‘Blogs’ elsewhere).

When a pompous, sneerily-snarling television chat-show host berates an obnoxious guest who has at least had the decency to appear on his/her show and be humiliated in return for a small fee and a fleeting glance of fame, something within one’s heart may begin to stir. As the host is shouting ‘You have taken crack, you have taken smack, you run an organised crime syndicate – You’re seven years old! What are you doing with your life! Don’t you care about your parents? Don’t you care about your health? You are sick! You are worse than prostitution! You are worse than pimping! You are worse than paparazzi! You are evil! You are worse than Hitler!’ You may find – albeit fleetingly – that your life somehow seems to have relative merit, and a measure of value by contrast.

This can back-fire quite badly of course, and develop into a feeling of shame and remorse at taking satisfaction in such unseemliness. Such matters never hampered Phillip Larkin’s career, however, nor Virginia Woolf’s; and they only died miserable, self-pitying and bitter in the first instance; and by putting rocks into their pockets and walking into a river in the second. Take heart.

Looking on the bright side

In particular pinches of bleakness, a mood of fatalism can set in. A black dog can place its paws softly on your shoulders and clamp its maw around your neck. You may have moments of desperate questioning, such as ‘I’ve sent a hundred applications off; ninety-nine were ignored and I received one terse rejection letter. What’s the point? Really, what is the point?’ and so on and so forth. Some people may believe that this is a reasonable response to unreasonable circumstances – but no. Though I hate to say it, the problem does in fact lie with you: you’re simply not being positive enough. You’re not looking on the brightest side of things. Every cloud has a silver lining; or at least a highly polished and well-trodden one (not the foot-prints of Communism in this instance). When life gives you lemons, make Lemon curd. If it gives you oranges, you can avoid scurvy.

Consider the implications of the following:

You’ve filled out a 14 page application form that took the better part of two hours and you didn’t even get a rejection letter?
– Take heart. It’s a moral victory for you.

You’re running out of food and it’s a week until your next payment is due?
– Now’s the chance to be creative: see what you can knock together out of coffee grounds, stale porridge oats and mustard.

The electricity has been cut off?
– It’s a prime opportunity to rise to a challenge (this makes excellent material for your CV). People pay good money to rough it in national parks. You get the experience of coldness, dampness and disappointment for free – minus the overdraft penalty, and the liberty to walk away from your circumstances when you wish to.

Your Job Centre advisor gives you a patronising lecture implying that:

a) you’re out of work because you’re a crook.
b) You’re wasting their precious time which could after all be far better spent talking to their friends on the phone about dropping their children off at school that morning, if you hadn‘t so rudely interrupted them by attending a mandatory interview for which you were ten minutes early and they were ten minutes late.

– This is a good rehearsal for a first day at a new job. Especially if you’re young.

You’re falling into debt around Christmas time, you get an interview and it’s going well, and your optimism is waxing – until the interviewer reveals they haven’t actually read your CV by asking a question which invalidates your entire application when you have to reply in the negative?
– You’ve had a day out.

Your house has been repossessed?
– Well, this is providing work for bailiffs, and for the banks that employ them: it’s a boost for the economy, which – given prosperity – will see you back in work, and the proud owner of another mortgage, at another bank (or the same one, perhaps). The sleeping bag and thermos flask you need to buy will be good for the local supermarket. The small camp-fire stove will benefit the balance of payments at your local Army and Navy store. The green shoots of recovery spread their binding tendrils wide.

Why does the bright side seem like such a bleak landscape?

Making the most of your redundancy

Being redundant

Not all of your time is going to be spent in seclusion, seeking employment. This is called being ‘work-shy’, as others will helpfully inform you intermittently. In fact, unemployment tends to leave one with an abundance of time, usually spent very much alone. So how can you use your free-time constructively?

Self-improvement

There is no centre of wisdom more amenable to the unemployed than the common Library: free books, cheap hire of films and music, and peaceful, silent, learned company. You can use your abundant personal liberty to cultivate an appreciation of the fine arts. If you’ve never done this before, it can be an enriching experience: peace, quiet and solitude – hours spent studiously enjoying literature that has inspired and uplifted the human spirit from ancient times unto the present.

