Life when you are unemployed

Meet Andrew, who lives in central Scotland. After school he took a college course in football coaching, and since then has gained several years’ experience in customer-facing positions, including in national chains and local businesses. At the end of 2017, he was made redundant from a local convenience store when it closed down, after a few years of working there. Since then, he has been job-hunting, although during the summer he managed to get some part-time work as a parking marshall for festivals and events. We talk to him about the realities of being unemployed.


I’ve been out of work since September. There was work available for the [events] company but it would mean having to camp in the winter or pay for a hotel which, including travel (as most jobs are in England), wouldn’t be financially viable. I’ve not worked since then but not for a lack of looking.

So how’s the search going?

The hardest part of getting a job nowadays, it seems, is just hearing back from companies, let alone getting an interview. I have been going to the job centre regularly since being out of work, but it seems it’s mainly to show face so you can get Universal Credit payments. There have been two “work coaches” I’ve had since starting to go there. The one that sees me currently is better than the previous person, as she actually emails me about jobs going – something I didn’t really get with the last one – but the meetings themselves only last about five minutes, just to tell them about what jobs I’ve been looking at or applied for. It’s not that helpful to either of us, as they can see everything I’ve logged in my online journal without me being there and, as mentioned, they send me emails about jobs – which makes me wonder why I need to make a 25-mile round trip every two weeks. Granted it’s not far, and luckily I have a car which makes it easier, but I can only think of the people who have to walk or take the bus just to go there for five minutes when everything could be done online.

How are you dealing with the finances of having no job?

Luckily, I still stay with my parents and have no children, so even though £300 is nowhere near what I would’ve been getting if working, if I was on my own, I couldn’t survive on that. I’m not sure exactly how much more you would get if you live on your own or have kids.

Not having a job gets a bit depressing at times as you’re not doing anything all day (except looking for jobs of course) with no money to do anything. Especially as I should still be owed a payment of around £300, because they said I had earned a certain amount during one month when I didn’t. The funny thing is that if I had earned the money they claimed I had, I wouldn’t have really needed to go to the job centre as early on as I did. As there have been a few branch closures for my bank around my area, and the nearest one to the job centre was getting renovated at the time, I had to make another 20-odd mile round trip just to get a bank statement so I could prove my earnings (or lack of).

So I go back to the job centre with the documents, hand them over, then I get a message on my Universal Credit page saying they haven’t got them. So then I go online, to look through my statements for the right dates and email them over this time. I asked a while later if there was an update on the payment, only for them to say they need to check with HMRC. Which makes me wonder what the point was in sending over my bank statements in the first place. The dates in question were between 5th October and the 6th November. As I write this, it’s currently the end of February and I still haven’t heard back from them! I’ve asked a few times, only to be told they haven’t yet heard from HMRC. My payments have stopped twice since then, but quickly restored once I sent them an email asking why they had stopped. Their reasoning on these occasions was because I hadn’t put down my earnings – even though they know I’m not working.

Have you thought about retraining, instead of looking for a job?

I am mainly looking for work just now as opposed to going back to college/university. Not that I am against going back, but I would have to get a job at the same time anyway as I couldn’t go a year or two without any work just to get a qualification, only to find out I may not even get a job in that field after. So no doubt I would have the same struggle trying to get a job. Currently I would prefer to get a job, then I could think about doing a night or online course in spare time. I’m not sure that student living allowance loans would provide me much more than Universal Credit, and my costs would go up because of regular travel. The job centre handed over a prospectus from the local college, but didn’t offer to talk me through any options – it’s been a while since my last formal education experience so I don’t really know if I’d enjoy it.

So you haven’t really felt supported in making decisions?

Early on after I was made redundant I made an appointment with Skills Development Scotland, who are our national careers advice service. They gave me a test that says what you’re suited best for. I can’t even remember what it said I should be; but it was one of those tests that every question has the options of ‘strongly agree, agree, don’t know, disagree, or strongly disagree’ which half the time doesn’t really help because you can’t explain why or why not. There was no real guidance given, unfortunately.

I believe there are people there that actually want to help (such as my current work coach – I should also point out that the work coaches aren’t the ones who sort the payments) but when it comes to payments, they don’t seem the most trustful of people, and having money or not makes an enormous difference to all kinds of things.

Andrew is continuing his job search in his local area, and is in the middle of applying to join the RAF. To find out more about redundancy support, check out our article here.

If you’re interested in finding out what you might be best suited for and having access to careers coaches, without having to make the trip to a job centre, why not set up a Stay Nimble profile and kick off your career journey?

Author: Katherine

Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.

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