A little more than a year back amidst the beginning of a global pandemic I had found myself unemployed in a city away from my home. Everything had changed, every detail of how I had envisioned my future, post transitioning out of my previous job, suddenly got lost in the oblivion. I was trying my best to survive in Mumbai. Job offers were getting withdrawn, unemployment was on the rise and I was hit hard. The world around me was suddenly full of chaos. In the six months that were to come, I saw my life spiral and take a turn, a very dark one at that, until I saw light at the end of the tunnel. 

The possibility of getting hired in jobs which might have been higher otherwise (in a non-pandemic situation), became suddenly extremely low. There were lesser jobs now and more number people applying to those same jobs. And what was even worse that this massive unemployment was in no way an equaliser. Unarguably, marginalised communities had it harder. Even without the pandemic, my gender and my identity as a trans* woman was often a hindrance for employers to hire me and now, I was convinced I stood no chance. 

However, six months later, I finally got a job, so here I am, all set to reflect on my journey and put my word out there, especially in the universe of employers to make it a little easier for all the job seekers out there in whatever way I can. Before I begin, I must say how grateful I am to my current employers for being so kind in this difficult time. A healthy organisational culture has been very contusive for working in a grievously pandemic struck nation such as ours. 

Back to our present concern. The world has changed, we are now living in the new normal, everything and everyone is adjusting and adaptive to this and so should the hiring process by prospective employers. We need to live and survive and for that we need business and economy. One cannot be separated from the other. Businesses are suffering, the economy is falling and to tackle that, organisations are limiting their hiring. And several organisations that continue to hire are mostly in no way mindful of the changed and heightened struggles of people – a people physically and mentally marred by the catastrophe that was COVID-19. It is time we, as both employers and employees, prioritised life over work and the needs to evolve together and systematically.

Here are few suggestions on how that may be done:

Long term vs short term

Profit-driven organisations must look beyond their short-term goal of reaching their targets. Especially given the difficult circumstances, there are people who are applying to certain job roles which they may not have the background for, in desperation. They may be from a different sector and lack of jobs in their domain may be pushing them to apply elsewhere. It is important to be open to onboarding more people than tightening the gateway now. If the person has the necessary transferable skill-set from the job, they should be given a chance. Creating space for building capacities of new employees may eventually lead to creating a better and efficient workforce in the long term. Plus, an accommodating work culture directly adds to the brand value of the organisation.    

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Creating space for building capacities of new employees may eventually lead to creating a better and efficient workforce in the long term. Plus, an accommodating work culture directly adds to the brand value of the organisation.    

Empathy is the key

Many people have lost their jobs and there is, of course, a gap in their CV. We are all aware of this reality. We know that this is not a marker of anyone’s individual success or failure, more so, in this time. Asking folks to explain the reason for this gap in interview processes may trigger them. This may be a reminder of an unimaginable time for them resulting in hampering their self esteem and confidence. Even questions like what one did in this period out of the workforce is also unnecessary. Instead, more relevant questions pertaining to the skills and potential of the applicant makes it easier for both parties to understand their fit to the job role. 

We are living a life of uncertainty; it is difficult to envision what will happen tomorrow, let alone the next five years. Is there a relevance of questions such as ‘Where do you see yourself after five years?’ anymore? Is it not reasonable for anyone to not know their purpose in these uncertain times? Most people are looking for jobs to survive. Purpose-oriented questions are redundant in this time.

Inclusion cannot be excluded

Let’s face it, it is not as easy for women, trans*, non-binary, DBA folks and people with disability to get a job as it is for upper class, upper caste, non-disabled, cis-het men. And those experiencing intersectional marginalisations have it ever harder. The rigour cannot be the same for everyone in the interviews. This does not mean that marginalised people will have it easier. The labour they have undergone to reach to that interview or a job application process is unimaginable by those who have not faced that level of systemic marginalisation. They might have a few skills less than their privileged counterparts, most often than not because they have been historically denied opportunities of development such as access to education, for instance. However that does not make them any less deserving. An exclusionary hiring process will only limit the workforce and in the long-term, lead to non-diverse work spaces, which is again, the beginning of any failing or already failed economy. 

It is not enough (although welcoming) that only non-profits encourage marginalised folks to apply. The responsibility is on everyone, on every employer, on every ecosystem. 

It is not enough (although welcoming) that only non-profits encourage marginalised folks to apply. The responsibility is on everyone, on every employer, on every ecosystem. 

If we are to truly overcome this pandemic, we need to recognise our power and privileges and do all that is in our capacities to show solidarity to everyone who is struggling. It is impossible to achieve anything at all if we don’t survive and help each other survive. May this time be a reminder of that to all of us. 


Featured image source: Everyonesocial

About the author(s)

Riju Banerjee is 27 years old and works at The YP Foundation. She is a Teach for India alumni who is passionate about human rights, mental health, social emotional learning, writing, film making and intersectional feminism. She is an educator who strongly believes in inclusive education and is an advocate of children's voices and agency.

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