Monday, 24 June 2013

The job market (Αγορά εργασίας)

A religious semi-holiday today in Greece, as we celebrate Pentecost. Shops are open, but public offices are not. As for private offices (eg insurers, accountants, etc), you can't guarantee their timetable - best to give them a ring to see if they are open or not, which always adds to the confusion of who is working on this (and other Greek semi-holiday) day, whether they are based on religion (like the Pentecost) or politics (eg Politechneio Day, 17 November). We haven't quite worked this one out yet - to scrap its holiday status altogether, or to celebrate it as a nation.

I was so close to unemployment a few years ago, and I remember how I felt about it. It was my choice to leave my main job (the hours didn't suit us once the children began primary school), and my 5-hours-a-week job was under threat. But it was our choice not to work at the time, a choice that is not often available to us now in our times: if you have a paying job, you try to keep it. We often joke at work about our workplace closing down. Why not, it could happen any time. Humour helps to lighten the mental load. We won't expect to be warned - it could be just as random as ERT's closing down.

If I found myself unemployed right now, I suppose I would be looking in the local papers, and arranging job interviews instead of musing about how I would pass my days of idleness. I'm not really a local paper reader, But I would find myself obliged to do this, so I'd make an effort to buy it every day. The biggest local paper in Hania is Haniotika NeaWhile sipping on a frappe (that I made myself) under a beach umbrella (that I put up myself) by the beach (Greek beaches are still free), I'd turn to the classified ads, Μικρές Αγγελίες ("The Little Announcements"), and look for Ζητήσεις Υπαλλήλων ("Demand for Employees").

If I were looking in last Monday's paper, 17th June, I would have found 89 ads, which isn't too bad - this is not much different, despite the crisis, to what appeared in the paper in past years (you can check one of my previous posts for comparison purposes). I have listed them below in chronological order as they have appeared in the paper. The ads all appeared in Greek, unless otherwise stated (the non-Greek ads appeared in Greek; they are noted with the @ sign):

1. 2 people, students and/or graduates or higher education for market research. Means of transportation preferable. I'm not a student, but I am a university graduate and research always interests me - I hope they don't mind if I'm 47... Bookmarked - in fact, it sounds perfect for me.
2. Sales company requires salespeople. Must have a CV. I don't have any sales experience in my CV, and I really do hate trying to sell anything to anyone. Pass.
3. Promotion: Good-looking girls - FYI, I'll continue to present the wording, even though I already know I am ineligible. - 18-25 years old OK, I've written enough...
4. @Restaurant in Agia Marina [tourist beach area] looking for girl for entrancetot welcome new customers. Must speak English for a few hours in the afternoon [!] and girl for assistant in service. This ad is badly written; it looks like there are two positions available. This is my main excuse for choosing to ignore it. It also involves behaving like a hawker. I hate the idea of selling something to someone, but isn't that what all jobs are about? Selling? It will be bookmarked as a last resort...  
5. @Russian lady 25-45 years old wanted for jewellery shop. Ineligible.
6. @We are seeking 3 salespersonswho live in Crete  to work at a German company, 23-40 years old. Necessary skills: pleasant temper and team spirit. Maybe they will overlook my age if I tell them I know German? Even though I am not interested in sales, I would consider bookmarking it. 
7. Restaurant in Platanias [tourist beach area] seeks man/woman for reception.with English and Scandinavian skills. Good-looking girl with English skills for beach service. Ineligible for the former, and probably ineligible for the latter either.
8. Beautician with experience. Ineligible.
9. Chain store selling jewllery and accessories require girl up to 25 years old. Ineligible.
10. Man needed immediately to be a cook - grillman, graduate of cookery school, with knowledge of a la carte, 25-40 years old. Ineligible. Even if the ad did not state 'man', I wouldn't want to be on top of a grill throughout an 8-hour shift. 
11. Creta Coupon, first Cretan smart-buy site, partners wanted with communication ablities and a positive attitude, 25-35 years old.  Ineligible.
12. Hotel in Agia Marina needs a experienced girl with English skills for the breakfast buffet, to make sadnwiches, waffles, coffee and crepes. Does 'girl' make me ineligible? Bookmarked.
13. Taverna needs a woman as kitchen and buffet assistant, must live in Agia Marina or Platanias. Stating your home location means that they will want you to be at their beck and call any hour of the day. Thankfully, I am ineligible.
14. Cafe bar in Maleme needs a girl for the buffet for the afternoon shift, and a girl for service. English skills necessary. Does 'girl' make me ineligible?
15. Restaurant beach bar in Kalives needs waiters and buffet assistants. Experience and English skills necessary. Ineligible, I hope.
16. Commerical firm needs workers. Training and bonuses included. Bookmarked.
17. Reception staff for restaurant, male or female, with experience. Ineligible.
18. Reception staff for cafe restaurant in Agia Marina. Bookmarked.
19. Chef's assistant (woman) with grill experience (fish - meat), morning hours. Bookmarked.
20. Pre-K and kindergarten teacher needed for childcare centre. Ineligible.
... and so on. You get the picture so far.

