20 March 2012

A Delightful Trip to the Local Jobcentre Plus

It seems that life is determined to take me full circle. Having started this blog with a post about the Jobseeker's Allowance, I can now confirm that I have taken the almighty step into my local 'sign on a die a bit' centre. This decision was not taken lightly - after looking for work for around eight months I finally decided that I probably deserved to be earning some kind of governmental benefit purely out of pity. So there we are, I have officially signed on. Well, that is if my application goes through. Because I have been doing part time work I'm not sure if it will - but the rules say that you can claim if you work less than 16 hours a week and are searching for full time work, which I am I am I am!

The centre itself was somewhat like a book. Do NOT judge it by it's cover. I have to say I was a bit nervous about the whole deal. Strangely, what popped into my head first was what to wear. How do I appear not so bedraggled that I am mistaken for one of the drunks who regularly collects their dole, yet not so smart that I seem well-off and get robbed on my way out? Decisions. In the end I went for a jeans and pumps option which seemed to do nicely as I'm still very much alive and the security guard didn't throw me out.

Once I'd passed an angry looking drunk man smoking a strangely pungent roll-up on my way in I suddenly realised that I wasn't actually in a hell hole. Quite the opposite in fact. The room looked new and clean and it was quiet yet weirdly, very weirdly, friendly. I signed in and plonked myself down on a comfy sofa, feeling rather better than I had ten minutes ago. The butterflies flew off and I waited calmly to be seen.

While sitting and waiting for twenty minutes however, the cracks began to appear. Firstly, the over-abundance of security guards became a bit of an alarm bell. In a room about twenty by eight  metres big, there were at least ten guards. They were all very friendly looking but I couldn't help wondering why quite so many of them were needed. Then, as I was ushered into a small office room to meet my advisor I was faced by a one inch thick pane of what I can only presume was bullet-proof glass. As I passed my documents through the tiny slit in the window and signed a million forms I imagined how many angry jobseekers there were. I felt like I was in a prison at visiting hours. Angry as I was, I wasn't about to shoot 'em up.

Finally, when asked what kind of jobs I was looking for I have to admit I felt darned stupid answering 'editorial assistant roles in journalism or publishing'. Apparently, that job spec isn't even on the national Jobseekers Plus computer system. Timidly I added, 'or PA/secretarial roles' to downplay the 'I'm a posh twat with a degree' side of my application. After being handed a flyer about a local job fair where I was told I could apply for roles at Greg's the bakery, I left the centre as hurriedly as possible with some sense of my pride intact. Not that I mind working in a shop, I just applied to a job in the new Westfield, only, I could have found out that gem of a work opportunity on my own thanks.

So I haven't moved far from square one... it's all snakes and ladders really and I was never much good at that game. I am waiting for hear back from an interview I had with a small publishing company for an internship. It would be amazing, nay spectacularly amazing if I got the job. I'll keep you posted.


  1. As I have worked in a Jobcentre I can say it isn't standard policy to deal with new claimants behind screens. Nor to have that many security guards, though you do get a few 'excitable characters' sign on so it's good that you have them there when things kick off! Also a bit of insight on the 'jobcodes' that they choose based on your profession. It's called the SOC2000 list (SOC2010 isn't in use in Jobcentres yet...). There's just under 28,000 occupations listed and you can see a whole list at part 3 of this site: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/classifications/current-standard-classifications/soc2010/soc2010-volume-2-the-structure-and-index/index.html#3 (it's an excel sheet). Some people are incapable of using it so just stick to a handful of occupation codes they know.. I'd probably assign you 3412, 3421, or 3431, though there probably wouldn't be that many vacancies advertised under those as opposed to 4150 or 4216 . Also if you're currently earning then it's likely the weekly rate would be decreased from the normal amount and you'd just get your NI contributions paid, but wait till you get the letter from them confirming how much before you give up!

    Also if the advisor you see doesn't seem to be very helpful you should really ask if there is another person who may have more knowledge about the particular sector you wish to work in.

  2. Yes I didn't think it was standard policy to have such tight security measures...then again I live in East London so you can never be too sure!

    Thanks for the link. I think it must have been a case of my advisor not using the programme properly, combined with my own embarrassment.

    Still haven't received the dreaded letter but we shall see. To be honest, any small contribution would help me at the moment.

    I'll keep in mind whether I think my advisor knows enough about the sector I want to work in when I go back on Monday.

    Thanks so much for your help, you make so much more sense than anyone I spoke to in the actual Jobcentre!

  3. Did you hear back from the interview?