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How Gen-Xers became has-beens

|Mar 11|magazine9 min read
LONG hours, sleepless nights, no appreciation or recognition and lousy pay. How many of you can relate to this?
I know I can - well, except for the lousy pay.  I have all of the above except for the pay packet.

That is my reality in 2009 now that I am a fulltime unemployed professional jobseeker. And I have $3 to last me until the end of this week.

I reckon I am a pretty good candidate for work. Excluding the odd moments of capricious youth, I managed to knuckle down and get some good grades in school. I went to university.

Along with many of my friends, I never paid much mind to the idea that one day I might be unemployed. For my generation, who are used to a permanently strong economy, it was just never going to happen.
And, at first, it didn't. After a good five years in the workforce, having progressed nicely through the ranks of management, I decided to do postgraduate studies at one of the more notable business schools in NSW - even obtaining a highly-valued (so I thought) MBA (Master of Business Administration).

It was the sort of high-flying qualification you'd expect would inoculate you against the dole queue.

But within the space of a year, I discovered that unemployment does not discriminate. My marketing job had ceased to exist.

So here I find myself with three wonderfully framed degrees that take pride of place on my wall, telling me all that I have achieved. I truly am lucky that I am able to look at them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And then there is the feeling of bewilderment when I look at the receipts for the eighty or so thousand dollars I have spent for all of my education when it is juxtaposed next to the fortnightly statement for my dole allowance.

Don't get me wrong.  Australia has a fantastic system that provides benefits and assistance to those in need. It is not, however, designed to cope with highly qualified individuals who have found themselves out of work.

For myself and the rest of the Generation Xers who grew up in a time where work was plentiful, this experience is one that crushes one's sense of self-worth and leads to an every day battle to maintain hope and keep up the momentum of searching for work.

Add to this the fortnightly trip down to the local Centrelink offices, a place certainly not known for its jovial atmosphere, and you begin to understand how the 2009 job seeker feels.

Regardless of our background, how much we studied, how privileged we may have been, we are all the same at the Centrelink. We are just people looking for work. In the wonderfully sterile space at Centrelink, where walls are adorned only by the odd piece of butcher's paper giving worldly advice such as "smile when you are on the phone" and "be polite", you can find the ultimate job seeking tool - the computer.

In the facility that I attend, you can have up to 30 enthusiastic and hopeful jobseekers all vying for the half-dozen computers lined up against the wall. For those of us who haven't quite yet had their soul destroyed by being unemployed for three months, a couple of weeks of scrambling for a computer like a shark in a feeding frenzy will take care of that for you.

Everyday I continue with my full-time job of looking for a job, a process that just keeps reminding me of our economic conditions. I am unable to get some jobs because I am now over-qualified and employers feel that I'd simply be taking a job just to have one and would leave as soon as the market picks up.

For other jobs, I am under-qualified. And the competition for all jobs is ferocious. Where some jobs previously had 50 to 100 applicants, they are now receiving up to 300 applicants. Preference tends to go towards those already employed.

The old adage that "it is easier to get a job when you have a job" has never rung more true to me.

To be the pessimist that I am now becoming, it doesn't seem that things are going to get any better in the near future. Today I heard that the prediction for Australia is that we will have almost a million people in my position by 2010.
So, at least for the meantime, it appears that I will continue to enjoy sleepless nights, long hours with only a rejection letter to show for it and my battle to try again.  I hope in the near future I will be able to take a rest and relax and go to work.