April 23, 2015

The Secret to Surviving Long-Term Unemployment [By Dr. Janice Harper]

Author: Dr. Janice Harper

It never occurred to me that I would be unemployed in mid-life. Well, yes, it had occurred to me when my tits were still perky and my mind malleable, so I went to grad school, got a Ph.D. and embarked on what was once a promising and stellar career. But after I found myself in the cross-hairs of those in institutional power, my carefully-constructed career came tumbling down and before I knew it, I was a single mother out of work in mid-life, heading straight for a cardboard box in some downtown doorway where a pint of spirits in a brown paper bag might be my only hope. Life gets that way sometimes.

While I haven't yet fallen that far through the cracks of life, I have learned a few things along the way. The first is that once the paycheck goes, so, too, do the friends and colleagues. Next to go are the designer clothes and unscuffed shoes, and after that, the high credit score and weekly pizzas. Soon it's socks and underwear and not long after, food for the kid and gas for the car. Before you know it, phone sex and drug dealing sound like wise career moves, and pre-demise estate sales are just another way of rejecting life in the material world while tiny homes parked in someone's driveway become retirement aspirations.

Let's face it. The number one reason people find themselves stuck in the muck of the long-termed unemployed is because they're too damned old. The likelihood that anyone would hire an extremely qualified person over 40 who has been out of work for more than six months is far less than the likelihood they'll win the MegaMillions. Indeed, my guess is that the editors of this very essay have never interviewed, much less hired, anyone who has lived more than four decades, or if they had, they've concluded they just weren't a "good fit."*

It's time to have a bad fit. It's time to throw one big, everlasting, global shit fit over the fact that anyone out of work and born in the 20th century is not going to be hired in this 21st century effervescent-youth-trumps-all-economy.

But having such a fit won't get anyone very far. All it will do is prove that the old and unemployed can't handle daily stress. So, in the spirit of self-renewal and nauseating optimism, here are my top 10 tips for finding work when work won't have you.

First, look good. No matter how dismal your hopes, keep the hair cut, the nails manicured and the clothes pressed and cleaned. Never let yourself look as dismal as you feel. Stay clean and mowed and preferably, tanned if you're white, lightened if you're dark, and adorned with something pricey, like stolen cuff links or glittering but understated earrings that scream, "Kept Woman."

Second, pretend you like it. There's no sense acting like this unemployment thing is something you don't welcome. The older you are, the more likely you "retired early." Bask in it, like the undeserved heir you wish you were. Better yet, own it. Turn unemployment into a social science experiment and consider yourself a research subject. See what happens to your ideology when you don't get out of bed and make rolling over a form of stress-resistant exercise. You just might learn something. Or not.

Third, eat well. Even if you can't afford anything more than beans and rice, make them Cajun beans and rice. If all you can afford is broth, then make it consommé. Stock up on some decent spices and oils and turn anything you're eating into a foodie's wet dream. No sense in putting something bad inside your body when your body is all you've got left. And don't forget the chocolate.

Fourth, consider drugs. Why experience the painful emotions of depression, anguish, rage and misery, when you can easily destroy them? Whether alcohol, marijuana, narcotics, television or a socially acceptable script for psychotropics, there's always something to blot out reality and numb the pain before it ever has a chance of reaching your troubled neurons. Don't turn to drugs you cannot handle, but find those you clearly can. If that means a good anti-depressant or a bad baggy of weed, find it, consume it, and tell yourself you're self-medicating. It won't solve the problem and it will probably make it worse, but at least it will dumb it down, which is the best that you can hope for. After all, let's face it, you're heading straight for a green apron at Starbucks if you're lucky, so might as well have some fun until you get there.

Fifth, lie to yourself. Tell yourself over and over that it will get better, even when all the evidence proves it won't. The more you convince yourself that your long-term unemployment is just a detour on the road to finding your bliss, the more you can put off the inevitable, which is the harsh reality that the world no longer wants you. Don't go there. Lies have value; embrace them.