Of course, these were written and produced by people who had actually achieved something worthwhile in life. Their posterity has proven enduring; people’s love of them everlasting. Can the same be said of you? Is it a likelihood? Perhaps a shared descent into poverty and madness? The crushing loneliness evident in diaries; the acrimony in letters. The endless, degrading, belittlements; or – equally demeaning – the quarter-hearted praise from pretentious critics making handsome livings picking over peoples’ memory and efforts in the fashion of a short-sighted looter pillaging the corpse of a well-dressed child. Admittedly, the uplifting of the human spirit – as it leaps from a high bridge – is not an ideal pursuit during redundancy.

Time on your hands

One day, you may find yourself pondering something along the lines of ‘Have you ever noticed how seldom other people blink? Is it possible for everyone on the planet to blink at the same time? What sound would it make? Would it affect the atmosphere and create a hurricane?’

At times like this, reading food criticism suddenly begins to seem like a worthwhile pursuit (as opposed to trying the food yourself, of course); and writing it like a worthy profession (as opposed to doing something more useful and less obnoxious). But don’t sink to such a level. Instead, use your time constructively to boost your employability. Adult education courses are a good starting place: painting for beginners, for instance, is a clear route into…well, you‘ll have to use your imagination. There are simply too many options to list here.

You may wish to enhance your transferable skills, yet lack motivation – cynicism, bitterness, self-righteousness, and generic resentment, are all common features of those who have given up hope. Blogs are a perfect outlet for such tendencies. You can:

– Berate a celebrity’s misdeeds.
– Froth at a harmlessly anodyne commentary.
– Write long-winded panegyrics regarding the minutiae of your daily life (see ‘On thin ice’ elsewhere).
– Make a case against a prominent intellectual based on something they may not have actually said.
– Anonymously insult somebody stricken with terminal cancer.
– Bemoan Britain’s ‘sleep-walk into communism’ whenever something untoward occurs – like a heavy snow-fall, for instance (Communism leaves slender foot-prints, let it be noted).

And much more besides. Alternatively, for those of a more masochistic bearing, if you wish to torture yourself constructively, read a thread from start to finish. This is a fine antidote to any lingering optimism and false hope about the human condition and the nature of society (for those of a sadistic leaning see ‘letters/celebrities’ elsewhere).

Interviews

Interrogations

So, you’ve spent hours making applications and somebody has invited you in for an interview? It’s a slim chance, and yet you’ve already begun to pin your hopes on it. Many questions may by clanking in your head – will I get the job? Do I really want it? Do I have any choice to accept it if they offer it to me? Will I be any good at it? What will it mean re. Child-care? My clothes have holes in them – can I afford to buy new ones just for one interview?

None of this matters in an interview.

Personal appearances are more important. You only get a fleeting chance to make a momentary impression, so you’d better make sure it lasts indefinitely. Seeking, gaining and losing employment can rest upon instantaneous decisions made by the kind of people who make decisions with long-term consequences in such a manner. The novice may harbour suspicions that this rests upon the shiftiness of your mannerisms; or perhaps the salience of your demeanour: ‘If my hand strays towards bright objects without my own conscious say so, for instance, could this look bad? Or if I wear a T-Shirt with ’Down with work; Up with vibrators’ printed on it will I encounter pessimism?’ for instance. But no: your hair, your teeth, your nails, even your socks – all of these will indicate your potential value to an employer. These are not merely signs of your character: they are in fact signifiers of your possible worth to their organisation.

Suppose, for instance, you haven’t combed your hair? This might mean you had your mind on more important things, or that you were busy running around after children, dogs or elderly relatives and you forgot. It might just mean that you don’t particularly care for vanity. Of course, it could also mean that you are lazy, inconsiderate – if not downright arrogant. You don’t care about other peoples’ thoughts and feelings. You are callous, cruel – a tyrant, in one word. Who knows what you might do if you had the chance? How much time do you spend reading Mein Kampf and creating napalm? How many barrels of it might you have traded with local school-children in return for their cigarettes?

And heaven help you if you’re wearing striped socks as well, quite frankly.

If in doubt, therefore, it helps to remember the following: ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover; but you can assess a person’s character based on the trousers they’re wearing’ (If you’re male and you’re not wearing any trousers at all then this holds particularly true). In other words, the ideal is to look as much like everybody else as possible; and to be uniquely striking and individual in the process. In order to really stand out from the crowd, you have to maintain its uniformity and blend in entirely. You need to be identical and easily identifiable. Exactly the same and entirely different.

