A Household Hint
I've been made unemployed again (my contract expired at the end of last month - if you're hiring admin staff in Western Australia and need someone three days a week, let me know!) so I'm spending a lot of time at home. This is (fortunately or unfortunately) currently coinciding with a bout of rather nasty pain from my right temporo-mandibular joint, which means I'm currently drinking one heck of a lot of tea in an effort to keep things from getting entirely too painful. Plus, of course, it is SPRING in Australia, and it's been about three years since the rear courtyard and steps of our place were sprayed with weed-killer. So in order to be dealing with the combined problems of a) boredom; b) too many weeds in the paving; and c) no money to spend on weed-killer, I've been using what I call "the poor person's glyphosate" on the weeds in the rear paving.
What is the poor person's glyphosate? Boiling water. To kill weeds in paving, pour boiling water over them until they start to either a) wilt; b) smell like cooking greenery; or c) both. If it's a really big, bushy weed, pour the water over the base of the plant - kill that and you'll get the rest of it, trust me.
This has several advantages over commercial weed-killers. Firstly, it's entirely non-toxic to the rest of the garden (and to the gardener, for that matter). The thing which is killing the weeds is the heat, not the chemicals - the water itself is entirely non-toxic to the garden when it cools down past boiling point. Secondly, it's not toxic to animal life (if you have pets or fish, you can use this particular weed-killer with no problems whatsoever - just keep them out of range for about five minutes while things cool down). Thirdly, it's also a nice, non-toxic way of dealing with the ants in the paving (pour boiling water down an anthill to give the ants the hint you're not interested in having them excavating Right There). Fourthly, it's cheap and easy. Or at least, it's certainly a lot cheaper and easier than buying commercial weed-killer and using that would be.
Essentially, what I've been doing is each time I boil up the kettle for a cup of tea, I've been taking the remaining hot water out the back door while the tea brews, and pouring it onto a clump of weeds. So far I've managed to clear the back steps, and I'm getting started on the paving nearest the door to the house. At this rate, I'll hopefully have everything cleared by about the end of the next week or so. Then I can get started on the front paving, and clear a bit of that.
 Long story short-ish: the temporo-mandibular joint is inflamed, which refers pain to the nerve on the right hand side of my jaw, which means if I'm not taking regular painkillers, I wind up with everything from my wisdom teeth to the front edge of my right incisors aching like blazes. Including the upper pre-molar which was removed a few years ago. It's a bit annoying, to put things mildly. (Actual joint pain: about a 2 - 3 out of 10. Once the teeth get involved: easily a 6 - 7 out of 10, if not higher). This only gets worse if my right ear or the right side of my jaw get cold. Hence hot liquids as a palliative measure.
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Cos I'm Working for the Dole, Working for the Do-hole...
As a dole-bludging layabout, perennial leaner who is failing/refusing to "have a go", and parasitical drainer of the Australian taxpayer, the time has come once again for me to perform public penance for the sin of being unemployed and (apparently) unemployable. I'm working for the dole again.
This time around, I'm cooking for the homeless. I did my first day of it on Thursday. I'm working in a commercial kitchen space for a charity group; the charity group are hiring the kitchen space from the Uniting Church, and there's apparently supposed to be about twenty-five of us in the group. On Thursday there were three of us, and we were still having to dodge each other a lot of the time - by the time they get up to twenty-five people into this rather small and not-air-conditioned space, in the middle of the Australian summer... well, let's just say it's going to be standing room only, and pass things from hand to hand, and we'd better be allowed to keep water bottles on hand so we don't all keel over from heat exhaustion.
On Thursday we basically did baking (Carrot Cake muffins from one person; ANZAC biscuits from me; and the bloke in the group was doing a spaghetti sauce, I think) which was frozen for future use, and we took inventory of what we had for cooking with. Everything is donated, which means we have some interesting oversupplies, and some interesting little blank spots. For example, the ANZAC biscuits were made without coconut, because we didn't have any - instead, we gave 'em extra rolled oats. The icing for the cupcakes was supposed to have cream cheese in, but because they didn't have any of that, the person making them threw in extra butter. It's an exercise in figuring out what can and what can't be done with what we have. Lots of substitutions. The take-away lesson I'm getting from this is if I'm going to donate to a service like this, I'm going to be giving money rather than goods (or at least looking for a shopping list or similar from them).
We had disposable plastic aprons to be wearing, which after about ten minutes tended to start sticking to my chest (perils of v-necked t-shirts in such a situation) from the amount of perspiration I was pouring out. I've dug out the two cloth aprons I have from home, and I'll be using those in future. At least with a cotton apron, I know it's not going to stick to me.
One of the little facets of this job that I wasn't strictly prepared for was it's all standing work. Now, the last time I had to stand for long periods as part of doing my job was back when I was working checkouts, in August 1996. After a twenty-two year break, my feet aren't happy with the whole business, and oh boy did they let me know about it. Fortunately, I remember the trick for dealing with sore feet from back in my checkout days - about ten to fifteen minutes of laying down with my feet higher than my head, which allows things to drain a bit, and drastically reduces the throbbiness of things. Also, lace shoes loosely, because tightly laced shoes cut off circulation toward the end of the day.
