Tag Archives: Jobcentre

The Power of Networking

Since I threw the stone advertising unemployment into the Facebook lake, there have been quite a few ripples, as old school friends got in touch saying they knew about something or could ask for me.  As the Japenese saying goes, a rolling stone gathers moss.

These positions were available through agencies that were not based in the city where the job was. So there would have been no chance of me knowing about them otherwise. In these intensely competitive times, it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s a case of contacts – from a course you attended, college or university.

At first I was too ashamed to broadcast my job seeking status. I thought it seemed like failure when many of my graduate friends were in nice impressive jobs. I’m rather envious of a guy from my year who is now a broker at Christies, constantly posting pictures of his champagne lifestyle. By their mid-20s it seems most graduates have found decent/steady employment.

I told one friend that no, I was not above doing warehouse packing – any job to release me from the state’s shackles.

Speaking of which, I waited 45 minutes for my Jobcentre appointment to make a new claim. Security staff hovered about occasionally as I sat there, steam coming out of my nostrils. I had paid 20p extra on a quicker bus and I had run to ensure I could not be sanctioned for being late. The worst thing about being unemployed is being at the beck and call of the all-powerful Jobcentre who control everything from what you have to do next on the endless run of job skills workshops, to whether you get to eat or not.

I had a job to apply for and I had to send in details before 5. This didn’t happen. I was expecting a call back about a legal matter (more on that story when it gets to court). This did not happen as I can only be contacted on my home telephone – my mobile is broken and I cannot afford a replacement. The charger on my old replacement mobile has broken so I need to buy another. There are always things to be bought.

I sat next to a guy who was being text by an angry girlfriend, unhappy about his financial situation, or maybe about his personal hygiene, judging by his overpowering natural cologne. He had been in the Jobcentre for two hours and he waited an extra 30 minutes to be seen, such was the backlog. His friend next to him had just got a delivery driver job. He had his tracksuit on, hood up and was bouncing about with suppressed joy. A girl on the other side of the room with bright red hair was sitting with her nose aloft, reading a novel the size of War and Peace, wearing a tracksuit but with walking boots instead of trainers. We almost quick marched out of the place and into each other.

I understood this display, having read The Week in an effort to show that I most certainly did not belong here thank you very much. I also didn’t like the way we seemed to be called “customers”. I wasn’t buying anything, I just needed temporary financial aid. The sooner I could escape from this two week cycle of despair the better.

Finally I was seen by a lovely girl who apologised for the delay and continuously apologised for Jobcentre policies. I had apparently been penalised because I hadn’t been in to sign on. Why? Because they’d referred me to a “Finding and Getting a Job” course and I was on that. When I pointed this out she tentatively said that had I contacted them to inform them of this within 5 days my benefits would have continued. When I asked why I wasn’t contacted for 27 days she apologised again for the policy.

I once again provided every payslip for my Saturday job, but still have to fill in a form telling them what they say. I have applied to get the money back for the past 26 days, but this depends on a God-like decision-maker, sitting in some cushy office upstairs with that all-important rubber stamp. (Update – I never got my money back).

But I won’t be messed around for long – things are looking up…

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Staring poverty in the face

Today I was informed by the Jobcentre that due to my appointment missed three weeks ago, I would no longer receive benefits, leaving me with £85 a month to live on.

I had attended that place of misery and contempt the day before to see my adviser. She put me on a two day “Finding and Getting a Job” training course, which I found useful. I attended it unaware that I was no longer receiving any support from the Jobcentre.

I had provided all evidence of my Saturday job, only for my employer to be asked to provide more information.

lifelineA friend said his benefits had been stopped for two weeks, after telling them in advance that he would not be able to attend an appointment. He never received money owed. I have heard of people being sent to interviews when they do not meet the basic job description.

They had all my personal details, why did it take 27 days for them to contact me? Why couldn’t they have asked why I missed the appointment, or at least given me warning that my lifeline was about to be cut?

Luckily although I am nearly out of money to live on, I have received support from family and friends. I have food parcels, tins and the freezer stock. I walk wherever I can to save on public transport. I am making do with a mobile on which I can hardly hear someone’s voice, rather than buying a new one. “Make do and mend” and “waste not want not” are my new job war mottos.

