Things went from humbling to comic. Gill’s circumstances did not fit any of the boxes on the official’s computer screen. And if she defied classification she could not exist. “Tell me what your job was and I’ll do a job search for you,” said the official. “Operations director for a Footsie plc,” said Gill. “It’s not coming up with anything. What about ‘area manager’?” “Yes,” sighed my friend, by this time a broken woman, “area manager will do.” (The Times, 30 December 2008)
Gill, felt strongly enough about the process to write to Harriet Harman, but has not received a reply. “I amuse myself thinking, what if it had been her? If they did a job search for her – Cabinet minister or secretary of state – they’d probably come up with cabinet maker or office secretary.
It’s good to laugh in times of distress, and this article, which my mum has just sent me in the post, did that! Having taken voluntary redundancy in December 2006, I chose to go travelling, in the full expectation that (as always before), I would be able to get a job on my return, and preferably this time, it would be a more fulfilling job. On return from round-the-world travels, I was then offered the summer season to work with Oak Hall, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
On returning back to the UK, I found I’d walked right slap-back into the middle of the credit crunch and things were going to be be maybe a little different, so, in order to ensure the continuity of my National Insurance coverage (why was I worried about that, I’d not paid them for the previous 2 years), I “signed on”. Fully expecting, as my friends had, to be offered 13 weeks in which to find an appropriate professional job, utilising my academic experience and web skills, I was told that as I hadn’t been in that kind of field recently, I would have to go for ANYTHING, even though on my first job application I’d received an interview and had been the second choice for the role! The experience was one of the least favourite experiences of my life, but I decided that if I was going to have to apply for work simply to pay the bills, then I should at least look to do so in an area where I had friends – Winchester!
Moving my sign-on process to Winchester was a much pleasanter experience, so they are not all like this! With another interview in the pipeline, and having done some freelance web work (see web-project) in the meantime, the parameters were changed, and 13 weeks were accordingly awarded! With further web-work offered this week, I’ve officially been signed-off for this week, with the expectation that I’ll need to go through the rapid reclaim process when this short-term project expires. With another web project agreed, and other possibilities in the pipe-line from the temping agencies, hopefully I won’t need to go through the process again, but I will as necessary, and it’s good life-experience to aid in the setting up of my business as a life-coach, for which I will be trained by March 2009.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.