Signing up for unemployment was a new experience for author Jo Howell.
Career & Business

Am I ready to accept the financial help of the Job Centre?

Ushering in the 50s – Experience #37 Signing On at the Job Centre

When I was made redundant in July, the thought of signing-on at the Job Centre didn’t really enter my head. I don’t know why — maybe I thought I wouldn’t need to; didn’t have to or maybe (here comes the truth bomb!) I just thought I was better than that.

People like me — successful, career-minded women in their late 40’s — do not sign on. I had a pre-judged idea of what unemployed people look like, dress like and how they behaved and I definitely did not fit into that category thank you very much.

But a few friends advised that I should go and get what I was entitled to and when my positive brain was on full alert, this sounded a very good idea. So off I went for appointment number one — the initial, “Are you entitled to anything?” chat. And you know what? It was OK. The lady was very helpful. I filled-in some forms and she agreed that the likelihood of me finding a job on their website was probably very slim and I should look at the more “intelligent” websites.

However, inside the Job Centre they have Security staff (who knew?!) and they work for my ex-employer. Not only that, I trained one of them to be a Supervisor. Oh. A little voice popped up in my head and whispered, “How the mighty have fallen eh, Joanne?” It hurt seeing that guy there and I shuffled out feeling a bit sorry for myself.

My first actual ‘signing on’ date arrived last Friday and I duly arrived at 10:50 ready for my 11 A.M. appointment. I’d started the day feeling vulnerable, emotional and dreading going in. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the realisation that I was unemployed, out of work and not earning my comfortable salary each month or driving my lovely company car (although “lovely” was not a word I used for the Jag very often!). I sat down in front of the Job Centre person — another very friendly, helpful, kind and caring lady — and I cried. The tears just spilled over and would not stop; they fell and fell and fell.

“Why on earth are you crying, Joanne?” she asked kindly. “We’re here to help you.”

I nodded sadly. I knew that but I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t belong there.

So here’s truth bomb number two.

Signing up for unemployement after losing her job was hard for Jo Howell.

My last month with the ex-employer didn’t really go so well. In-fact the whole redundancy process was a farce. Not only was I treated quite unprofessionally, but also a mistake by an inexperienced Manager led to my fate being sealed and my 16-year-service coming to an abrupt end. To make matters worse, 99% of my colleagues – people I thought were friends – couldn’t even be arsed to say goodbye. People I’ve been through thick and thin with; people I’ve slept on an office floor at Silverstone with; people I’ve seen at their best, and worst, couldn’t be bothered to say goodbye, good luck, ta-ra.

And it hurts. A lot.

So my tears at the job centre were a combination of things, I guess. Made redundant, now unemployed and feeling lost, scared and discarded. It’s not a nice feeling and not an experience I would wish upon many people.

When I started this journey last November, I could never have imagined this experience — this signing on experience — would ever have appeared in my blogs. It certainly wasn’t planned. But I have found that as we amble through life that some of the most unexpected things teach you the biggest lessons.

I have learned that (clearly!) I’m not indispensable. I have learned that redundancy is an opportunity and without it, I wouldn’t be training to be a Make Up Artist. I have learned that Job Centres aren’t full of tracksuit-wearing Jeremy Kyle rejects. I have learned that not every unemployed person migrates to Weatherspoon’s at 11 A.M. for a pint of Stella.

And I have learned that actually I’m stronger than I thought. Most days.


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