Georgia Leaker was offered eight jobs after having a “public whinge” about the Gen Y job situation in The Sydney Morning Herald…
I am one of the nearly one in five people under the age of 25 who are unemployed in Australia.
I’m 24 years old, have two university degrees and have been on Centrelink payments for six months. I am classed as a job-seeker and having just reached my six-month threshold, I have to undertake a skills test that Centrelink believes will help me gain employment.
While at university, I juggled three casual jobs, self-funded a university exchange to the US and worked for a congressman. After graduation, I continued my part-time retail job while undertaking several internships before securing my first career job eight months later. I was hired as a journalist-production assistant at a small company. Eighty per cent of my job involved being a personal assistant and office administration work. (The boss’ son called me “shitkicker” to my face, regularly.)
I was made redundant after 10 months, and sought help from Centrelink for the first time. I did two more internships (both of which I had to fight to get), hoping that my previous experience might land me a job.
During one internship someone in middle management wanted to hire me because I was skilled, and she was sick of having endless interns. But the boss said no, because “interns are free and employees cost money”. I terminated my internship there immediately.
My writing portfolio is impressive for someone my age. I have had articles published in several national and local publications.
Centrelink gives me $563 a fortnight. The rent I pay for a shoebox room is $500 a fortnight (that’s cheap for Sydney), leaving me with $63 for bills, weekly expenses such as food and public transport, and maybe a little fun. I usually pocket an extra $60 a fortnight from nannying, which I declare to Centrelink. This falls under the minimum earnings without penalties.
I haven’t just sat on the couch. I have been actively looking for work – and not just because I’m told to by Centrelink. I want a job, preferably a job that is related to my training. But I’m not a slacker and I’m not fussy.
I’ve applied for retail, administration and full-time nannying jobs, and I am qualified for all of them. (Although the retail industry won’t hire me because I’m ”too expensive”.) I have also regularly applied for rural and interstate jobs.
In the past six months, despite the hundreds of job applications I’ve sent, I’ve had only four interviews. Two were retail and they chose younger, cheaper applicants. The other two offered pay packets under minimum wage. I didn’t get any of them.
I keep my portfolio up to date by undertaking freelance work – but I haven’t been paid for any of it. I often get free tickets or a meal for my work, and editors always tell me how important the exposure is, but there are only so many times you can work for movie tickets or ”exposure” when you’re living on the poverty line. Everyone from giant mastheads to small, independent publications think it’s OK to take my work for free.
When Mia Freedman, who I’ve always admired, was my age, she was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. My couch has a bum imprint because I’ve been unemployed for six months. Freedman was afforded lots of opportunities and during her internship, someone took a chance on her. She now runs a successful website, but she has publicly stated she doesn’t pay, nor feel the need to pay, most of her contributors. She’s not alone; many successful people aren’t making the entry-level opportunities that they were afforded available to the next generation.
The system seems rigged against recent graduates and entry-level jobs are rare. Almost every media job wants someone with “at least five years experience”. No one wants to spend the time training the next generation, and many companies would rather have an endless stream of interns to fill the gaps. This situation isn’t unique to media jobs, either. Many of my friends, who have all sorts of qualifications, are also unemployed.
I’m sick of being told that I’m lazy and mooching off the system. I don’t want to be thought of as a hopeless case by Centrelink. I don’t want to spend my week alone, on the couch, watching daytime TV.
Some 17.7 per cent of people under the age of 24 are unemployed. Most of us are educated or skilled in some way and most don’t want to be dole bludgers. We’re just down on our luck and doing everything in our power to get a door – any door – opened.
Take a chance on me and my generation. Help take the burden off the welfare system and ensure that we contribute to the future of our nation.
Gen Y aren’t useless, but we sure feel like we are.