Another thing I've learned: apply sunscreen before leaving the building on the way home. Due to fun and games down on Albany Highway with pipes and things (the Water board are having so much fun down there) the buses aren't running their usual routes to and from town. Which means while I have about a 300m walk to the bus stop in the morning (8.30am start, which means I'm leaving home around 7.30am in order to get there on time in the morning), on the way home at night, I have something like a four block walk back from Albany Highway to where I'm living on the other side of Berwick Street (or it's a four block walk back down Berwick Street from Balmoral Street). I didn't realise this on Thursday, and got a little sunburned (hottest day in months, and we were sent home early due to lack of work to do).
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Reflections on Jobsearch
I'm starting to think a police clearance (formal notice from the police department that I don't have a criminal record, and that there are no charges pending against me) is basically a component added to job ads for classist (and possibly racist) reasons first and foremost. When you're asking people to have a police clearance (which, the last time I applied for one, several years ago, cost about $60) which is current to within the last three months, what you're basically saying is "I don't want anyone to apply for this job who isn't able to throw away at least $60 every three months on a new piece of paper just to be able to eligible to apply for jobs". It's a way of filtering out the poors.
(To put this in perspective: something else that costs me $60 is two weeks worth of food for one person. So I'm expected to spend the equivalent of my fortnightly food budget every three months, just to obtain a piece of paper intended to show I'm acceptably middle-class).
In a country like Australia, where there is a lot of institutional prejudice against our Indigenous population, and where cultural clashes lead to a higher rate of arrest, charges and imprisonment for Indigenous people (particularly Indigenous men) asking for a clean police clearance (again, a maximum of three months old) is basically saying "no Indigenous need apply", despite whatever the "diversity" statement down the bottom of the ad might be proclaiming about the company welcoming applications from Indigenous people.
Now, I'm reasonably certain this didn't start out as a conscious thing - I've certainly started to notice it a lot more in the last five years - but rather as a way of filtering down the number of applications employers are receiving for every open position. I'm getting little statements from Seek every so often which are telling me "your application doesn't look like it's going to progress any further", and those mention how many applications the employer received via Seek alone - and I've not seen one with a number lower than 200 yet. I got to the interview stage at one employer recently, and they mentioned they'd picked me for interview out of about 200 applicants. There's a lot of these filtering tactics showing up these days - closing dates for applications which are incredibly close to the date of advertising (like, maybe a week); requesting 3 - 5 years of previous experience in the role or something similar; and so on.
Funny, really - I mean, the government trumpets how much they're doing for job creation and such... but there's still over 200 applicants for every position I'm trying for, and I'd suspect the bulk of them are people who are already in jobs, who are looking for a different job, or (since I'm applying primarily for part-time work) for a second job to make ends meet. Which means effectively a lot of the "job growth" in the past few years has instead been a case of musical chairs - people moving from one position to another, and employers only advertising positions when the music stops, so to speak.
(Or in other words, yeah, I've been doing my jobsearch. Again. Things really got a lot easier for me since I stopped expecting to actually get something out of this endless hoop-jumping other than more of the same again next week).
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This is a list of things which are currently a bit of a luxury for me; things I'd like to be able to afford, but currently can't.
- When I'm grocery shopping, and I have the choice between buying the store brand, or the named brand, I'd like to be able to buy the named brand.
- I'd like to be able to buy pre-grated cheese without having to argue with my conscience about it.
- I'd like to be able to go grocery shopping without needing to take a calculator along.
- When the weather turns cold this winter (as it's already starting to do) I'd like to be able to turn on the heater the first time, rather than reaching for another jumper, jacket, scarf, gloves, blanket, thicker socks.
- I'd like to be able to wear two layers rather than three.
- I'd like to be able to afford clothes which weren't skimpy as all blazes (at present, my main shopping site is Best & Less, and while they're good for cheap clothes, their winter-weight stuff is only really winter-weight in Darwin)
- I'd like to be able to afford shoes that didn't leak, and kept my feet warm.
- I'd like to be able to afford to own/run a clothes dryer, rather than using a drying rack inside the house, and hoping I can dodge around it for long enough for things to dry out.
- I'd like to be able to pay for some of the online news services I use.
- I'd like to be able to take time off from the housework.
- Attn: The minister for Social Security and the minister for Human Services: I'd like to be in a financial position where an extra $10 per fortnight wouldn't make a discernible difference to my state of mind and standard of living.
PS: This is more a meditation on the nature of luxury, and the ways it can be defined when money is tight. It isn't actually a request for help, although I would like to thank those people who did offer assistance of a financial kind. I am more grateful for it than I can say, even though I'm also not likely to take you up on it.This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/119368.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
State of the Meg, 08 APR 2018
Warnings: frank discussion of depression, psychological land-mines, and coping strategy fail.
It's been an... interesting few months.
( Essay behind cut )
So, that's where I am at present. How's everyone else?
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Why Do I Do This To Myself?
I've just finished doing my weekly job search. Which is depressing and sucks rocks through a straw.
It is also about 60% more complicated than it actually has to be, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I grew up in a dysfunctional family, which means I still (even after twenty years safely away from the lot of 'em) feel the ingrained need to justify my every action, in order to ensure I don't wind up getting squashed by people and/or institutions which have power over me. (If I do not Document Everything and Justify Everything, I will inevitably wind up In The Wrong. Yes, I know this is fscked up. You don't need to tell me). In terms of job search, this translates to me carefully noting down the following:
* What my search terms were on Seek.com.au each week.
