Friday, 29 November 2013

toil and trouble

 photo crisis_zps3bfa13cc.jpg
Photo by Louis Cesteleyn (this photo has nothing to do with the text, but anyway)

It´s a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts to go right, something else will come to bite you, to paraphrase Bridget Jones misquoting Jane Austen. I´ve been amazingly happy lately: perfect new place, perfect home life, my sister moved to Barcelona so I even have family nearby… so obviously I was due a backhanded slap from life. This has come, in all its banality, from work.
The last couple of years I´ve been working as an editor/proofreader/translator/general English speaking person at a publishing company. Since my job was basically “anything and everything in English” from translating contracts to writing 20 page introductions to books on bamboo, I´ve had a chance to do a huge number of things and learn so, so much, all while working flexible hours, with the option of working from home (or from Canada). I guess it was never going to last. Anyway, the publishing industry is in crisis, we´ve got a backlog of books, and me and three other people have been given ambiguous “at some point” marching orders. I´m still employed, but probably not for long.
Luckily, since everything else in my life is going so well, I´m taking it with as much equanimity as can be expected from someone living in a country with 27% unemployment.
But I´m mad as hell, and not with my boss or my company, but with the world of work as I´ve known it.
It took me 8 months of searching, interviews cancelled due to financial crisis reasons, and discarding jobs that required me to work 12 hour days while speaking 5 languages for minimum wage, and being as poor as a church mouse to get this job. I was just in a position where I could start saving.
When I read the newspaper, I hear that my generation suffers from feelings of entitlement, and from “special snowflake syndrome” and that we refuse to work our way up because we feel everything should be handed to us on a plate. My actual experience of working has been that I am chronically either a)underpaid, b)undervalued or c)not accepted for jobs for which I am overqualified on account of not having done the exact same job for 5 years previously. Or d)some combination of the above. In jobs that I have had, I have frequently been paid late, subjected to contracts that leave me unemployed for large swathes of the year, not given contracts at all, and been forced to be freelance when it was blatantly obvious that I was going to the same company to work every day. It´s well established that my generation will not live as well as our parents, and while I don´t think that´s entirely a bad thing (the world could not sustain all of us living like they do), I resent that the alternative should be that I have to live as my grandparent´s grew up, and they grew up in the Great Depression. They also fought years and years to get us some of the advantages (universal healthcare, sick leave, gender equality as such in the workplace) and I see all of these being eroded away before my eyes. Don´t believe me? Example: due to my ridiculous pseudo-freelance status, I won´t qualify for unemployment benefits, and last year the Spanish government tried to pass a law that would have kicked me off the country´s health care system. There was a public outcry and that was shelved, for the moment. Similar things are going on in my home country, and throughout the Western world.
Anyway, if this comes off as whiny… well it´s not whiny to complain about things that genuinely screw you over. I don´t think I suffer from special snowflake system particularly, or if I do, I save it for my hobbies. I know I´m luckier than most. But I know that the things that have plagued my working life in Spain are also present, though less obvious, in Canada and anywhere else I might go. The contract work, the instability, the juggling two or three jobs, the people with masters and doctorate degrees who can´t get jobs because they´re overqualified, the workdays that extend into your personal life.
I´m sure I´ll work something out, but in the meantime, I´m mad, bad, dangerous to know, and definitely my political scientist father´s daughter.

14 comments:

Kezzie said...

That sucks! I don't think you're suffering from that snowflake thing, you've worked hard to get your job and these are times when such jobs are hard to come by. My friend Anne us 40 something and,works as a flute teacher for a music service in London and had her salary cut by £12,000 or somethin ridiculous like that. You're expected to work in 5 schools a day, driving between them which takes ages, because schools don't want so much time and that time is no longer paid, which it was. So 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year adds up to a lot of money. It sucks. Hope it works out for you Xx

Kezzie said...

That sucks! I don't think you're suffering from that snowflake thing, you've worked hard to get your job and these are times when such jobs are hard to come by. My friend Anne us 40 something and,works as a flute teacher for a music service in London and had her salary cut by £12,000 or somethin ridiculous like that. You're expected to work in 5 schools a day, driving between them which takes ages, because schools don't want so much time and that time is no longer paid, which it was. So 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year adds up to a lot of money. It sucks. Hope it works out for you Xx

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

Cheers Kezzie. I´m sure I´ll get something (have already been putting out feelers and getting a bit of luck) but it just makes me ragey when I realize that of those people I know lucky enough to be employed, most of us are getting screwed over by our companies, who are generally also suffering from the crisis, etc. etc. ... and at no time does the blame come back to roost where it should...

