The happy, smiley face of JobBridge

So far, I’ve done a lot of quasi-lighthearted bitching about bureaucracy and trying to lead a happy, fulfilled life on €238 per week. But, in all seriousness, we all know there’s more than a couple of things seriously wrong with the Jobbridge scheme.

This was initially conceived as a post where I presented a brief outline of a positive aspect of JobBridge before suggesting a myriad of ways which it could be improved upon (and simultaneously astounding you with my profound intellect and vision). As it grew in length, I decided to split it up because modern attention spans are so very short.

I'm a normal person, but super-happy

I’m a normal person, but super-happy

Internships are becoming a fact of life for more and more industries, particularly those in the creative and policy-making industries. After college, the only way to get experience is sometimes to suck it up and take shitty unpaid work.

This was my experience post-expensive masters and it was gut-wrenchingly depressing. Graduating with a journalism qualification in 2009 was a cruel trick to play on me. All of us were forced to undertake unpaid internships as part of our college programme but due to the difficulty in getting work, some of my classmates jump into volunteering at news organisations after graduation to get valuable experience.

When on a standard internship, you don’t qualify for social welfare as you’re technically unavailable for fulltime work. The experience was valuable but they could only afford to earn it by being the lucky bearers of a bonus I lacked; a comfortable parental home where they could stay and be taken care of for as long as they needed.

At the time my mother had just started a stint of unemployment which is  still ongoing today (after being gainfully employed for 30 years solid). Even if she was working, she comes from the family school of hard graft where even if I was in receipt of a welfare cheque, a portion of it would have to be handed up to her. And there was no way I was staying in her house to work for free while she fed, clothed and sheltered me at the ripe age of 22. I’ve also lived in my own accommodation since I was 17 and a return to the family home would result in both of us destroying each other with northside harpey screams.

So my options were:

  •  be unemployed & try to sell stories to editors who don’t know me in a buyers market filled with hungry graduates (networking is one of my biggest weak spots)
  • take an unpaid internship and be destitute but gain experience which was valuable but sadly inedible
  • take an actual paying (albeit minimum wage) job which has nothing to do with my qualifications in a hope of eventually paying off the loan I took to get those qualifications and watch hopelessly as the letters after my name become more and more meaningless as time marches steadily on.

That’s an attractive package isn’t it? It wasn’t helped by the advice of my journalism lecturers, one of whom had this to say to our class in the run-up to graduation:

Journo Prof: When you graduate, don’t take any job that isn’t journalism. It’s better to be an unemployed journalist than work in Tesco. If you start down that road, you’ll never become a journalist, you’ll just work in a shop.

Me: Any ideas about how to pay my rent?

Journo Lecturer: *blank look* Can’t you just live at home?

Me: Well, my mother lives in Cork, far away from the majority of media. And she can’t afford to keep her adult daughter just because I can’t be bothered to work in a shop. It’s not very practical advice.

JL: Hmmm, um, well….*bewildered look continues, moves class conversation swiftly on ignoring my grudging facial expression*

Let’s examine this; a journalism lecturer actually advised his class to live off the state and their comfortably middle-class parents (as he assumed we all had) for as long as necessary to avoid falling into the trap of working in a job he deemed “below” them. Considering the state of the economy, I can reasonably assume if I followed his advice I would still be claiming social welfare, living in my mother’s house 4 years on.

To his credit, he does have a point. Working in a fulltime job leaves barely any time or brain power for creative processes. If you work 9-6 in a call centre with all breaks and phone calls monitored, how on earth can you chase up leads?

Which brings me to an uncomfortable truth; for the last few years, before the recession and before JobBridge, those lucky enough to come from a comfortable background could afford to take “golden” opportunities to work for free.

Free labour has been around for a long time in certain industries. Job Bridge merely levels the playing field for the rest of us, allowing us to continue to pay rent and eat while finally putting that desperately needed experience on our CVs.

There you have it; a sterling silver lining on the tangled cloud of bureaucratic Irish mess that is JobBridge. Which leads nicely to what will be my next post; a few super-simple measures that could easily improve JobBridge in the off-chance that somebody with the power to improve the scheme actually wishes to do so.

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