* How many jobs were on offer
* Relevant details from each of those job ads, complete with highlighting various things, such as hours of work offered, skills/experience/education required, due dates for applications, conditions and so forth.
* Which jobs I applied for and with which employers
* How I applied for them.
Okay, so far, so neurotic. Reasonable justification of choices achieved. Now this is the rest of what I do:
* Keep another record of every single job offered by Employer, Job description and date.
* Keep track of whether I received any response to the job applications I sent out, and what that response was.
* Keep statistics on the proportion of my job applications I receive responses to.
* Collate and keep statistics on the amount and type of experience employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on the types of qualifications, clearances, and personal qualities employers are asking for.
* Collate and keep statistics on whether the work being offered is permanent or temporary, and how many hours are being offered.
* Collate and keep statistics on the kinds of software employers are asking for experience with.
Part of the reason I do all of this is because my brain says "maybe there's some patterns in here we could pull out if we just had the stats; maybe if we just assembled enough information we could craft the Perfect Application and get ourselves a job!". It also says "ooh, numbers cool!" and "I like playing with data", not to mention "hey, let's hyper-focus on this useless aspect of things in order to try to convince ourselves all this pointless effort could maybe, possibly, have a purpose other than wasting our time in futile hoop-jumping".
Which is why looking for work, for me, occupies the better part of about four to five hours every Sunday. I keep records of all of this. They are updated religiously. Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will be demanding that I justify my choices in the same old way my family used to (and the way my bully of a boss in the agency responsible for administering our social security system here in Australia used to...) and I will be able to pull out five or more years of records explaining each and every single damn choice I've made all the way along my job search history, and why I made those choices.
In the mean time, I'm starting to build up a pretty good picture of what employers in Perth, Western Australia are looking for with regards to part-time administrative and office support workers. (Email me if you want the full autism-spectrum inspired brain dump).
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The Joys of Unemployment: JobActive Providers.
Just got off the phone with my JobActive provider, AtWork Australia.
On January 30th, I attended an appointment with them, where I advised the Employment Consultant I was going to be undertaking tertiary study, and provided them with a copy of my timetable. I have a rather long and spotty history with AtWork - I've been on their books while doing tertiary study before, and one of their more ... endearing traits was their tendency to book me appointments at the office I was registered with (about a 15 minute drive from home) either at times where I was actually supposed to be in a lecture or tutorial, or at times where in order to get from the university campus to their office to be on time for the appointment (a 30 minute drive in good traffic conditions at best) I would have needed to be able to teleport.
I had hoped by providing a copy of my timetable to the Employment Consultant at my appointment on the 30th, I would avoid this particular problem.
I checked my email this morning, and discovered I've been booked with another appointment with them in March - at a time where I'm supposed to be in a lecture at the university campus. So I've just got off the phone from pointing out to their call centre staff that during the periods where I have lectures and tutorials I AM UNAVAILABLE FOR APPOINTMENTS (surely this should be obvious?) as well as the hour either side of those times. Apparently this information hadn't been entered into their system (the fact I was doing classes was entered in, but the actual times of those classes weren't. I'd be disappointed, except the miracle is the classes were entered in at all).
This seems to be a regular feature of their Employment Consultants - they're able to see what's directly in front of them, but they're not able to think past this to what it implies (for example: if someone is doing study, they're not going to be able to attend appointments during the times they're supposed to be in classes; if someone is working, they're not going to be able to attend appointments during the times they're supposed to be at work; etc). I'm thinking the skill is a massive triumph of compartmentalisation, although this may be me winning awards for "Greatest Benefit of Doubt Given".
I'm now wondering whether this is going to result in a re-scheduling of the appointment which is booked for 10am on Monday 20th of March, or whether I'm going to have to sort it out with the local office at the time I go in to drop off my proof of job search.
(Apparently this is all part of the requirements of Mutual Obligation. I'm obliged to supply my brainpower to point out the obvious to their staff, and they're obliged to give me reasons to do so).
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On Working For the Dole.
So, I've been unemployed for six months (according to Centrelink, anyway). Which means, lucky me, I'm due to start my "Work For The Dole Phase" of the whole glorious process of being unemployed in Australia in the 21st century.
For those not in the know, "work for the dole" was an idea conceived back in the era of John Howard, by Liberal Party policy-makers who wanted to bring back the workhouses, but who didn't fancy the idea of having to shell out money to feed, house and clothe the undeserving poor (i.e. anyone on an activity-tested Centrelink payment). Basically, in order to impress on the long-term unemployed how important it is they find paying work, they're required to perform up to twenty-five hours a week of compulsory, unpaid volunteer work in order to be able to continue receiving their dole payment. I suspect whoever came up with this one must have woken up in the night and hugged themselves with glee.
Luckily for me, I'm on a part-time activity test (mental illness, such fun). I only have to do sixteen hours a fortnight worth of whatever the current equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, pasting labels or sorting rags is. Normally, the requirement is for fifteen hours a week for someone my age, twenty-five for someone younger. In my case, I'm going to be transcribing old (hand-written) court records from turn-of-the-century-NSW (i.e. early 1900s). Years of translating my mother's appalling medical handwriting into something legible has finally come in useful.
