Thursday, 10 March 2011

Why I Haven't Been Blogging Much

Since 1999 I have been making a comfortable living as an independent social researcher. 'Independent social researcher' means I am self-employed, researching social issues such as parenting, poverty and drug misuse, with clients who are mostly local authorities and charities. 'Comfortable living' means the approximate equivalent of a gross salary of £25-£40K, varying from year to year with the ups and downs of the business, but overall enough to make me feel rich.

However, since the spending review, my work has dried up. In the last six months, I've had one contract worth £1,250. Which doesn't even cover my business expenses for the period (telecomms, stationery, heat/light, insurance etc) let alone providing any money for me to live on.

Luckily I have a supportive partner; also self-employed, but in a different sector with steady work. We decided a while ago that I should start applying for part-time temporary jobs - my PhD means I can apply for work in academia, and my social work and voluntary sector background means I can also apply for work as a practitioner. So I've been doing loads of job applications, as well as doing tenders for research.

I haven't applied for jobs for 14 years, and it's a dark art. I'm getting great support from my brother-in-law, who is development director of a charity, and from a friend who is an academic. But each application, and each tender, takes me days to write.

I am having to use all my mental energy trying to generate some income, and I simply don't have the headspace for my own writing. I don't know when I will. I'm surprisingly unbothered by this. I suspect a break will do more good than harm. I'm not giving up or anything - but I've been working so hard on my writing for so long, yet making so little tangible progress, that it's a relief to have a reason to put it down for a while.

I'm still getting nice rejections, but now for jobs and tenders. The job market is quite alarming. I am applying for jobs where I can demonstrate ample experience against every point on the person specification, but I'm not even getting interviews. This seems to be because of the sheer numbers of people looking for work. For example, I applied for a part-time job with a national charity, and got a lovely letter today saying that while my experience was a good fit for their needs, they'd had over 200 applications and found someone whose experience was a perfect fit. I recently met a woman from another well-known charity who told me that they're getting 180 applications for every admin job, including people with PhDs.

But I have to keep trying. So that's what I'm doing. It's why I'm not around much online. Don't waste time feeling sorry for me, though. I'm unsettled, but I'm not depressed (any more - I was for a bit). I do realise that I'm so much luckier than most people: I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, or how to pay the heating bill. I don't have an aspirational lifestyle, and I know how to economise - my family never had any money when I was growing up, and I was unemployed for two years in the mid-1990s, so I have lots of nice lentil recipes.

And: this too shall pass.

26 comments:

Cally said...

Sorry to hear you're struggling Queenie. I had no idea that the job market was so bad - not because I've been walking around with my eyes and ears shut - but because I recently interviewed candidates for two jobs.

Job #1 was offered to the best candidate. He turned it down. It was offered to the second best candidate. She turned it down. Candidate #3 accepted.

Job #2 was offered to the best candidate. He turned it down. Candidate #2 accepted it.

That really surprised me - that 3 people turned down the offer of a job as I thought the job market was terrible but then again London is its own little financial cosmos I guess.

If anything comes up that I think you can help with I'll give you a shout. Your PHD isn't in infectious diseases, epidemiology or public health is it? Keep your chin up Queenie, the perfect job will land in your lap very soon I'm sure x

Queenie said...

Cally, wow, that's amazing! Maybe it's not quite so bad in academia, then; perhaps I'll have more luck there. No, not health, but social care, focusing on partnership working (including health practitioners and emotion (I have a psychology background).

Queenie said...

Should have been a second bracket after 'practitioners' (not awake yet). BTW how many applicants did you have for those jobs?

Cathy said...

We too are finding the job market horrendous. Hubby is looking in the admin/ management side of the construction industry, where all his experience lies, but that sector has been very badly hit. I'm looking for small self employed writing based projects in the charity sector as I'm too out of date (and unwell) to go back into accountancy. I am helping with the writing of a funding bid right now, but only as a volunteer, they can't pay me and the charity's very survival will depend on the success of bids they are now preparing. I am doing it simply because it is a charity I've been involved with for years and to hopefully get a reference or testimonial at the end.


As for the job market, in outer London it is certainly very bad. Over 1000 people queued to be interviewed for shop work when a branch of Wilkinson's opened recently. Hubby has had conflicting advice from the job centre. One consultant they sent him to told him to prepare his CV one way, another a couple of weeks ago told him to do it quite differently. And yes, the whole application/recruitment procedure has changed immensely since either of us was out in the open job market over 20 years ago. We have been left behind.

I fear for our future in the wake of all the benefits cuts, I fear for the future of my kids.

Sue Guiney said...

So sorry to hear you are having such a rough go at the moment. I know this doesn't help any, but I do want to say I'm with you and pulling for you.

Queenie said...

