+ What Women Want

Women’s increased participation in the workplace is seen as evidence that with every passing day, women draw closer to fulfilling their potential. Yet the cheering and applause drown out the reality: this is not what women want. Most women don’t aspire to the kind of lives that their supposed champions are busily engineering for them.

I stumbled upon Cristina Odone's report What Women Want the other day, and it raises some interesting questions about how we find fulfillment in today's environment of career culture. The report claims that the overwhelming majority of women would prefer to opt out of a career and being financially independent. It's never ocurred to me to aspire to anything other than become successful, work my way up the career ladder and earn my own money to dictate my own life. So I was really surprised to read in this report that, actually, most women don't buy into the philosophy that we should aspire to a successful career as well as being mother/wife/homemaker. If anything, the more I read about the topic the more it seems that actually, NO, if you're a woman you cannot expect to bring up a family, run a perfect home and achieve highly in the workplace all at once! Rather, you must make a choice between one or the other role, as it's nigh on impossible to do it all simultaneously.

I don't know many women whose sole life goal is to become a housewife, but then again I don't particularly know many women who are ruthlessly driven to climb the career ladder at the expense of other areas of their life. The consensus around reports such as Odone's is that women cannot expect to have a perfect family life and career simultaneously. I want to have a successful career and have a family one day, but are they mutually exclusive?

Maybe this isn't a gender issue, but more of a lifestyle issue for both men and women. After all, who wouldn't want the perfect balance between a fulfilling career and a home life as well? For me, I think building a successful career at the expense of having a family is just as scary as giving my life away to have children and never achieving anything else outside of that. I can't wait to have my own family one day, but at the same time I know I could never be content to merely live my life as a homemaker.

I'm currently reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything and there's a section which goes right to the heart of how women find a purpose in life these days; if not, through children, then how does one find meaning?

What if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? [...] How do you mark time's passage without the fear that you've just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant?

Ironically, I read another article this week which seems to declare that it's not just the pursuit of a career and a home life that's impossible to attain. Apparently high-achieving women are at a bigger disadvantage than ever when it comes to dating and relationships as well:

Women [...] outnumber men in college and they are out-earning their male peers when they first enter the work world ... This success has come at a great cost to women's sexual bargaining power. When it comes to relationships, they say men are calling all the shots -- which means less commitment and more sex.

Wow. If you believed all of these opinions about what today's women can realistically aspire to, it all seems pretty bleak. The article mentioned above seems to suggest that the only way for young women today to end up with the right guy is by curbing your sex drive and holding out just so you up your market worth among the 'good guys'.

The article goes on to say that: "Presuming that people are attracted to people who are like them educationally, it means looking for secure relationships becomes challenging because the sex ratio is so imbalanced." The main gist of it seems to be that women can only get the type of relationships they apparently crave if they keep their legs shut, and men only want sex but will commit to someone ONLY if she shows her self-respect through abstinence. It's definitely a controversial but not entirely unfounded point if you read the various comments of the article!


+ 5 Ways the Recession is Good for You

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On the face of it, the recession is pissing all over your parade. Job rejections, frozen wages and a whole tide of other downsides seek to tighten your purse strings and obliterate any opportunities coming your way. But, if the recession is a big depressing cloud of piss, at least there's a rainbow of happiness hidden nearby! Find the pot of gold as it were... and resist the urge to sell it to Cash For Gold!


1 - Being more selective when shopping = better quality wardrobe

This time a couple of years ago, I was at university with an ample student loan waiting to be burned. So, I did what a girl does best and weekly, if not fortnightly, top up my trove of clothes with more and more. As a result, I now have clothes that I bought "for no good reason" or "it might fit me one day". Thankfully the recession has made us all think that little bit harder before we buy. We look for investment pieces rather than tacky and of-the-minute trends. As a result, our purchases are far more likely to still be adorning us in years to come.

2 - Buying less material possessions = more inventive outfits

Take a long hard look inside your wardrobe. It's not expanding at the rate of the golden era of rampant consumerism, but I bet you interact with it differently. You eye up that questionable knitted skirt you bought in a thrift-store in San Francisco one jetlagged day and think "My goodness - that would be perfect as a snood!"


3 - You spend less on nights out = less alcohol

I do hope this to be true! Maybe it's also a result of spending most of the past year abroad travelling, but I definitely pay more attention to how much I spend when I go to bars and nightclubs. Cocktails are now strictly Special Occasion. And I'm inadvertently looking after my internals by choosing to ask for a drink of water rather than a alcoholic beverage when there!


4 - Employers' market = You work harder

The number of applications to entry-level jobs is freaking exponential. Not only are us poor graduate souls competing against our peers, but now we have to compete against our redundant elders who have years of experience on us.
BUT, don't admit defeat already! Instead, try that little bit harder to give your CV the edge, and put that extra effort into interview preparation. Ok, you might not get the job, but at least you can say you did your best.

5 - Being unemployed = more time for everything

Sure, you might have less money with which to go travelling, paying for guitar or language lessons, but you have the time. You have the time to learn how to knit, to read that book you never got round to, or to re-decorate your whole house!