Basically, this sort of thing is supposed to... well, I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Punish me for the sin of not being in employment, one presumes. I have the site induction on Thursday, I suppose I get to find out then whether I'm supposed to be wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair to show repentance, flagellating myself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, or whether just walking around wearing a sandwich board that says "I'm SO FUCKING SORRY" will do.
Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.
I'm cranky about it, because it's a bit of deliberate humiliation on the part of a government which has an ideological agenda, and will do anything in its power to get that agenda implemented. I'm cranky about it because I'm being forced into performing unpaid labour in order to ensure wage earners are frightened into accepting lower wages and lower conditions in order to avoid being put into this situation. I'm cranky about it because the penalties for missing work, or not being able to perform whatever work I'm supposed to be doing on the day I'm supposed to be doing it, are all on me (yes, even if my erstwhile "employer" doesn't have enough work for me to be doing, or the computers are down, or the office gets hit by a meteor falling from the sky).
Oh, and I still have to keep looking for 20 jobs a month, same as before. That doesn't change, either. About the only positive thing to note about the whole mess is that since the place I'm going to be physically doing my Work for the Dole placement is the offices of my JobActive provider, I'll be able to drop off my monthly lists with a lot less carry-on.
 Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
 If your "volunteering" is organised through your JobActive provider, you get an extra $20 per fortnight on your dole payment to cover costs incurred (transport, lunches etc). If it isn't, you don't. There's a LOT of encouragement to find your own "volunteer work".
 A bit of googling reveals it was the brain-child of Tony Abbott. I must remember to write him a thank-you note.
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Job Seeker Advice: Polite Firms - Month ending 03 FEB 2016
This is going to be a regular thing, I think. These are the employers who have bothered to contact me to let me know I wasn't successful in obtaining work with them. I figure they're the polite sorts, so I want to give them a bit of free advertising to encourage this kind of behaviour a bit more widely.
- Golden Egg Farms (egg suppliers)
- Fleetcare (corporate/government fleet management & maintenance)
- Practice Insight Pty Ltd (medical services)
- Rockingham Psychology (psychological services)
If you have need of any of the services listed above, and you're in the Perth metro area, why not give those businesses a try?This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/63496.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Job Seeker Advice: Polite Firms and Recruiters to Avoid
This is me summarising a certain amount of information from looking for work. One of the things I keep track of is whether a company gets back to me to let me know I've been unsuccessful in my application for a job at their firm (which, to me, seems only polite), or indeed whether I get any acknowledgement of my application at all. So, the following firms are ones I've applied to in the past three months, which got back in touch with me (even if only via a very generic email) to let me know I'd been unsuccessful.
- WFI / Insurance Australia Group - insurance
- Choice One recruiters - personnel
- Diametech Pty Ltd (trading as Autobahn Spearwood) - car parts and servicing
- Designtec Commercial Furniture - Commercial furniture
- Chellingworth (Osborne Park Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge) - car sales
- Fantastic Furniture - home furniture (largely flat-packs)
- AMP Services Ltd (AMP Capital Investors) - shopping centre administration
- Beacon Lighting, Myaree - light fittings
- Roleystone Real Estate - real estate services
- Practice Insight Pty Ltd - software development
- Rockingham Psychology - psychological services
All of the above-named firms have been polite enough to advise me I wasn't successful in my application, which I appreciate, since it takes a lot of the fuss and bother out of jobsearch to know one way or t'other. If you have need of any of the services they provide, you could probably do worse than visit these particular companies.
(To all the other employers I applied to and didn't get a job with: even a generic Seek email saying "sorry, not this time" would be enough to let me know. That you can't be bothered to do something as minor as that... well, it doesn't say much about your attitude toward people who aren't directly handing you money right this moment. I'm posting the names of the ones who do in order to encourage good behaviour.)
One of the other things I track is whether I got a receipt of some kind to let me know the resume I sent off has been received. Mostly, I use Seek.com.au, which provides one of these as a matter of course. Occasionally, however, I have to look elsewhere (sometimes there aren't enough recent jobs on Seek) and hope for the best. I prefer to get the little email of acknowledgement, since it lets me know I haven't just dropped my details into an informational black hole. The following firm does not provide them.
- OpenRecruiting.com.au - recruiting/personnel
Indeed, OpenRecruiting.com.au purports to be a job board, but they won't let you see the jobs they have on offer unless you have signed up with them. I found a couple of jobs with them through jobsearch.gov.au, and applied via their linked online form (and really, the details of the jobs and the employers were minuscule - no employer name, no real details regarding the position etc) and didn't hear a single thing back. If you're looking for work, well, it's up to you, but I'd advise not bothering with them.
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Brief Personal Update
TW: unemployment, suicidal thoughts, mental illness
So, Himself got the sack on Monday for being off sick too often (about four weeks over the course of about ten months), but more realistically he got the sack because his boss didn't want to keep employing another technical person now the boss's honeymoon is over. We are now back to the Centrelink/Job Nyetwork "Dance of the Deserving Poor", which is a variation on the Masochism Tango where you scourge yourself for the entertainment of public servants who aren't interested in watching.