This can pose a quandary for the unseasoned job-hunter-gatherer, who may ponder such questions as: ‘Why should such a thing matter?’ or ‘What difference does it make?’. The answer is suitably two-fold:

a) Because you don’t want it to (Sod’s Law).
b) Because other people think that other people think that it should; therefore they do themselves (Social mores).

The solution, however, is surprisingly simple and straightforward: to be yourself, and to be everybody else at the same time – to be a slavish follower who never strays from the beaten track, and who is independent of mind and capable of innovative leadership. That is, a deeply conformist rebel, whose overwhelming individualism is tempered only by its total absence. Or, as your prospective employer may put it: ‘The uniform is smart-casual’.


Interview questions

During redundancy, self-confidence is of course at an all-time low. Perkiness diminishes, while liveliness and cheer take a nose-dive into a concrete parapet. Unemployment can be a degrading experience. At first, a low income is enough to get by on, but when your shoes are falling apart and it’s going to cost you two-thirds of your weekly inflow to buy a new pair, it can become testing. One must learn to eat humble pie in copious quantities and capacious portions. Or grovel, more succinctly. Moreover, bragging does not come naturally to everyone. It is an unusual dialectic, in fact: demeaning oneself out of desperation on the one hand; and gloating on the other. For the unseasoned this can prove to be your undoing. For instance, consider the following real-life testimony, from made-up people:

Q. Why do you think you’re better than the other candidates?
A. I don’t know the other candidates. How am I supposed to know if I’m more highly skilled or better qualified than they are?

At first sight, this may seem a reasonable response; but this attitude is going to get you nowhere in life. It is in fact arrogant to be so realistic in the face of a meaningless question. It is a sign of the contempt you almost certainly feel for a prospective employer – and their business enterprise – that you refuse to boast when they have generously afforded you the opportunity to.

Q. How much excellence would you say you had on a scale of 1-10?
A. What do you mean exactly?

Now that’s just churlish. You may as well hock mucus into their skinny-latte, if you even have the brilliance of contemporary mind to know what that is (I don’t personally. It always makes me think of malnourishment).

Q. Have you ever been double-thinking a re-take when a supervisor has said to you ‘Hold everything and drop it. Let’s close all the doors and open a new window?’ How would you action that?
A. Act on it, you mean? I don’t really understand the question. Please could you clarify what I would need to be acting upon?

Obviously, having such a chip on your shoulder does not yield good employment prospects. This is when you need to stop thinking so much about yourself; and start to think much more about others. You have to accentuate the positives; and de-accentuate the de-positives. It is time to take a long, hard look at yourself and ask:

‘What about me? What about the things that I want? Why shouldn’t I get what I want? Why shouldn’t I have what I really deserve? Why do other people have it and not me? It’s not fair! In fact, it’s more than that – it’s positively unfair!’

Go into your next interview with this level of modesty in mind and you’re going to be a shoe-in:

Q. Would you say that you are unquestionably great?
A. Yes – yes I would!

Q. Why are you so much better than the other candidates?
A. Because I’m motivated, I’m pro-active and I’m brilliant! Not only am I better than them – I’m better than anyone! I’m more deserving and more important and more humble with it! I’m me, me, and me!

Just make sure that you receive a good price in return for your soul. And don’t forget to read the small print. (Mephisto writes in 10 point Comic Sans – you may have encountered his work elsewhere in life. Sub-prime mortgage nuptials, for instance).

Questions continued

Modern interviews tend to focus on vocational experience. Herein lie pitfalls. If you say too little, or too much it can prove hazardous indeed.

As others will attest: if you’re unhappy in life, you’re wrong. Even if you’re only faintly unhappy, you’re still faintly incorrect. Happiness correlates dichotomously with unemployment. In other words, if you’re ‘crazy’, ‘wacky’ and ‘mad’ – especially when you‘re drunk at someone else‘s expense – then you’ll rarely have to concern yourself with unemployment (unless you have genuine mental health problems, of course, like chronic ‘depression’ i.e. being deeply disconsolate. Best not to mention such things in an interview. If you say ‘Last night I drank a full bottle of vodka on my own. I’m mental – I really am’ prosperity beckons. If you say ‘I drink from a bottle of vodka most nights. It makes me feel a little better for a while’ propriety is brought to bear; the corollaries of which are rarely kind).

If you’re a human being, therefore, matters can prove complicated. This translates directly into measures of success when it comes to job applications. For example:

In your last position, you had to start fifteen minutes early and leave twenty minutes late. You didn’t enjoy it particularly, but you still worked hard on behalf of your colleagues, and remained professional despite severe provocation from customers and co-workers. You left because it was making you increasingly despondent, and you were hoping for something better – or at least for a re-vitalising change.