Some of the ads contained what would be regarded as racist, sexist or disciminatory language. For example, stating 'man' or 'woman' for a job that both sexes could equally do is regarded as sexist in many countries. But I think that people in Crete would appreciate knowing what kind of person an employer is seeking. people don't often really want to do a job that is stereotyped for one sex, and I've learnt to live with this kind of sexims. As I state above, I don't really want to be over a grill for 8 hours, just like a male may not wish to work  promoting products on the street. There are the occassional ads stating 'Foreigners excluded' which sounds racist... but this is changing over time - fewer such ads seem to appear.

For some reason, knowing that I am ineligible gives me a positive boost. It seems like a good excuse to say: "There are no jobs out there for me." My age doesn't really give me an upper edge on the market - I may have to admit to myself that I am no longer marketable. But the jobs that do exist should not be used as a definitive list of available work in my region - they give you good ideas for job creation. Sometimes, you need to invent the job market rather than enter the job market. greek tourism is perfetly suited for job creation. In fact, this is what is mainly going on by more dynamic people. And the possibilities are endless.
I found this advertisement pasted to my car window while in Iraklio on business:
"Seeking individuals in your area
New work model
(for students, freelancers, housewives, pensioners, unemployed)
part-time - full-time - start straight away - full training - work even from your own computer
For information and appointment
Daily 10:00-21:00 (cellphone number provided)"
Apart from finding the right places to advertise, you will have many legal hurdles to pass in order to set yourself up in business, but I believe that where there is a will, there are probably many ways. Above all, you need to show the virtue of patience, and you need to spend a lot of time on your subject matter. I suppose I could do cooking classes, combined with a culinary tour to show where I forage/grow/buy ingredients. Then again, I could concentrate on the secret nature/beauty/secluded places of Hania, the kind of places only locals would know about, combining fictional stories with factual histories. Cruise ship tourists love that sort of thing. The gastrotourism market is for a very discerning well-informed sector of the tourism market - and it is a lucrative market.

Most of the time, I am showing people around my island or demonstrating my cooking without charging anything for it. It's just something I do naturally, something I have never felt the desire to charge for. I cook every day, I observe new things every day and I like to share both - it never occurred to me to place a charge for doing something naturally. But that is the market-driven profit-centred world we are living in - sadly, that is what I may have to do in the future.

But even if you aren't in the job creation market, the jobs I mentioned above show that we often have to accept what is available if we don't want to move away or be unemployed. We can't expect jobs for our formal skills or qualifications - they may exist elsewhere, but not where we are. We don't always live in a place for the work - there are mote to things in life. We can't be picky - but in all likelihood, in a place like Crete, there is probably something available for us to do in order to earn a living if we are willing to work. And we all have to work, otherwise we could not live here - the land may give you food to eat, but you can't pay your way through society these days if you don't have some sort of monetary income.

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