This Christmas, for the first time in twenty years, I couldn’t afford presents for my family, let alone travel to Brisbane to be with them for the holiday. I have even had to borrow money from them to pay the rent and buy food: if it wasn’t for the dole (a.k.a. ‘Newstart’) I would be homeless. This is because I do not have a job.

Yet I have two Bachelor’s degrees in the social sciences, earned seven years apart; nevertheless, don’t expect to move directly into a dream job, but be prepared to do any work until you find what you want. This is what I have done; before, during and after my studies, working in various factories, offices and customer service roles. Studying externally, I improved my skills in writing and in editing but even freelance jobs have been scarce; so I am in the job market for about the fourth time. I have many positive testimonials and references from previous employers about my work and interaction with other people. I do not smoke or take drugs, and drink very rarely.

Despite my knowledge and practical experience, I have not been able to find decent employment (by ‘decent’ I mean any job beyond the ability of a newly graduated Year 12 student), where I can start to pay back my ever-increasing HECS debt (and I never received Austudy). I have been turned down for jobs because I lacked even one skill: I was rejected for a gardening job because, although I had experience with every other type of power equipment, I had never used an edger. I no longer include all my academic achievements in my resume: once I was strongly discouraged from applying for a job because the boss thought I would be bored. I can see the point – who would mind being homeless and starving, as long as they weren’t bored? But I’m not particularly ambitious: I work to live, not the other way around. Of course, without a job I can’t do much of any kind of living. I can rarely afford my hobbies or donate to charities.

This is only half my story but for now I have to write out more job applications: hope is difficult to kill, but it hasn’t been for want of trying by erstwhile employers.