I am, quite predictably, not reacting to this well. As in, I'm melting down all over the place. Have an appointment with my doctor today to get a medical certificate for the depression (which is flaring up to the point where I've spent most of the past two days defaulting to thinking very positive thoughts about going out and playing in the traffic) and I'll be hoping to be able to head back to the last Employment Services Provider I was seeing, since I got accustomed to their particular brand of useless and I figure they'd be able to dig the file out of storage.
I'd be happier, I think, if they'd just acknowledge it is literally less likely for me to get a job than it is for me to win Lotto (1 in 85 chance of winning something in lotto, if you buy a ticket; by contrast, I applied for over 100 jobs during the course of 2014 without so much as a preliminary interview resulting) and that the only reason I'm sending out the applications in the first place is because Centrelink demands it. Your tax dollars at work, making work for HR types and recruiting agencies.
I'm going to try and keep these whiny posts to a minimum, because I know people aren't really all that interested.
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Apparently, I am Useful...
It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.
To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.
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I'm Not Overly Fond Of Scammers
One of the unfortunate hazards for the modern job seeker is the presence of scammers in the job market. These are people who have the nerve to be sending out emails purporting to be job offers, but which are actually offers to open your bank account to these people for cleaning out. I've received a couple of these, and given I'm unemployed and don't have that many assets to start with, I tend to take it a bit personally. So here's how to spot a scam.
The first big hint is you're receiving a job offer out of the blue from a company you've never applied to. The two companies I've received out of the blue offers from are RLB Solution Company, and Constellation Travels. I know I've never applied to these companies, because I keep track of where I'm sending my applications (I'm required to in order to get unemployment benefit). Genuine employers wait for you to contact them. Genuine employers aren't trawling for employees, because employment in the current economy is a buyer's market - there are more people looking for work than there are jobs available.
(Yes, there is such a thing as the head-hunter, who is seeking to get people to move from one employer to another. The thing about head-hunters, though, is they're hunting up at the top end of the market, for people with highly specialised skill sets. They aren't looking around the bottom of the market for lowly Administrative Assistants and Sales Assistants).
The second big hint is when you receive a job offer with no other contact whatsoever. No interview, no preliminary contact, nothing except the job offer showing up in your email box.
A genuine employer will want to interview you. They're wanting to make you a part of their workforce, which means they're going to be looking for the signs of both psychological and literal bad breath or poor hygiene, or anything else which might make for problems in fitting you into their team. Scammers, on the other hand, are looking to find their victim and bleed them dry with the minimum amount of effort, and keep things as impersonal and distanced as possible along the way.
Third big hint is that the job appears to involve a lot of money for not very much work. One of the primary rules for avoiding scammers of all persuasions is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Again, the current economy is a buyer's market for employers. So they're not going to be offering you high wages to try and get you started in a low-skilled position. Instead, they're more likely to be low-balling you. A scammer, by contrast, wants to use your greed to hook you in and get you interested, so they're going to be offering lots of money for not much actual work.
Now, some little things which also contribute to the setting off of the "scam" flag. The first is the employer doesn't appear to be located in your country. Now, both of my out-of-the-blue offers ping this one good and hard. RLB Solution turns out to be a firm which appears to be based in Germany (so why are they looking to hire someone in Australia if they don't have an Australian office?). Constellation Travels is based in the Philippines, and also don't have an Australian office (although they say they're going to be opening one in September 2014... pity it's already October).
(If you aren't an actual, established business broker, why would a company be contacting you in order to set up a new office in a country they don't currently do business with? Again, see the "too good to be true" clause).
The second is the company doesn't appear to have a serious web presence. RLB Solution has a website which appears to consist of one page, in German, plus a PDF file (http://rlbsolution.com/vacansy%28eng%29.pdf) detailing the job they have open. The job description is the only part of the site which is actually in English, and they don't offer an English-language translation.
Constellation Travels, by contrast, has a website which is all about offering bespoke Asian tours to rich customers, mostly in the USA and Europe. They don't have a careers page, and they don't appear to be recruiting. Also their news highlights stop at February 2011.
The third one is the people who are contacting you appear not to have a web presence either. Or rather, their web presence is rather insubstantial. For example, the person contacting me from RLB Solution purports to be Anna Stern, their Hiring Coordinator, Human Resources. Except... she isn't mentioned on their website. She doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. The nearest Facebook has for her is Anne Stern. The same goes for the person who's supposed to be contacting me from Constellation Travels, Adrian Forlan. He isn't mentioned on their website. He doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. He isn't available on Facebook.
What's even more interesting - neither of them appear to have an online presence anywhere else, either. I'm not on Facebook or LinkedIn myself, but I have a fairly wide-ranging history online.
None of these minor things are really key indicators on their own. It's the combination of all of them which sets my "scam" flag to snapping in the metaphorical breeze.
But of course, the real indicator is in the job descriptions, once you finally access them. If anyone is offering you money to "process online transactions" or "process transactions via Western Union", it's a pretty good warning they're not planning to actually give you money. They're planning to take all of yours. Most banks in most countries these days will deal quite successfully in currency exchange - it's not like it's a huge issue. So what would they need you for? Why would they need access to your bank account to "process transactions"?
They don't. The reason they need access to your bank account is so they can take all your money instead.
So, if any of you out there are getting emails from Anna Stern of rlbsolution.com, or Adrian Forlan of constellationtravels.com, offering jobs you can't remember applying for, just hit delete.
