The Art of Being Unemployed

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Words By Francis Hadid.
I grew up with two conflicting messages: ‘do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’ and ‘working is so bad, you get paid to do it’. And although they both followed me around like a Japanese death god, I feared the latter and vowed to a life of leisure. To me, that meant and still means low expectation academic pursuits and lazy afternoons under the sun. Then, I turned twenty-five and suddenly money, doubt and fear became the dominating theme to my existence. Am I gonna have a cubicle? What if the manager slaps my bum? Are they gonna ask me to sign Sharon’s birthday card? How does one respite when wearing the shackles of employment? I hadn’t yet started the job hunt and was already panicking. ‘Job hunt’ seems like the appropriate term because that’s exactly how it felt. I was a huntress, tip toeing through the forest of jobs, trying to catch a rare, feeble, beady eyed prey. What I didn’t know: it hadn’t been open season for a while; the forest was closed; I wasn’t the only hunter around, and my days of youth retirement were about to begin. I was unemployed.

I wouldn’t be a total crybaby if I said that unemployment made me question everything from my life’s choices to that tattoo I got in 1998. I often felt worthless, adrift. So, I cheered myself up with these fun facts (I’m sure they’ll do the same to you, because after all, we’re all being tossed in this giant salad like yesterday’s kale). In April 2013, the festive people of The Economist reported that nearly 300 million youths, aged 15 to 24 were unemployed. Now, according to The Australian Bureau of Statistics – another lively pack – 16.4 percent of the Australian youth is unemployed and the number of jobs has dropped by 31,000 since November 2011. In case you need a pick me up after that load, countries like Spain have a youth unemployment rate of about 50 percent. Say what?! On top of that, reports I haven’t read confirm that 1 in 4 women in their early twenties are either not employed or not in training. Yes, the convention seems to be that education is the key to employment. Excuse me if I get a little distressed, but education has been coming across like another product of the capitalist food chain, and if the words ‘student loans’ don’t support my statement, I don’t know what will.

At 14, long before I was this sour, I landed my first paid job at my dad’s shawarma stand. My goals were simple: stay behind the cash register, charge patrons correctly and wish them a nice day. That’s it. Aside from a few internships here and there, all the other jobs that followed haven’t been that different, even after drinking the Kool Aid and graduating University twice. I’ve worked as a kitchen hand, telemarketer, sales representative, sales assistant, waitress, babysitter, nanny and possibly one of my favourites: mascot. That one involves dressing up like a brand’s mascot or a beloved children’s character and letting people take pictures with you. It’s a hoot and the money is juicy. As you can see I’ve managed to support myself by doing things nowhere near related to my pretentious arts and media field of study. Look, that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried, I really have, I’ve done the search, I’ve written cover letters, I’ve shuffled and reshuffled my resume, and on rare occasions, I even get to put on my best neutral, non intimidating (and cool) interview outfit. I just haven’t gone further than that. Sometimes, I wonder, what’s on the other side? Do they have snack rooms? How about a ping-pong table? I bet they exchange presents during the Holiday season.

Thank you so much for the application you submitted for the JOB YOURE NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN, BUT IS SORT OF RELATED TO WHAT YOU ACTUALLY DO we recently advertised. As you might expect, we were thoroughly overwhelmed by the response and the quality of submissions was exceptionally high. We regret to inform, however, that your application has been unsuccessful this time. Thanks again for your interest in working for COMPANY NAME THAT SOUNDS FUN AND HIP, BUT WAS ACTUALLY FOUNDED BY A STUCK UP DICKFACE and we sincerely wish you all the best with your future endeavours in the SELECTED, POSSIBLY DYING industry.

There was one time I got super close, the position: fact checker. This sounded, you know, like something I could do. I check facts all the time, how hard could it be? I confidently applied and was invited to do an interview. The advertisement was quite vague, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It did mention they needed journalists and media professionals of some sort to check facts for a group of publications. Sweet! I arrived at the interview and was shocked by the amount of people outside the office, all waiting to go in. Their faces, man, they were hunters indeed, ready to shoot. Did I mention it was a Saturday morning? The whole thing was so bizarre; we were given numbers and split into groups to be evaluated. If you haven’t been to a group interview before, it is like the job interview equivalent of a gang bang. And if you don’t know what a gang bang is, go ahead and look it up. I foresee a busy day for you. Anyway, after a long spiel we found out it wasn’t an interview at all, but a fucking focus group! Some people walked out, I stayed. Others – still thinking they were being considered for the job – enthusiastically asked questions. It was heartbreaking. So, within a few of days, I was back on my feet working, doing something seemingly uninspiring and oftentimes overlooked. I became a nanny. I love my job! I get to snack, take naps and watch Frozen (2013) on a loop. I might not be too happy about that last one, but you can’t win them all, right?

Two years have passed since statisticians and journalists started calling us ‘the unemployed generation,’ and the data appears to be slowly improving. In November 2014, our friends from The Australian Bureau of Statistics published their most recent findings: unemployment rate has decreased 0.1 percent from a 6.8 percent. Wow! That is halting. But look, if it’s any consolation, more and more people are monetising their crafts, offering their trades online and eventually turning into small business owners. So, I propose a new inspirational message: do what you love, because you might not work at all. Personally, no matter what I do, working makes me feel like I have a purpose. But then again, it might just be the money. Like my gal Virginia Woolf used to say: ‘money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.’ Oh! As for my shawarma career, I got fired by my dad after a couple of weeks, it turns out, if you give people free shawarmas, they will tell everyone. Rats!

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