"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time." (T S Eliot)
"A dark and chanted verse is what I am." (
Forough Farrokhzad)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

GETTING A JOB AT KMART - A TRUE STORY

During the US presidential election campaign there was a journalist who proclaimed that Donald Trump could not get a job at Kmart.  Well, I am not sure about Mr Trump’s employability, but the glib pronouncement by his media critic has become worryingly relevant.

When the money runs out

A few months ago, I realised that I was in dire financial straits with no prospect of the situation improving unless I took drastic action.  There were a number of contributory factors including the failure of my efforts to augment my meagre retirement savings through sales of my books, the inability of my superannuation fund managers to match even the paltry performance of Australia’s faltering stockmarket over the past three years, the impact of the many and varied incidental expenses that arise when you are being sued for a few million dollars, and a sharp reduction in my income from the occasional contract work that some former colleagues send my way.

Down at Centrelink

So I found myself at Centrelink applying for the laughably named Newstart allowance.  After much paperwork and answering the same questions several times over, I was eventually told that I was eligible for a part payment provided I met the requirements of a job plan.  In my case, those requirements boiled down to lodging at least 20 job applications each month.

96 job applications later

It’s three months since I first visited Centrelink and I have faithfully applied for 96 jobs.  I was always an over-achiever!  However, thus far I have been invited to attend only one interview.  The rest of my potential employers either respond with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you if we need to” message or with a full-blown rejection email that usually says I was unsuccessful because of the extremely high calibre of the other candidates (or words to that highly disturbing effect).

I want to make several rather obvious points about what I have learned in this process.  Of course, they are obvious to me but perhaps they are beyond the imagination of the politicians and bureaucrats who devised Newstart.

Living the life of a dole bludger

While I am sure that there are recipients of what we used to call unemployment benefits who flout the job plan rules, there must be many more who, like me, follow the rules to the letter.  In addition, I actually want a job.  I’m not blindly going through the motions to pick up a couple of hundred dollars per week.  Every report I submit to Centrelink is an embarrassment for me because it is an admission that I have mucked up being able to fend for myself.  To put it simply, I would much rather be working and earning enough money to live well instead of regretting every dollar I spend on rent and food.

Barriers to entry

In the case of the sorts of jobs that are relevant to my qualifications and experience the application procedures are arduous and time-consuming.  As well as the obligatory employment history and letter describing relevant skills, experience and qualifications, many employers require answers to at least two “targeted questions” about how you have dealt with various projects and scenarios during your working life.

For the one interview I landed, I was also asked to prepare a presentation on a specific government policy issue and “role play” it as if I was briefing the minister responsible.  That turned out to be only a small part of the interview process.  After my “role play” and forty-five minutes of responses to the usual array of questions one might expect in such circumstances, I was put in a room with a computer for 50 minutes and tasked with two written assignments (on other government policy issues).  That was over two weeks ago and I have heard nothing since.  Apparently my referees have not been contacted so I am not hopeful.

Where are all the jobs?

Finding jobs is not easy.  However, because of my research background, I know my way around the web and I commenced a daily routine of searches supplemented by automated notifications for positions that “fitted my profile.”  Also, I overhauled my LinkedIn page (including a new CV and photograph) and set up similar pages on prominent job search sites.

I sometimes wonder how someone without my professional background and communications knowledge might cope with the prospect of finding 20 job opportunities each month, especially if they live in a regional area.

To keep track of it all, I've set up a comprehensive spreadsheet (which I update daily).

Ongoing rejection

I also wonder how unemployed people cope with the ongoing rejection.  As I said, most employers (and recruitment agencies with their automated emails are the main culprits here) take very little care with their responses to your earnest and thoughtful application.  Some, as I observed already, simply tell you they’ll contact you if necessary.  All of the emails are sent from ‘no reply’ addresses so, rather than spending a few hours trying to find a real person to get some feedback, it’s much more efficient to move on to the next application.

The psychological impact of recurring disappointment on some people must be very damaging.  If you’re applying for 5 jobs a week there’s a fair chance you’ll get rejected on most days of the week.  It’s hard to remain upbeat and positive in the face of relentless humiliation.  The attitude of some media commentators and their insistence on stigmatising people on “welfare” only makes it hurt more.

