WhyNot EC Unfiltered: Education & Employment Part 1

Words by Members of the WhyNot Editorial Committee and friends

Money makes me uncomfortable.

My family didn’t casually talk about money – having it, needing it, spending it, thinking about spending it – around the dinner table or any other open space.

As a kid, if I needed something that required money (so everything!), I would feel so uncomfortable asking that I’d prefer to wait until the last possible minute to talk to my parents, either privately before bed in hushed whispers or, better yet, just send off a quick text to them. Which is odd given both my parents are accountants – dollars aren’t a foreign concept to them.

As an adult this translated to avoiding discussions about salary expectations in job interviews, and I have not once even thought about asking for a pay rise. I even felt weird about invoicing for freelance work.

But like much of my life, COVID-19 has impacted how I talk about money.

I anticipated having my hours cut at work. I anticipated feeling anxiety about my financial situation. I even anticipated that I would not qualify for JobSeeker.

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it is to avoid conversations about money when you are stuck in a house with your level-headed, number-loving partner. No space was off limits.

At the kitchen table: “Have you started your JobKeeper application?”

Watching Unorthodox on Netflix: “What’s our grocery budget for the week?”

Brushing our teeth: “Are you up to date on your bills?”

It’s like experiencing subtle exposure therapy. Over the course of 6 weeks I’ve stopped pretending to have temporary hearing loss, I’ve stopped humming my way around it and I’ve even stopped demonstrating my ability to tear up on demand.

I’m certainly not starting the conversation but I’m happy to be an active participant.

Lauren – Freelancer

Zoom University and Underemployment

Three years ago I pitched an idea to the Y for a business that supports Australian university students to study abroad. Things were going great; 2020 was going to be our most successful year yet. In February we had our first taste of the impacts of COVID-19 when our partners in Japan informed us we could no longer run our Japanese language program in July. One month later we informed our applicants that we had made the decision to cancel all of our July 2020 programs.

Accepting that right now isn’t the right time, that the project you’ve committed so much time to needs to be put on hold, hasn’t been easy.

I’ve only nowfound a sense of purpose at work again after being redeployed to support a new project.

My hours have been affected but my quality of life is still more or less the same, so from that lens I feel pretty privileged about my situation, but I’m still really worried about YMCA Global Study’s customers.

The unwitting alumni of Zoom University will miss out on many of the traditional university experiences. While I’m confident that rites of passage like studying abroad will one day be open again to Australian university students, I can’t help but feel for those students who have had these opportunities taken away from them. What concerns me most is that this year’s graduates will likely be the first to enter the workforce during a recession since 1991 (the year I was born).

Our government will do everything in their power to support jobs and the economy through this recession (JobKeeper is a great start), but I worry that missing out on a graduation ceremony might be the least of Zoom University graduates’ problems.

My biggest fear is that a shrinking job market will lead to even less opportunities for young people to find meaningful work. This could lead to more graduates being forced to take a role they are overqualified for. While a short-term increase to unemployment is a scary proposition, the prospect of long-term underemployment is terrifying.

Jono – International Education

Uncertain Calculations

It’s been an interesting time for employment with all the uncertainty that has occurred as a result of COVID.

As a freelancer I had all my clients drop off at the start of lockdown, which was a big reality check. Oddly, I didn’t feel a wave of anxiety or stress – I just channelled energy into making the most of the time available. Working on projects and upskilling in areas that had fallen by the wayside as a result of being so caught up in all the work and social things that COVID had managed to strip from us. My strategy in dealing with income uncertainty was to calculate how long I could last on my savings and I budgeted in order to move forward in the most tactical way possible. 

As a freelancer I have come to accept the risk of job insecurity, that there will be tough times when income is not consistent.

This awareness makes the fall when it happens, which it most definitely will, less painful.  Strategies can be implemented which allows a faster recovery to make the most of the situation.

Aileen – Freelancer

Posted in