It’s truly awful not to be able to get a job if you want one. Nor is it too good to spend your life doing a job you hate. Somewhere between these two poles is perfection, ie. Getting paid for doing something you love. Choice seems to be the important factor. I spent some of my life doing truly terrible jobs and some of it on the dole. I was far happier on the dole because I was always writing and for a while performing with punk bands. I never had any problem filling my time and was never bored. But I was poor. I lived in a squat for a while which helped me survive, and then I cashed in my insurance from my more provident days and got a mortgage by working for an entire year on nights at Fords factory in the canteen.
This job was a nightmare of noise and idiocy and like most of my jobs it was the people I had to work with that were the problem. I noticed that perfectly decent men became savage ‘Jack the lads’ when more than three were gathered together and felt compelled to flirt and bate me. I was at the height of my feminist phase at this time, it was my new toy and I felt I must spread the word – regardless of faces glazing over I felt compelled to dogmatise. I can quite see now that I was a prize bore even though I am still delighted to be a feminist I have mercifully learned not to proselytise, not so much anyway.
So what has this got to do with the young job searcher? I hear you ask – those who are still with me. I quite understand that after being processed into thinking that after years at uni you will make it all worthwhile – even the loan – by getting a plum job and ending up with a raspberry – you are peeved. It does occur to me that this near universal higher education could simply be a way of keeping the unemployment figures down? But now here you are: jobless and in debt with the choices of learning to love poverty, taking up crime (an oversubscribed option) or aiming to become a banker (an unrealistic aim unless you have a daddy in the city) you are at a loss. So what do you do?
In the saucy sixties it was possible to leave a job and get a new one the next day, this sounds like a myth but is true. In fact I lived with three artists and we each worked for a day a week and were able to live on this. There were always people who preferred not to work and tales of mates who offered their services as a shepherd in central London and found themselves slaving over a hot fleece in Hyde Park were legion and never proven. I also remember that as late as the seventies men would go down to the docks each morning with the hope of being taken on for a day’s work and getting turned away. I also remember the dole queues I stood in that went on forever.
So I realise that being unable to find any work is pretty bad. I was fortunate enough that the Enterprise allowance was around then and one thing led to another and from being a pretty enthusiastic ‘social security scrounger’, which is how I described myself in those days at parties, I became a worker. I think that what I am saying is: Don’t let the bastards grind you down, don’t let em make you feel bad about being unemployed and don’t get too uppity when and if you do make the breakthrough.
Some of the most ‘Successful’ people I have know have never had a job in their lives and some of the hardest working have been the industrious skivers who put in a sixty hour week avoiding ‘work’. And some of the most miserable were those well paid guys at Fords. Sound corny I know but liking yourself and not identifying yourself by what you DO is the secret of a satisfying trip through life – but don’t take my word for it!