In late March, Jasmyn Maddern was getting desperate. She had just lost all her shifts at a cafe due to lockdown and was then let go from another job as she travelled to work on her very first day.
“I saw the queues outside Centrelink on the news and I thought to myself, what can I do to not be in that line,” she told news.com.au.
What she did was disarmingly easy. She drew up a CV which contained a mere four words. Soon she had work six days a week that lasted her for months.
“It’s how I survived throughout COVID,” she said.
Like many people, Ms Maddern, from Holmview in Brisbane’s southern suburbs, was having a bad pandemic work wise.
Her hospitality job vanished and then a role in a fashion store equally evaporated.
“The day I was supposed to start, I had left my house to go to work and I got a phone call to say that because of COVID they could only have permanent staff, not casual, so they didn’t need me anymore.
“I was pretty upset about it. I was thinking, what am I going to do for money?”
As she was at her lowest ebb, a neighbour called and asked if she would tend her garden and do a bit of whipper snipping.
“I like gardening, I have over 150 house plants, but I’d not done whipper snipping before.
But I just held the trigger and cut as evenly as I could and it turns out I was really good at it,” Ms Maddern said.
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FOUR WORD CV
Inspired, she asked her neighbour to take a snap of her, “in my Bunnings hat and a pair of jeans so I looked the part”. She uploaded it to a casual employment app that she sometimes flicked through called WorkApp.
Beneath the photo she put just four words: “I love whipper snipping”.
Her bio had a touch more detail, but not much. It simply read that she had grown up on acreage, that she loved whipper snipping (again), and could help out in people’s yards.
Ms Maddern said she’d looked at other posts on the app and on websites like Seek and she decided to do something different.
“Other posts were more vague – they might put their name first and then say ‘Hi, I’m from this place and looking for this and am willing to do anything’.
“I just wanted to cut to the chase. I didn’t put my name at the top, I just said ‘I love whipper snipping’.
“I thought I’d be super specific and see what happened and it turned out quite well.”
The next day she got her first job and then the work began piling in, particularly from retirees who needed a helping hand to tame their gardens.
“One lady said she thought it was hilarious that I just talked about whipper snipping rather than say my name or anything else. But I just wanted to stand out.”
Between being recommended by customers and jobs through the app, Ms Maddern found herself, in next to no time, with equivalent hours to full time work – sometimes more.
“At some points I was working six days a week”, she said.
“What I was getting paid was pretty much on a par with my previous work in hospo. That I worked so much during COVID was amazing.
“Putting up that one line on whipper snipping was better that filling out multiple forms at Centrelink to be on government payments.”
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JOBLESS NUMBERS COULD BE WORSE THAN REPORTED
WorkApp CEO and founder Shane Wallace said there had been a surge in people using the app during the pandemic.
“COVID has led to the biggest number of downloads, 3000 in a day, and month on month we’re seeing the numbers double.”
The platform has posts both from people looking for work and those who need staff in a hurry.
“The app acknowledges that the best worker for your job could be just around the corner.”
Australia’s unemployment rate went up 0.1 percentage points to 6.9 per cent in September, with 30,000 more people out of work. The rise is less than expected but still far above pre-pandemic levels of around 5.5 per cent unemployment.
However, some analysts have said the jobless figures don’t take into account those people who are technically still employed but who have been stood down.
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Research by Melbourne University found the hardest hit industries during the pandemic have been hospitality, air travel, tourism, arts and entertainment, and sports and recreation.
Many of these were, and in some places still are, closed down completely.
Bricks and mortar retail, tertiary education, mechanics and motor vehicle retailing, and accommodation have been able to continue operating in most instances but demand has slumped.
Around 3.5 million Australian workers, or 28 per cent of all workers, were in these hard hit industries.
The jobs of women and younger workers, Ms Maddern fits into both categories, were more severely affected as there was an increased likelihood of them being employed in these sectors.
However, there are some apparently pandemic-proof industries with high demand for workers, even those with relatively few skills.
COVID-19 has seen backpackers and other foreign workers dry up on farms as borders close. Yet demand for agricultural products is as high as its ever been.
With the harvest in full swing, farms have been struggling to find workers to pick and process the crop.
“Australia’s agriculture sector is facing a significant labour shortage due to COVID-19 with job vacancies for harvesters, agronomists, machine technicians, and spray rig operators making it the perfect time to consider farm work,” National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson last month.
With COVID restrictions being relaxed in Queensland, Ms Maddern did eventually start her retail role.
But with a focus on upselling, and the fact she was indoors all day rather than in the garden, she found she didn’t love it as much as she thought, and quit.
She now balances her work time between cafe shifts and whipper snipping.
“I don’t think I’m so good at sales,” she said of her experience in retail.
That’s despite the fact she managed to get tons of work through putting a four word resume online.
Ms Maddern laughed, “Maybe I’m better at marketing myself”.