Hannah Spanner said...

That's really crappy sorry to hear about it, least you have a bit of a head's up. I don't know you or anything but I get the impression you will make the most of the non work situation and flourish. Special snowflake syndrome, I worked since I was 16 went back to education for four years paid my way and worked at the same time only to have to get an office job that chips away at my soul, but I have a beautiful home and film, music, fashion and blogging are my outlet. Anyways best of luck you will make it xxx

anna said...

Oh how I feel you! The same here, if not worse... :(

Gordianus the Finder said...

Well, if I were in any position to do so, I know I would hire you in about two seconds to do any kind of PR or marketing work, or writing. You seem to be well organized enough for general management in things like procurement or distribution. You also seem to be keeping a good attitude about your circumstances, and that will come through positively in interviews. Good hunting to you.

elsamariehart said...

I went to law school but am not a lawyer. A friend just sent me this craigslist ad:

http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/res/4206407056.html

Wasn't sure if it was supposed to make me laugh, but in my current exhausted, cynical state, it really didn't.

I'm 29 and I share your frustration. I'm glad you wrote this post. All I can say is that in my opinion, the generation who in some ways is responsible for screwing us over focused way to much on money, and wanting a lot of it. And I do think that in the end that isn't a path that leads to happiness, even if you are one of the 'successful' ones.

That said, if I had good health insurance and some job security, I would be able to turn the energy that I am wasting on fear and anxiety into something more productive.

Closet Fashionista said...

Ugh, yea...but luckily sometimes things have a way of falling into place when we least expect it. I think everything will work out fine for you!
I know what you mean...my current job I'm freelance even though I'm working 40 hours a week...so annoying.

Ashley said...

Ugh. I hate it all too. And I agree with you--I don't think this generation acts that entitled at all, when a Master's would take you UBER far in the past, and that's just not the reality anymore.

And don't get me started on the richest of the rich (at least in the USA) that get away with paying minimal on taxes and remain greedy sons of bitches while everyone else is suffering!

Norbyah said...

ugh, so sorry to hear all this....it genuinely sucks and i don't think you're whiney. it stinks! i'm sad for the publishing industry because i LOVE books and i'm sad to think that it's in crisis.

and you, i'll be thinking of you. i have to agree with closet fashionista here, things do often have a way of turning out, but in the meantime, when they aren't i know it's difficult to keep your head up.

take care.
xo
n

Rachel said...

I can definitely relate and I'm sorry you have to go through this. Since graduating from my MA programme I haven't been able to find steady work, let alone anything that is related to my degree in any significant way. I've been coasting from one short-term contract to another for the past 2 years and while I've been able to pay my bills, eat, and have some fun, I've found it incredibly stressful not knowing if I'll be able to find another job -- or get my contract extended -- every couple of months. I don't think that it's unreasonable or entitled to want some job security. It's really patronising and offensive when we're referred to as suffering from 'special snowflake syndrome' because we want some stability, and I think your anger is justifiable.

Good luck!

Monique said...

I hear you lady! As a mother now, I can't help but worry about healthcare now, more then ever. Still waiting on the reform here. I've been a freelancer for six years and instead of getting an increase in wage for my service I've gotten decreases, due to budget cuts. Sometimes it's important to rage...I'm sure you'll navigate through this somehow. Victor is so handsome and talented! Glad the stars are aligned in the other parts of your life.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

Thanks everyone. I imagined that a number of you would be able to identify, although it´s always a surprise to me just how many people out there are in insecure job situations.

Elsa Marie: That Craigslist ad... ugh.

Norbyah: It really is a shame about the publishing industry but who know, if those of us who love books rally round, we may be able to revolutionize it and start some exciting new projects!

Rachel: That´s terrible! I´ve always blamed part of my situation on moving around so much, but that is so depressing that you live in the UK and still can´t get something steady (relevant does seem to be a pipe dream these days)

Monique: Good luck on the healthcare battle, lady! And I hear you on the pay decreases...

Corey Stringer said...

Emily - I've been quietly following you for while. Hang in there. I know that you have been working hard, and I understand your frustration with the job situation.

Having a tough job market is one thing; having a tough job market and having insults heaped upon our generation is another.