The elephant in my room

Then, in my case, there is the very big elephant in the room.  How is it that someone like me, with postgraduate qualifications in a discipline with multiple commercial and administrative applications (economics) and forty years of experience in management/policy/research roles in both the public and private sectors, is averaging one interview per every 96 applications?

Well, you see, I am too old.  At the same time as the government is raising the retirement age and searching for more ways restrict access to the age pension, employers (including government agencies) do not want to hire older workers.

Good policy?

People my age cannot access the old age pension until we are 65 and half years old.  We’re the first cohort to be ineligible at age 65.  By 2023 the pension age will have risen to 67 and there are moves in play to raise it to 70 (as various smug media personalities are fond of recommending).  So it seems I will be stuck with Newstart and a never-ending file of job applications for some time - as will many, many others.  What the government saves on the age pension will be a handy source of funds for payments to a new group of old people looking for a Newstart.

Meanwhile, back at Kmart

Oh, I almost forgot.  I actually applied for a job at Kmart and I got knocked back.  I also applied for, and was rejected for, wait for it, a position at the Reject Shop.  And I'm not wanted at Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

THE FLEECE

“Once he reached for something golden, hanging from a tree,  and his hand came down empty.”  (Carole King, ‘Tapestry’)

This is the way it ends for the broken kind,
Missing in a maze of trimmed hedge cul-de-sacs,
A victim of a simplified minefield that is my mincemeat mind,
With the colours of my culture multiplied and maximised -
White on white but never quite optimised -
Every melanoma scar scaped like scabs on my scared skin,
But pristine compared to the wounds of the suicide within.

The Africans called me a Cambridge wash-up;
But I'd never ever been up there marching to the mighty drums;
The Asians said I looked like an old footballer,
A rugby type, thick-necked from too many scrums,
Yet striving to be amongst the thinkers,
While the locals saw me as one who belonged with the drinkers -
Soon to become a rejected son of Australia.
And so I steered the years of quest and failure,
'Til my hand came down empty, though I’d climbed the trees
To reach for the branch where the fleece fizzled in the breeze.

Now I'm just an ageing face in the audience,
Eyes bloodshot red and yellow with jaundice,
Straining to see beyond my reading spectacles, 
Each lens reflecting the specious spectacular,
Restricted to thoughts riddled with speculation,
A wasted brain that somehow became
A mere receptacle for others' brilliant exceptionals.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE NEW SETTLEMENT

David Morisset's new novel is now available at Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords and iBooks.

'The New Settlement' is a dystopian fantasy set in a fictional Middle Eastern theocracy during the last years of the twenty-first century. Seven decades have gone by since a nuclear war turned parts of Shemesh's homeland into radioactive netherworlds. The narrative highlights humanity's defencelessness against religious extremism, corrupt governments, and the murderous overreach of state-sponsored brutality. Amid the toxic shambles there is a longing for the better days of a possibly imaginary past usually referred to as the times of kings and queens.

The book (including the Kindle version) can be purchased at Amazon here and at Smashwords here.  For the iBooks version please use the iBooks app to search for books my David Morisset.  The CreateSpace edition is available here.  Details for other distributors will be available soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

ELECTRIC SHADOWS

I've never been scared
By shade at sunset
But shadows
Other than my silhouette
Can haunt me
Almost to the point of death
With their tailgater's grin
And heavy breath
And the black dog
They insist on walking
As I seek peace
Away from fools talking
To lenses panning
Like madmen stalking
A sad victim
Of chance and circumstance
Not yet invisible in time's expanse
Against blank backgrounds
All set well aglow
With a few faces nodding and gawking
Telling me lies
That I already know.


Monday, November 7, 2016

CHORUS

It's dark
And all the innocents slumber
In quiet places
Stacked with plastic toys
Yet guilty hearts pulse
In the night's blackness
Perhaps that's why I hear
The ambient noise
As this world beats out
Rhythms sent from hell
So loudly
That the sea is rendered dumb
Even as waves
Devour retreating shores -
My weak sleep ceased
When I heard demons hum.