Finding It Tough

This week was a tough week. After 2 months job searching in the Cork area all I've managed to cough up is one single interview, of which I have yet to receive an outcome. Even then, its a company that I am more than a tad uneasy about, since they have laid off people in other divisions in recent months, offshoring jobs to low cost locations - thats exactly what I am in right now so understandably I'm more than a little uncomfortable going straight into a job where I could very well find myself in the same scenario in 2 or 3 years time. That said, its not gone that far yet, and might not either.

Anyway, I've moved onto Plan B which is spreading the jobsearch more evenly to the rest of Ireland, which to be honest wasn't hard, as I don't think there are any agencies left down here for me to harass or companies advertising openings that I know of. I've also chased up a few leads but no luck there so far. So now looking at Dublin, which might turn out to be more promising, and since I can go live back home, time is far less of a concern as I can afford to wait around longer than I can in Cork, where frankly, my rent is too high over the threshold to get rent subsidy on, and frankly the place I live in isn't great - certainly not a place I'd like to spend lonely unemployed days - I'd rather be back home with the distractions of family if that is going to be the case.

Anyway, watched a couple of episodes of Rising After Redundancy and looked up the website of the programme. While I have to say the people on it are really appealling - especially Barney, something about the guy I find very likeable, I looked up the website of the guy doing the course and he is charging an eye watering 1500 yo-yos for something like it. 1500 euros!! I was stunned. I mean, there is no end of get-rich-quick, social networking trainers (with zero marketing backgrounds) and life coaches out there just waiting to grab the cash of the unwary, but this one shocked me. I mean, its a lot of money, even for somebody coming out with 6 months or more of an annual salary. I am not entirely happy with RTE promoting this kind of stuff.

I really have 2 issues with some of the presentation of unemployed people on RTE. Firstly, lets get one thing straight - Ireland has had a net loss of probably around a quarter of a million jobs. Add to that the hardcore, unemployable, and difficult cases. The number of vacancies is only a small percentage of the now swelling ranks of the unemployed. A large proportion of these will be coming with qualifications, good skills and expansive experience. While many people will be content to take lower skilled and paid work and "bump down" those who don't have great skills, a lot of people simply won't get interviews for more entry level roles because employers don't want career changers.

There is a huge myth out there about how easy career changing can be. I know because I've done it. To this day I still get questions about it from prospective employers and unfortuantely the folklore that surrounds what I previously did (I was a musician and music teacher) often harms my employment prospects as people make assumptions about me that are all wrong. Ireland is a very prejudiced country - just look how wearing a leather dress on a weather forecast becomes a national sensation - only in a very conservative country would this be a big deal. People read all kinds of meanings into things based on what is often very limited experience. This is very tough, and if anybody is thinking of a dramatic career change I'd suggest extensive training and preparation - something I didn't have that made the first 2-3 years quite difficult.

The main reason I would suggest extensive training is because if you manage to break into something at entry level without accreditations, you tend to find yourself in a catch 22 - you cannot get promoted because you're not skilled enough, your employer won't pay for it, and you earn too little to do it yourself. It took me 4 years to earn enough to start to pay for very modest certifications.

Now another thing that would worry me is a big push towards self employment. Now don't get me wrong, I grew up in a self-employed household and saw all the benefits and disadvantages first hand. There are three huge issues with self employment. Firstly, you need to generate sufficient turnover and collect enough payment to be a success - this is key. Secondly, banks are not the sole traders friend - they were always particularly harsh on sole traders and especially so now - high charges and penalties may cripple otherwise good plans. Lastly, Irish law and regulation regarding self employment dates back to the highly prejudiced 1980s where self employed people were seen as spongers and as a result they are unfairly treated in areas of welfare, benefits, pensions, perks, BIK and especially taxation. For example, a PAYE worker on the same salary earns more simply because they get 4000 euros extra a year in tax allowances - now that is a huge issue that most people won't realise. A secondary issue is in an era of banking uncertainty, it may be difficult to keep up to date with payments to revenue. This is very difficult. Finally a lot of people don't realise how expensive audited accounts are.

These are issues that really people need to be educated about before they jump into a world of self employment. There are real barriers that government really needs to get its finger out of its hole on here. One of the reasons that there is so much of a problem with assessing social welfare is that failed self employed people have to claim for means tested rather than automatic job seekers payments. If your business has already failed the last thing you need is a 3-4 month delay on your payment. Its high time that there was equity between self employed workers and employed ones - basically a real recognition that most self employed are not freeloading wealthy spongers.

What is badly needed is a move towards greater support for indigenous business rather than just huge ones. And real assistance for companies who would like to take on extra workers but can't quite afford it. I think a lot of money is thrown away on the community sector that really isn't useful and just creates jobs for the boys in communities. I think its ruining community based organisations as they really should be operating on a voluntary basis or not. The mixed mode just isn't right. Thats just my opinion though.

Anyway I feel way better now after writing this post. Here's still hoping something might come up.


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