Sixth, get a website. Put your face out there with a halfway decent slogan, and before you know it, people will think you're worth something. There's no need to tell them that you're unemployed if you can rebrand with a photo-shopped image of yourself as some sort of expert, sage or guru. There's nothing you haven't done or didn't do that you can't turn into a victory for self-rejuvenation; even serial killers have followed their passion and gotten things done. Treat yourself like the latest bacon novelty and you'll be surprised how far you'll go. You'll at least get as far as Kansas, if not Mississippi.

Seventh, get stupid. There's nothing to be gained by introspection, especially when it leads to the inevitable conclusion that you really blew it. Better to convince yourself that people are beautiful and so are you and in no time you'll have your own Ted Talk and become an internet billionaire. Stupidity is bliss and what that means is that if you don't think about anything for any length of time, you will by default find yourself content. Go with it. Denial brings you far more than awareness ever will. Be smart, which is to say, get stupid. You'll be better off without the brain cells.

Eighth, become a cobbler. Cobble together an income from an array of sources.  Write how-to ebooks, coach people on how to organize their closets, and give piano lessons.  And if you can't play piano, figure out what you can do. Sell home-baked muffins, sew designer clothes for spoiled pets, clean your neighbors’ toilets.  And whatever you do, teach something, even if it’s just how to add and subtract or how to change a tire. It will help pay the rent when the paychecks are gone, and if the paychecks do by chance come back, it will give you some income to pay off the credit cards you racked up during those dark days of unemployment. Most of all, it will remind you that you do have worth even while the world tells you otherwise. Teach something, even if you do it for free. Teaching saves lives, and yours needs saving. Just do it. Preferably with a candelabra and three-piece suit made out of rhinestones.

Eighth, serve soup to the homeless. Or drive cancer patients to their chemotherapy. Or plant flowers for the elderly who can no longer get down on their knees. Find someone who is worse off than you and use your spare time to help them survive. Get out of yourself and before you know it, you'll realize other people are in even worse shape -- and you're in much better shape than you know. Help others. They need it, as much as you do, if not more. Get humble. It does wonders for the ego.

Ninth, turn to magic. Whether that means religion, psychics or plain old fashioned hocus pocus, place your bets on the improbable, because the probable is a losing hand and that's the last thing that you need. Pray for a miracle, wager on the stars or buy the occasional lottery ticket (not more than a buck a week), and you'll have everlasting hope. And hope is what you need when reality tells you otherwise. Believe in magic and you're bound to survive. Believe in reality and you'll jump off a bridge. Don't go there.

And finally, never forget that it only takes one. For all the times you've tried to find work, connived for work, and begged for work, you only need one person to give you a shot at survival. No matter how many hundreds have turned you down, ignored you, denied you, or turned rabidly against you, the cold, hard truth is that you only need one. You only need one person to give you a shot, so never lose sight of that one. And never let that one down. No matter how humble the work or how beneath your qualifications, give that one person your very best. And believe that that one person is out there, to give you that one hand that you need, to pull you out of despair. It's your choice, to drown or reach out a hand. Reach your hand out, and maybe, just maybe, that one person you don't yet know, will grasp it and pull you to shore.

I've been a long time unemployed, and in that time, I've survived not by counting on friends (most of whom let me down), and not by polishing my resume or projecting a "youthful image." Those are lies fit only for the early unemployed. I've survived by pushing the worries aside, believing in miracles, and believing in myself. And most of all, by believing in that one person who will reach out their hand and pull me out of the quagmire of demoralizing long-term unemployment.

It's unfair, it's unjust, and it's a disgrace that our society discards its own in middle-age. But if there's one thing that I've learned by being unemployed it's that one way or another, I and my family will survive. And so will you, if you do nothing more than reach deep inside yourself, and pull out all the laughter and joy and magic you've long buried, hurl it far into the universe and scream, "I belong!" Because you do, and one way or another, you, too, can and will survive.

But until then, let's tell everyone we know, and everyone who's listening, that the long-termed unemployed should move not to the back, but to the front of the employment lines—because they are the ones with experience, they are the ones who've endured, and they are the ones who will stick with the job, long after youth will flee. Anything less is discrimination and anything less is folly.

