Sign here please.

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Well my first signing on day has arrived. It’s a beautiful summers day as I trip gaily down the road clutching my little plastic folder. It’s about a half hour walk into town to the Job Centre from my little house, and there are worse ways to be spending the afternoon.

I arrive 10 minutes early. I really don’t want to hang around in there so I cross the road and sit on a low wall and try not to look like someone on benefits waiting to go and sign on. Why is this embarrassing? There are now well over two million unemployed in Gordons “no more boom and bust” economic train wreck, I’m hardly alone in this. Non the less this is new territory to me and I’m really not relishing the prospect.

The plastic hands of my cheap quartz watch creep agonisingly slowly around the dial. I’d switched watches before I left the house, somehow it felt wrong to stroll into the job centre to sign on wearing a watch that now equated to my total annual income so the Omega automatic had been swapped for a Swatch before I left home.

At the allotted hour I cross the road again and can’t help glancing left and right before ducking through the entrance like it was some seedy sex shop.

Inside it’s the same hubbub of activity it had been previously, the desks down either side a hive of activity, my despondent colleagues huddled in the holding pen in the centre. No one speaks to each other and I take my seat as instructed, looking fixedly ahead and forlornly holding out my little plastic wallet in the manner of a short man waving a fiver in an attempt to get served in a busy bar, hoping that someone would deal with me soon.

Eventually it’s taken from me, and ten minutes later my name is called by a middle aged woman behind a desk to my right.

I sit in front of her trying not to begrudge her her job and her income as she queries my job hunting efforts so far. I know they’re obliged to check, but what on earth does she think I’ve been doing if not searching for work? She prods a few keys on her computer keyboard running through the job centre website to see if there was anything appropriate. Already been there luv, nothing doing.

With a wan smile she asks me to sign and returns the little plastic wallet. There’s a “same time in a fortnight” reminder and I’m out of there and back into the sunshine and sounds of the real world.

On reflection it was a relatively painless 20 minutes. Pointless, but painless.

I really need to get a job.

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One Response to “Sign here please.”

  1. Colonel Panic Says:

    An ex girlfriend of mine worked in a job cenbtre for a while and I can confirm that it is a bitterly thankless task. To make matters worse, they will be hopelessly overstretched right now and looking to expand to more floors if their office even has them.

    I’ve always been polite and respectful to them and they’ve always been chatty, respectful and polite back. They really do despise the dossers (you’ll see them) who have no interest in getting off benefits. One thing that you shouldn’t do is say that you’re not going to apply for a job because its outside your sphere of expertise. Practically speaking you’re trying to get back into your industry doing something that utilizes your experience. However they’re just looking to get you off their books ASAP.

    Some hints. You can get free travel (in the form of a rail warrant) to interviews. You have to take all the details in beforehand and they will approve the travel, issue the warrant which you exhange for a ticket at the station. They won’t contact the employer beforehand unless they think you’re lying – and if you treated the staff with respect and were polite, that’ll help your case for getting back travel expenses.

    Also, chat with the staff – they have around 4 minutes per person so use it – for their benefit as much as yours. Ask them about their work environment and whether their numbers are increasing – they’ll be glad you took the interest.

    And remember this really is the worst recession since some time before the war. There are architects and lawyers sitting at home right now eating soup for lunch.

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