This is not what an employer wants to hear.

Turn it instead into an enriching life experience: you weren’t becoming dispirited and beaten down – you learned a lot about yourself, and developed essential personal qualities along the way. It wasn’t just an unpleasant job that paid the bills; it was a journey. It taught you the value of pro-activity, for one thing. It made you motivated.

This can back-fire quite badly, of course:

‘You used to empty the restaurant bins, alone, for half an hour last thing every night. How was that?’
– Oh, it was absolutely excellent. It was the most enriching experience I have ever had. Really. It taught me a lot about myself, and about life in general.
‘Great. Great. We have a hundred offices and 105 bins. We’ll get you started right away. We can’t pay over-time, obviously, but you’re happy to do it for the sheer love, right?’
– Well, yes.
‘You know, we could halve the cleaner’s hours, and her pay. Excellent’.
– Yes; excellent.

Well, do you want the job or not?

How to apply for a job

Curriculum Vitaes
 
 A CV is a summation of who you are: your background, your work experience, educational gains, personal qualities and ambitions; and it must not amount to more than two sides of A4. Nobody wants a burdensome life story.

Feel free to consider the following advice from a professional CV advisor:

“The general layout would benefit from a space under each heading so that the reader can skip easily to the section they require and further bolding of heading and key information”

(Source: Richard Hamer cf. The Guardian CV Clinic; Saturday 31st March 2007)

Unfortunately, people really are that petty, small-minded and captious.
Nuances and type-setting can mean the difference between you landing a position in a discipline you’ve long deeply cared about, would work conscientiously and sedulously at, and would be willing to make personal sacrifices for; and the same position going to someone who knows the manager’s son.

There are, therefore, several key elements of a modern CV which are a standard must.

Personal statement

If you’re conceited you should have no problem writing a brief outline of your own greatness. If you have any sense of personal dignity or shame and feel embarrassed by the prospect of overemphasising your accomplishments, it can prove more problematic. Modesty is an insult to prospective employers who may well lose interest before they’ve even thought about what you are saying. But never exaggerate either – this can be literally fatal.

For example: are you content to start low and work upwards? Cordial and generous? You never take anything for granted, and you have determination, guts and passion? Perseverance, patience and personal integrity?

This does not look good on a job application. Have you ever seen a job advert requesting such things?

Instead, say that you’re ‘vibrant’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘fresh’; and that you have ‘successability’. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, all told.

Moreover, if meaningful information undermines your self-aggrandisement, exchange it carefully for something more peppy. Instead of long and impressive words that reveal you – perhaps inadvertently – have been educated and possess a mind of reasonable calibre and working order, use words that are meaningless and, if not quite impressive, at least create an impression of some kind.

– Instead of resilient and hard-working: use ‘pro-active’.
– Don’t say ‘energetic’ – say ‘ubiquitous‘.
– Don’t say ‘ruthlessly venal’ and ‘corrupt’: say ‘motivated’.
– You actually listen to people when they’re talking to you? You have ‘Listening skills’.
– You answer when they’ve asked you a question? You have ‘Explanatory prowess’.
– The same is applicable to past positions held, especially mediocre ones.

For example:

– Instead of ‘Check-out operator’, say ‘Financial transaction facilitator’.
– Sandwich maker? No: ‘Professional nourishment artist’.
– In place of ‘general dogsbody at the beck and call of incompetent superiors who don’t explain things properly and waste your time repeatedly’ say ‘Inter-departmental multi-disciplined intermediary’.

It says nothing, and yet it says everything.

In other words, writing a short summary on a not particularly interesting matter is an art form in which one must – with utmost delicacy and care – create a small masterpiece of intrigue and excitement, which must pique interest and satisfy curiosity – and without straying beyond two pages in length.

So here are some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t: never ever – under any circumstances whatsoever – tell lies.
Do: avoid telling the truth in its entirety. Instead, gently massage it.

For instance:

You didn’t graduate from school? You have life experience.
You can’t read or write? You have life experience.
You served twenty years imprisonment for arson and armed robbery? You have life-term experience.

