Close to Iceland's Keflavík International Airport lies a special bridge. It connects two continents, America to the west and Europe to the east, as it lies across the point where two tectonic plates are diverging. A few minutes southwards from the bridge is Gunnuhver, a hot spring area named after a ghost.
19.08.2013 | 10:45
The Lion and the Teaspoon (JB)
Unemployment in Iceland currently measures at about six percent. It’s a relatively low number but for the unemployed, the task of finding employment, preferably employment suitable to individual preferences and educational and professional background, is tough.
Up until now, I’ve never registered as unemployed. There were times in-between semesters during my university years that I was unemployed but not entitled to unemployment benefits. As a student, I was entitled to a student loan. I was also able to earn a little money every now and then.
However, after a year of working full-time and more as a contractor in translation, writing and other related jobs, I finally decided to de-register as one so that I could apply for unemployment benefits until the semester starts at university.
I delayed the de-registration until the absolute last minute, hoping that something would come along. But as nothing turned up at my inbox or in the mail, I went to the Directorate of Labor (Vinnumálastofnun) and found out which documents to bring in and filled out the application form.
On my first visit, I met with an agent who gave me a brief overview of what to do. It was quite formal and rushed, so I was left a little disheartened by the visit. The lingering feeling of disappointment and discouragement when unemployment knocks on the door renders a person a little vulnerable. She was friendly but direct in her approach, and encouraged me to bring the documents in as soon as possible so my application could be processed as soon as possible. She gave me the much needed push I needed.
The staff at the unemployment office are trained to help job seekers to stay motivated and keep an upbeat spirit during the search for the perfect job. Prolonged unemployment is frustrating for the spirit and therefore the goal is to help job seekers find work within the first three months.
The following day, I brought the documents to the office and spoke to a member of staff to go through my application. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I was met with a friendly smile and a positively upbeat spirit. First day back from his summer holidays, he read the discouragement in my voice and lightened up my mood with hopeful optimism. He conveyed all the necessary information given to the newly-unemployed, asked what sort of work I was looking for, and which fields of employment interested me.
He turned my day around and I left full of optimism, revived and refreshed to continue the hunt.
A few days later, I attended a job seekers’ orientation meeting where a specialist consultant went through a presentation on PowerPoint, explaining every single detail and answering our questions as they were posed. Afterwards, she made time to speak to anyone with further questions and a few attendees stayed on to speak to a consultant regarding resumes, introduction letters and other relative issues.
No matter how seasoned a job seeker you are, there are always one or two things a person can do better. I picked up a couple of pointers I was able to apply in my most recent job applications.
What the recent experiences have taught me is that the Icelandic unemployment office do their job diligently and provide us job seekers with the tools we need to succeed. The staff are supportive, rendering one with the feeling that one is not alone in this dilemma and hope prevails.
I have to mention the friendly receptionist too. As I came to the unemployment office, I asked out of curiosity (and let’s face it, dire need) if we could grab a coffee somewhere before the meeting. There was no coffee machine in the facility but the receptionist on duty offered to make me a cup of coffee for the meeting. She didn’t have to and she could have easily said no. But she said yes.
What all this tells me is that the system works. It may be hard to find work but the welfare system looks after its people.
To look for work in the current employment market is like spoon-feeding a lion.
The lion is hungry for success and needs to recruit new cubs to the group. Determining which cub is best-suited for the only available position depends entirely on the cub’s ability to bring in the right sweetener to feed the lion. And maybe even, the kind of spoon to feed the lion.
Is it a silver spoon? A bronze spoon? It’s not a plastic spoon, is it? Or is it the gold spoon?
Well, once you work out which spoon to feed the lion its sugar, the task is to work out which sweetener to feed it.
Is it raw sugar, a bit rough around the palate but delivers the right sweetness? Or is it the refined sugar with all its enhanced flavors and nice packaging? Or is the soft texture of the sweet elixir of honey the way to go? After all, the honey is bottled in an engraved glass bottle. Or is it a spoon of golden syrup, packaged in a squeeze bottle?
When called to an interview, do we bring our unique sweetener, the one that makes us special and defines our employable self? Or do we bring the sweetener that matches the lion’s very own palate?
Looking for work is one of the more challenging journeys we embark upon in life. In the recent worldwide economic crisis, sacrifices have been made by companies and employees, and the market is still unsure of what tomorrow brings.
Now, in the so-called recovery phase, employers are uncertain of what the future brings and having a job is not something to take for granted. Having the support of the good people of the unemployment office, each one performing their duties with honor, is golden.
Finding work is hard, and one thing is for sure, job seekers in this day and age are going to become specialists in the art of finding work, if they’re not already there.
The October-December issue of the print edition of Iceland Review is packed with interesting material, such as a travel feature on Flatey Island, interview with chair of Samtökin 78 – The National Queer Association Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir and a guide to spotting the northern lights accompanied by Páll Stefánsson’s photos. Click here to view a selection of pages from the current issue and here to subscribe.
It would be easy to get washed away in all the hype but Ásgeir’s In the Silence, the English language version of his breakthrough debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn, truly deserves all the praise it’s been getting.