+ Quick rant about the Job Centre and my JSA

Sometimes I wonder whether half the people who work for the public's behalf know the meaning of common sense.

A couple of weeks ago, I was offered four days' work with a temp agency. Naturally, I jumped at the chance considering I have found it really hard to earn any money since returning to England from travelling. In defence of the Job Centre, I didn't phone them immediately to let them know I was working above their threshold of 16 hours a week.

The next week I only worked for seven hours as a receptionist, so managed to fulfil my obligations to the JSA contract.

Upon arriving at my local job centre for my fortnightly interview, I mentioned that I worked over sixteen hours the previous week, to which he said as a consequence I had to be completely signed off the JSA. However, he said that it was possible for me to do a 'rapid reclaim' where I could hopefully continue to claim once more.

Considering the job in question was £56 a day minus travel expenses and was TEMPORARY, it seems that losing my fortnightly £100 meant I might as well have just done two days' work. If I had done that I would still be on the Jobseeker's Allowance and saved myself the effort!

To make matters worse, when I phoned to make the rapid reclaim, the adviser said I would have to travel to my jobcentre to have an interview starting the process all over again, going through all the questions asked to me just two months ago! He then had the cheek to ask me to go into the jobcentre (which is half an hour away from where I live by car because they shut down my local centre) merely to pick up a form.

Now surely the guy who I spoke to in-house originally could have given me the form and organised a new inteview for me when I was there???

It seems to me that all these ridiculous protocols end up wasting more of my jobseeking time and so I now have to waste another morning filling out a long-winded form and repeating myself to the centre once more.

If I hadn't have bothered taking on the temporary job, or at least said that I could only two 16 hours and no more, I would be a lot better off financially and much happier!

+ Entering an entry-level job.... It's not easy!

Barely a week after my return travelling and panic concerning my jobless self is setting in. Like me, you probably know a few people who have been made redundant, or those who just can't get a job no matter how hard they try. For the first time in my life I went to the job seeker's centre to discuss getting the jobseeker's allowance, and it wasn't exactly motivating...

Firstly, my ears were on red alert as the conversations in the room all seemed to focus on the same point - that there are hundreds of people all scrapping for the same job. A job which would normally get a dozen applications now gets over a hundred, and you can imagine the difficulty the employer faces in having to scan that wedge of CVs!

Pretty much the same day I arrived home I logged in to the internet, searched The Guardian, Reed, BBC and many more websites for entry-level jobs. But that's the problem. Entry-level jobs, in my opinion anyway, never seem to be advertised rather than given to someone who has already done work experience in a firm or happens to know someone that works at the office.

Rachel Hills states the obvious, but ugly, truth about getting your your feet on the career ladder in the creative industries:

1. Know someone. It helps if your dad is friends with the editor, or if you went to school with the assistant director.

2. Happen to be doing work experience the month they’re hiring and make a really good impression.

It seems ironic that there has to be a recession just after I graduate! But to put a positive spin on things, it has made me even more determined to make my CV eye-popping and me super-enthusiastic about any old role I find. Searching for a job on my own might just have a better result than going with the Job Centre, who gave me one job to apply for... It was a merchandiser in a store, fine, you might say, because I have heaps of retail experience, but it was for just 4.5 hours a week, hardly the post-university career path I had envisioned. And that's not even a guaranteed job, so heaven knows they might reject me anyway!

If you are in the same position me I would definitely recommend having a read of Rachel's article. It can be all too easy to get depressed and lose faith in yourself, what with being up against so many shiny happy people whose qualifications outshine, NO, obliterate, your own!

I am just going to carry on with the relentless applications and pray that I find something soon. And if I wanted to be even more positive about my jobless, moneyless, all-kinds-of-things-less life, how often do you get the chance to wake up any time you want and spend your days just walking the dog and sitting in the sunshine?!

So what have I learnt this week?

1) Make your CV different and stand out in any way possible. I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother and in it there was a scene of the indescribably funny character of Barney Stinson's video CV. Anyway, it got me thinking whether the market is so competitive right now that you need to do something crazy to stand out from all the other applicants? Watch this space!

2) Apply for vacancies that you are over-qualified for, and those you are under-qualified for. On Rachel's post she actually mentions that she had a better success rate when applying for a job not normally given to a graduate. I normally just apply for any kind of admin or office assistant role but I think I will widen my search and apply for a role I might not expect to get. I think it's a common human trait to not go for things you don't think you will get... but maybe if you go for them you'll get them!

3) Being unemployed can make you easily depressed, so embrace your compulsory free time! I used to moan when I had an essay due, or when I was working full-time, that there weren't enough hours to do all the things I wanted to. Well, I may not have this free time by choice but I will damn well use it to make me happy! I now have enough time to take hour-long baths where my toes wrinkle and I turn into a mermaid, or I can watch back-to-back episodes of my favourite shows. I can also eat when I want and go for a walk when I want, little luxuries that I think I will miss when I finally have full-time employment.

So to all my fellow jobless bums, enjoy your freedom, but don't forget to get out there and send your spangly CVs to every office in the country!