Don’t: never bemoan former employers. It makes you look petty and cavilling.
Do: invert the experience. For example ‘I learned a lot about the value of team-work and how conducive it can be in terms of establishing good working practices within a business’. That is, instead of saying ‘My last employer was a selfish, ruthless, venal bastard claiming credit for other people’s ideas, and being backed up on that by treacherous colleagues of mine while I was away on holiday, all of whom were angling for a three percent pay-rise which they duly received and I didn’t. Twats’.

Or: ‘I learned how to deal effectively with hostile and aggressive customers’; as opposed to ‘I got sick to death of having to suppress my seething resentment at the sheer number of gormless students who thought they were funny buggering about with stock, pretending that baguettes were prosthetic phalluses – or using bunches of grapes in a similar fashion – coupled with middle-aged men who thought they were egregiously charming and who kept telling me I was ‘fit for my position’; and I may or may not have regrettably lost my temper with a child who didn’t have the correct amount of money for a chocolate bar, and felt really bad about this for a long time afterwards, and anonymously donated a box of biscuits to a local primary school at my own expense as a form of recompense’.

Obviously this latter sentence would simply be too long to put in a succinct and efficient personal statement. Instead, consider the way a politician or a Public Relations ‘professional’ may ‘describe’ something to suit their own interests or agenda. For example:

Your husband had procured ‘adult entertainment’ while you were away on business, and you claimed these and several boxes of tissues on your professional expenses?
You shouldn’t be accountable – people are simply too prudish these days. People should mind their own business.

You had procured girls for visiting Saudi envoys and lied about it?
You shouldn’t be accountable – the morals of juries are simply too lax these days when it comes to matters of national interest. People should mind their own business.

That is, if facts are inconvenient, simply leave them aside.

Key Skills

A good deal of skills are non-accredited; or, in other words, are gained from experiences outside of standardised, formal education. These are ‘key skills’. To make the most of these on your CV, you will have to turn useless talents into useful attributes.
For example, you may be able to find all kinds of obscure gems in the bargain bins at your local music store. This is not attractive to an employer, and it does not enhance your CV. ‘Implementing best practice initiatives in procuring resources and adhering to independent judgement while minimising expenditure and maximising long-term gain’ has a more appealing tone. There are many others that one could consider here:

Blogging: self-importance and dishonesty may seem like ideal attributes for employment in any number of industries – law, politics, finance, or media, for instance. But saying that you can ‘hold your own in heated and trenchant debates’, and can make ‘best practice uses of resource initiatives’ (i.e. you know how to cut and paste) has a perkier nuance more applicable to everyday situations like deciding mission statements for sporting goods stores.

Juggling: ‘project management’.

Gossip: ‘consultancy’.

Innuendo: ‘head-hunting’ (not to be confused with witch-hunting).

Vindictiveness: ‘human resources management’.

Writing threatening letters to irritating but harmless celebrities:
You can present information in a clear and persuasive manner.

Computer games: You’re willing to sacrifice you’re personal time and commit to achieving goals, however minimal the rewards.

That is, a cheapening of all the small accomplishments that you hold most dear.

 

Transferable skills

These are slightly different to key skills, in as much as these are actual skills that are usually best left unmentioned, and yet – if given enough of a twist, or just a bit of gloss (use a harsh abrasive) – can prove extremely useful.

For instance:

If you know when somebody is homosexual even though they haven’t publicly acknowledged it, and may not even know it themselves – you have empathy skills (see ‘Prejudice’ elsewhere). This is ideal for a role in the police force.

If you can talk for hours about nothing in particular, remain unperturbed even when people appear not to be interested in what you’re saying, and secretly believe all the while that what you’re discussing is important enough to deserve their attention despite their own inclinations – you have commentary skills. Perfect for a career in the media.

If you smile politely and bear with a high degree of personal obnoxiousness from unpleasantly-minded people, while pretending to find their ‘jokes’ amusing: you have interpersonal skills. This has universal application.

If you find yourself being pessimistic, bitter at all and sundry, churlish, bumptious and quite frankly boorish even though you know your targets are undeserving and your objects are illegitimate – you have supervisory skills. (See above).
 

Pit-falls

Though it may appear self-defeating at first glance, being over-qualified can hamper attempts to gain employment. When applying for jobs, you don’t want to appear too intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working or well educated. None of these would benefit a work place. You want to come across as the opposite – but even then, not too much the opposite. If in doubt, simply remember a simple instructive rhyme: ‘Port, starboard, stern, bow? No – aim for middle-brow’ .

