My Week at the Job Centre

My Week at the Job Centre

The job centre in Telford is a red-brick shard, a monolith that is supposed to puncture the thin membrane between unemployment and a shit job. As a fresh graduate, I have come to loath that little green job centre plus sign, a putrid goblin of a logo. As a creative writer I have made my fair share of jokes about employment, including ‘Teaching is where a writer goes to die.’ As though getting a job in teaching is that easy, I’m much more likely to drink myself to death.

I arrive at the job centre, the sliding doors stood in front of me, the threshold between me and my dignity. I stand there for a while, feeling altogether too pusillanimous. Writing? I imagined the job ‘coach’ saying, Starbucks it is! I swallow my pride and walk through the door, immediately hit with the fetid air hanging about the place. A security guard shows me to the seat, for there are no receptionists. In the corner a sixty year old man argues with another security guard.

‘Whad ya mean there’s no public toilets?’ He exclaims, turning redder than a bull mastiff’s throbbing shaft.

‘You can walk ten minutes down the road, there’s a public toilet there.’ The security guard replies, hands held up to ward off the flecks of spittle flying from the old man’s rancid mouth.

‘I can’t, I gots a meeting in a minute, so what if I shit meself?’ He remonstrated.

‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.’

‘Fine,’ said the old man. He stalked over to a corner of the room, pulled down his trousers, and in the most impenitent way… Shat on the floor.

I look around in shock, surely no-one is going to let him get away with that. Another spectator sniffed idly, but no-one made a move to stop him. Heck, no-one even reprimanded him.

The tone was set.

I was shortly called for my meeting with a man who, at most, had a GCSE in salivating lasciviously at every girl he passed. He took me through the basics of looking for a job, and described to me the ABC’s of jobseeking.

A – Get a Job
B – Get a better one
C – Get a Career.

‘So you can help me get a career?’ I ask hopefully.

He scoffs, a thin strand of saliva hanging pendulous from his chin. ‘We only deal in shit jobs here,’ he said as he passed me a sheet tarnished by his oily fingers. ‘This is your itinery for a week, instead of looking for a job, you’re going to do these exercises with our job coaches every day until you are fit for work.’

I look down the list.

‘Umm, is this basic English?’ I point to English 101 on the sheet. ‘Because I have a degree in Creative Writing.’

‘I don’t hear English anywhere in that title, do you?’ He asked, his dead pervert’s eyes dredging the depths of my soul.

‘But it’s about writing,’ I expostulate.

The man shoved his hands in his ears, closed his eyes, and stuck out his tongue. He stayed like that until I left.

The fresh air outside the job centre is marred, everywhere I look people with jobs are looking down on me… I’m just another dole dosser to them.

I guess I am.

The next week, starting on Monday, the tax payers paid for me to do this:

Day One:

I attend basic English, I’m told not to have a silly email with a swear-word in it because that might put employers off.

I meet a strange collection of people, agglutinated in a small room. A teacher, a pensioner, three university students, and several other people that don’t fit the average job-seeker stereotype.

All I can think about is that the projector is off centre, and that they’d spelt the word achievement wrong.

I learn nothing.

Day Two:

I attend a class that teaches me how to log on to a computer. A feat I have been managing since my granddad first bought a computer for my house in 1997.

A man sells cocaine in the corner.

Day Three:

I go in to prove that I can log into a computer, this is funded by the taxpayer.

The last of my dignity escapes me, pushing it’s way through my pursed lips like a dying man’s last breath.

Day Four:

We cover interview preparation. I am told that being late to an interview isn’t very good. I am also told that you should plan a route to your interview, so that you know where you are going.

Mandy, the job centre common sense guru, wrestles my common sense to the ground. Once on the ground she proceeds to beat it viciously with her quasi-child speech and a book full of bad CV examples.

Day Five:

The only day I actually learn something, and it’s that I shouldn’t be looking for a good job. In fact, I am reprimanded for only applying to jobs above £15,000 salary-wise.

So yeah, what I’m trying to get at is, that the job centre is shit.



As close to handsome as we get.

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