Trying to find a path to financial sustenance and survival

By Jay

It’s sometimes said that if you don’t get selected after an interview that it probably means the job wasn’t right for you anyway. Invariably, this will be said of those who, due to some perceived vulnerability, struggle to compete in the job market. In other words, the market is generally right and it’s probably for the best – and, you’ll find your rightful place eventually. Like other generalisations about the efficacy of market situations, it will be accurate about some but ignores the impact that the whole set-up and process has on vulnerable individuals. Repeated rejection and isolation will take its toll on some people, whilst others will have the resilience and support to absorb set backs. Many people will never find their ‘rightful’ place.

For someone with social anxiety symptoms and feelings of hopelessness, for example, career options and ambitions may be narrow and difficult to navigate. An interview can feel like a form of humiliation, exposing one’s confusions and vulnerabilities or, even, disabilities, in a situation of judgement. Interview rejections are an added pain upon that experience. Attaining roles that only offer routine work, without support for progression or poor work conditions can contribute to worsening health.

Decisions by interviewers may often be well-founded, intentioned and, perhaps, often correct Placing someone in a role beyond their capacity would likely be harmful, as well as counter-productive for the organisation. However, implicit in the logic of our economy and the sustenance market that provides its labour is that wealth and control is, generally, for the ‘able’ or ‘most productive’ and the rest is for the less able or vulnerable.

Fortunately, in an economically privileged country like the UK, there are opportunities and there are legal protection against discrimination and, also, some affirmative action schemes for disabled individuals. The publicly funded sector, I have found, can be somewhat easier to find and maintain roles in, due to less of a pressure on output – though, in the UK, the public sector is under attack from government through defunding, creating fewer opportunities and more difficult working conditions.

As a vulnerable person, due to health, including social anxiety symptoms and finances, finding a career path has proven very difficult. In my youth, absorbed by fear and avoidance, the world of work was beyond my imagination. Over a decade later, having done a variety of customer service and administrative type roles, and spells of being without an income or employment, relying on family, I am currently applying for administrative roles without any conviction and much fear and despair. Unsurprisingly, I’m being rejected regularly at interviews – though I am fortunate to get to the interviews due to the support from my family that enabled me to attain some academic qualifications and basic digital and administrative skills and experience. I am also fortunate to have comfortable housing and food due to family support.

I’m in my 30s and the extent of my family support cannot last another several years. I am finally being forced to reckon with how I will sustain myself more independently. I have worked in various temporary administration roles, mostly, in the public sector, intermittently, over the past few years. I have not pushed on due to my social anxiety symptoms, confusion about my wants and feelings of hopelessness about finding my place in society.

Not having any meaningful focus for my future, the process of making choices as to what to try is overwhelming. From geographical location – even the country, to sector, type of role and hours, I have uncertainties which make it hard to make any decision as to where and what to apply for. The benefit of having my family safety net is that, currently, desperation for any job to survive does not exist. That desperation could be helpful in some situations, forcing them into change and finding their way. However, I am sure that, equally, that desperation could push some into places that are unsuitable or damaging for them.

Having struggled to face the confusion and uncertainty of searching online for jobs, this New Year, I have fallen back into the least difficult but somewhat stagnant process of applying for temporary administrative roles in my local area which might give me work for a short period, quite good pay but leave me in the same situation in terms of knowledge, capability and vulnerability as when I started. These roles are advertised together on one site and only require the submission of a CV and cover letter. There is no lengthy application registration and completion process for each role. Having updated my CV, I, generally, write a few unique paragraphs for the cover letter and am able to apply for a role within, perhaps, twenty minutes. Generally, these temporary roles are awarded without any interview.

Next week, I will start such a month-long temporary administrative type role – though the precise duties are unknown to me. I feel emotionally empty and some dread about this latest stint in a nomadic and directionless path. It will occupy my time and mind, so that I will suspend, mostly, my fretting and thinking about the future. However, the pay will be quite good and it will be in the public sector, with a university, so I am hoping that the pressures will not be too intense. I will be expected to work in the office two days a week, which will be a first for nearly two years, since pre-pandemic, in March 2020. My counsellor suggested that it may be an opening for longer-term work but, as impractical and negative as it sounds, the idea of long-term administrative work makes me feel despair. Though, it must said, that that is based on the abstract and my estimations, as I haven’t started the role.

I must still try to figure out my future means of sustainable and long-term income. At the moment, I feel like flotsam in the sea, very vulnerable due to my health and finances and, also, due to my lack of knowledge or skill, beyond the relatively commonplace digital skills. My family are keeping me afloat. I have considered further education but cannot think of what I would study. I sometimes fantasise, out of the periphery of my shrunken imagination, of making an income writing but without much action or hope. Recently, I have wondered about working in hospitality in a new location, perhaps, a new country, to gain experience in independence and potentially develop some confidence. It could revive my desire and enthusiasm for writing, though, there is little past evidence that it would. Then, I wonder whether I should apply to work in some university library as they pay reasonably well and I find educational environments match some of my interests.

Making decisions without a means to narrow down and focus the options is really difficult, especially, when troubled by fear. Currently, I am waiting until despair and financial pressure makes me take weakly thought out and cautious steps, based on prior experience. It does not feel like a solution to the wider malaise but I can only hope that it might take me somewhere.

20th Jan 2022

Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website:

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