So what do you do if you have been well educated, but you don‘t want to let on? And what do you say to prove that you’re not unintelligent, yet not too far off?

– claim an interest in business.

Others want to write great novels – or don’t know what a novel is – you want to market them at a favourable price to an ‘optimal demographic’ and take a handsome commission.

Some people want to work at developing a cure for cancer, or for other similarly ravaging and misery-inducing illnesses. Some people believe that beetroot juice is a cure for Aids (It’s not, incidentally. But it is an essential ingredient of Bortsch which is very good for those recovering from minor colds). You, however, wish to levy sanctions against countries attempting to develop cheap copies of medicines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies who happen to be very friendly towards the personal expenses of politicians. These may assist those wishing to continue living a while longer and provide a small measure of solace to the afflicted; but they also make a small chip in the otherwise highly profitable enterprise of pharmacy (The Nobel commission seemed to forget this small matter when they gave Al Gore the peace prize).

It’s a fraying tight-rope upon which one must tread with the utmost care, lest it become positively fraught. The danger, as ever, is that by attaining your personal ambitions you fall short of your own ideals:
‘Well, I had hoped to work with children who struggle in mainstream education and teach them about books, music, and maybe odds and ends that they could find beneficial in their free-time, like learning to cook or how to grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. They were only small things, but they might have a made the world a slightly better place for kids. Now I’m determined: nothing’s going to stand in the way of my dream – my own business enterprise – designing, producing and selling plastic tree-ties in an array of colours and sizes’.

Personality tests

These are designed to test your suitability for a position you’ve never been in before. They are much more efficient than discernment based on empirical evidence. For example:

You’ve just started a new job, and somebody asks you for advice on a subject you have no expertise in. Do you:

a) Explain that you don’t really have the capabilities to deal with their query yourself, but you’ll speak to somebody who does and who is equipped to deal with it. They’ll get in touch as soon as possible and resolve the problem aptly and incisively – even though technically this is not mandatory for you within the schema of your job responsibilities, and you know you’re going to get no thanks for it, you do it anyway.
b) Pretend you know what you’re doing and blag your way through in the hope that it will impress your manager; make a mess – possibly resulting in a loss of livelihood, or even life, for someone else – and then throw your hands in the air, declaim responsibility, point to other colleagues doing the same thing, blame a lack of adequate managerial supervision, blame the person who came to you with the problem in the first place, and then finally huff: ‘Fine. If this is the thanks I get then I won’t bother in future’.
c) Simply say ‘Sorry. Can’t help’. Even though you can; and resolutely refuse to point them in the right direction even though it’s an implicit responsibility of yours?

A house has fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair – it is a threat to life and limb. Local children playing truant have begun to use it as a hide-out even though it’s possible that exposure to asbestos may occur; and exposure to discarded syringes already has occurred. Your employer states that you must sell this property to ‘the next tosser who walks in’ before it is condemned, otherwise they will lose money and you will lose your job. Do you:

 a) Resign quietly anyway as a point of ethical principle?
b) Put an advert together describing it as ‘a handy-man’s dream’ and mark the price up five percent with one eye on your commission, and the other eye on an address book of your friends, focusing on a young couple with a new-born child desperate to move out of their bed-sit flat?
c) Advertise it as a place ideally suited to ‘the poor, or other excessively privileged social groups’ to ‘luxuriate’ in on the condition that they must ‘look for work’, even though there‘s a recession on and your city has a 40% unemployment level in even the best circumstances?

 Complete the following sentence: ‘I am…’

 a) …not always entirely sure about things, but I give people my all. I’m honest about my mistakes, and I assist my more inept colleagues in amending theirs, albeit begrudgingly at times.

b) …motivated and pro-active.
c) …brilliant. In fact, so brilliant that I am actually excessively modest. What precisely is worthy of my talents? Nothing – and yet do I not accept humble positions as long as the pay is high enough and I meet with enough praise?

 Answers

 Mostly A’s: unfortunately you’re not suited for much in the job market. You remember the house from question two? Do you consider even that a step up from living with your parents given your advancing years? Good – it’s your own fault. It’s called meritocracy. Deal with it, quite frankly.

 Mostly B’s: Congratulations – you’re ideally suited for a career in estate agency, small-scale business enterprises, academia, or in the charity sector. You should have no problem finding a position as rich in self-satisfaction as it is high in income.

