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Zero hours zero pay

In the last couple of months I have: lost one job (my main source of income) applied and been rejected from approximately 12 jobs. Including 2 at places I currently work.

In the belief that there's a 'Friends' quote for every occasion, this time I'm going for "Rock bottom...fifty feet of crap....and then me."

That sounds flippant, but believe me when I say I've spent far too much of this past weekend and couple of days either in tears or staring blankly into space wondering why bother any more.

Now admittedly some of those jobs were academic jobs I know really I'm not ready for. At least one I was hoping to get an interview, just to be seen, hopefully do well and be remembered next time when hopefully it would be the right time to work there. And it's true that most of these jobs I can rationalise why I didn't get them, why I didn't even get an interview. But you know what? when it comes down to it that doesn't make me any less unemployed does it? That doesn't make me feel any less useless and worthless.

Yesterday I was reminded of another TV show quote. In 'Sex and the City' one of them (no idea which) said something along the lines of "I've been dating since I was fifteen, I'm exhausted, where is he?" which actually applies to my employment situation. I'm exhausted. I finished my Masters degree six years ago, and I've spent that time fighting to get a job. I've always been employed but never in a permanent sense and never in something I wanted to be doing. It's ok I said, I'll get some general experience and I'll volunteer and I'll do all the things you're supposed to do and eventually I'll get some bottom rung position in a field I'm interested in and then I'll work hard and I'll work my way up. None of this happened. I tried to be proactive, retrain, study again. And it all just makes it worse. I guess I'm to blame, that I just make really bad choices, but I also work really hard along the way.

I've never been out of work. I started work at 15 shoveling horse manure and moved on to a part time job in a supermarket as soon as I was legally able to work. I worked all through University, and this time around returning to study I've worked three jobs at any given time to support myself.

Coincidentally there's a piece in the news today about 'zero hours' contracts, which all three of my jobs are. It's a hard way to get by, one minute you're turning down one job over another, the next none of them have any work for you. And you have zero rights, zero benefits. Someone fell out with me when I dared to suggest that having any maternity pay, no matter how small was better than the millions on such contracts who have zero sick pay never mind maternity. It didn't go down well, but I guess unless you've experienced it you don't know. For me it's supposedly a stop gap, but it's one that's increasingly hard to get by on.

And as is the curse of the zero hours, my one job (my teaching one, the first job I really thought I was good at and might be a career) dropped me. Well dropped me and then offered me an amount of work so small I'd effectively be paying them to work there. So I've tried to get other work. I've failed. And I don't blame my (other) employers, it's the nature of the business and on the whole it works out well for those of us who work there. But it's also a constant feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing when and how much you'll be paid.

And now I'm in a Catch-22: Can't finish the PhD without a job, but because I'm doing the PhD nowhere will employ me. If I take a full time job (should anyone actually want to employ me, which is doubtful let's face it) it means delaying quite substantially the PhD. If I knew I'd finish within a certain time then maybe I'd limp on with overdraft and credit cards (though I'm terrified of any substantial debt given that I'll probably struggle to be employed after) but as my supervisors have lost any faith in my finishing it too that's not an option. I wish I could give up, given the lack of faith in my finishing or producing anything worthwhile but that would really cement the utter waste of time it's been.

Once again the lack of understanding on all sides is irritating to say the least. On the academic side, most were lucky to be funded in their PhD's and now, years into decent pay the memory of scraping by on next to nothing is so distant it doesn't figure. What really galls is the idea that financial situation doesn't affect the academic work. The hours I've spent applying for jobs I could have spent on the PhD, never mind the hours at the actual jobs. And on the other side, people who don't understand why you're still doing your PhD. I was asked the other day why it was taking so long. I genuinely don't have an answer other than 'this is how long it takes' (I'm currently just about to hit the 3 year mark, which is the minimum).

When the places that employ you also are the ones rejecting you from jobs, that's when you really begin to question. I can rationalise those too, but what it really boils down to is a feeling of utter worthlessness and hopelessness. And I'm tired, so tired, I can't rationalise it any more.


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