What I wanted to write about is about all the ways the job search and the job market is annoying, as it appears to me as a 20-something almost-nobody who ~kinda~ knows what they want and has had ~some~ jobs, who isn’t the 30 year old Forbes-reading frustrated professional who desperately wants to make it in the world of sales who seems to exist in all job help blogs ever.
This is a list instead from the kind of job-seeker who seems essentially invisible in the world of job-blogs and advice blogs. I don’t promise it will be helpful, or that all of it will be entirely true or accurate outside of my own opinion, but I hope it’s a little relatable, and at least I can feel vindicated in releasing my frustrations and probably-jealous assumptions onto the world!
A list of totally-true facts about the job-search and the job-market as seen by me:
- Companies do not care how long they make you wait.
To a huge company, you are just another name on a page, it doesn’t matter when you need to be working by, what matters is first and foremost what pace the company wants to work at. In retail at Christmas time, they’ll have you working within the week, in other jobs, the wait between interviews and training dates and paperwork can seem like an age…to you.
- People do not work that hard once they are in the company you desperately want to be part of; no one does!
It’s a common part of work culture to see how much slacking you can get away with, and even people who mean well normally cut a few corners, because it’s expected and built in, some things will always be at the bottom of the pile. Normally this include things like paperwork and recruitment checks, which is great for people still stuck at stage one!
- On the other hand, some people work way too hard, and it’s unhealthy.
At every job, there will be someone who can’t let a single detail go un-scrutinised, who will take all the over-time going, who knows everything and will help with anything, no matter how ragged they are run. Whether it’s because of the punishing nature of capitalism and they desperately need the job, or a psychological defence mechanism against feelings of inadequacy and shame, they are not as great to work with as you would think. Not only will their excessively high standards wear themselves down and make them irritable and impatient, but they will also wear you down, and make you feel even less motivated to do your job. This can create a super-imbalanced workplace, with wildly varied productivity rates depending on what mix of staff are in.
- The qualifications and the pay for the job mean almost nothing once you’re there.
I’ve met social workers and psychiatrists who have slack more than support workers, support workers who slack more than those social workers, and retail workers who aren’t allowed a moments rest. “Slacking” is obviously a subjective term, and no one who is working and doing a good job could really entirely said be slacking, but it does sting when you know this laid back and chatty individual is being paid 8 times as much as you per hour, regardless of how hard they are currently working.
- Climbing a career path is a lot about luck.
You’ve got to be lucky in the first place to realise what you want to work in. Some people never really get the chance, they are so pushed to succeed that no one checks what direction that should be in; beyond superficial questions about pay-expectations and what they are gifted at doing. Next, you’ve got to either have connections, or be confident enough to be able to make connections, or get hugely lucky in the job-application process gamble, to find a way in through the door. Then, you have to have the confidence to apply for increasingly responsible positions, or the resources (borrowed or earned) to take training to get to the next step. The people who manage all of this without the support of parents or well-connected friends deserve far more respect than they are currently given, because this lottery is often glossed over in favour of the job title we have at any given time, irrespective of how or when it was earned. This also leads into…
- Age matters.
Age shouldn’t be a factor, but it often is. Many applications ask for full employment histories (even though this confidential information may not be relevant to the job at hand), assuming a life-time of work and jobs that alienates school leavers and young people. Not only that, but often people will hire younger or older based on the job; I won’t lie here, this one is based entirely on personal experience, but when was the last time you met a new hire in retail who wasn’t a teenager? It’s not just teenagers who want or who hold part time jobs, but the flow of new starters in retail seems biased to shiny-young girls and boys, and by contrast, more responsible jobs often feel intimidating without the years of experience that most other jobs demand
- Minimum wage = minimum respect
From pot-washing to hospital-portering to support-work to retail, many jobs fall under the ring of “minimum wage”, with some employers paying more whilst their advertising proudly proclaims that an extra 50p per hour counts as “highly competitive” in this world. Many minimum wage jobs do not care about your hourly break or even giving you a clear finishing time, let alone whether they will pay for the overtime or not, leaving workers to clean kitchens or shops on a needlessly stressful deadline at the end of their shift. Other fun practices of the minimum-wage gang are to be unrealistic about how much creature comfort a lowly worker could need, and make sure none of those are subsequently provided, e.g meals/vending machines, reasonable working temperatures, chairs, etc. And good luck if you think you’re going to get a rota! Many employers don’t prepare rotas far in advance, or they use your “flexible” contract to change your hours weekly so you don’t know where you stand, and then expect you to step in at a moments notice! And of course, most of them want you to work any hours, night, holidays, weekends, evenings, because the concept of office-hours and weekends only really exists for people better than us lowly-minimum wage maggots. Of course, sometimes it will be better than this. But for a minimum wage packet, it’s a high gamble to take.