 Mostly C’s: Very, very well done – you are ideally suited to a position either in the media, or within large-scale business enterprises. Never feel like you have to choose: instead, feel free to prosper by drawing from the wealth of both pools equally. Writing ‘sceptical’ pieces about global warming, for instance, is an efficient and fiscally advisable means of achieving this segue. Public relations is similarly lucrative and requires very little effort or integrity. You’re never accountable for your mistakes or your falsehoods when you work for the media, or when you hold conveniently anonymous positions in enormous companies. Make the most of it.

Finding a job

The alternative to unemployment, of course, is to gain employment. If this was so easy, you wouldn’t be unemployed and in need of advice on how to survive it. So here are some handy pointers on seeking work for those profligate souls who are simply too lacking in character to succeed in lavish unemployment for very long.

Job Advice

You need a job, so how do you find one? Many unemployed individuals will have been offered lots of free advice from many different people (Like myself, for instance. Only more sincere). For example:

‘Find a job’
– Okay. How?
‘Get on your bike’.
– What bike? And where am I supposed to go?

And remember: this was given without payment being necessary.

In sum, it means being told what to think by people who don’t really know how to think. For this you may have no passion; but you’re going to have to cultivate a patience for it if you‘re to reap the benefits. There are several dimensions herein:

Training courses

(Being taught how to do something you already know how to do).

You know how to cook? Well, it’s not good enough without a basic food hygiene certificate. You’ve been to university? Well, fair enough – but do you have previous experience in handling petty cash? You’ve been a customer at many bars and nightclubs? This does not mean that you can pull a handle and fill a glass with ale at the same time.

The captious may quibble that such practices can be learned ‘on the job’; but the opinions of cavillers count for precious little here. Employers are looking for capable, dedicated staff; not people who merely have a qualification that will prove essentially useless without work experience; which you can’t get without qualifications; which you won’t be able to afford to undertake without a wage; for which you need to be employed. This is why employers value vocational experience so highly; and thereby refuse to provide prospective employees with the chance to gain it.

In short, if you want to be employed, you need to be qualified; and if you want to become qualified, then you need to be employed. You need to break the ice; and you can’t do this without having previously broken through it. That is, you need to be given an opportunity in order to make the most out of it; but you need to have made the most out of a previous opportunity in order to be given a first one. This much is clear and obvious.

Novices may come unstuck here, however – it may even seem like a hopeless catch 22 scenario which has arisen because people are lazy and unwilling to invest in apprentices properly – but take heart: there are plenty of places to go to for helpful, constructive advice.

Jobcentres

Patronising lectures on the theme of being financially ‘better off in work’ – which may or may not have escaped your attention hereto – are a stock in trade; and are frequently coupled with intermittent acts of heartlessness, petty cruelty and callous indifference, which are the hallmarks of most bureaucratic veterans (see ‘Lame Ducks’ elsewhere). Of course, you have no option but to attend to such matters anyway. To make the most of these opportunities: ask for highly specific advice on a regular basis with a tone of chipper, genuine interest in your voice. For example:

‘Can you give me some advice on writing a CV’
– Er, no. We can’t do that sorry. You’ll have to look around.
‘But it says I can ask you for assistance here?’
– That’s an old leaflet; it’s out of date now.
‘Okay, but do you know where I can go for help?’
– Well, no, sorry.
‘Do you know anybody who does?’
– No.
‘Do you know if there are any training opportunities available?’
– We don’t do any, no.
‘Do you know if there are any other places that do?’
– No.
‘Do you know anybody who does?’
– No.
‘Okay. Well thanks anyway’.

As bad as other peoples’ manners may be, yours are only ever going to improve – and much to your own chagrin. If you were more ruthless you wouldn’t struggle for employment.

Employment Agencies

Making the most of these requires a new lexicon. Novices may find themselves flummoxed by what at first hearing seems like a baffling array of terms and terminology. For example:

‘Do you stand out from the crowd?’
– Not really.
‘Are you pro-active?’
– Well, no. I don’t think so.
‘Do you have any particular strengths?’
– Not particularly, no.
‘What would you say are your weaknesses?’
– Do you mean vices? I have to admit them? Is that really necessary? Well, I can’t resist French accents and monocles…

And so on. The flaw here is not taking the questions literally enough – or perhaps taking them too literally, and believing that the questions themselves are meaningful and have a genuine purpose. This is the error of a beginner. The key is to read between the lines – literally: to see a blank space, and then attempt to fill it with something of comparable value. Metaphors and similes are helpful beyond measure. To wit:

‘Do you stand out from the crowd?’
– Yes; in fact I make a conscious point of it.
‘Really? How?’
– By never flocking with the herd in the first place.
‘Excellent. Excellent. Now, are you pro-active?’
– Yes; absolutely. In fact you might even say that I’m so pro-active I’m actually pro-pro-active. One day – God willing, and with enough patience, practice, time and investment – I may make the grade my own, and become pro-pro-pro-active. Literally’.