What is annoying is that I did everything that was asked of me. When I was aware I had forgotten for the first time I rang them up and went in on the day. I provided full evidence of my Saturday work and full evidence of my job hunt, I attended all meetings apart from two which I forgot, as I attended the Jobcentre so regularly it was difficult to keep up. I will need a diary now just to put their appointments in.

Despite having a first in Careers Development I even went to the optional (so I was told when I attended) Group Information Session, where I was reminded about how I look for work, along with repeated information about sanctions this, sanctions that.

Where is the compassion? Where is the accountability? Where is the respect for those who are suffering? As a big faceless organisation I do not know who to address my complaint to. I don’t want to bite the hand that literally feeds me, but if I had more financial commitments I would have been tearing my hair out for the 27 days it took them to write to me.

An adviser smirked when I said that I could now buy a printer as I had food. It was to print out job search documents without paying 10p per sheet at the library every time.

In between saving up for one, I was referred to their free printing service. It involved a computer with a program different from Word, so every time I copied and pasted from Word it wouldn’t format and I spent about an hour playing about with it until my c.v could actually be printed on two pages. The reason given was “Word is expensive”. Once finally sorted, I had to ask permission from an employee to take it off the printer. You don’t get much more patronising than that.

There was no one to assist and while I was struggling, I heard two employees chatting. One imitated a man’s broken English. This father had just come in to get a bus pass so that he could take his children to school. I found the lack of understanding and respect disgusting. Clearly he had never experienced the daily financial hardship of being unemployed. The job seeker was desperate and needed his help, yet he and his colleague thought it appropriate to joke about his language ability, something which was probably holding him back.

My adviser was really helpful and thankfully had people skills. I won’t be referred to her this time I expect. I am going to the Jobcentre tomorrow to get myself off the streets, so to speak. Although thankfully I have accommodation provided for. I would now be in debt as a result of the delay, had I not saved.

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Work Training Day

82203-343x343-Bad_morningToday I woke up at 7.30. This hurt as I normally do not have anything to get up at the crack of dawn for. After a coffee to ressurect me from the undead I went out into the snow. The roads were clear, so I left half an hour for a 25 minute journey. Once again I had the misfortune of a driver who waited behind buses instead of overtaking them, meaning that a 25 minute trip took 40 minutes.

When I got to the company, to my surprise, the main receptionist was unaware of where the course was in the building. She asked for the teacher’s name and I did not have it. I showed her the text I had received reminding me of it. She told me and another course candidate to go to the first floor and turn left. He was a young man with a round face and black hair. I was in an ironed shirt and work trousers, while he sported baggy black jeans and an Ed Hardy t-shirt proclaiming “LOVE KILLS SLOWLY”.

“A woman joked “why don’t you just have them, nobody else wants them””

We stood in a queue for a while, and I wondered where the teaching room was, as I couldn’t see one. Finally we got to the desk and there was a lot of confusion over what we were here for and where we were supposed to be. I showed them the text but it still did not help.

While they were deliberating amongst themselves a lady joked “why don’t you just have them, no-body else wants them”. Exactly the sort of ignorance from someone who is fortunate enough never to have been unemployed.

Eventually we were directed to the right floor. We were greeted by a tall angry blonde. She was a curvy lady wearing glasses and a skin-tight black dress. “You’re late” she informed us, “I’m not sure if I can take you. I’ll just check.”

She came back and said that she had been given permission to let us in. It emerged later that we were a full three minutes later than the 15 minutes allowed. We explained that we had spent this time being sent to the wrong floor and she apologised.

I hadn’t been looking forward to the training session. I pictured dropouts lounging back on the chairs smelling of weed, tobacco or poor hygiene in line with the standard Jobcentre experience. To my surprise this wasn’t completely the case.

We went round the room introducing ourselves and giving some history. First off was a suited, 50-something man with glasses. Bob was a sales manager with plenty of experience in different areas. He told us he had faced a lot of age discrimination and he believed this was stopping him getting a job because interviewers just looked at him as being ripe for retirement.

