“I was just happy with anything really. From being a receptionist to working at Coles or Woolies – you name it,” she said.
“The vast majority of people want to work – I just want an opportunity.”
Ms Simpkins has a graduate diploma in international relations from Western Sydney University, a bachelor of international studies from Macquarie University and a masters of arts focusing in politics from the University of New England.
She said her ultimate goal was to work in diplomacy with the UN, or in an MP’s office.
She also speaks Japanese and began learning Korean during the lockdown.
After several years of working in administration, manufacturing and other odd jobs, she landed a role as a legal assistant – which she then lost during the pandemic as job cuts swept across most industries.
She said that some employers told her she was too qualified, or would cost too much to hire because of her level of education.
“I’m often taken aback by comments like that – I don’t know how to respond. I don’t believe anyone’s too smart to do a job. It’s disheartening,” she said.
“You start to think ‘maybe there’s no job for me in this world’.”
Ms Simpkins has been on Newstart in the past, and was caught up in the Robo-debt scandal. Unlike many young people, she has no family safety net to fall back on – her father passed away when she was a child.
“He was the breadwinner – my mum was one of those workers who got put off from workers’ compensation and onto Newstart. She was affected by the 2011 changes by [former premier] Barry O’Farrell.
“I have no one for support, really.”
The job market can be brutal for young Australians in the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made life significantly worse.
“It’s been extra difficult – often job adverts would disappear, or if I was lucky enough to even get an interview they’d sometimes cancel at the last minute. It’s been very uncertain,” Ms Simpkins said.
She has used her time in lockdown to upskill further and is looking into learning to code.
“I feel like this idea that nothing’s really secure, so even if tomorrow I got a full-time job, I could lose that at any given moment.
“It’s the fragility really.”
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.