Sunday mornings are when I get most productive on the job application front. The house is quiet and I can beaver away with the Match of the Day repeat in the background. I have a chance to shift through all the automatic emails generated by my being registered on what seems like several thousand job search sites.
Getting the filtering right on these searches is something I haven’t quite cracked yet. There’s still the odd offer of marvellous retail opportunities with Matalan in somewhere far removed from where I lurk at present. Now don’t get me wrong I’m really rather interested in retail opportunities. (Well any opportunities actually.) I saw a bit of a programme recently that celebrated the work of B&Q in actively seeking out employees of more mature years and training and developing them.
I’m definitely up for that although Mrs RPS believes that I would be at risk for misrepresentation if I claimed DIY expertise on an application.
The other prompt for thinking about retail came from a chat with an old friend. They were trying to cheer me up. But it led to a Graduate moment. You know the scene? Where Benjamin is subjected to careers advice from lots of his parents’ friends.
“I want to say one word to you. Just one word … Plastics.”
In my friend’s case it was … ‘Retail’. Their theory was this. Of all the sectors that weathered the recession best and would weather the impact of the coming public sector downturn best retail was it. Retail. Retail. Retail. Hmm.
I tested the argument. Surely all the soon to be unemployed public sector workers – like me – would depress retail? Nope. People always shop. They shop if they’re in work – they have the money. They shop when they’re out of work too – we all have to eat. I had to acknowledge that there was some force to the argument. While we have certainly reined in our spending we still, of course, buy groceries.
Suitably encouraged I have looked at what I thought were realistic opportunities to jump sectors. Sadly this has met with no success. Although it has generated my favourite piece of feedback to date. It has the virtues of being short and honest.
So although you have solid management skills your CV did not demonstrate to us that you had particular experience in the key areas.
I do hope you find something suitable and I am sorry if my feedback sounds a bit negative, but in all honesty you were not even close to the shortlist.
Well it was a bit speculative so I wasn’t too surprised. I did wonder how my correspondent communicated really negative messages though. Anyway the experience showed me clearly that I have a bit of a problem to work through.
It’s this. The jobs that I am absolutely qualified for are getting fewer. Those that come up will be heavily fought over. So I need to get used to disappointment.
Equally some of the jobs that I would really like to do – like the one that generated the above feedback – are almost certainly not ones that I am qualified for. Even if I was they are massively oversubscribed as well. So I need to get used to disappointment.
Now that’s a lot of disappointment.
Anyway I was contemplating all of this today as I was working away on another application when I heard the phrase ‘council non-jobs’ come from the TV. Looking up I could see it was someone from a right-wing campaign group. In my experience there are few organisations that generate such deep loathing among public servants as this particular outfit. I’m not using their name as it only encourages them.
What was interesting though was that a member of the public challenged them on what they meant. The spokesperson cited things like Equalities Officers and Climate Change managers.
‘Well’, the member of the public said, ‘it was the equalities people who fixed up for me to have my bin moved round every week. So I’m all for them.’ The non-jobs man looked slightly nonplussed.
I don’t think we have helped ourselves with the language that we often use to describe what we do. It’s quite easy to lapse into a lazy shorthand that means a lot to those of us working in public services but absolutely nothing to ordinary people. This makes those jobs and the people doing them easy targets for those who seem to hate the public sector and the people who work in it.
The very phrase non-job sets my teeth on edge. Particularly as it is growing in usage by people who have no idea about the content of the jobs they are abusing. You would have thought that focusing on ensuring councils met their legal duties in relation to equalities would be rather a good thing. Particularly if it means that fellow disadvantaged citizens get the services they are entitled to and need. But apparently not. It’s a non-job.
It seems to me using the term is a psychological stepping stone designed to help people jump more easily from ‘it’s a non-job’ to ‘let’s sack the person doing it’. I wonder how long this will work though.
The scale of the spending cuts coming mean that, in the language of the times, real jobs will be going alongside the ‘non-jobs’. For everyone involved this attrition will be terrible and will seem to be unending. I see evidence already of that weariness all around me at work and in the other organisations I am in contact with.
For those of us who have built our careers over the last 20 years or so in public service these next few years will overshadow all that went before. It feels like being on that small fishing boat trying to get to the top of the storm-driven wave. The engine’s working harder, the wave’s getting steeper and the crew getting exhausted as they watch shipmates being swept away. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that.
That’s why I found myself disagreeing with a column by Matthew Parris in yesterday’s Times (sorry it’s tucked up soundly behind the paywall). He said that the CSR will not be the moment of truth. Indeed it will be less than the sum of its parts, he said, because a four-year plan is virtually obsolete the minute it’s written and it relies on the delivery of reductions in spend agreed at the departmental heading level. Parris says that Britain won’t feel different after the CSR because the impacts will only become apparent over a lengthy period of time.
In all of that I think he is right. But he is deeply wrong too.
He’s wrong because significant historical change is almost always invisible to the actors caught within it. None of us can know for certain that the CSR will be an ‘inflection’ point. But it feels to me that those of us in public service are caught in tides that are becoming irresistible and which are sweeping us in a new direction.
This weekend a small group of men (largely) meeting in an obscure English country house will complete their plan to reshape our country. Permanently and for the better they hope.
The shock, despair, anger, confusion, resentment and over-riding sorrow among colleagues losing their jobs and the people losing the services they rely on tells me that the country is already changing. Changing rapidly. Changing fundamentally. And, while we may still feel the same sort of country on Thursday morning this will not last.
Day by slow day. Job loss by job loss. Service cut by service cut we will change. Until we end up, if not somewhere better, certainly somewhere very different.