But for those standing in line with nothing more than hope at the end of their sleeve, never forget that most will discriminate and most will cave in to folly from shear ignorance. But there's always one who won't. So for the long-term unemployed, the task is simple. Find just that one. And until then, stay stupid, stoned and strong.

*This essay was originally published in The Huffington Post, a publication which condemns any form of discrimination; any suggestion that they would not employ editors over the age of legal consent is purely mean-spirited and, while no doubt statistically defensible, is not based on any actual knowledge of their hiring decisions or mind set.  After all, they do include articles about hot sex for grandmas, and that should count for something.

Janice Harper ©2014

About the author: Janice Harper is a cultural anthropologist whose writing spans a range of topics, from workplace aggression to parenting to food. She is the author of Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing, and has ghostwritten several non-fiction books. 

An earlier version of this piece appeared in The Huffington Post, August 23, 2014. This revised version appears here with the author's kind permission.

Photo: by las via flickr

April 7, 2015

Keeping Up With The Clooneys ...

If you're thinking of spending some underemployed down-time, casually stalking the Clooneys during their down-time ...consider this:  It will cost you. In the Italian town of Laglio, where George and Amal reside in their 18th-century mansion, the mayor has sanctioned fines of $550 to anyone who treads too close to Clooney's fiefdom.  

According to Associated Press, under the local laws category "problems of public order", a penalty of up to €500 is to be issued to anyone who leaves their car or boat within 100 meters of Clooney’s villas. 

And it includes anyone simply gathering, lingering, or even inconspicuously craining one's neck (while licking a gelati) within the vicinity -  to catch a glimpse of Clooney.


Also, try to chit chat with George, and you'll cop a $600 fine. 

However, you won't be fined, if you make a pertinent, one-time, life-saving observation to George - such as informing him that his fly is undone.

Gladdened by the increased business the Clooneys bring to the area - many locals fully support  the penalties. Others are totally miffed. 

One Laglio fisherman told The Telegraph,  "For me, there's only been a negative impact ... I used to be able to leave my car here on the ramp leading down to the water, but now I can't - I'd get fined by the police.

"You're not allowed to park anywhere near the villa and you can't take a boat within 100 metres of the house. It's like living in a mini-dictatorship”.

April 2, 2015

Ironic Job Vacancy of The Week

Role: Positive Ageing Librarian

Where: City of Monash

Source: seek.com

What: Library Service is looking for a dynamic, proactive individual.

Candidates must have: Demonstrated experience in working with positive ageing clients.

Perks: Access to a vibrant health and well being program, training opportunities and have your achievements recognised through a comprehensive reward and recognition program.

Editor's note: 

When I saw this role, I thought ...That’s me. I’m positive, ageing (aren’t we all?), and legally a librarian! But no surprises, the job ad (predictably) asks for someone that's "dynamic" - which is annoyingly, 21st century HR code for: only young whippersnappers need apply ...That is, at least a hipster sporting a man-bun, skinny jeans and sleeve tattoo, rather than a regular "ageing" librarian, wearing the traditional lady-bun(however gorgeous, positive, alive, and eSavvy she might be).

And reading between the lines, applications indicating a whiff of nanna technology skills (aka original search engine experience, predating Google), will be trashed within nanoseconds. Meanwhile, shiny new, eager millennials - with zero key experience - will be fast-tracked for interview success. Just sayin'

Despite the above, LOVE the perks, although the last listed: "training opportunities and achievements recognised through a comprehensive reward & recognition program" (isn't that what salaries are for??)...makes the role sound more like a dog obedience program than a job. Maybe my dog could apply?

If this one's for you Fido -


Image: via flickr

March 24, 2015

Working Girl : Lets Herself Go

It's been a long time between posts from Working Girl. And apologies to Treasurer Joe Hockey this week, for making a dent in the unemployment statistics and welfare budget. But unfortunately - as an independent contractor, (apparently) responsible for hiring out and therefore firing myself - I've had to show myself the door and let myself go - aka sacking oneself.