Next was Bogale, a Politics and International Development graduate who had been a maths teacher in Kenya and was originally from Ethiopia. He had been in the UK for four months but his English was pretty good. He was interested in being a Teaching Assistant.

Abdul had dropped out of an accounting and finance degree because he was going to live in Turkey, but it didn’t work out. He was keen to work in a call centre. He had worked for five years in a variety of jobs. His family ran a cake business in Iraq. He had a short black beard and was shy but laid-back, wearing a woolly hat and casual clothes.

Shabeeb had been a forklift driver for two years until he had been fired. He wore a cap, a big grin and casual clothes. He spent most of the class asking when we could have a break/go home/whether he had to be there the next day as well. He had a great sense of humour and made us all laugh.

Jamie was the guy I came up with. He was on a part-time I.T course at university and was looking for administration work.

Miss Bradley had done work in I.T, admin and sales and was a DJ by night. She was slim with long dark curly hair and a ready smile. She had been forced to drop out of university due to a custody dispute with her “psychotic” ex-partner. It reminded me of my experience of working in family law.

Ms Begum was a full-time mum and had worked at a call centre for British Gas. She was looking to get back into work and had the right qualifications. She was keen to work in customer service. Everyone in the room except her and Bob were in their late 20s or early 30s. They were a pleasant, friendly bunch.

The teacher said that she would not “tret” us any different due to what we had done in the past, we were all the same in her eyes. She had a talk about “elf” and safety in the building. I felt bad for smiling at this when she told us how an employer had told her she had failed a Family Learning teacher interview due to her strong accent. She said she felt like suing them.

She also disclosed that she was a trained counsellor, and that she’d naturally done this all her life, without realising it.

She told us to beware of stress once we got work, as due to the recession their had been a sharp increase in hospital admissions. I remembered how stressed I was when I worked three jobs, seven days a week. Stress can creep up on you and accumulate if you don’t release it regularly. Mrs Begum said that when she was stressed at work she had no outlet for it, as when she went home she had the kids to deal with.

Make time to relax for 20 minutes before you go to bed each day. Think about your day and what stressed you out and whether there is anything you can do about it, in which case do an action plan. If there isn’t, let it go.

Stress happens when we’re caught in between fight and flight mode. If we are prepared and have action plans and lists to tick off, we know what we are doing when, and can relax more. This is how I could be responsible for all the medical files in a department. My day followed a certain structure and I had time deadlines for tasks. I’d always keep in mind the next item on the to-do list and work my way through it. That way I wasn’t running all over the place wondering what to do next.

As soon as I’d said I was an English language teacher I noticed Tibuk’s eyes light up. We had a chat and it turned out that in my last job I was teaching the very syllabus he needs to learn! I may be able to give him lessons to prepare him, although of course I will need to see if I can fit it around work when (note I said when, not if – Positive Mental Attitude) I get it.

The day was actually really useful, even though I got a First in Careers Development whilst doing my degree. I learnt that I am weak on the personal profile in the CV, and what to put in there.

She asked if anyone knew what CV stood for. Everyone looked like she’d spoken another language, which she had. I informed everyone it was curriculum vittae, was Latin, oh and by the way vittae meant life, so literally it was curriculum life, which didn’t seem to make sense. There was a stunned silence for a moment.

This week is full of training and interviews! After applying for 5-10 jobs every day for a month I have two to look forward to. One is for a graduate position. I just sent off an application pack for another one. I am also thinking about applying for the Royal Mail graduate programme. I will keep you posted!

Work Training Day 2

GETTY_W_102511_ArrestHandcuffed-300x168

Today I discovered that criminal records were holding two of the members back. One for GBH, the other for breaking and entering. Both were misdemeanours of their youth which still count against them. One of them had a great sense of humour and we said that he should be a comedian because he made everyone laugh. It is a shame that their past could prevent them from moving forward with their lives.

Everyone in the group was easy to get on with. There was a supportive sense that we were in this together, although when I got an interview at lunchtime someone was a bit too keen on knowing what it was for! I once told someone about a job that I was applying for. She applied first and got it, so I’m more careful now.

