Seek and ye shall not find


Job hunting is like being at a fancy dress ball and nobody wanting to dance with you.

On the first day you jump on Seek or some other careers site and the world is your oyster. You’re presented with page after page of life-changing employment. Fresh opportunities and the lure of cold, hard cash that’ll elevate you from cask wine to bottled wine, from two-minute noodles to a main at Sushi Noodle Guy.

On day two, once you’ve updated your CV and written a cover letter, you start pumping out the applications. After two or three hours you actually feel like you’ve done a day’s work and sit down for a glass of Banrock Estate, and a hearty bowl of noodles.

When you rise on day three you eagerly scan your email account for all the replies you dreamt about during the previous night’s slumber. Yes, Seek has sent you a ‘Job Application Confirmation’ email but no, your future employers are at work oblivious to your brilliantly written cover letter and excellently formatted CV.

You combat the disappointment of no ‘actual’ replies by applying for more jobs and suddenly you’re surrounded by a flurry of virtual paper swirling around your head, cartoon-like, with daytime television and, in particular, Ellen’s dancing, taunting you from every corner of your mind.

After a couple of weeks of this you find yourself waiting for your name to be called out in Centrelink. You can smell the desperation, and, what’s worse, you’re now a part of a dreaded system where you become accountable for your every inaction. In Centrelink, no one can hear you scream. Well they can but they just call security.

Matchworks is next – the not-for-profit job agency time forgot. Enough said.

A month passes and maybe you’ve embraced unemployment and decided to use this time to write a novel or photograph some street art with the help of a mate who’s always unemployed. Once the project is underway you become elated and regard it as your job (and so you should). You pass off this time of unemployment as an opportunity to explore yourself and your art. Your life develops greater meaning. Until…

… just as you begin to regard yourself as a serious but potentially homeless artist, a recruitment agency call you and invites you in for an interview, and you’re excited but have no idea which job they are talking about.

You rake through your wardrobe for your interview clothes. They need an iron and smell stale, so you spray them with deodorant and leave them out to air.

The next day you front up to the interview and dazzle the recruitment people with your experience and devastating repartee. They smile at you with 21st century teeth and promise you the employment equivalent of a rose garden. You go home, pour yourself a Banrock Estate and a week later you walk into a call centre to start your new job. A team leader greets you wearing the new K-mart range of office wear, and you join five others in a training room to watch a video about telecommunications etiquette.

For three months you endure minimum wage and enthusiastic team leaders who speak in jargon and say, ‘does that make sense’ fifty times a day. You don’t smoke but get in with the smokers because they’re more fun and hate the job as much as you do. You go home each night and drink a couple of bottles of Bowlers Run because it’s less than five dollars a bottle.

One morning you wake up to a call from the recruitment agency advising you that the call centre no longer wants you, muttering something about ‘attitude’. You roll over and go back to sleep.

A few days later you jump on Seek again but deep down you know you’ll be dragging out that arts project in less than a month. You get up, buy a cask of Golden Oak medium dry white and turn on the television.

Ellen dances towards you.

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About callumrscott

I’m a Writer, Literary Agent, and Social Handyman, who oscillates between being elated and very angry and sometimes both at the same time. Through my research as a writer, I’ve studied many forms of masculinity, in particular, hyper and protest masculinity. My other main field of research is transgression or the rituals of transgression and the performative nature of this behaviour. Apart from researching, writing, directing and fixing, I enjoy a good pint of stout and I live in a flat, close to my favourite place, the mall from Dawn of the Dead (2004). My greatest disappointment in life is that my first memory turned out to be a lie. I didn’t lose a red wellie on a beach in Orkney and now I have no first memory, just a lot of stories about alcohol and bad decisions.

18 responses to “Seek and ye shall not find”

  1. Annette Keil-taggart says :

    Love This. Are you looking for work? Come on up North!

    • callumrscott says :

      I’m cool Annette got employment and thanks for the offer. I wrote this for all the people who are in strife and have no options. Times are tough and there aren’t many voices out there who understand. I was out there once and thankfully found a career but for many years I was cast adrift with nothing.

  2. Linda says :

    Resonates strongly with me. A tough time in my life but I did get a job in the end!

  3. kategrealy says :

    Been there, back when I was doing my arts degree.. You’ve described the soul destroying worthlessness of the whole thing so well

    • callumrscott says :

      Thanks Kate, much appreciated. It is soul destroying but character building and once you’ve been through it you appreciate the rigours of your fight for employment and savour the end results!

  4. Jack says :

    Hopeful my kids would read this and know what to expect if they continue to play games and music rather than spending time in their books which I hardly ever see. It’s hard out there, but the cream rises to the top for those who put in the effort of planning their career while at school. I seen it and basically we reap what we sow. It will get worst because people don’t get it. CENTRELINK gets the blame for not capable of coping with the mass of job searchers which grows everyday. Do something for yourself while you can and it will ease the CENTRELINK system. I’ve been through the system too but never had the need to complain, and I know why.

    • callumrscott says :

      Aye it’s a tough call Magepub and the road is hard and often futile and yes, I agree, complaining about your lot doesn’t help but talking about these struggles does. I based this blog on my struggles as a 20 something and trying to make it as a writer in a job market that often doesn’t appreciate your sense of humanity and humility. I did some research on how it effects contemporary job seekers and I noticed that nothing has changed in 20 years, in fact, it’s harder now to secure permanent employment in today’s job market. Centrelink cops a lot of shit for its inability to actually help job seekers and some of that is warranted but at least we’re lucky enough to receive social welfare and for that we should be eternally grateful. In some countries the unemployed aren’t just disenfranchised but cast out into the wasteland of despair and abject poverty.

  5. Newnest says :

    This is brilliant Callum. Resonates so deeply with me right now. I’m at that call centre, on a paltry wage, listening to my team leader using jargon to ‘inspire’ (aka sell) us and our clients. There is that perennial clash between pursuing your art and making money. Plus the catch 22 of being over qualified and under experienced (damn MComm at deakin haha). But at least we’re blessed to have that safety that is centrelink in between the pursuit of dreams, the inevitable call centres and sheer frustration.

    Great article.

    • callumrscott says :

      Thanks Newnest, your comments are very much appreciated. The article is based on my experiences in the workforce whilst in my 20s and the frustration of finding a creative/work balance in my life, which I didn’t find until my early 30s. However, I did spend a lot of this time traveling around the world and picking up dead end jobs here and there. You’re right, being over qualified can be as detrimental as being under qualified and in today’s job market there’s an expectation that you complete an unpaid internship, while still trying to pay your rent. All in all it’s getting tougher out there and I agree, for all Centrelink’s failings at least we’re privileged enough to have that safety net, and for that we should be grateful. Thanks for reading.

  6. Vanessa de Largie says :

    Wow, love your writing! Following u on twitter.

    • callumrscott says :

      Thanks Vanessa, very much appreciated! I checked out the link on your Twitter page, very impressive body of work. Posting my next blog on Friday, which is all about me giving up alcohol for a better life. Any new books in the pipeline?

      • Vanessa de Largie says :

        Lucky I checked back here, didn’t show up in my email 😦 I will subscribe to your blog. Thanks for checking out my website. Vanessa

      • callumrscott says :

        Hey Vanessa – That’s strange, usually the replies go straight back to emails. Many apologies for that I will look into it and get it sorted. Thanks for the follow. Do you have a blog? I couldn’t find one on your website. Cheers – Callum

  7. April says :

    I love the way you describe the system as one which holds you ‘accountable for every inaction’. Captures the putative atmosphere of Centrelink so well!

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