It has to be said though, that things WERE going swimmingly at the office. My fellow contractees and I were getting along harmoniously. Sharing the odd joke here and there, breaking bread together over lunch, as we played musical chairs, passwords, and workstations, and discussed just what did constitute acceptable professional attire in the 21st century workplace?

But then, practically overnight, things between me and Madam Boss went prickly pear-shaped.

It's possible, she had spotted me blowing kisses on CCTV camera footage, and from this, the seeds of hostility were planted. In any case, despite my assorted competencies, and additional unpaid work from home - quite out of the blue - she sent me a series of poison toned emails  ....on my rostered-day-off no less! 

Please! Please!...Enough of this first world drivel you might say? 

However, dear reader, in the interests of supporting socially inclusive blog content (that avoids the first world scourge, known as click bait), please focus.

Initially, Madam Boss said I wasn't filling out my timesheet (aka invoice) correctly. Even though it was correct. I would email back to her, an altered version, only to be sent another saying THAT ONE was also incorrect? Then she accused me of stating I was at work, on days when I wasn't ....when I actually was! Maybe I should have worn brighter colours ...whiter whites? Or left more "calling cards" around the office ...like my dog does when we go on walkies around the block?

Of course, my presence could have been instantly confirmed, had she: looked at in-office CCTV surveillance footage, checked the electronic employee time-clock, and lastly - the manual sign-in sheet we also filled out.

Looking back - maybe when signing in - I should have been more like Gen-Y in establishing my attendance, by strategically positioning myself in front of the wall clock, smiling gleefully alongside the annoyingly fresh-faced, size 4 receptionist - and snapping a couple of daily selfies?! 

Nonetheless, I would reply to her irate me-mails in a cordial, professional manner ...using American sit-com office-worker, Mary Tyler Moore, as my communications role model du jour.  However, this made no difference, and Madam Boss would subsequently reply, chastizing me for sending update emails to her, on days when she wasn't in the office. She also became somewhat cyclonic, upon discovering she'd paid me twice. However, I corrected her error by promptly refunding the money. And then she paid me twice again! 

I so loved that about her. 

But then she CC'd to me, an email (I paraphrase here for brevity), between herself and HRGuy. Nothing wrong with that. Standard office procedure. However, the discussion concerned moi of course, and how I was such a silly sausage ...all because I assigned a wrong date! to one of the tasks noted on my action plan - going forward.  HRGuy of course, "replied to all", with a lengthy note to Madam Boss, confirming what a learning challenged klutz he also thought I was. 

Was there no satisfying that woman, and her obsequious HRGuy (...who I formerly, and unbelievably! considered as potential date material?) 

Maybe it was a fall moon week? Can't remember. Perhaps it's what to expect in this year of the goat ...going forward?

On the homefront however, it's been a fab week ...as my chainsaw waving, fish-fern challenged neighbour, has finally left the block! 

March 18, 2015

TV Last Night : Q&A Talks Up Middle-Class Welfare, Creative Accountants & Gen Wise

On television, I'm seeing Dr Karl Kruszelnicki strutting across a stage. His glaring yellow pants and dotty shirt have my attention. But he’s not auditioning as a Banana in Pyjama, promoting a new Haagen-Dazs flavour, or launching into a TED Talk. The one sure thing, is that it's cool, clever advertising. 

Hard to believe, that the Indigestable .... er I mean Intergenerational Report: Australia in 2055, is being marketed to the Australian masses like it's a new energy drink.

And no surprises, across the media, the clear take-home message from the report (bleated ad nauseum), is that badass baby boomers are hoarding the nation's wealth, living far too long! (despite avoiding kale like the plague), and depriving future generations of attaining the comfortable living standards that they so enjoy.

So tuning in to Monday night's Q&A, we learn how the shifty financial manoeuvrings, of cashed up-property rich baby boomers (not to be confused with cashed up-property rich politicians), enables them to live large while they continue receiving the age pension.  

And so, it's apparently because of THEM that the country's finances are so stuffed - moving forward toward 2055 (forgive mon French!) ... But really people what's the rush? ....isn't anyone else still coming to terms with 2015? ...and trying to live in the moment meaningfully? ... I digress.