Cathy, how awful; I'm so sorry. Sensible to do voluntary work for a reference, that's helped me more than once in the past. I hope you and your husband find the work you need, and very soon.

Sue, you know what? It actually does help. Thank you.

Cathy said...

I wasn't looking for sympathy, btw, just wanted you to know that the job situation really is rubbish in most places. We are lucky that while son 2 is living with us we do receive enough in benefits and tax credits to just about keep the family afloat and we have some savings to fall back on, but Hubby needs to find a job for his own self esteem really. having run his own company for so long it's a big adjustment.

Queenie said...

I wasn't looking for sympathy either, but I've discovered I rather like it!! I've been running my own business since the mid-90s as well, it is indeed a big adjustment. I prefer self-employment but it's no good if there's no work.

Debs Carr said...

Good luck with finding a job. I think they've been quietly making people redundant over here for the past two years or so, but nothing too drastic.

Good luck.x

Alice Turing said...

I have many friends in similar situations. It's a horrible place to be, and my partner has no income at the moment, and my job is under threat, as are those of many people I know.

A friend of mine applied for a job the other day for which she was eminently wualified, but they had 500 applicants. Personally I'm waiting to hear back from 3 job applications and getting less optimistic as each day goes on.

But as always you are coping admirably well. I was just thinking the other day about how you are one of the most - if not THE most - sane, capable, sorted, successful people (person) I know.

It's a difficult time right now for the whole country. As for me, I have my tickets booked and will be taking my whole family with me to demonstrate in London on 26th March.

You have always been so good at counting your blessings. I thought of you the other day when I was trying to teach my own son the same skill.

Alice Turing said...

PS Cathy, I know that feeling so well. I have young children and there is currently a real prospect of both me and my partner being out of work. The impact that might have on my children is what makes it all teh most stressful.

But having said that - and following Queenie's counting-her-blessings example - I have been poor before, I know how to cut back. And my children are not greedy or spoilt, and value such things as hugs and family games of hide and seek above more material concerns. And my mortgage is small. My biggest fear is becoming homeless, but I *think* if the worst came to the worst we could avoid that.

Queenie said...

Alice, please do some whooping for me on the 26th - I'd be there if it wasn't for a big family party in Somerset that day which has been planned for ages, I'll be disowned if I don't attend. And thanks for the compliment (although I'm not sure your other friends would be too pleased!!!). As you know, I'm rooting for you and yours as well xxx

Bernadette said...

Sorry to hear you're having a difficult time.
I know what you mean about the writing - when my head is full of other stuff I find it impossible to find any creative space in it. That's when I usually sepnd a lot of time rewriting/editing older things and subbing them as it takes a different kind of energy. It still takes time though, so it's a good idea for you to have a break from it when there's so much else going on. (Though I do think you actually made an awful lot of progress, tangible in the form of work created, even if it didn't end up with a sale yet.)

I hope things pick up for you soon. xx

LilyS said...

You have such a great attitude to what is a hard situation to be in. Depression is hard when it hits (especially when you don't know why) so its good when we remember how lucky we are and also good that it has passed. Stay positive and I hope things start looking up soon x

Talli Roland said...

Queenie, I'm sorry to hear about this but it sounds like you're certainly approaching it all with the right attitude! Keep us posted!

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Queenie said...

Bernadette, thank you so much; that means a lot.

Lily, thank you. I never know why; it's a horrid thing, but I do al

Talli, thanks - and: I will!

Queenie said...

aarrggh blogger ate half my reply to Lily - '...I do always know it will go away eventually.'

Jenny Beattie said...

A big hug from me. Believe it or not it's exactly the same over here. Horrible.

And incidentally, I think lentils are the food of the gods. Honest. Love 'em.

Juniper said...

Queenie, good luck with the job hunt. In the current climate I count my blessings every day that I have a secure job (well, as secure as any job can be).

I hope you find your perfect niche soon!

Queenie said...

Jenny, I thought chick peas were the food of the gods? We shall have a pulse-related menu on the 28th ;-)

Juniper, thank you, and I'm glad you're not facing the same problem - you've got enough to contend with!

Pat said...

It's impossible for me to feel sorry for you because I admire you so much - not just your talents and academic prowess but your whole being and atttitude. I recognise the relief from laying off the writing for a time. For me it seemed totally irrelevant whilst MTL was hors de combat. As you say 'this too shall pass'.
Still and all I'm sending a big warm hug.xoxoxoxx

Queenie said...

Awwww, Pat, you're so lovely, xoxoxoxx to you too. (And I'm still thoroughly cheered by your own good news.)

womagwriter said...

Hope things improve for you soon.

Carol said...

Awww hon, it's tough out there! I know I will be in a similar situation in a few months. Good luck hon....I'm sure that it will only be a matter of time before your writing to tell us you've got a great job!

Hang on in there!

C x

Queenie said...

Thanks Womag and Carol.