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how not to get a shit job

by suzi taylor

Woohoo! You've been called in for a job interview! Go ahead and high five a stranger or do a celebratory jig. Just remember to rock up to your interview with a clear idea of what kind of workplace you want to be in.

It may feel difficult to ask up-front questions about pay, entitlements and work culture, but this is stuff that you'll want to know from the get-go. If you're feeling a little nervy as to how to approach the situation, Keelia Fitzpatrick from the Young Workers Centre has some helpful tips to ensure you're treated with respect. 

shit job body

FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
 
If you’re asked in an interview which team you bat for, whether you have kids, or big plans for your reproductive bits any time soon, that’s not just awkward chit-chat, it’s also illegal.

“Our Anti-Discrimination Act states that a person can’t be discriminated against for a job on the basis of age, race, sexuality, parenthood status or any other thing that has nothing to do with the actual tasks they’d be responsible for,” Keelia says. “Legally, an employer isn’t allowed to ask about any of these things, in relation to your application or your employment in general.” That first interview can also help you suss out the vibe about a place, so keep your eye out for any warning signs.

Does your interviewer look about as inspired as a steamed dim sim sitting in a switched-off bain-marie? Do they use phrases like, “We work hard and play hard”? (Translation: we’ll work the bejesus out of you, then shame you if you don’t attend Friday night drinks and laugh at our jokes.)

According to Keelia, other flaming red flags include “dissing your predecessor in the role, and wriggling out of answering questions about career progression and professional development opportunities”.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
To be clear: payment means actual money. As the world doesn’t subsist in a gift-based economy, it’s not OK for the pub owner who’s hired you for an acoustic set to pay you in beer and chicken parmas.

You can’t pay your rent with a piece of golden fried poultry, so don’t be shy – whether the pay rate is advertised or not, ask before you apply.

“There are pretty clear laws stating what the minimum wage is; what the penalty rates are for weekends and public holidays; and how much superannuation you should be getting,” Keelia says.

“If the boss tells you they can’t afford to pay their staff the minimum award or penalty rates, that’s basically them saying, ‘I’m going to steal a bit from you every single hour you work for me. And on weekends, I’m going to steal a little bit more.’”

You could also ask your potential new boss whether they provide pay slips. If not, chances are you’re off the books. “If you’re getting cash in hand or a pay slip that doesn’t contain a breakdown of your ordinary rate plus penalty rates, super and tax, they’re probably not calculating any of those things,” Keelia explains.

CURIOUS ABOUT CULTURE
Walking into a workplace with a culture of extensive overtime, unchecked bullying or bigoted humour could be as risky to your health and wellbeing as slips, trips and physical hazards. It’s trickier to suss this out in advance – but not, Keelia says, impossible.

“When you inquire about the job, just ask straight up: ‘How would you describe the work culture here? What do you value, as a team? What’s the expectation of unpaid overtime, and do you encourage people to leave on time and take breaks? Do you have policies on bullying and sexual harassment, and can you give me an example of how you’ve put these into practice?’”

Chances are, if they’re not thoughtful and proactive about setting a positive workplace culture, they won’t have much to say about it.

“Culture and values need to be articulated and enforced, so find out if that’s happening.” If you’re offered a role but want to suss out who you’ll be working with, you could organise to go for a coffee or visit the office before you make a call.

After all, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time with these humans, and as current employees, they can give you a (hopefully) honest account.

SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
Before you head-first dive into a new job, you need something signed off by your boss that outlines the basics of what you’re in for – like what your role entails (to avoid any rude shocks on day one); where you’ll be working (so you can plan your trip from home); how much you get paid; your start and finish times, plus breaks; and what terms you’re being employed on (is it casual, contract, full-time?).

“This is something you should totally ask for to help you decide whether to accept the job,” Keelia says. “It’ll give you a pretty good insight into what you can expect, and it’s in writing, so they can’t claim something different down the line. Don’t be afraid to ask for more detail if it’s light on in any of those non-negotiable areas.”

This all-important piece of life advices comes from the pages of frankie issue 86, on sale now. Nab a copy here, or subscribe from $10.50.

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