July 17, 2015

Barbie's Shark Tank [Mutual Obligations - ep 21]

So we famous five unemployables are still slowly cruising through the eighth day of Barbie's, School of Unemployment Enjoyment...??

And having herded us into the computer area, where we are to login and compile a cold call list, all seems quite normal ....business as usual.

As I tap away googling employment hot-spots, from the corner of my eye - I see Governor Barbie - seating herself rather cosily beside spunkster Jeremy, at a computer on the far side of the room. As you would.

No surprises, the Barbster has strategically planted herself beside her "class-pet". In fact, any closer, and she'd be practically sitting on his lap ...and having his children. At least it leaves more chairs for the other unemployables to sit on (....and the Barbster could get a Baby Bonus!) 

But actually dear reader (even though I - an uber-cougar - initially had my eye on the young spunkster Jeremy) ...just window shopping of course (I now frankly don't give a damn!)  All I want, is to do my cold call list, and get out of there ...LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL!

However, being an inquisitive, mega-menopausal dame of a certain age, I simply can't stop myself from eavesdropping on their conversation. 

Thankfully they're within easy earshot. But they're not discussing iTunes, night-spots, or the latest rave parties. It's all quite boring. And I can clearly hear Governor Barbie quizzing young Jeremy, repeatedly, on why he's had such trouble finding a job. He's a well-presented kind of a guy. Quietly spoken. Aren't we all? And has unique qualifications and skills in the digital arts. 

Actually, it was Eileen (the ace archer), and unofficial ASIO informer, who had previously supplied me with the young spunk's vital statistics.

I overhear the Governor Spanish-Inquisitioning him. "There must be SOMETHING you're not telling me about yourself ...something doesn't seem quite right ...there's something you're NOT telling me," She says to him. 

And I'm thinking: Please just give the kid a break. Can't you just ask him what his star sign is Barbie?

In the shark tank

Then one by one, Barbie calls each of us separately into a side office. After about an hour, I'm finally called in. She closes the door behind me. All seems normal. I proudly hand Barbie my cold-call list ...it's a bit like handing a completed spelling test to my fifth grade teacher. 

She tells me to take a seat at a small table, and sits opposite. And she says to me, "The problem is, what I can't work out, is that you've got such a good resume."

"Why thank you!" I reply proudly.

Barbie continues, "But what's troubling is, I look at this cold call list, and I'm wondering why it took you so long to do it?"

I'm somewhat taken aback by what she says, since compiling the list was pretty basic. And it seems puzzling having her try to debate me on such a non-issue.

"You arrived at 11am, and it's now 12. So why did it take you so long?"

I don't know what to say. I had thought she was calling me into the room, so that she could go through the list (perhaps compliment me on my smart attire and snazzy earrings), and maybe provide me with useful insights and key tips, gathered from her two years work as a job-search "facilitator". Which was after-all, apparently what we famous five unemployables, were there for?

And Barbie continues, "Because you come across as so efficient by your resume, and yet W-H-Y did it take you SO LONG to compile [the cold call list]?"

I sit there bewildered. Mystified. Can't work out what she's trying to get at ...and what the length of time spent doing a cold-list has to do with ANYTHING. Particularly, from my perspective ...as an astute woman of a certain age who knows her beans on cold-calling.

I'm feeling like I'm in the school principal's office for being disobedient in class. Actually it feels twenty times worse. Like the time I wrote ring-a-root, on our history classroom wall. And my classmates added someone's phone number underneath. After which David Smailer dobbed us in ...and when we were subsequently drilled in the head mistresses office, we all thought we were going to die, right there and then. I digress.

However, spookily, it was as if Gestapo Barbie, knew about the above incident ...? 

Did I need to make that one phone call to my lawyer?

And the Governor continues, "You don't seem to be trying ...you've been unemployed for how long? Since 2013?"

Eating Barbie's bait

And so I tell her, "Well initially I had to stop working because I was ill .... so they [Centrelink] put me on disability. (Even though I tried to tell them that I didn't view my "rash" as a disability.) Then to improve re-employment chances, I did the obvious thing, and studied full-time to finish off a degree."

