She works hard for the money

You can always tell it is Sunday night by the flood of memes about the Sunday sads, Mondayitis and sometimes LOL inducing complaints about going in to the office, appearing all over social media.

If I were to create a playlist for Sunday nights it would include Everybody Wants To Work by The Uncanny X-Men, Manic Monday by The Bangles, Material Girl by Madonna and She Works Hard For The Money by Donna Summer.

I work for the government. Well, technically, I don’t have a paying job, so the government provides me a benefit called Newstart while I look for work. I have been working for Our Tone (PM and gun Minister for Women) for a while, and frankly he’s starting to creep me out. I think he’s confused that I’m not at home ironing.

Once you have been unemployed for a year, your job services provider calls you in to discuss the Work for the Dole program.

My consultant Elise started the conversation with ‘It won’t be as bad as you think’. What a sales pitch! Where do I sign?

While I am pleased that I won’t be picking up rubbish from a roadside, the notion that I haven’t been working for the dole for the past 49.5 weeks really got me thinking about what we consider ‘work’.

Firstly, you’ll have to work out how to live on $326 a week.

Actually, once I put aside the rent, there’s only $124.

That $124 has to cover groceries, petrol, car insurance, electricity and gas, internet plan, home insurance, credit card payments, and the new 12 month phone contract you may have signed up for a week before you lost your job. I’m glad I don’t suffer FOMO when it comes to communication devices.

If you are super lucky, and find a job in the first month or so, it’s not too bad, as most of us have a well stocked pantry, and sympathetic friends.

If not, your work will include not allowing the seeming futility of sending out applications – week after week, often with no response whatsoever – to drag you down. It’s disheartening.

You’ll have to work at staying connected with people. They’re busy – at work – and if you’re used to socialising with them over drinks and dinner, well, refer to $124 above.

Depending on the season, you might have to work at setting utilities restrictions. Last winter I set myself incremental goals – no heater until noon, then 1pm, then 2pm. I’d make another cup of tea, or put another layer of clothes on. Some days it worked, some days were a bust, because it was bloody cold.

The work that may surprise you the most is the work of frugality. I’ve found myself comparing junk mail, looking for bargains, then foraging in the freezer and searching the dark recesses of the pantry to see what’s on hand – chickpeas and tuna and rice, oh my!

The most rewarding work is the work of perseverance. Even though it hasn’t resulted in a job offer yet, I’m pleased to say I remain optimistic, knowing this too shall pass, though there have been occasional tears at the sink and worries in the night.

Nobody chooses this level of subsistence. The notion of people ‘bludging’ if their only income is $326 a week is not only offensive, it’s impossible.

Perhaps that’s why Donna Summer’s voice has been reverberating in my head lately.

I work hard for the money too.


I wrote this about three weeks ago, as a sample piece for an internship. Given that I haven’t heard a thing, I decided to publish it here. It’s an important topic, and not just to me. 

I’m thrilled to say that I now have a casual job! That means I’m working hard for more money, which is awesome – and for the first time in over a year, I’m mentally fatigued at the end of the day. 



16 thoughts on “She works hard for the money

  1. It is good writing but it’s a harsh reality too. When I winge about my job, as I’m prone to do, I am always quick to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job at all. I’m so pleased that you’re back in the world of work, onwards and upwards!


  2. yes a harsh reality for a lot of people Annette!
    but where compassion seems to be lacking!
    I say, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and see how you feel before bagging them!
    as you know, the jobs aren’t there in abundance!
    I hope your new job offers you more for the future!
    just keep painting too! … love m:)X


    • It’s such a necessary skill, the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes. I’m looking forward to buying myself some new ones in a little while, and I will definitely keep painting Merilyn.


  3. Loved this post and I think its an important (and not often heard) perspective. It’s not just the nuts and bolts of the job-hunt, but also how hard it can be to stay positive, to stay connected, and to stay afloat financially. Thanks for sharing Annette, and big congratulations on the job!


  4. I am so glad there was a light at the end of that tunnel. It really is tough, and I don’t know the half of it. I seem to have been on the same wage give or take for the last 10 years a=but everything has gone up in the meantime. I am so glad I haven’t had to manage without a job (yet- you never know what is around the corner) but am constantly trying to save little bits here and there as an insurance policy.


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