Monday, February 04, 2008

Good Morning, Jobseekers

Another job centre course, this one a little less insufferable than ‘Jobseeker Mandatory Activity’ – no ‘motivational’ speaking here, but computers, newspapers and files and noticeboards full of jobs, which at least has the decency of recognising that evangelism is not a solution to unemployment. There is, however, one little catch. At the end of each weekly session the ‘jobseekers’ have to sign and pop in an envelope five ‘speculative letters’ to send to prospective employers. Naturally these are given directly to us to photocopy. There’s an object lesson here in how cynicism actually blinds you to the fast one being pulled on you. Everyone sits there, either loudly moaning, refusing to turn off their mobiles or (mostly, including me) staring at their shoes, and accordingly all seem to miss the significance of the following paragraph, although it gets explained to us in detail. The grammatical infelicity should be the least of our worries:

‘In these competitive times, any help available to obtain employment is most welcome. To this end, may I alert you to the Government’s work trial initiative which you may be interested to know, that if you have a vacancy available you may be able to offer me a trial period to confirm my suitability for the position on offer at no payroll cost to you.’

As a compulsory element of this course, then, everyone is offering to work for their dole. And nobody even seems to notice. I didn't, until I looked at it a few hours later. This isn’t really the fault of the staff (I got given a partly justified bollocking on the comments of my last post on these matters for having a go at those who have to do this for a living), who make it all pretty clear; but the result of how the allegedly savvy, smart cynicism of contemporary Londoners actually has the opposite effect to the one intended. Nobody’s listening, so nobody notices what's happening under their nose.


Anonymous Steve said...

For someone so in thrall to socialism and the working class (by no means a bad thing) you seem quite adverse to work, by the tone of the post.

I wish I had the luxury of moaning about the dole. If I don't work, I don't live, and take pride in doing what I can. You're a lucky guy to not work and moan about it.

11:06 pm  
Blogger emmy hennings said...

Ne travaillez jamais

3:18 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Was that a moan? I thought it pretty restrained, but if it offends your sense of righteousness then don't read it. Oh, and as for the 'for someone so in thrall' bit, I don't see that there's a contradiction.

Just for the record, I have been a filing clerk, worked in a call centre (at three different places), carried out surveys on the streets in January, worked as a sub-editor, 'reader' to a litigous takeaway owner, as a shop assistant and, once or twice, written for my crust, so my knowledge of the wonderful world of work is extensive enough to make me quite averse to some (not by any means all) work, thanks. This makes me pretty averse too.

Also living on 110 quid a week in London (with a rent of 90) isn't something I'd recommend.

3:28 pm  
Anonymous Cain Devera said...

I can't see any other 'logical' purpose, besides the obvious one of establishing, through language, the total subservience of those looking for work (sell yourself! etc.) of the evasive, jumbled, jargon-laden and passively voiced language job centres, unemployment offices etc. demand us to write. It's bureaucratic and managerial, for sure, so is it meant to impress the middle management types who are usually responsible for hiring? It certainly doesn't help the aboriginal people who predominate amongst the unemployed in my town, and yet that kind of limp language is praised to high heaven as being 'the key to a successful resume.' And why write nonsense pseudo-intellectual claptrap for a resume when, at best, minimum wage is all they offer?

6:08 am  
Anonymous shykitten said...

It's almost as if the grammatical car crash betrays the underlying discourse of coercion. The language is stuck between articulating and concealing the reality of what is being said, and the message somehow seeps through the cracks in the sentence, telling the reader: 'this stinks'.

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