I sit there thinking we are supposed to be doing a cold call exercise, but Governor Barbie has turned it into an excruciating, suburban episode of Border Control - with Judge Judy as host (and a bit of Dr.Mehmet 
Oz thrown in). And I'm feeling like I’m - not just an innocent unemployed job seeker, in a job network agency – but also one of those suspicious inbound “foreigners”. And I'm convinced that any minute, Judge Barbie will be asking to go through my bag, searching for undeclared food products, or mummified Asian parrots.

In fact some days, I HAVE been found to be carting around a loose spud or two in my tote. However, all I currently had, was just the usual family block of Cadbury chocolate. As you do. However, I would've killed, that day, for some of Bea's weed. Whoops. Whoa! Did I just say THAT? Well actually that's not true. Can't be true. It's that HRT speaking again. Damn naughty HRT. Damn that naughty doctor who prescribed it!

Then the Governor quizzes me further. And at this stage it becomes just a little tiring and overwhelming, as she repeats, "You’ve been out of work for how long? It seems to go back one year?"

And I find myself having to re-explain to her, "Well as I said, I had to stop work because I was sick."  And I'm wondering is it time I got out a visual dictionary...and pointed to simple pictures to explain the scenario?

"Did you go to the doctor's? Did you have certificates? There should be certificates?" Says Barbie.

"Yes, it was all documented, there's photocopies," I tell her. "All on record at Centrelink and this agency. You see, that’s why I had to stop work at the time. I got a "rash". My gynaecologist took loads of snaps (with a VERY impressive lens, I might add) ....said I couldn't possibly work in that condition. And, that it was the worse case he’d seen in his 20 years of medical practice!  Evidently, quite possibly a highlight in his medical career! It’s all behind me (and him now) thankfully. But back then, the symptoms meant that I couldn’t sit down for very long." 

I'm beginning to think, do I have to order in a whiteboard and do some drawings for the Barbster? ...to illustrate? ...or a Power Point presentation?

And I can't believe I'm having to divulge such personal confidential information to the Barbster. Yet despite my candour, it appears that dimwit Barbie doesn't believe a word of what I'm saying. (And dear reader, this is stuff that one simply couldn't make up).

And as far as I'm concerned, I'm OVER that episode of my life. More to the point, I don't want to go into any further (dead boring) detail - to young Barbie - about my particular medical history. All old news to me now ...about a situation best forgotten - which had been exacerbated by my general practitioner's initial misdiagnosis, and subsequent prescribing of inappropriate medication  - which further aggravated the symptoms (and what fresh hell was that!?)  But as they say sh*t happens.

Barbie shows no sign of empathy, understanding, or comprehension. Maybe her batteries need a recharge? Maybe her brain needed a re-boot? Maybe it was a case of too much information .....or hair peroxide? Or she needs a reverse-lobotomy?

In fact, she seems to have forgotten all about the reverse marketing theme, and cold call list - which was after all - the very purpose for which I was there.

And I thought, maybe I should get my hands on the “selfies” that my gynaecologist routinely snapped, and email them to Barbie. Maybe then she’d “GET IT”.  Alternatively, I was sure a quick google, would retrieve some comparable examples. 

Actually, bad bad BAD idea. (In fact, one could quite possibly end up in prison for downloading such images at a job network agency? However ....if I did go to prison, at least I wouldn't have to pay my stack of bills? Apologies dear reader. Boring boring detail. I digress.) 

Yet Barbie remains unsympathetic, and unconvinced of my past medical issue, and continues, "There SHOULD BE! medical certificates ...it's not MY FAULT that I haven't SEEN the certificates. I don't have access to THAT information!!"

At this stage, my patience with Barbie has left the building.

I stand up. I open the door (to escape more than anything else), and ask her firmly what any of the above has got to do with reverse marketing. 
I don't care who hears me telling Barbie loudly, that she has NO IDEA what she's doing. And channelling my inner godfather (Marlon Brando version) and Roberta Williams, I tell her I refuse to put up with her SH*T any longer.

