Thursday, 1 March 2012

Graduate Myth #10: Pulling A Sickie

Myth: once you're a graduate, it's okay to take a few sick days every year. Apparently, Britain takes two fake sick days a year. There are, I'm told, working cultures where taking a week off sick is basically just taking another week's holiday.

I heartily suspect that none of these people are recent graduates.

I've taken days off sick. They're weird experiences, because after making the phonecall I always feel as though I'm somehow faking it. This is possibly the experience of having nurses for parents, who were of the opinion that unless I was actively dying I could still go to school, but I always convince myself I'm somehow swinging the lead. Days taken off sick recently include 'having a car accident the day before' and 'tonsils gone septic and one of them leaking pus on inside of throat'. Despite being unable to get out of bed and on so many painkillers I'm having mild hallucinations, a small part of me thinks that if I just had a hot shower and a cup of tea I'd be completely fine.

The problem is that as a graduate, you are pathetically grateful for simply having employment. You have a year to bed down and look like you are essential to the job, so if you have an unexpected day off and the place continues without you then you have clearly just signed your P45. If you're paid by the hour then it's clearly even more of a disaster, as you lose a day's pay that's desperately needed.


As a graduate, a planned sick day is something that I know many people use to great effect. If you have something urgent that's come up and you're out of holiday, then it's time to utilise The Sick Day. I can't believe the amount of interviews I've been to where people confide the illnesses they've called in with. (Generally not to the interviewers, as that is interview suicide right there.) In fact, with a little preparation you can prep for your sick day long in advance by talking about illnesses in the family, and start displaying 'symptoms' the day before. Plus, if you've already budgeted for the day off then you don't have the crushing fear about money, and you can quietly arrange your workload to come crashing down in those days, making you look invaluable.

I realise that these two paragraphs seem to cancel each other out, but don't worry, I'm getting to a point here. Logically, the sensible thing for graduates to have would to be in a sensible job market where their skills were fully valued, and where the bonuses outweigh the horrors, meaning they wouldn't have to fiddle things with an unsympathetic employer for an interview. Where they wouldn't feel guilty at taking a reasonable day off work due to illness, and use that day to fully recover, rather than limping through to the weekend as a feverish, tear-y mess praying for release. (See above re: tonsils.) The whole system seems wrong.

It's not that I agree with people taking regular sickies at all, but my goodness, I wish people didn't assume they were all hangovers. I suspect a bit more respect in the workplace would sort out the whole matter.

(This post is bought to you by a recent outbreak of a stomach bug in the Disorientated Graduate household. Fun.)

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