Keep throwing yourself at the job market. The Jobcentre-referred course was great and I would recommend it to anyone. You think you know how to apply for a job, but it is not as simple as it seems. Every phrase can be read into, and it is all a carefully formulated plan. I am now going to re-do my CV, and I’m prepared for my interviews more thanks to plenty of practice.

Again I would recommend agencies – I have found getting an interview with them much easier and they are a foot in the door to permanent work.

I am encouraged by the course and am actually looking forward to interviews for the first time. It’s simply a matter of preparing yourself – getting the ID documents, dressing for success, preparing for competency-based questions (Explain how you dealt with a difficult situation) using the CAR/STAR method (if you don’t know what it is ask to go on the course!) and brushing up on the skills you’ll be tested on.

I’ve spammed the job market for a month and I’m only just starting to get results. It may take time but if you ensure that your CV and interview preparation and skills are in line with what is needed you will be fine.

Good luck fellow jobhunters! Keep on it!

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Recruiting to success

employment and recruitment agencies

Looking for work?

Why not try recruitment agencies?

Some people dismiss these based on their abundance of short-term, low-paid work, or bad past experience. But the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.

Today I got a call from a job agency I registered with – they have a graduate job at a government company they would like to interview me for. There is a recruitment freeze on the company’s website – the agency got access where I could not.

Previously I spent months out of work until I signed up to a great agency. I had previously signed up to one who told me that due to the recession, even they had been forced to make redundancies, and that the market wasn’t just bad where I was looking. Great pep talk.

They never contacted me, and when I rang they told me there was no work available. Granted, this was during the recession, but I expected better customer service.

So after working for a bad agency that later went bust, and a great agency that got me job after job, here is what I have learnt. I hope it helps you choose the right agency and helps them choose the best job for you.

– Listen to feedback from friends or family. Apply to agencies you hear good news about.

Check you have the qualifications for the job you are applying for. Today I paid for a bus into town and back and gave up my morning for a useless interview. As soon as I met the recruitment consultant she told me I did not have the essential skills! This was not on the job advert, an example of “hidden” skills – they assume (assume makes an ass out of u and me!) you have them.

– If you feel you are unsuitable for the job you are doing, let the agency know. I was once put forward for a data-entry job. I had no data-entry experience. When the manager dismissed me he told me the agency had informed him that I was experienced in this.

– If you are in a job where you are struggling to work due to the office culture, ask for a transfer. The agency will be happy to keep you on their books.

– Be clear about what skills/qualifications/experience you have in each area of the work you want. For example, if you are going for administration work, you might tell them that although you do not have data-entry experience, you would be happy to undertake training, and that you have a secretarial qualification. Highlight your strengths and the sort of work that would suit these.

– Make sure you are clear about what the job entails before you accept, and don’t be afraid to say why you think you are unsuitable and what you would prefer instead if you think it doesn’t match your skill-set.

– Wear professional dress for the interview, and ensure you have all your documentation – passport/driving licence, National Insurance card, CRB (if necessary) and reference details.

Benefits of job agencies slide1

If you are nervous about interviews, the Jobcentre can send you for free training. I am going on a two day course next week, and I hope it enables me to be more confident and sell myself better. I have never had an interview with an employer for a recruitment agency. All you need is one chat with

them and then you are on their database, ready to be matched up to one of the many jobs they get sent through every day. You’ll be spared from the intimidating scenario of sitting in a room/standing in a queue as long as the Jobcentre with the opposition, sorry, competition. You don’t need to have that “group presentation” where someone aggressively butts in to your carefully planned monologue.

Recruitment agencies have better access to help you crack the job market. Online job adverts can expire within an hour under the weight of hundreds of applications. But if you’re on a recruitment database and someone has already been hired, they’ll look at the next position.

What you see on online job boards is only the tip of the iceberg.

They may be able to market you and your skills more effectively. I find it’s often easier to get others to talk about you than advertise yourself.

They may be able to offer training themselves, and they ease access to large companies. Instead of going through the various stages of the recruitment process, I was given a start date and off I went. No first, second, third, fifth round and days spent jumping through hoops. It saves time in getting work.