 Incidentally, this pings off another warning - the job offers payment in $NZ, not $AU. If they're not even offering payment in my currency, why do they need an Australian representative again?
Edited 06 FEB 2015 to add: I've done an updated post on RLB Solution. It's available at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/52222.html.
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Why I Don't Trust This Government
The Abbott government has decided they're going to back down on their proposals to get jobseekers to look for up to forty jobs per month (10 jobs per week, double the current maximum). This is being greeted with sighs of relief in some quarters, and in others by comments along the line of "drop the other shoe, why don't you?". I'm one of the latter.
I'm one of the latter because, as I mentioned on the ABC's comments on the article yesterday, I remember the sighs of relief which accompanied their late-April announcement they weren't going to be seeking a $5 co-payment for GP visits... which turned to shrieks of outrage when they brought in plans for a $7 co-payment for GP visits instead. Now, the word is they've taken this step on receipt of community feedback, but the strong impression is the majority of the feedback they're listening to is from the business community - and the business community basically screamed blue murder about it because it would have meant they'd be inundated with job applications from people who were essentially seeking to meet their weekly targets, whether or not they were eligible for the jobs in question.
So let's be clear on this: the Abbott Liberal Government has not given up on plans to punish the unemployed for being unemployed, and they have not given up on the notion of making all forms of welfare more onerous and unpleasant than they already are - they are neo-liberal ideologues to a man (and woman), and they strongly believe being poor is something which intrinsically deserves punishment. There's already talk of extending income management, and making it a compulsory requirement for receiving welfare - or in other words, your welfare payment will come on a specified card, rather than being deposited into your bank account; it will only be able to be spent on certain things, and you will only be able to buy these things in certain locations; and if you aren't on state housing, it's unlikely your landlord is going to accept it as payment for your rent. They haven't backed down on the six month waiting period for people under the age of thirty, and they certainly haven't backed down on the notion of extending work for the dole.
Quite frankly, I'm still waiting on them bringing back the notion of workhouses.
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Our Wonderful Government
The latest bit of brilliance on the part of our glorious elected leaders is to continue doubling down on the unemployed. In the next edition of "the floggings will continue until unemployment decreases" thinking, there's a brilliant plan in the works to have the unemployed required to submit up to forty applications for jobs per month (ten applications per week), starting in July next year.
The current maximum rate is ten applications per fortnight, or one application per day.
On top of this, if you're between the ages of 18 and 30, you'll be required to sign up for 25 hours per week of work for the dole; if you're between 30 and 49, you'll be required to put in 15 hours a week; if you're over 50, you get to volunteer for it if you want to.
Have some references:
Unemployed to be forced to apply for 40 jobs a month as part of $5 billion dole overhaul
Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan
Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers
Work For The Dole Doesn't Work And Never Has
Now, as I mentioned in my post of 25 JUN 2014, we're already seeing an increase in the experience required in order to get a job - it's gone up to an average of 2 - 5 years recent experience in role (or equivalent) since the budget in early May. I have a suspicion by July next year, we might be looking at a minimum of five to seven years recent experience in role to be considered. Or in other words "so much for working your way up the ranks".
The business community has already spoken up about this one, concerned they're going to be flooded with applications from people who are mainly concerned with getting together their numbers and meeting their targets. Already, employers have largely ceased replying to application letters unless you're a successfully short-listed candidate - a number of ads are saying explicitly that only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Or in other words, applying for these jobs is a bit like Don Marquis' lovely metaphor regarding publishing poetry in the US market - he compared that to dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon, and listening for the echo of it hitting bottom.
I find this depressing enough when I'm only required to apply for five jobs a fortnight.
One of the more interesting snarky suggestions on the Guardian's comments is sending regular applications and query letters to the offices of Liberal Party MPs and Senators. I'm strongly tempted, I must admit. Just write up a form letter, put together a brief database of names and addresses, and set the silly thing going on a weekly basis. I'd need fifteen candidates a week to bring me up to the level required for forty a month, and it'd be almost cathartic after another week of combing through jobs databases trying to find something suitable to apply for. Oh, and just think, they could bask in the warm glow of helping another Australian do their share of the "lifting" for the economy. What a pity I'm on the wrong side of the country to realistically send applications or query letters to Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Abetz.
 Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
 No, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd love to try out applying for a job in their offices anyway - and see how fast I get sacked for having left-wing political opinions. Maybe I could try a spin on the US Religious Right trick of suing them for discrimination, the same way anti-abortion types are trying to sue for the right to work in family planning organisations...
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The Law of Unexpected Consequences
There's a lot being said about what the detrimental effects of the government's proposed efforts to make young unemployed people "earn or learn" will be for the economy. I'd like to point out an effect it's having right now, before the legislation has even been passed (it was introduced to the House of Representatives this week).
In the last few weeks, I've been noticing an up-tick in the number of jobs which are effectively demanding applicants have between two and five years experience, minimum, in the position they're applying for. Or in other words, it's suddenly becoming a lot harder to break into the job market unless you have experience. It's also suddenly a lot harder to trade up within the job market.
Now, I'm theorising here, but I suspect this is due to an influx of CVs and applications from people who are under thirty, and who are desperate to get employed before the Budget legislation is passed through the Senate (because they have to work on the presumption it's going to be passed unaltered; pray for amendments, but plan for the full horror). Employers are getting flooded with applications for any job they offer, and as a result, they're tightening up their selection criteria. The first thing to go is the option to take on someone who might need a bit of training. The end result, of course, is experience criteria get tagged onto just about any job.
