Working 9-5, not a way to make a living (in 2016, anyway)

 

EUGENE

 

side note: this is henceforth part of a series I’ll temporarily call disorganised order of think pieces (AKA ‘having a tiny rant’). It rambles a bit.

 

 

Every so often I get consumed by an idea, or a concept. These are probably ideas or concepts which have long occurred to other people, or have become a sort-of-accepted factor in social awareness or something. Presently, the concept I am rather preoccupied with is jobs.

I have a job.

I have a good, nice part time job that gets me through college and gives me juuuust enough money that I can still do things like go for coffees with friends or buy the odd item of clothing or have the odd dinner out or takeaway. I have really understanding employers who have been brilliant about my mental illness issues. I also volunteer a lot of my time to other things besides my job in an effort to build a skill set so that I have something to offer besides my degree when I’m done college eventually. I am conscious of time and of spending that time wisely week in, week out working on this or that or the other so if I’m not earning money, I’m working towards building a portfolio or gaining skills which will eventually, hopefully, result in me earning money.

Plenty of students – which is something I have to keep reminding myself that I am; I am a student despite being deferred this year – don’t have jobs at all and rely on assistance funds and grants and parental dig-outs to get by, while others have part time jobs that either interfere with their studies or don’t nearly help to make ends meet. I live at home and get help with travel and food (I’m coeliac and food is expensive, whichever way you look at it, and cheap ‘student food’ staples aren’t an option) and am not eligible for assistance. My boyfriend helps me out where I need it, but all I think about, pretty much day in day out, is money and when I’m next getting paid and what I need to be able to afford and what I can spend in a given week and how bad things will get when I am back in college and and I’m sure every single average student (as in one not from wealthy backgrounds) in the WORLD feels like this… but my question is, why?

Why has it become a thing that employers are allowed to stipulate – nay, discriminate – terms for entry level jobs and say one must have several years experience of waiting tables or serving customers to be able to work in another entry level job? Why are degrees a necessary requirement for some jobs which are, by all regards, entry-level in terms of skills required, and in which people will ‘learn by doing’ anyway? Why has capitalist society, where companies depend on consumerism to even exist, allowed those companies to decide who gets to potentially spend money on them by determining a person’s potential value by how much experience they may have on paper?

It goes the same way every time. I’ve had jobs since I was 18, and after quitting a job that was 20 hours on top of my 22 hours in college plus almost two hour commutes a day (ie, too much for one person) I spent 6 horrible, uncomfortable months unemployed because companies were able to reject me without having ever met me, simply because I had customer service experience but not enough face-to-face experience. Nothing makes me more annoyed than a person saying ‘there are loads of jobs out there’. Believe me, I know. I see unemployed friends trying daily to get a job – I applied for 5-10 jobs a night for 6 months so I know how hard it is – and struggle through degrees which in today’s environment are probably not going to get them anywhere anyway without a Masters (which is more struggling) or going to another country where their personal skillset may be valued. I see friends and friends parents struggle on the contracts they have with their employers and I see people on full time contracts barely able to afford rent and living expenses month to month. I’m not so naive to assume that my present situation, where I can currently rely on my parents to help me with necessities, even remotely compares to those struggling to feed their families or make ends meet, but it all boils down to the same issue. There are ‘loads of jobs out there’ but these employers are allowed to demand the perfect candidate. Which is all well and good, but the perfect candidate is probably out there earning the kind of money they should be earning relative to their skill set and not interested in working at a job they’ve already gotten more than enough experience doing. I guess what I’m saying is that years ago people didn’t need ‘qualifications’ in the form of previous experience to do a job. They asked around and made good impressions in person. Their applications were not rejected by a computer for not having 4 years experiences stacking shelves or saying ‘how can I help you’. These jobs are obviously fine, and I am in no way saying anything negative about them or the people who do them, but my main point is that people drag themselves through college to get into a job they do not aspire to be in. Millennials were conditioned to reach for the stars. We were told we could be anything and now we are at stalemate where we can do neither. We can neither reach for the stars, or look for stable 9-5s, because 9-5 hours don’t exist anymore. They just don’t.

I think I can name one person in my social circle that has a consistent 9-5. Everyone else is either on part-time, shift-work, unemployed or freelance. It’s almost laughable that I’ve attended lectures where we discuss the caveats of shiftwork and how damaging it is to people’s minds and bodies and the potential for burnout, and then we look at how the working world functions in this country and still we wonder why so many of us are medicated or suffering with mental illness. It’s laughable and horrific and I can’t stop thinking about how it all boils down to a world where we spend more than we have to try get some enjoyment out of an existence that requires us to work, which belittles those who can’t and discriminates against those who have not worked yet. How are we meant to go forward? What are future generations to do?

I heard today through a friend that there are people out there doing degrees and jobs where taking amphetamines or cocaine is as much a part of the job or learning as getting up in the morning. This is not sustainable. The average working person cannot hope to achieve the levels of productivity of a person under the influence. It’s not possible. Sometimes I look at my freelancer friends and those who got jobs through opportunity and think about how hard they work, and then remember that they either worked their asses off to get where they were in the first place, or are still running at an unsustainable pace but can’t stop in case they fall off the proverbial treadmill. We’re all running but we’ve no idea when we can slow down just in case we stop and fall off. In Ireland today, we have to hope someone is nearby to catch us if we fall because the fear of never getting back up again is so real it’s terrifying.

Even as I’m writing this I’m on edge. I feel I should’ve been doing something else today instead of having a perfectly lovely day. I feel I should’ve been trying to do something else instead in case I fall off that treadmill. That fear affects my mental health more than anyone could ever imagine – and probably affects millions of others’, too. What are we doing, you guys? Why have we let this happen? And how can we fix it?

 

This was far more rambling than I intended but I needed to get it out in print. I needed to say what we’re probably all thinking, and I want to start a discussion. We can’t possibly expect to continue as we are. What do we do? What would you do?

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