This week I’d like to share with you a genuine surprise to me, and a very pleasant one at that. It happened on Thursday, the day I visit the Job Centre every fortnight. And in fact it was two weeks ago I wrote about ‘The Grey Building’ here on The Money Principle, to which I described the experience of signing on and speaking to advisors there in that tedious environment.
But have I been too harsh? No, I haven’t, the place is depressing, yet this week I experienced a much nicer and friendly one-to-one session. I was treated with humanity and respect and, would you believe it, sincere care by lady I had never spoken to before. Her name is Mary, she is an African lady in her thirties who seems to be immune to the lack of personality and atmosphere of the office around her. Perhaps she is relatively new and hasn’t been there long enough for her jolly nature to slowly decay, like it looks to have done so with most of her colleagues.
I hope not. I hope she remains in chipper and helpful spirits, as she dealt with me with humour and kindness before I even got the chance to be friendly in return. Of course I was friendly, especially as she asked me a question that I never expected to hear within 50 feet of a Job Centre. She asked, “And how are you doing? Is life ok?” This quite frankly almost had me falling off my chair. She didn’t just want to know what I’ve been doing to find work. She didn’t just want to know that I had crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s to make sure all policies and procedures were being adhered to. She was asking about me as a person. For moment I thought she was going to slip me an extra £20 she was so friendly, but actually she was making sure that I was alright within myself, like the struggling unemployed often aren’t. I told her I was fine but running out of ideas for healthy meals as I pointed to my chubby belly. She laughed and said it was hard enough to get her son to eat pasta, never mind vegetables. All this made me feel very much at ease instead of how awkward it usually is.
Now, you can imagine that this as a common practice for all staff would be difficult. It might even be difficult enough for some of them to smile at all, and of course the job seeker themselves could take it the wrong way as some strange people feel uneasy about being open and friendly. Of course it’s not the advisor’s job to offer a way of counsel to everyone, but it flooded me with a smiling feeling for the rest of that afternoon after being treated in a welcoming manner. The interview didn’t take any longer than it would normally do, around ten minutes. She said and did everything else she was supposed to do, probably quicker than others. And she didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, she just did it all with likability and character.
That day the building didn’t seem as grey as I left. It still was as mediocre and as boringly neutral as it always is, but I personally felt filled with a bit of colour as Mary shared her brighter outlook with me, and made me feel better than I normally would after a visit. I applied for 3 more jobs later that day, and to be honest I rarely go online job hunting on Thursdays after signing on. Not that there’s any real excuse but as I’ve already sent CV’s and application forms that week I’m usually less eager after coming from that grey building. I’m not even saying that I need an enthusiastic and friendly person to encourage me to look for work. It’s just nice to be seen eye to eye for a change. And Mary’s and my eyes did meet, and we laughed. I can’t remember what it was we were chuckling about, something to do with poorly advertised job positions I believe, but we laughed nonetheless. It was rather refreshing, I must say. Cheers, Mary.