Against a Stacked Deck

Mel O'Sullivan - August 16, 2021

Why Job Agencies do stuff all to help Veterans get jobs.

I used the money I had saved while deployed overseas to buy a house. Despite my faultless credit rating, the bank refused me a mortgage because I was single, in a fluid employment phase, and had not lived in the same place for more than twelve months at a time for more than five years. My local credit union gave me a loan but made me pay a 20% deposit because I was single and my parents had to guarantee the loan.

I was basically treated like an unstable vagrant. I should have just applied for the loan through my Army bank  - but I was so pissed off with the Army at that point I didn't even want to look at that bank account.

I was also made to purchase mandatory unemployment insurance on the mortgage. After I was terminated via text message from job number three (or was it four?) I was forced to activate that insurance and access welfare for the first time in my life. One of the conditions of the insurance was that I had to register as unemployed with Centrelink and supply proof of registration to the Credit Union.

I followed the bouncing ball through all the various steps of registration to find employment - including drafting and submitting my resume.

Good thing I didn't wait for them to find me a job. It was months before I heard from anyone.

At the time you were still required to fill out a job search/employment log book and fax it in on a fortnightly basis. Something I did religiously - I needed the money to eat. I was also very lucky to strike a sympathetic internet cafe owner (now a very good friend) who allowed me to Job Search on the Internet for free. Yes - money was really that tight. I also had no personal networks to lean on because I had only just moved to town.

Several months later I received the first phone call from a Job Search agent notifying me that I had to submit my job search history and attend Job Search training or my welfare would be cut off.

It was blatantly clear to me that the person on the other end of the phone hadn't even bothered to pull my file before they rang.

I managed to keep my temper while I explained that my first job out of the Army was Vocational training with an Occupational Rehabilitation provider. I explained that I had been working a couple of jobs on a casual and part time basis the whole time - reported religiously. Then I really gritted my teeth and said "please actually look at my Resume and then contact me when you are ready to pay me to run the Job Search training for Centrelink".

I attended the mandatory week long Job Search course. Well aware of the importance of impressions I dressed well and arrived promptly prepared to make the most of the opportunity. I will always help someone who genuinely tries, but the other people on the course were the biggest pack of loser no-hoper welfare parasites I'd ever encountered in my life. They were there because their welfare would be cut off if they didn't attend - they weren't there to get help finding jobs. An ex Army Officer, I found the fact that one person didn't even bother to put a shirt on (or even shower) truly offensive.

I have no problem with hardworking people who get dirty and smelly working hard but these people hadn't even made even the smallest effort. I didn't belong with these people.

After that I finally got notified that I could see an Agent in person and duly took myself in for my first (and only) one on one appointment - after about six months on the dole. I attended well prepared with all of my documentation and expected to spend the interview time talking about job leads and being helped to set up interviews. I dressed well and had all of my paperwork organised.

Again - the agent had not even looked at my file and hadn't bothered to find out anything at all about my case history. I had expected that he would have checked out my file, had a think about the jobs on the books, maybe lined up a few local contacts for potential interviews.

My mistake was in thinking that this guy actually had any intention of helping me get a job. The only value I got out of the interview was when he explained the pricing structure of the process and detailed to me why I would never get priority treatment from any Job Agency. The process repeated itself almost exactly 12 years later when I was made CORONA redundant.

Not a single thing had changed. Lucky for me I had learned a few things in the meantime.

Let me tell you why the deck is stacked against veterans when we step into the job Search Agency meat grinder. 

  1. Job Agencies don't get paid to find you a job. Job agencies get paid by the number of people on their books - not how many people they got into jobs this month. No financial or business incentive exists to motivate agents to get people into jobs. Just the opposite.
  2. Too many skills. Job Search candidates are classified according to their skill levels and employment history. Basically the agency gets paid more for time spent on long term, low skill welfare recipients. If they see that you have a solid work history and a decent set of skills your file goes straight to the bottom of the pile. Physical abilities and injuries might nudge the needle a bit - but not much.
  3. Military Skill sets are hard to recognise. Best you lose the expectation that the Case Officer handling your file will have any understanding of the skill sets you bring to the table. It's also a mistake to expect that the Case Officer will have time or the inclination to find out.
  4. You won't get access to the agents professional networks. Long term low skill "clients" get priority for any job opportunities that come up through the agency network. They get the leads, the introductions, the hand holding. Remember - your file is at the bottom of the pile.
  5. It's almost impossible to establish a personal relationship with your case manager. It's hard to get face to face appointments and establish personal relationships when everything is done via a website or a call centre. They actually do have quite large case loads - and remember - your file is probably at the bottom of the pile.
  6. Resumes are processed by Bots. These days a submitted Resume is likely to be filtered by a Bot before a human being ever lays eyes on it. That means that if you don't use the exact words it is looking for (you guessed it) your Resume goes to the bottom of the pile.

Your personal, professional and social networks remain as powerful as they have always been. Time and resources invested in maintaining and developing those networks will never be wasted. Waiting for an agency to find you a job is a waste of time and rarely ever gets acceptable results.

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