- Retail is the harshest job.
Even though all minimum wage work is universally accepted to be pretty terrible, it’s not all created equal; retail is exceptionally harsh And I specifically use the word “harsh”, not “hard” or “difficult” or even “challenging”, because in retail you are uniquely on display, and subsequently you have unusually high standards required of you. You may get the same formal breaks as any job legally requires, but you don’t have any personal freedom whilst you are on the shop floor, to a trivial and impossible level: many staff are not allowed water during their shifts on floor. This extends to the freedom to sit, or otherwise appear relaxed, or chat with a co-worker. I’m not arguing that people should have to rouse their retail employee from loungers in order to get some service, but a certain amount of reasonableness from employers seems to have carefully avoided shop-floor managers, who expect 6 hour shifts without breaks to also go without any of the sitting, eating, chatting and human functions that melt seamlessly into other, non-retail, office-based jobs. The aforementioned social workers would be horrified if suddenly whipped into this special type of hell, but it’s often not acknowledge that the hardest part of retail is the level of boredom and discomfort that is almost purposefully built-into the job to keep you hating your life.
- It can often feel impossible to get into a job field
From stay-at-home mothers who don’t have recent job experience to people who have been mentally unwell and unemployed for years, the job market seems designed to keep people out of it. Despite the fact that enthusiastic and hard working people can exist in any demographic (even if rusty or untrained) job application forms are clearly designed with a certain kind of person in mind; the kind of person with two or more recent employers who they can give as character referees, for example. Whilst these are sensible sounding measures to keep the wrong kind of people out of your hiring process, it’s also a great way to make people who aren’t employed feel useless, embarrassed, and chronically incompatible with the world of work. Unless companies actively decide to court a more varied audience, anti-discrimination laws alone do not do the job of making applications any less hostile.
To conclude, and to (sort of) stop whining at last
One company that had a very nice application process and I promise I’m not #Spon here, was Scope, because the application allowed for leaving sections such as employment history blank, with explanatory notes along the way saying “It’s okay if you don’t put any information here, but it might help us get to know your experience a little better”, or something like that. As an applicant, it makes you feel a lot better, and on a more even keel with your prospective employer, because it shows a modicum of respect and decency, even though you are a lowly job-seeker. It really stuck out to me, and that in itself is pretty tragic I think.
Job seeking is a difficult job for any of us, even if we enjoy the game, finding the right jobs and using the right keywords, knowing what we want and making sure we match up and we follow all the right processes, it’s still tinged constantly with tones of disrespect, and even contempt, for us as workers.
This contempt follows us into the world of work and at some times, feels like it’s not even worth it, considering the jungle that we’re competing to get into; the reality once you are in a job is that it is ruled by competing egos and conflicting duties and unspoken expectations, rather than the pure utopian purpose that pulled you in during your job search. A lot of my own bitterness is in realising that people are still people, no matter what job they are doing, and not everyone is playing to the same standards. I’ve concluded that the best we can do is keep working at our own purposes both now and in the future.
In the meantime, might as well work hard on being that coveted “great team player”; for your own sake, let alone anyone else’s, because it will make each day more enjoyable, easier, and god knows the damaged and motley crew that make up the mass of “the working people” needs a little bit of help and respect.