This is How to Be Jobless reporting back to the jobless trenches, do you read me? Jobless soldiers, do you read me? Over.
I’m reporting from The Other Trench. I have infiltrated the Guardian disguised as one of The Employed. In fact, technically I am one of The Employed, which I keep forgetting. Today I dashed up the stairs in a crouching tip-toe, imagining I was dressed as a ninja and therefore completely invisible. I wish I’d remembered I was actually invited to work there and was wearing a pantsuit before I tip-toed right into someone, exactly the way a ninja would not. Now that person always smiles and says hi to me, presumably to secure themselves some mercy for the day they think I’ll go mad with a gun.
This is where I am, after all the celebrations and congratulations of the “I got the job at the Guardian!” happy ending. Crumpled in a heap on the stairs, apologising profusely to someone who made it here before me.
The “what happened next?” series – it’s always risky, like finding out how Cinderella’s marriage is going. Surely the answer could only make you jealous or VERY bored. Unless the person you’re reading about falls on the stairs a lot, or you’re my Nan, who said, “Hmpf. Why young people want careers instead of marriage I’ll never know.”
Still, thanks for coming along for the ride. This is a good a time as any to outline…
My diabolical scheme
I have an ulterior motive for doing this 12-month digital journalism scheme. Yes, I want to gain experience at a respected news brand. Yes, I want to meet and befriend the people who’ve built the only newspaper I never want to throw across the room. Of course I want to become so brilliant at digital that I make the most dastardly of computer geeks quiver in their Converse. But I want something else. Something I’ve wanted for a while. Something a million young people and a squillion grad scheme candidates want.
I want a goddamn job.
Seriously, sod the 12-month contract, tie me to a stairwell. I’m not leaving. It’s nice here. The rumours are true – the Employed have got it made. They don’t respond to emails the second they get them, because confirming registration to a website that will just sell their details to insurance and porn sites is not the most pressing thing on their ‘To Do’ list. They have a bloody ‘To Do’ list! EACH! They have Netflix, but it’s the tomato sauce on their lives, not the tart and watery main course. They have shoes. Not thick socks they use to slide to the fridge like Ferris Bueller – SHOE shoes.
My evil plan: to stick around. I will be saving a percentage of my paycheck every month in case I’m out on my arse again in a year – not to get me through the winter of another stint of unemployment, but to take the entire London corps of the Pyjarmy out for a very big drink.
Jobless at heart
The transition between joblessness and work is harder than you might think. But contrary to speculation by people who’ve never done a day’s jobseeking in their life, it’s not because you’re suddenly expected to work all day. Forty hours a week in an office is immeasurably easier than jobseeking. You have set hours, days off, holiday, you can pay your rent, you have a better chance of getting to sleep at night and no one calls you lazy or accuses you of “not wanting it enough”. The idea that jobseekers have lots of free time and rest is as insensitive as it is untrue.
Here’s what IS more difficult when you find work:
Waking up unnaturally
Before you go to sleep you have to set an alarm. It’s a peculiar thing to have to do to yourself. You programme a device to upset you in eight hours. You schedule yourself some annoyance. When I was unemployed, I let myself wake up naturally as that was the single, solitary perk of a pensionless, holidayless, esteemless existence. Now, every time I’m jerked awake by the obnoxious trill of my jobsworth alarm, I think “this pension shit had better be worth it”.
I forgot there’s a meal in the middle of the day. I never bothered with the pomp and circumstance of getting myself a plate and putting a selection of balanced nutrients on it. Who am I, Gordon Ramsay? I just grazed at random intervals until I could strike “hungry – sadface” from my list of problems for the day.
I’m no longer sure what constitutes a proper amount of food. I’m serious. My first week I was hungry before, during and after lunch because apparently some salad leaves, four chunks of marinated aubergine and a few grapes isn’t a lunch so much as something a foraging squirrel might find in a bin, and say the squirrel equivalent of “Score!” Lesson learned. Quite an embarrassing lesson to have to learn in your twenties, but at least I tell large numbers of strangers.
There are so many humans in London, and every morning you have to leave the only place you can avoid them. And this rush hour fad has got to end. It’s not safe. One half-decent plague and we’re all screwed. Today was particularly brutal – I was so squashed on the tube I almost made eye contact with a man next to me. Even more people crowded on and now I think we might be married. (So pipe down, Nan.)
Anyway, to sum up: hello again, I have a job now, I’ll be trying not to balls it up for the next year, this is where you can read about it, and hopefully pick up some tips for your own grad schemes.
This is How to Be Jobless, over and out.