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.

Geraldine FitzGerald

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.

Career opportunities

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!