I wrote this draft post in 2009, when I was first unemployed (I went on to do a maternity cover job in 2010), but decided against publishing it at the time. Having re-read it now, I feel it is a story worth sharing.
Amidst all the aggravation I have been experienced at the JobCentre, I must admit I was very lucky to have been allocated a friendly young lady as my personal adviser. I know nothing personal about her, I don’t even remember her name anymore – JobCentres are not exactly conducive to sociability – except she was probably Scottish because of her accent.
Visits to the JobCentre for “signing on” seldom last longer than 90 seconds from the time your name is called to the time you leave, but today she asked me how my interviews had been going.
In the past three weeks I had had one interview a week, all proudly reported in writing on my JobCentre “book”. You would think they don’t really read anything you write down, wouldn’t you, but this lady more than once showed evidence she actually did.
I wad pleased she asked.
Not that I had any good news to report: only the day before, I had been rejected after a first interview and had had a little cry, as it was a job I had been extremely keen on.
But the fact that I had been making so much effort to find work and someone was actually showing interest felt like a drop of water in my personal emotional desert. It meant the difference between dealing with a human and dealing with an automaton.
I told her I was going to another interview that same afternoon and was crossing my fingers that would finally be it. To which she responded:
“So hopefully we won’t see you in the near future.”
Her comment made me preposterously happy. Under different circumstances I would have taken those words with a massive pinch of salt (after all, this is the JobCentre, not some motivational clinic), but I knew she wasn’t a cynic –she did mean it kindly.
The situation reminded me of Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike. In his autobiography, the cyclist describes his awe-inspiring battle with testicular cancer. During his aggressive treatment, with drug cocktails poisonous enough to kill an elephant being pumped into his body, Armstrong is touched when his chemotherapist tells him, ‘I hope I never see your face again.’ The passage had made me cry.
I do not feel it is fair to compare the work of JobCentre staff to that of a cancer specialist, but both their jobs, which are meant to help the client/patient, are also bound to make you feel ill before you feel better.
Unemployment nearly killed me too. If I could have only one wish to a genie in the bottle right now, it would be for just one day when I didn’t once have to think about looking for or applying for jobs, spending hours perfecting cover letters, only to be rejected or never hear back from the employers.
Try doing the above non-stop for 365 days and staying sane.
I only saw my nice adviser lady once more after that; then, to my disappointment, a new adviser came on board. Whether she left her job or was transferred to a different Centre I will never know.
Wherever she went to, she will probably be making other people smile.
Thank you, my little Scottish adviser lady. Thank you.