There's a thing I've noticed. People who got into jobs just before the going got REALLY shit, think you're making it up when you say it's hard out there.
And I'm tired. I'm tired of wondering where my next job will be and how long it will be and whether I'll have to move and whether I'll have to move again. And will I be paid enough. And can I do this thing in six months because I don't know where I'll be working then. And should I buy this thing because how long before I'm between pay again because if there's a gap between contracts....and what if and what if and what if...
Let's put aside the 100s (and I'm not exaggerating this) of jobs I've applied for in the past 2 years alone. It's also the endless short term contracts. And the resulting insecurity. Because it's alwasy about hunting the next thing. Worrying when the current thing will end.
I'm exhausted and it's making me ill. But I know I can't be alone in this. So here is my litiny of regret, my list of employment (not counting even shorter gigs and freelancing moments that have filled the last 5-6 years as well) These are the places where I waited for contracts or jobs that never came, while still hunting the elusive White Whale that is a "Proper Job".
1998-2002 (Ages 15-18) Stable Hand. Working for riding lessons we couldn't otherwise afford.
2001-2003- Checkout Assistant ASDA (First real job, as soon as I was old enough)
2002-2007- The University years. I won't bore you with the details. It involved a lot of customer service and a lot of coffee spilled on me.
So far so normal.
2007 Civil Service: Three month temporary contract. Extended month by month for another 6 months. I could have stayed longer (month by month) but a particularly sexist pig motivated me to take my chances elsewhere.
2008 University Admin Department: Two week temp job. Extended to a month. Then two months. For an entire year I lived with month to month extensions, promised a Full Time job would be advertised soon, that I was welcome to apply for. It never came.
2008 (as well): Dresser. Theatre. Zero hours contract.
2009-2010- Trained to be a teacher. Random supply days for a few months after.
2010-2014- The PhD Years. Jobs here included:
Teaching at the University: Zero hours, term time only. Number of hours and therefore income decided only 2 weeks before term started most years.
Front of House (Theatres): Zero hours, minimum wage. Show dependant. Since leaving one of these has changed it into a volunteer job, another shortly follows suit.
Support Worker (University) : Zero hours contract. A little above minimum wage. Pay cut in 4th year of employment due to Government cuts. Term time only.
2014 Theatre: Two week job, because former friend told a lie that got me fired.
2014/15 University: Support Worker. As above.
2015/16 University Administrative Support 12 month fixed term contract. Told there was possibility for renewal at the end. After contract ended it was advertised at 0.5 of the contract (so half the pay)
Current Role: 5. 5 month contract. Extended by 4 months. Extended by another 2.
I don't say any of this to attack the employers, many of whom have been as sympathetic and supportive as any could be.
And this is not through lack of trying. Of course I try to get permanent jobs, but statistically they just aren't there. And employers are either forced to offer these contracts, or simply can get away with it.
And why stay? because often you are promised if you stick around long enough, get the experience, do good work, "when" a job comes up your name will be on it. But the job never comes up. And you can only stay so long, mainly because the contracts end. So you move on, to another, 'one day my job will come' situation. And again, and again.
And I'm not including here all the odd days of work here and there, and hours upon hours of volunteer work designed to get me 'a foot in the door' ready for that elusive full time job that lasts more than a year.
And what does all this add up to? exhaustion. Myself and others fighting this fight never get a let up from job hunting, we also never get a let up from worrying. It affects my health, physical and mental and what's more I can never plan for anything. I can't book a holiday in advance, I don't know where I'll be working. It's all the stress of being a freelancer without any of the benefits.
The culture of short term jobs isn't resulting in a good workforce- when everything is just 'for now' it's hard to really commit- for employers to train and for employees to give their all. Because for us as employees our eye has to always be on the next thing.
People who got a job after Graduating, and peacefully went from one to another. They don't get this. They also don't get why I go up and down in terms of seniority and type of job, or why I never seem to have a 'proper' jobs. I'm trying to do all the things you're supposed to do to get a 'proper' job. It just never seems to quite pan out.
Above all I'm exhausted. So next time someone asks why you're just on a temporary contract, or why you still live at home, maybe don't feel like you're alone. Because I'm there and I'm exhausted too.