Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Close encounters with the employment office

I remember the last time I was unemployed. After my last day at work, I packed all the office stuff into cartons and headed home and nothing seemed particularly different except until the next morning when I was bidding goodbye to the rest of the family in pyjamas and wondering whether it was worth changing into something more respectable-just in case I needed to go somewhere. But this was not the case; all shopping had been done and no one needed me to meet them anywhere anytime. The phone rang a couple of times with promises of gifts if I travelled twenty kilometres to look at their collection of inexpensive chinaware probably made in china..

The next few days passed by in blissful extended mornings and longer times on the web than ever before, trying to catch up on friends and finding that they were all usefully employed contributing positively to their respective societies in terms of knowledge, man(woman)power and such until one day the employment office decided to take my case up and to figure out why and how I can once again climb back onto the treadmill. Mind you, I wasn’t really hot on climbing back on to the employment carousel but social pressure is to be considered important in such cases. An “idle mind is the devil’s workshop” one is repeatedly warned. Everyday numbers are published in important journals counting the number of unemployed persons which is considered to be a national shame. Politicians try to do all they can to keep the population from dissipating into idleness. So, armed with a recent CV, I wandered into the unemployment office.

After what I had read in the newspapers and novels I had expected a long line of depressed indifferently dressed men and women but I was pleasantly surprised that there was none of this. The office was posh with a reading room with the latest newspapers and I was immediately taken charge of by a smartly dressed woman of say 30 years. She was efficiently trotting on her high heels and I found myself running behind her to keep up with her brisk step. Once we were inside, however, she seemed a little less sure of what to do with me and so indicated that I should start defining a professional plan of some sort.

“What is your project for the coming year?” She said triumphantly holding a pencil poised to write on a blank sheet of paper with long manicured fingers and deciding that now it was all up to me.

Well, that kind of foxed me. I wanted to say that I was over qualified for some jobs and not qualified at all for all other jobs. I tried telling that there were no jobs in my field and whatever jobs there were, they had already been taken by other better connected and brighter individuals. But she was sure that an extraordinarily qualified person like me should have found a really good job by now. While thus engaged in this cat and mouse game, she was called on the intercom by a suited gentleman sitting in another office and she excused herself and smoothing her skirt trotted out.

I sat there and calculated that the time it took for her perfume to disappear was a full 10 seconds.

After a while, she came back looking very happy and said, “I think you have over emphasized your knowledge base and under valued your personality”

This was the first time I had heard that one.

“You need to prove that you are special and unique “ she said deciding that this was going to be the aim of my life from then on.

“ I am going to send you on a four week training” she said as I sat there totally zapped as if  my life was being taken over by unidentified aliens

“To learn how to write your CV and  formulate a nice statement of interest defining who you are “ she  continued taking the air of a person who knows you better than yourself.

Well, that kind of surprised me since I always thought I was pretty good at writing letters, you know, having written a lot of them in my life and so going for four weeks just to learn how to write letters seemed like an awful waste of time.

To be continued..