It’s true what they say, getting a new job at the moment is proving more difficult than it has been in the past (I’ve been made redundant three times previously, so I’m a fairly resilient cookie). And so I find myself ‘signing on’.
I was dreading this. Friends who had been through this process previously had regaled me with tales of lost paperwork, of claims taking months to go through… and then there were the visits to the Job Centre to contend with. Any place that has to hire more than one member of security to guard what is, in effect, an office has got to be pretty grim, right?
In reality, it’s all worked like clockwork. I completed my claim form online, went for a couple of Job Centre meetings, where the ladies I met with were like kind aunties telling me everything would be OK. I set up my Jobseekers Agreement, confirming that I was looking for marketing work, but that if I didn’t find a suitable marketing opportunity within thirteen-weeks (eek!) I would expand my search. My claim was passed and I’m getting a small amount of money deposited into my bank account every two weeks until I find my next job. It’s not enough to even buy half of our monthly shopping, but after paying into ‘the system’ for over ten years it’s nice to get something back.
That’s the other thing. There does seem to be some sort of stigma surrounding claiming benefits, when in reality… the amount deducted from your salary under the category ‘NI’ (National Insurance) is the very money which is set aside for things like healthcare and benefits. Therefore, if you’ve contributed and genuinely need to claim, then why the hell not?!
I now have to attend the Job Centre every two weeks to ‘sign on’ until I find work. I also have a little workbook which I need to fill in to ensure I’m doing “at least three things a week to find a job”. Er, I’m doing more than three things per day, and have already had to ask for another workbook (once a swot, always a swot).
That’s the one thing I have noticed. The Job Centre do seem to take a softly, softly approach to job hunting. There are some people who strut into the Job Centre with clearly no intention of finding work and they seem to treat them in the same way as myself (so far I’ve attended at least two interviews in each week that I’ve been looking!). There are comfy sofas, and well everything is very, er nice. Now whilst the vast majority of people there would rather be doing the nine-to-five, over the fortnightly trips to the Job Centre. You can’t help but feel there’s a contingent who would benefit from some ‘tough love’.
The Job Centre clearly also have no idea how to help anyone whose job comes under the category of ‘professional’. When I mention I work in marketing, their eyes glaze over. I think I would get more support if I were a lorry driver. But hey ho. I’m not one to rest on my laurels so I’m being pretty proactive with the old job hunt.
Fingers crossed I won’t be signing on for much longer. Shame really. The Job Centre is a great place to people watch.