Don’t forget to go for an agency that deals with, or even specialises in your area of interest. For example, in Sheffield CRA Consulting deals solely with jobs in law, Reed specialises in office work, and Office Angels is a big recruiter for the NHS.

Recruitment days

I went to my first yesterday. I had two interviews and handed in a c.v. At a Group Information Session, the Jobcentre adviser told us it was an “employers market”. He showed a list of the types of work most commonly searched for. These included construction and office work. Then he showed us the most popular work advertised including care work and construction work. The demand for clerical and administration work far exceeds the jobs on offer.

jillpollack.wordpress.com - Tips on how to make an office job work for you!

jillpollack.wordpress.com – Tips on how to make an office job work for you!

Health and social care is an expanding sector. I waited in the administration interview queue for ages. When it came to the healthcare assistant (care worker) role I was the only one. If you are a caring, dedicated person why not make a real difference for the same salary. Some agencies pay for the CRB and the training. I do care work on a Saturday and it changes your life. Since I started it I have really developed as a person. I am more understanding, more patient, a better communicator. These are also useful transferable skills. You build up a working relationship like no other, one of trust and compassion. When I go back home I feel happy and more motivated. I have done something to change someone’s life for the better, by doing something I take forgranted.

Stories and laughter can be shared while you work.

Stories and laughter can be shared while you work.

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Interesting links

Insightful relationship advice

http://dashingpee.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/when-he-needs-space/

Great article on how to stay positive when dealing with negative people

http://www.wikihow.com/Save-Yourself-from-Toxic-People

Swansea audience asks panel about unemployment

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qqql2/Free_Speech_Unemployment_Crisis/

Confidence

After my blog post on the subject I was reading an employer’s perspective on life-modelling. It said they were holding a Women Only session, involving female artists as well as models. It said 13 out of 15 applicants for their job posts were male.

I suggested that perhaps this is because a lot of women aren’t as confident about themselves as men. Certainly I’ve found my female friends to be more self-critical and self-doubting than my male friends.

Then I found this link.

http://news.uk.msn.com/poll-women-less-confident-than-men

Any thoughts?

A blog supporting graduates with their jobsearch

http://journeytoworkdotnet.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/how-to-banish-job-interview-nerves/comment-page-1/#comment-14

Why being single is better/how not to be an annoying couple

http://hommemaker.com/2013/02/07/why-everyone-hates-couples/

Money-saving tips for Valentines

http://blog.ingdirect.com.au/2013/02/08/five-ways-to-save-this-valentines-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2253

Problems chefs have experienced with Valentines diners

http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=6bd31f5a-7a0c-4f82-a5c8-b262bd7490da

A study shows women tend to go for taller men

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-men-and-women-find-a-partner–the-long-and-short-of-it-8454629.html

Tips for jobhunters – this post is on interview nerves

https://blogs.dal.ca/csc/2012/02/13/how-to-calm-interview-nerves/

Why you should apply to private sector work

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2013/statistical-bulletin.html#tab-Public-and-private-sector-employment

Redundancies (also has links to other job market statistics, such as the unemployment rate)

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2013/statistical-bulletin.html#tab-Redundancies

More tips on jobhunting

http://jobmarketmonitor.com/

Graduate interviewing tips

http://blog.whydc4u.com/top-five-interviewing-tips-for-new-or-not-so-new-grads-part-two/

5 Graduate Habits to keep up

http://lifeonabranch.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/5-college-habits-you-should-keep-after-graduation/comment-page-1/#comment-107

Reframing negative thoughts

http://chinupchesthigh.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/new-bottom-line-feelings-and-rules-for-living/

Tips for graduates working in a non-graduate job

http://www.graduatesanonymous.com/work/how-to-sell-your-soul-to-a-mindless-retail-job/

Confessions of a graduate shelf-stacker

http://www.graduatesanonymous.com/work/confessions-shelf-stacker/

Benefit sanctions

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/benefit-sanctions-treble-in-just-two-years-and-theres-far-worse-to-come/

Work and Pensions questions 11.03.13

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rb36q/House_of_Commons_Live_Work_and_Pensions_Questions/

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February 7, 2013 · 11:26 am