Problem is, a certain amount of labour market participation is a condition of getting Newstart allowance here in Australia. The general level is an expectation of putting in applications for ten jobs a fortnight (twenty a month). One of the lovely conditions being proposed for younger unemployed people (i.e. those thirty years old or younger) is a minimum of forty job applications a month, or ten a week, whether or not they're receiving a payment. Which means employers are going to be confronted by more people applying for jobs they definitely aren't qualified for, and will correspondingly tighten up the selection criteria even further, making it even harder for inexperienced job seekers to get into employment.
I would venture a guess Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey aren't expecting either of these results. I'd also venture a guess they don't particularly give a monkey's one way or t'other. They certainly don't seem to give a damn about all the job losses which are occurring (Mr Abbott said earlier this week he considered his government to be "the Australian worker's best friend", which argues either a thoroughly warped definition of friendship, or a possibly psychotic level of detachment from the consensus reality).
[Before anyone says anything about this: yes, I'm aware job ads tend to have criteria which are listing the ideal, and employers tend not to find their ideal employee anyway. Yes, I'm aware I should be applying for anything which seems to even vaguely fit my abilities and skills, and not worry about the experience criteria. But really, can anyone please explain to me how doing so is any different, at my end of the equation, to buying a lotto ticket every week?]
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The State of Things 07 APR 2013
So, just a bit of an update to let everyone who's interested (and anyone who's reading this) know where we're standing at present.
* Our car has just returned from having two CV joints and the muffler replaced (courtesy of Steve's parents, who heard about the problems and offered to pay for the work to be done by the mechanic they've been using for years).
* We have to be out of our current rental accommodation by Monday 15 APR 2013 at the absolute latest. We've asked about getting the lease extended by a week, but apparently the owners have contractors coming in to do things pretty much immediately after that, so we were turned down.
* We had an application in with a real estate agent to rent a 2-bedroom flatlet in Mandurah (Silver Sands area) at $200 per week. We heard back from them regarding whether our application has been successful yesterday - it hadn't.
* On Monday (08 APR 2013), we're heading down with Steve's parents to visit some friends of theirs who have access to some storage space in Yunderup. If it looks okay, we've then got somewhere to store all our excess furniture and goods.
* On Friday (12 APR 2013), we're getting a removalist to move our gear out of our current location in Parmelia. Current destination for us is the caravan at my parents place for a week or so, and then the downstairs rooms of Steve's parents place.
* We'll have to spend at least the week from 12 APR to 22 APR 2013 staying either in my parents' caravan, or in a motel room, because Steve's folks are expecting one of their sons and their grandson to visit for that week from NSW.
* The plan at present is that Steve's folks are planning to do a bit of a tour of various friends and rellies during the winter (sort of doing the grey nomad thing, only in a bit more comfort, from what I can tell) and they'll use us as house-sitters during the meanwhile.
* We're still both on the dole. Steve's looking for work. So am I, officially (although given I can only do about three days a week at most before the stress starts getting to me, unofficially I'm pretty damn certain I really should be looking into the various hoops I'd need to jump through for Disability Support Pension to see whether I'd be able to get it).
* I've wound up withdrawing from study (again!) because while I thought at the beginning of the semester that I'd be able to cope with everything, it turns out that I'm not. I would have had a major essay due about a week from now, and I really wasn't coping with keeping up with things for that, so rather than try and fail (which the uni tends to get a bit icky about) I decided to just withdraw. My withdrawal was after the HECS census date, so I'll still be paying for this attempt at the unit. To be deadly honest, I couldn't give a monkey's. With regard to paying off HECS, it's a case of first I need a job, then I need a job which is going to be paying me more than the HECS repayment threshold for three days a week, and then I'll start worrying about the size of the debt I have to pay off.
* In the meantime, we're in the process of packing things up, handing on the excess to the Salvos or the Sammies, and either selling or Freecycling the stuff which is in good enough nick to get rid of. If anyone in the Perth area has a whole heap of packing boxes they want to get rid of, we're on the lookout for them, since it's pretty clear we're not going to be able to fit our entire household into the boxes we have even after thinning things out. Contact me by email (megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot au) if you're able to offer 'em.
* Either way, from about 12 APR 2013 until we have a fixed abode again, don't expect to be hearing from me - 'net access is going to be patchy at best, I suspect. I have plans to drop in to the nearest Centrelink to wherever we wind up on Monday 15th and use their self-service facilities to make my fortnightly income report (because hey, they've got them handy), as well as bringing them up to date with either our new address, or the best available postal address for us.
 Good Samaritan Industries - a charity group which provides a lot of jobs for the intellectually less abled in the WA region. They do a lot of work reprocessing second hand clothing.
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Achievements for the Week
Didn't take them yesterday, but then, yesterday was a crap day all round.
Okay, definitely falling down on this one. Managed it just fine on Monday, but then Tuesday I had my counselling appointment at PVS, and Wednesday I had an interview for a position offered by Hays. It was the interview which threw everything out the window. The interview turned out not to be for any actual position which might have paid wages. Instead, I was being interviewed for a position on the list of people Hays might be interested in actually finding jobs for - so the ad was effectively burley thrown into the water to attract the fish.
