Thursday, 4 October 2012


Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. That was the joke that was regularly told when I was younger. I don't know why it now springs to mind when I think about job hunting. Perhaps it's because I'm no spring chicken, I'm in my middle years, my prime. Job hunting has got harder. Supposedly it's because I'm past my best, my flesh more tough than tender. I haven't just left school or university. I've done the 9-to-5, the commuting; been chained to a desk and the office stress. I'm battered from my brief working life, I'm fried. In leaving my last job, I took a risk and now I can't seem to cross to the other side.
I know the look you're giving me: playing chicken at your age!? Why? Why? Why? For reasons I won't go in. An impulse, a moment, my state of mind. Like a hen that can no longer lay, I knew I couldn't continue. I'd desperately tried and it wasn't working, the situation was worsening. Perhaps it was all in my head, but I needed fresh air, a change. That was earlier this year and I'm still here: on sabbatical. Unemployed, but not for want of trying. Before you rant, I'm not on the dole or claiming any benefits. My choice, my savings.
Humph, what did I expect? Finding a job was never going to be easy! I knew that, but I hadn't expected to, well, feel so redundant. Used up, wiped out. I wasn't aware my qualifications, my experience would mean so little. That it would be so difficult to even be considered for a new career. Cooped into an area of expertise. Wings clipped and inclined to viciously peck my way out of it. Caged because I don't hold a degree, I didn't choose to raise a family. Where are the opportunities for those of us who are 30+? For those who didn't excel in written exams or go to university? What was the point of college and working part-time? Getting my first full-time office job aged 18? Working my way up, changing jobs, gaining experience. My CV rubbed out if GCSEs are altogether scrapped by 2017. On paper, I won't exist. Defunct.
What exactly does 'graduate' mean? Some employers assume 'graduate' means more equipped for the job. Value a degree in any subject above everything else. Theory does not outweigh the practical. Then there are employers who favour experience, but won't help you acquire it. Pah! And the same goes for modern apprenticeships. Why are these limited to an age group? Why can't I have a new start, train for a different career? Why can't opportunities be created for all of us, from when you first enter work to when you leave it? Where are my answers? Not here.
The Government struts, crows its educational strategies. Congratulates itself on ill-considered policies, preening. Education does need an overhaul, but so does employment. Employers need to assess candidates individually, taking into account qualifications, achievements and experience, instead of writing you off with a cursory glance. Good GCSEs; a GNVQ, which is dismissed, undervalued; no degree; relevant skills, but not in this field – reject! Under or over-qualified - which is it? Confused! Training yourself is not a one-off, a phase or stage. A decision made at school or university. People change... Mature, develop new skills, new interests. From egg, to chick, to hen, to tough older bird. Gaining knowledge and skills is a lifetime apprenticeship.