Published 14/06/2013 on GoThinkBig
As a jobless hack I’m my own boss, and a bad one. I don’t give feedback. I’m lax about time and dress code. I’m not totally clueless – I spot problems in the day-to-day running of Jobless Me, but my disciplinary system is sighing, calling myself an asshole and taking no further action.
These five jobseeker habits in particular have got to go, and if anyone has any ideas on how to stop it (something a bit more constructive than: “just stop it”, if possible), I’d be incredibly grateful.
Thanks, pyjama’d people. I can always count on you.
1) Watching sitcom reruns with canned laughter
I’m not denouncing the established but admittedly out-dated brilliance of Friends, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond’s Opening Credits Music But Not Much Else About Him.
But I wish I’d just switch them off. Even as I write this, Frasier’s on a date with someone who looks like his mother. They’re dropping so many Freud jokes I think I need a cigar.
Also, I just did a little test (during the ad break). How many words can you type a minute, budding writers? Well, I can type 60. Which means every tired 22-minute rerun costs me 1,300 words. So watching two episodes a day costs me approximately 13,000 words a week. By Christmas I’ll have lost my third novel.
2) Working on my bed
Working on your bed is a wretched idea. It’s like having that third glass of wine, or sending your dad hate mail – I know it’s bad but I just can’t stop.
I have a lovely desk. It has four legs and a coffee machine on it. It faces a wall of uplifting pictures, cuttings of witty columns and a list of people who’ve wronged me. All with a soft leather swivel chair. It’s a divine workspace. So why do I crank out application after application, crumpled and dishevelled (me, not the applications) on my bed?
The brain makes associations, whether you agree with them or not. Whenever you see fireworks you think: bang, fun, celebration. Whenever you see a cool job ad you think: hope, rejection, pallet of cookies. Working on your bed creates an association of graft, stress and concentration in a place of rest, relaxation and unconsciousness.
Next stop: insomnia. I tried stuffing my pillow with lavender to aromatherapise myself to sleep, but the leaves dried up and crackled loudly under my face. Someone recommended an app where a Scot tells you you’re getting sleepy, which kept me awake because I hate being lied to. I asked a medic friend to prescribe me something in the ‘-azapam’ family. He said, “Just put lavender in your pillow”.
I now sleep at my desk.
3) Applying for jobs I’m only kinda sorta right for
The days of getting a job you’re only kinda sorta right for are over. One of the effects of a job market where applicants outnumber minutes in the day is that even being perfect for a job isn’t quite enough. The candidate who lands it is often too good for it – a would-be staff writer lands editorial assistant. A would-be editorial assistant has to charm her way into an intern position.
And yet every time I see a job I’m kinda sorta right for, I spend untold hours on a covering letter, outlining just how kinda sorta right for it I am. Oh, you won’t get another applicant more kinda sorta right for it than me, employers, please invite me in for an interview so I can make you say “meh”.
4) Staying inside
I discovered the most amazing place, jobseekers – it’s called “outside”. You must go. I’d heard about it before, but people described it as freezing cold and snowy. Lies! Outside is a lovely warm place with sandals and leafiness and ice melting into the foam of frappe dregs. Honestly, one bad review in the Guardian…
5) Pretending to be on the phone
Sometimes you just need to feel employed. It’s an esteem thing. That’s why your, ahem, “freelance” friends babble like hyenas about the one assignment they’ve scored all year. It’s nice not to feel like your only use on earth is feeding ants from the donut glaze you couldn’t be bothered to wipe off your arm.
Still, perhaps pretending to be on the phone to an office (from which I am always mysteriously absent) might be taking it a bit far.
I’m not the only one. You see it everywhere – many people even go to the lengths of buying a pantsuit, getting bags under their eyes and travelling at rush hour. The most committed ones actually beep their way into real offices, no doubt with a stolen fob. It’s a good ploy – nothing gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling like not being escorted from the premises. But when you’re hiding in the toilets from your former boss in case she a) actually recognises you, and b) asks you with pity-filled eyes to hand over the fob to the new intern and leave…yeah. You’ve got to wonder where it all went wrong.
So I’m going to stop doing it now. I got a bit too into it this week. It started off innocently enough, just a simple, “Yes, absolutely, I’ll get that article to you by Friday.” But within 5 minutes I’d made myself the editor and was barking, “No, we’re not running that this month, it’ll clash with the Sexiest Backpackers feature.”
Then I heard, “The next station is Tottenham Court Road, change here for the central line…”
That was close. I almost looked like an idiot.