This made me angry. Very angry. Part of the reason I was so angry was because in order to attend an interview of about twenty minutes duration at 1pm (I'd originally asked for a 9am interview, but had to be rescheduled), I had to effectively put the entire day "on hold". I needed to dress up, put on decent "interview" quality clothes (of a quality which would be appropriate for the weather), catch a bus and a train into town, find their office and attend the interview, then repeat the entire process in reverse. All of which consumed resources, both monetary and psychological, that I didn't really have in large supply. I can accept this when there's a prospect of an actual paying job at the other end, because the job offers the chance of maybe getting at least some of the monetary resources returned to me. But to do all that for a "job" which never existed in the first place just strikes me as futile, and the whole process seems incredibly cruel. Add to this that I'm not really allowed to express my anger with the whole thing then and there (on penalty of finding myself unable to ever find work through this contracting firm) but instead had to effectively "suck it, swallow, and smile, bitch!" the whole way through...
I spent Thursday feeling irritable (for no particular reason), and yesterday I spent dealing with firstly an eruption of generalised anger at just about everything, then coping with the aftermath of this eruption (namely, feeling thoroughly depressed and hopeless). Today I'm still recovering.
I got slightly behind on this over Tuesday and Wednesday, but caught it all up on Thursday. Current length is 101cm, which means I'm about half way complete on this first half (1/4 of the way through the whole project). I've started reading my way through "Innocents Abroad" by Mark Twain (I have the Project Gutenberg ebook version) as a way of keeping myself going on the whole thing.
I've also set up a way of keeping track of what I've done so far - just a tick-off page for everything I need to do each day as a way of keeping up with my goals. It looks a bit like this (I've copied down the entries for the next few days)
p185 SUN 1 2 3 4 5 M
MON 1 2 3 4 5 M J J
TUE 1 2 3 4 5 M J J
The page number is a note of where I'm up to in the e-book. Then there's the day, the 5 rows (tick each one off as I complete it) and a note for the meds. On weekdays, there's the two jobs per day. At least this way I'll be able to keep track of things. Once classes start up again, I'll substitute in either lectures or tutorials for one of the job efforts (So Mondays will have "L J", as will Wednesdays, while Tuesdays will have "L T").
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Achievements for the week
Okay, managed to take my meds seven of seven this week (even if yesterday's timing was massively off - didn't wind up taking the medication I'm supposed to swallow first thing in the morning until about dusk). But it's one week of full compliance, and that's a Good Thing, given what's preceded it.
So, achievement one: 7/7 for the meds.
Searching for work - well, yesterday was a weird one, because I wound up feeling bleargh when I woke up (delayed reaction to Tuesday, I think) and as a result I didn't wind up actually looking for anything myself. However, I did get a call from an employer regarding an interview for a position the Disability Employment Services people put me up for, so I counted that. Other than that mess, I've managed my two job search efforts per day for the rest of the week.
Achievement two: 9/10 for jobsearch.
The knitting now measures 75.5cm (which means I'm about a third of the way through it). I only missed the five rows per day yesterday, and that was mainly because, as mentioned previously, I was feeling bleargh and was putting everything off until later. I got quite a lot accomplished on Thursday (mainly because when I went to visit the Disability Employment Services people, I wound up having to wait nearly an hour for my appointment), and I didn't take it with me to the interview yesterday because I thought it would give the wrong impression.
Achievement three: 6/7 for knitting.
In other minor triumphs, I cooked up some macaroni cheese from scratch (and macaroni and cheese) last night, because I was feeling the need for some comfort food. Turned out quite good - I added all the trimmings, which for me means I chopped up some spring onions and threw them into the dish with the hot pasta, and I added some chopped bacon to the sauce mix along with the standard ingredients (which included seeded mustard). Turned out very nice, although I may have under-estimated the size of the dish required, because there was a certain amount of overflow which will need to be cleaned off the oven before I use it again.
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Well, I have a job again, for the first time since October 2008. I'm working for a call centre in Bunbury.
For those who don't live in WA, Bunbury is a big regional centre about two hours south of Perth. Since the suburb I live in is about half an hour south of Perth, I have an hour and a half commute every workday. Yay.
Good points: it's the same call centre Himself is working in, so we get to carpool (I tend to drive down, he drives home again); they pay me; I'm actually given a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.
Not-so-good points: Bunbury is a fair old way from home; I work Saturday through Wednesday, he works Monday through Friday, which means whoever is at home is without the car, because it's spending the day in a carpark in Bunbury; I have to get out of bed in the mornings (up at six to be out the door by eight-thirty to be ready to work by ten-thirty - so arriving at work by about ten-fifteen at the latest).
At present, it's just a six week contract. If I wind up having a job after the end of six weeks, we may start looking at moving down to Bunbury (or at least as far as Mandurah, the half-way point between Perth and Bunbury) in order to cut commute times and make things a bit more civilised in terms of shopping arrangements. At present, I'm looking at switching my one unit of university study over to external study (because there is no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to be attending lectures in Murdoch and working in Bunbury simultaneously) and seeing whether I can keep up external study while working. I figure it'll be one way of making a difference in my day.
But yeah. Working. Wow.
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