7 June 2014 by victoriaknowe
I recently left what most unemployed people might call a perfectly good job. Because I’m lazy? No! (maybe), but the fact is that the nature of the work and the early hours were making me ill. A week in bed persuaded me not to go back, and so it was onwards to the next thing.
I have been giving private lessons in English for a few months now. For a while, I’ve had the idea of becoming self-employed and building that activity into a small business. There is plenty of help and advice available for people looking to start down that path. However, this is to tell you about my experiences with an organisation which could be considered to be the most obvious source of said help and advice.
The Job-Centre… They are apparently similar world-over. I was unemployed last year, and attempted to avail myself of the services offered by the Swedish job centre, without forming a very favourable impression of this so-called help, or of the system is was produced by. However, I had read that, under certain conditions, the job-centre may pay out a monthly contribution to those looking to start a business. I had a bit of difficulty finding out what these “certain conditions” might be, which is why I found myself, one fine spring afternoon, standing outside the familiar glass-fronted portal of doom.
Heading inside the stuffy interior, ghosts of previous wasted afternoons whirled around my head, but I managed to disperse them by reminding myself of the validity of my errand.
A little way inside, they have a sort of reception stand, where you are supposed to wait until someone deems it worth their time to deal with you. I stood there until a middle-aged woman finally came over, already wearing an expression of annoyance at my apparent harassment of her.
“Hello, I’m here to get some help and advice about starting a business.”
“What sort of advice?”
“….erm, I was hoping that I could ask someone a few questions.”
“What sort of questions?”
“well, for instance, I’d heard that it’s possible to get some money from the job centre if you’re thinking of starting your own business..”
At this, her eyes lit up with a gleeful distaste. NOW we had come to the crux of the matter. This pitiful human is just like all the others, coming here hoping to get MONEY out of us. She went over to a nearby leaflet stand, and returned with a couple of pamphlets.
“Here is some information about starting a business.”
“‘I’ve already read both of those. I got them from the tax office. I was hoping to speak to someone and get some more advice”
“Well, I suppose you’d better sit down!”
She grudgingly gave me a number, with the instructions that I was to wait until the number was called, and that it was Christina I needed to speak to. I sat meekly on one of the uncomfortable sofas and waited. A bit later I saw that same woman conferring in hushed tones with another woman and pointing at me. She noticed me looking and stopped pointing, and a bit later, the other woman came over.
“Hello, I’m Christina. Let’s go into my office”
Her: “So what did you want to ask about?”
Me: “Well, I’m interested in starting my own business and..”
Her: “Are you registered as a job-seeker here?”
Me: “No, but I….”
Her: “You have to register with us if you are unemployed.”
Me: “Well it’s true that I’m unemployed, but I…”
Her: “You can do it today on one of our public computers.”
Me: “Well the things is that I…”
Her: “We can’t help people unless they are registered here.”
After a bit more back and forth, I finally got a chance to explain that I wanted to start my own business, and was merely asking about the type of help they could give me. I explained a bit about my circumstances and business idea.
Her: “Well the first thing you should do is register as a job-seeker.”
Me: “But I’ve just explained that I want to start a business. What would be the advantage in registering?”
Her: “Well if you’re registered, we can match you to jobs that fit your profile, and potential employers can see your resume online.”
Me: (confused silence) “I read something that said that the job-centre might pay some money if you start your own business.”
Her: “Oh no, that’s not something that we could do for you.”
Me: “Why not?”
Her: Well, for one thing, you have to be registered as a job-seeker.”
Me: “Ok, supposing I register. What then?”
Her: “Well, the thing is that the start-up subsidy is only something that is for people who are serious about starting a business”
Me: “How do you prove that you’re serious about it?”
Her: “Well, you have to have an IDEA and write a BUSINESS PLAN and it has to be approved by the BUSINESS SECTION.”
Me: “yes, and?”
Her: “and we only consider it for people who have been unemployed for a long time, and so it wouldn’t apply in your case”
Me: “Even if I registered as a job-seeker?”
Her: “Well, our first priority would be to get you employed in a job that matches your profile”
Me: “So you can’t help me with the business idea.”
Her: “No, but If you register as a job-seeker, you can receive lots of help in finding a job!”
On my way out, I realised that I was in fact very glad not to be getting any help from the job centre. Emerging back into the sunlight, I looked at my bright and promising future and thanked the heavens for my watertight excuse not to go back.