Tag Archives: jobs

Interviewing With A Difficult Head

Okay, exciting news! I’ve been invited to interview for an admin post.

Less exciting news! I have absolutely no idea how to interview.

I get the principles of interviewing just fine – go in, be confident, be friendly, don’t ramble, think about answers beforehand. But actually doing this in practice is a completely different kettle of fish, because my head just does not work on interview days.

Thanks for that, brain.

It’s hard to explain, because it isn’t just interview nerves. I can deal with nerves, but I can’t deal with not being able to function. On interview days my anxiety kicks up a gear, because it actually matters that I convince people that I can function, that I’d be able to work for them. It matters that I struggle to get through an interview.  In an interview, I might be trying to ward off a panic attack, where it hurts to breathe and it takes so much energy to keep the panic from spilling over that I can’t really think clearly. I might be so exhausted and so drained from the anxiety-depression that it is hard to be enthusiastic and confident. And it’s particularly hard to cover up the fact that I am not well, because my brain works so differently on my bad days. I end up trying to act out ‘good-day’ me, but that’s hard too, because trying to connect all the different aspects of functioning together is near impossible. I become a parody of myself.

And the other major problem is, how much information do you give potential employers? I do put down anxiety / depression on the equal opportunities forms, but knowing how much to reveal is hard because you don’t want to put employers off. Day-to-day, I know that I am mostly functional…but other people don’t know that. In an average spell, my bad days will just see me be more tired and less enthusiastic than usual. I work more slowly and need more breaks, so while it’s not ideal, I wouldn’t be the worst employee in the world. I certainly work hard the rest of the time to make up for it. But interviews show me at my worst. Employers do ask you to say if you need any special arrangements, but I don’t know what would help, apart from not interviewing! You can’t seriously rock up and explain that the best thing they could do to help is to ignore you and not take your interview seriously.

So it’s particularly problematic since there is no alternative to interviewing, and it’s even tougher because the longer I’m unemployed, the harder it is going to be to get a job. Interviews will become ever more stressful. So I need to interview successfully now. Pressure much?

Job Seekers and Rhetoric

If this is an economic recovery, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

Being young and applying for jobs at the moment is incredibly difficult, regardless of how well-qualified you are or what experience you have: so many other people are looking for jobs too, and there is always someone better than you.

Actually, for me, just finding a job for which I can consider myself is a challenge. Most posts ask for a lot of experience in that field. It’s understandable, but it does make it hard when you are a recent graduate and from a low-income household and from a rural area, because there are few good opportunities around here, and I could never afford to take up internships in London or to travel abroad.

When you do find an entry level job, you immediately are up against absolutely everyone else who is in the same position as you. I recently applied for an admin role with a charity in London. Their work looked really interesting; the people looked really nice. Unfortunately, 819 other people felt the same way. I kid you not.

We all need experience to get a job, but we need a job to get experience.  And getting a job feels impossible when other older people, who do have experience, are also applying for those same posts.¹

However, if you listened to the press and the government, you’d believe this was our fault. We, so the rhetoric goes, are lazy scroungers. If we fail to get a job, if we end up taking out Job Seeker’s Allowance, then it is our fault. We have airs above our station and think that having a degree entitles us to walk into a good role at a workplace.²

The government says the hard-working taxpayer should not have to support people like me.³

Honestly, I have tried to get a job. Lots of times.  And I am still trying. I am applying for literally anything that I think I might have a shot at. This ranges from jobs in the departments back at Oxford, to Christmas jobs, to admin roles, even to a part-time secretarial position at a primary school (and there, neither the hours nor the pay were good). And I’m not on JSA: I still have some savings left, enough for a couple more months, and I want to avoid being subject to all the changes the government are talking about making for as long as possible.

I have good grades, have taken part in lots of extracurricular activities and people say my CV is looking fine.

It’s still not good enough.

This isn’t just happening to me, though I’m writing about my experience because it’s my life at the moment, I can best describe what it’s like. Very few people I know have jobs – at last count, it was 6 out of everyone I have spoken to, and this includes some of the most educated and capable people I have ever met.

I’m grateful for what support there is for the unemployed, because so many people in the world don’t get any help at all. But
seriously, all people like me could get at the moment is £8 a day.⁴ Does anybody really think that we would choose to keep ourselves in a situation like this, where food shopping would be a struggle? And do people really think we’d choose to have nothing to do all day? I do not like being unemployed. It feels like my life is on hold.

I’m not saying that the system of the last few years is right – I really don’t have enough accurate knowledge about it all. However, to me, this rhetoric is concerning. It’s like we’re back in the Victorian times, where people believed that the poor were to blame for the fact they were poor.⁵ Furthermore, the rhetoric that people are deliberately scamming the system to get rich off benefits isn’t even accurate: back in August, the DWP statistics showed that only 0.7% of total benefit expenditure was due to actual benefit fraud.⁶

To me, this rhetoric is dangerous. It doesn’t take into account people’s lives and ability to get jobs, what jobs that they
can accept and what work is available, and it targets those who are already in difficult places. A more subtle and balanced picture is needed. ⁷

¹ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nearly-a-million-under25s-still-unemployed-despite-growth-8935723.html

² See, for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9095050/Iain-Duncan-Smith-its-better-to-be-a-shelf-stacker-than-a-job-snob.html

³ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24369514

⁴ For 16-24 year olds, JSA is £56.80 a week. It also assumes that people don’t get sanctioned and lose their JSA
payments altogether. See http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2013/08/sanctions-welfare-poverty and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24829866 and http://www.theguardian.com/society/the-northerner/2013/apr/18/benefits-cuts-welfare-jobseekers-allowance

⁵ Over 100 years ago, Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree examined poverty in London and York. They concluded that a lot of people were in desperate situations because of unemployment, underemployment or low wages, not because they were lazy. For more information on Booth and Rowntree, see the following: http://csiss.ncgia.ucsb.edu/classics/content/45/ and http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RErowntreeS.htm And for a neat little summary of their conclusions, see this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/higher/history/liberal/motives_lib/revision/1/


⁷ See also, http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2013/02/language-people-poverty
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/29364  http://www.jrf.org.uk/topic/mis  http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2013/01/no-jobs-housing-young-people