In fact, at the start of Q&A, esteemed host Tony Jones did rather jovially emphasize, that he'd be dead by 2055 anyway (and replaced - no doubt by a series of nubile goat latte sipping, 20-something hipsters, no less).

Alas, from Treasurer Joe Hockey and the rest of the panel, we learn that such folk maintain their bountiful household budgets (at the taxpayers expense), with the help of financial advisors who are - to be succinct - the chartered accountant equivalent of versatile, Breaking Bad go-to lawyer, Saul Goodman.

And that's where my enjoyment of Monday night's Q&A program ends. Because even a learning challenged Wiggle would know that statistics never present a complete picture. Subsequently, the Intergenerational Report (and last night's Q&A discussion), tell a story of wishy-washy averages. For example, according to other current data (Source: CEPAR), the average older Australian is:
1. a 75 year old Anglican woman,
2. who drives a car, 
3. votes for the Coalition,
4. lives at home with her spouse,
5. in a 3 bedroom home ...with broadband access, 
6. has a nursing qualification,
7. weekly income of $200-$400,
8. most likely has never heard of quinoa,
9. and mashes rather than smashes her spuds.
These snapshots unfortunately omit any mention of boomers, or on-the-cusp boomers (boomettes?) who:

2. in the 50 plus age-range that potential employers are allergic to, 
3. spouse-free (statistically code for desperate dateless singletons)
4. have no nursing qualification because they faint at the sight of blood,
5. so now have a useless degree, and non-career going forward, to match,
6. vote for dark-chocolate every time,  
7. confuse the paleo diet with the annual il palio horse race in Italy,
8. feel remarkably on trend in their downsized abodes - this being an unexpected upside to never having the budget, or desire to upsize (to impress peers), in the first place,
9. struggle with the correct pronunciation of quinoa,
10. one could go on ...

And so it went, that questioning on Q&A  initially focused solely on generation Hipster (youth unemployment, irritating HECS, and so forth), giving the impression that baby boomers are as relevant to the 21st century, as Olivetti typewriters,  and thus, don't deserve a mention ...Unless questions related to end of life planning and euthanasia arise - in which case, gen Selfie (aka Hipster Youth) are more than ever, convinced into saying YES PLEASE to earnestly pulling the plug on gen Wise - and so reduce their expensive "over-use" of health services resources... going forward.  

So midway through, I had to swiftly protest by unplugging Tony Jones (sorry), and tuning into the more palatable Splendido Gold with Federico - over on TVSN ....so much more riveting, soothing, and inclusive.


Aussie politicians $300m property portfolio

$250K is Struggle Street for Some Australians

Image: flickr

March 9, 2015

Cryptic Job Vacancy of The Week

Role:  Creative Technology Activator

Duration: Temporary 6 month role

Where: City of Melbourne Library

Source: Seek.com.au

Essentials:  Applicant "should be a leader in idea generation, digital production, emerging technologies, and have an understanding or experience in utilising creative technology to share and interact with an idea,

". . and will ideally, have an excellent knowledge of the maker movement" (please explain? are we talking homespun snoods, neenish tarts and cupcakes here?), 

. . . and a demonstrated ability to collaboratively "activate" creative spaces." (Is this HR code for an IT savvy Banana in Pyjama? or geek, who - when not devising an app that predicts & charts one's own bowel movements - moonlights as a weekend Wiggle?)

Note: "The position description for this role will not be provided at this stage of application." (No surprises there).

Anyone unphased by this job description should


illustration: By HikingArtist.com via flickr

March 5, 2015

Mature Lady Jobseeker, Lands Plum Role - In 007 Movie, Spectre

Going against the predictable Hollywood norm where the leading man lusts after a Barbie Doll half his age, finally, in the new 007 film - Spectre - Daniel Craig's love interest is a mature dame of fifty. And isn't it about time.

Initially, Italian actress Monica Belluci, thought she was being cast for the Miss Moneypenny role. It's hoped her character, Lucia Sciarra, is not killed off in the first five minutes, thus leaving the role open to a new starlet, after all. 

For some inspiration from the movies read this...