I’ve slipped off the wagon over the past few weeks and put my helicopter costume back on to help Kurt search for work, because unless the old man and I can both agree that we don’t need cereal in our life, ever again, we need to get the boy out of the house and into the workforce more permanently.
Scaffolding him through the process has elicited hideous memories of my own job search when I left university, when only the nepotism of my father with the offer of a job in “The Firm” was to save me from breakdown.
I’ve watched as my son’s initial enthusiasm (to get us off his back), dwindle in the face of little or no response to the numerous applications he has sent out. Remember that Catch 22 of “needing experience” when you are looking for that prized first job and have fuck all? And how you had to make up stuff, even though every moral fibre in your body knew it was wrong? Not even NC’s brilliant resume, that has basically transformed Kurt into the next Mark Zuckerberg, has tickled the fancy of employers offering the most banal jobs.
As we left our local Centrelink the other day – not for him to sign on, I hasten to add – even I was starting to believe that a dirty sleeping bag, a feral dog, and a begging bowl might hold more appeal.
It hurts that young kids like him can’t get a break, and the more I investigate the limited support, the more I can see why there is a school to prison pipeline for our disaffected youth. I’m torn between watching my son wither in the face of heavy competition, lack of opportunity and the extra support that he needs, in comparison to the pride I feel at the success of my daughter, who is slowly and methodically conquering the world by working the system. I should also point out that she has worked bloody hard, or she might not share her expensive shampoo with me over the next month.
There is a healthy balance of discussion (I’m lying) in our house about how society needs to be more inclusive, to provide for all our kids, and where I see myself as an advocate for support for the disadvantaged, there is no doubt in my mind that the old man spearheads the “man the fuck up” school of thinking. Not that he denies or belittles the problems and ramifications of mental illness – even he wouldn’t want to regress to an era where the fucked up people are locked away in institutions to cost the taxpayer even more money. However, after a term in the corporate world – where innocent conversations at the coffee machine can be used against you later – he is now a fervent advocate of the Darwinian theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. A belief that must be problematic when half of your household are crazies, who would never be anywhere near that coffee machine in the first place – because they’d be outside having a fag – the weak and the arty-farties, who wear their emotions like ill-fitting clothes and have degrees in drama queen-ism.
TBH, I wouldn’t blame really him for the moments of regret that he must have about his decision to work from home, and it wouldn’t surprise me if on occasion he finds himself harping back to that inane small talk at the coffee machine with fondness – even if it involved talking to women. And as much as I would prefer to sever my left leg with no anesthetic than agree with him on just about anything, he has had more experience of the competition in the corporate world. Therefore, I can appreciate his argument that the vulnerable need to be able to cope with the evil in the world, his reason for believing that selection makes sense, even if it does make the hairs on my body stand on end with indignation.
The sad fact is, there are no progress prizes on the outside, particularly now, when the current job market our Millennials are dipping their entitled little toes into is so much more competitive – according to them. Sadly, we appear to have come full circle from the idea that work experience and gung-ho enthusiasm for philanthropic projects such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme are more valuable than a top-class degree with honors in philosophy. And with impending government changes to student borrowing, the dirty finger of exclusivity is penetrating the open wound even more deeply.
In Australia, we have a learning institution called TAFE for those who seek a more vocational career; one which also steers those late developers and the kids that don’t navigate school by the book, in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with TAFE, (because it is much easier to keep on kicking someone when they are already on the ground), and many employers see TAFE as a cop out – a shame for those who have struggled to attain the same goals as their peers in the face of adversity. And even though those kids (and adults) will have had experiences that have shaped them, matured them and given them a toolkit that albeit might look different to Lottie’s, (who drove a 4WD BMW to school each day and never had time for a job because of rowing practice and trips to the snow), many of them have as much to offer.
Each candidate has the ability to offer employers particular skills, but their other qualities may not be apparent on a piece of paper – for example, the ‘hunger’ caused by poorer socio-economic circumstances or illness can make you more resilient in the long term and give you a sharper edge, whereas ‘privilege’ provides connections and an arrogance that compounds confidence.
Apparently, the latest must-have on your resume is to be able to demonstrate “direction”, which begs the question if that means the fastest direction to Centrelink?