My Week in Joblessness (7): Ok, I admit it, I’m JK Rowling [GoThinkBig column]

Published 19/07/2013 on GoThinkBig

My Week in Joblessness sticky-2

Well, not really, but if that rumour starts I’m fine with it. This week, Rowling has been splashed across the news for writing a critically acclaimed novel under a pseudonym [insert wizard pun here, because don’t forget, she wrote Harry Potter].

Damn her. What was she playing at, writing under the name Robert Galbraith? Now The Cuckoo’s Calling has been rave reviewed on the merit of its writing alone, with dozens of missed opportunities to slip in tired references to Harry Potter (you remember – those wizard books she wrote? Yeah, she wrote those. Don’t forget).

The joy of anonymity

After the cat was let out of the bag (cats, like WIZARDS have!), Rowling fessed up with the most revealing of explanations: “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.”

Of course it’s pure pleasure – she got feedback on merit alone. People like JK Rowling don’t get that.

Every novelist panics that that they’re a one-hit wonder, that they’ve quickly plundered the entire depths of their potential. And every reviewer salivates at the prospect of declaring it.

If you are JK Rowling, being JK Rowling is always a factor in how you’re reviewed. How thigh-slappingly marvellous that she found a way to NOT be herself just long enough to get the acclaim she deserves. I applaud like a demented seal the fact that even the reviews themselves are better-written for her anonymity – reviews of “the new JK Rowling book” would all have been distorted with backup singers squealing “REMEMBER HARRY POTTER?…ooh ooh ooh…REMEMBER HARRY POTTER?”

I’m anonymous too…for less cool reasons

I completely understand the lure of anonymity, but I’ve chosen to hide my identity for the opposite reason that Rowling has. She hid because everyone in the world would want to know what she’s drafting, thinking, doing, having for breakfast.

I’m anonymous because no one gives a shaved bollock who I am.

No one on earth is interested in MY job hunt, how I feel about the constant humiliation of a silent phone and a quiet inbox, or the fact that it seems no one thinks what I can offer is worth £20,000 of their budget. People are interested in their job hunt, the job hunt of the shafted generation as a whole. Nobody cares who I am, so by not telling you I like to think I’m doing you a courtesy.

It also gives me the freedom to stand up and say “Good morning, world! Guess what I am? A loser! A dejected, jobless, totally-devoid-of-hope loser! Let’s have a giggle at that.”

If there were a name, a face, an age and a favourite type of scone attached to that voice, I’d have to deal with all sorts of abuse – the worst type being sympathy. “Of course you’re not a loser!” they’d say, with the tilted head of the sympathetic-yet-smug winner-at-life, “It’s a difficult time for everyone…” until I shove my scone up their nostrils and growl, “I am TRYING to laugh about this so I don’t melt into the floor, ok?”

Or worse, they might agree, which would make me cry into my scone (they’re very absorbent and it gives them an intriguing flavour, a potent mixture of salt and self-pity. Like pork scratchings.)

You’re anonymous too, jobseekers…for less fair reasons

If you’re a jobseeker, my anonymity reflects yours. To The Employers, the buyers in a buyer’s market, we’re all anonymous. We are nothing more than the CV they glance at; how, with our skillset, we might be able to help them. If we can’t, because we’re underqualified, overqualified, too young, too old or too fat, many of them see absolutely no reason why two minutes of their day should be spent letting us know.

Keeping my name a secret feels quite liberating, almost empowering – you can’t ignore or forget my name, Employers, because you don’t know it. Ha. I win.

But other jobseekers aren’t winning. In fact, some are taking on pseudonyms just to get a response. Liberia-born Max Kpakio applied for a job at a Virgin Atlantic call centre earlier this year and was rejected. When he reapplied with a simplified version of his CV under the name ‘Craig Owen’, he wasn’t just called for interview – he was called immediately. When he ignored them, they CHASED him – “seven or eight times”.

Max didn’t feel the “pure pleasure” JK Rowling got from her pseudonym, he felt hurt, rejected and at the arse-end of justice.

Women, in particular, have been advised to “whiten” their names in an attempt to get interviews. Late last year the BBC brought infuriating accounts of women having to either change their names from “ethnic” to something Enid Blyton-esque, or deal with being questioned about their “intentions regarding marriage and children”.

You know, my uncle can vomit on demand. I wish all of those women could employ that skill for just such an occasion, where only spontaneous vomiting can really capture the mood. Or, while I’m wishing for stuff, I may as well wish that these women – typically black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi – didn’t have to invoke pseudonyms to get around prejudice in an environment where merit is supposed to be what’s important.

And that’s really what we’re ALL after – to be judged on merit alone. JK Rowling just wants to write stories, without Harry-hype and endless speculation from people who really, really need to find something new to read. I just want to write about this ridiculous, horrible situation our generation is in, without having my own job hunt compromised by the admission that I’m unemployed. And the youth of today just want to work, to be assessed on what they can do rather than the melanin levels in their skin, or whether they’ll ever put their uterus to use.

And until they grant us this reasonable wish, I propose we all apply for jobs under the name Robert Galbraith. GoThinkBig

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