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Blair's Welfare Wonderland
I RECENTLY had the dubious pleasure of attending an American-style motivational workshop designed to get me back into the workforce. In a hot stuffy room near the Elephant and Castle in south London, I was introduced to GOALS - gaining opportunities and life skills.
According to Philip, our own 'Mr Motivator', the week would not only change my employment status, it would change my life. Through the process of psychoneuroimmunology, the course would increase the number of white blood cells in my body, and thereby improve my immune system.
Life, apparently, is like making a risotto, all any of us need to succeed is the right recipe. GOALS is the recipe book. The recipe contains ten keys. I won't go into detail - suffice it to say that GOALS is an adaptation of the Californian Welfare to Work programme.
Among the gems used to motivate the assembled group was the use of an executive toy popular during the 1980s - five swinging balls. For a full 20 minutes Philip asked what would happen if he let one ball bounce off the remaining four, what would happen if he bounced two balls off the remaining three, etc. The point of the exercise? You only get out what you put in.
When one of the participants objected to being forced to sit through this workshop, Philip maintained that no one was forced to be there. Anyone who didn't want to be there could leave and accept a reduction in their Job Seekers Allowance!
"Fake it till you make it"
Like any motivational speaker worth their salt Philip used his own life experiences as inspiration for us all. Born in the East End of London he was homeless at 17. Later he mentioned he'd taken driving lessons at seventeen. Taking driving lessons while homeless! Even an old cynic like me has to admit that is impressive. I couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever shared a doorway with Tony Blair.
Philip's first success came during the 1980s when he became an estate agent. At 9.45am, Philip told us he now had 60 people working for him. By the time we broke for lunch this had risen to 120. Perhaps not surprising for a man whose motto is: "Fake it till you make it".
Having listened to this combination of pyscho-babble and meaningless statistics for three days, we finally got down to it - the career ladder.
In a nutshell, when it comes to the career ladder we're all on the ground. What we need to do is to get onto the first rung of the ladder and that means taking what Philip calls the "any job". Being four times more attractive to employers while in employment, our dream job wouldn't be far off. Furthermore, the "any job" would raise our self-esteem and give us the chance to "network".
Given that the average employee living on the minimum wage barely has the time or money to socialise, one wonders who they are going to network with. Similarly, given that workers on minimum wage have to work such long hours just to make ends meet, where do they find the time to apply for the dream job which is never advertised anyway?
Finally, when I pointed out to Philip that I had been applying for the "any job" unsuccessfully for three years he advised me to redraft my CV leaving out my degree in social science, my masters' degree in history, and whatever I do don't mention that I'm in the final stages of my PhD.
So, with my immune system suitably boosted and my CV a tissue of lies, I hope to be appearing in a MacDonalds near you any day now. Please, do pop in for a spot of networking while I toss the burgers!
In The Socialist 11 September 2004:
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