I'm then reduced to crying uncontrollably. And yes dear reader, there, on a good hair day (despite my A+ resume) - I was having a full-blown, classic midlife, midday meltdown. As you do. (But at least my outfit was coordinated!! ) And no, I am not making this up.

From being treated like some kind of slow learner, by a job network employee half my age, my confidence and spirits are shattered.

After a lengthy debrief with the JSA agency's (mis)management team, they give me an immediate Get Out Of Jail Free Card.

And I'm told that I don't have to continue the class. No surprises there.

Who knows where Barbie ended up after that ...?


  1. What an awful experience for you and sadly not an isolated one. The fact that having a personality disorder seems to be essential to work with the Job Network, the chances of the us unemployed being treated like that are common.

    She was clearly being abusive, clearly out of her depth and panicking about not have your past medical history. Not that it was relevant now though it seems. This was clear case of you having the right to complain to DEEWR who employ the networks or whatever they are now called.

    If you do have any current medical, psychological issues you can be assessed as having a partial capacity work and be sent to a disability job service provider. You won't get actual support for your disability but depending on what your disability is you don't have to look for full-time work. I think there is nothing wrong about making the system work in your favour as best you can. Because god knows they won't do it for you.

    1. After that event, the people of the agency were extremely kind to me. And I did have a chat with key people via the appropriate channels - such as my local MP (happened to be Kevin Andrews at the time, and they were helpful & so forth). The agency has since closed down.

    2. So eventually Barbies out on her ass. I do luv a bit of Karma!

      Did Kevin Andrews offer to give you relationship vouchers! I can't imagine he or his office took the matter into consideration or did anything constructive about it.

      In my own experience Centrelink refused to believe that Job Centre staff would ever behave in anyway other than professionally and ethically. Yet there is an abundance of evidence to proove otherwise.

    3. Not sure who's in residence at my local MP's office now that Kev has moved on to other pastures. However, up until his departure, when I took my dog on walkies past his office, my cute as a button fluffy dog would always leave an intuitive fecal deposit to the left (among the herbage) of the entrance. Always at the same spot. I guess it was an alternative to a postal vote.

    4. Carmen,
      Good on you for standing up for yourself. Sometimes you just reach the limit of what is acceptable, and have to take action. Don’t worry about crying, it releases stress hormones.

      There is nothing worse than a job consultant saying “Why don’t you have a job?”, as if the unemployed person has not asked themselves the same question hundreds of times usually in the form of “What’s wrong with me that I don’t have a job?” Encouragement and support are much more helpful.

      My JSA has a new manager, who interviewed me last week as my usual consultant in on extended leave caring for a sick family member. The new manager has a much more aggressive style, which became evident as the interview progressed. After giving a long speech on her work history, including working 23 hour days (!), she looked at my job applications sheet, and said it was not acceptable, and asked me why. I stared at the sheet, did not answer, and was then informed that the sheet had been copied out of alignment. Copied slightly out of alignment by the receptionist. I answered that was the least of my worries, and was then given a lecture on the importance of maintaining standards. It all went downhill from there –“Why did I have different versions of my CV?”, “Why didn’t I have a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve from the interview?” etc like an interrogation. I was almost waiting for the water-boarding to start. Somehow I managed to keep it together until I went home and cried, felt better and put it in perspective.

      Overall, my dealings with employment consultants over the years have been positive and productive, as I have been in and out of work for the past 5 years, with my last contract job ending in June 2013. It just takes the occasional negative experience to tilt the balance.

      Fear not, and carry on regardless, as Bronwyn “Choppergate” Bishop would say!

      Nice touch about the doggy deposits!

      I enjoy reading your blog, please keep up the great work.
      Cheers, Jenny

    5. Thank you for this really kind, supportive, wise comment. I go for my first JobActive appointment tomorrow. A bit scared. But have some volunteer work lined up via a friend. Plan to channel my inner Judge Judy & Roberta Williams, and pre-medicate with some decent dark chocolate. Love the Bronwyn “Choppergate” Bishop reference by the way.Will make a point of taking my intuitive dog for more walkies in future, past my local Liberal MPs office - just for the sole purpose of leaving more regular doggy fecal "postal votes". Best wishes to you. Still don't know who has moved into the building.