First Things First

Money


While unemployed, popular judgements and notions are going to become a constructive and unavoidable feature of your life. In times of crisis and hardship, large sums of money are given to the very wealthy in order to regenerate their failed enterprises and stimulate prosperity, commerce and economic recovery. It is a motivation for them to work hard and efficiently, despite evidence that they do very much the contrary. Conversely, people who are poor are subject to increased strictures, because money would merely discourage them from working and ‘bothering’. This is called a ‘socio-logical’ policy: that is, logic arising in response to popular opinions, largely generated by helpful journalists and concerned political commentators.

Money is never a problem when you’re unemployed – you’re receiving cheques from the government in return for doing nothing, as only too many people are only too kind and willing to inform you. ‘In fact, if anything, you have too much money’ they may be inclined to point out to you helpfully, which is perfectly true – unless you need prescriptions, clothes, or food. Or the myriad petty objects that sap your income: shaving utensils, batteries, cooking implements, paint, house-repairs – like electricity and plumbing. And as long as you don’t enjoy social events of any kind; don’t require trips to the dentist; don’t have to worry about mortgage payments; and never need to buy gifts for relatives or friends when it’s their birthday (not to mention the horrors of Christmas).

Curiously enough, the poorest people – despite their prominence at the table of earthly favours – are often to be found in debt and impoverished. This of course, only goes to prove how irresponsible they – and of course you, by implication – really are. They have everything handed to them on a plate, and yet they always have precious little to show for it. In fact, whenever they exploit their exalted position and actually buy things, they seem to get poorer and more destitute, and find it increasingly difficult to manage their finances. They have to put things off continuously, and then whenever they do have money, because their needs have accumulated – along with their debts – their money is frittered away irresponsibly as soon as they have any.

This is when people begin to get into financial troubles. Debt is a vicious circle, and inescapable when you’re on a low income – primarily, of course, because of your own improvidence. If you had the gumption to work your way out of debt then you would never get into debt in the first place. This is meritocracy. This is obvious. But how can the poverty/debt cycle be avoided once it has become unavoidable?

Quite simply: by resorting to crime.

Consider the following: when unemployed, one must learn how to cook properly. Rubbishy low-cost, low-quality food is too expensive when you’re on a budget. You need to aim higher. You have to be inventive, and adventurous – if not, in fact, positively daring. Shop-lifting is underrated as a skill in modern society; but if undertaken with the greatest of care, and in a responsible manner, it can yield excellent dividends for little to no cost. For instance, this simple recipe for macaroni:

– Pasta
– Goats cheese
– Cheddar
– Tomatoes
– Basil
– Bread-crumbs
– Olive oil
– Salt & pepper

will prove nutritious, delicious, and cost-effective, as long as no costs are actually met. You can live a life of modest opulence and slender abundance – provided you’re willing to break the law. I’m not sure if Jamie Oliver covers this matter in any of his books, but you never know (and at c. £15 per book, you have more than one incentive to steal one). If you get caught, of course, it only proves that the poor really are a criminal underclass and are thoroughly deserving of their poverty. For shame if you hadn’t surmised this already.

 Budgeting is therefore vital. Inessentials need to be jettisoned from your spending: chewing gum, straws, tissues, milk, cigarettes – all of these have ready and cheap replacements: rye grass, freshly burst inner-tubes, freshly ironed shirt-sleeves, dishwater (killing two birds with one stone), and haddock (again, two birds – one stone. And a fish, of course). You may not have the resources to purchase the groceries required to keep you healthy, but margarine is an excellent source of vegetableness; while fruitiness – a vivid feature of orangeade – is recommended by professionals (I’m not saying in which field, or whether they’re peer-reviewed, or – indeed – are at liberty to practice. Or at liberty full stop).

 In truth, one must maintain the ‘never give in’ spirit of The Blitz – that is, if the Luftwaffe had peppered recipients with small amounts of money, instead of high volumes of explosives.