Friday, 13 April 2018

The Redundancy Podcast

I said I'd do it.

I did it.

And it's here. An actual Podcast. Available on iTunes and Sound Cloud. Search for;
The Redundancy Podcast.

Note the matching branding - I'm so versatile that's why I got a job so quickly after redundancy. Oh wait...

Contact via email or @redunancypcast on Twitter.

The focus is on the difficulties of finding a job when you are older. It's hard enough when you are young let's face it.

I don't want this to be a monologue but to share successes, setbacks, tips, pictures of kittens (maybe not that) and have a conversation about the issue. We can talk by Skype, FaceTime, the phone, Twitter, email, actual mail (I think I still recall how to use it).

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

It's time for a Podcast

I'm all for embracing new media.

Only the other day I discovered some new technology. 

OK, I rediscovered my ink pen given to me many years ago when a) I had a job and b) I met some challenging sales targets. Heady days indeed.

However it's time to up the embracing of technology.

I'm going to create a podcast on the difficulties of finding a job when you are older.

If you'd like to participate and be interviewed about your experiences, successes or failures, or you are an employer that has some views you'd also like to share please make contact by emailing

An old Latin proverb states Destitutus ventis, remos adhibere - If there is no wind, row.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Separated by a common language.

During my last (unsuccessful) job interview a few weeks ago I was asked the question 'What would daunt you about joining this organisation?'

(Apart from the pitifully low salary that this job is paying plus the 76 mile daily round trip, then not much really.)

'Nothing' I answered, truthfully. Having worked for 14 other organisations I strongly doubted this one could add anything to the heady mix of trying to make sense of a whole new bureaucracy and the multiple daft ways of going about things. All organisations are like this, it's just that you stop noticing them once you become acclimatised and existing employees are rather bemused when you point it out to them. 

Feeling that 'nothing' was rather a short answer (but then don't ask me closed questions) I expanded on my answer. Note that this is often a way to talk yourself out of a successful interview by volunteering unnecessary information that can terminate your chance in a nano -second. Less is more.

'You will have a different and secret language. You understand it but I won't. You won't be able to explain it to me either because you don't know you are speaking it.This will confuse me for months.'
Blank looks, this interview panel really knows how to pull the best out of a candidate and sell the dream, so I gave them an example.

In my last job I might ask another manager/team member to make a decision on behalf of their department. 'I'll need top cover for that' they'd reply.
Now I vaguely thought that top cover was a military term meaning to have someone with a bloody big gun with their head poking out of the top of the vehicle they are travelling in providing cover when on mobile patrol. Even though we were working for a police force and they have bloody big guns, they don't normally poke them through the roof of a police car in, for example, Bishops Castle, so it took me many months to decipher this term. It means 'I'm not going to make a decision unless I know that whatever decision I make my manager will make the same one.' You might imagine how this slows the process of decision making to a crawl particularly as this was ingrained with most decisions being passed up to the highest possible level  - thus the senior management team were inundated with requests to make decisions about trivial things.

Another example.
I might ask have you made sure that XYZ knows about this issue?
'I've sighted them on it' would be the reply. Sometimes they'd reply 'I've cited them on it' but that's just grammatical silliness.
What this means is;
'I've not been able to talk to them specifically about the issue or when I did they didn't show any interest but I've sent them an email, which they may or may not read or remember, but if it all goes terribly wrong I can say you had the email and my sorry arse is safe.'

The penultimate example.
Weekly communication via email. For many years, and with a degree of logic admittedly, every Friday a weekly email was sent to all staff with a round up of interesting news. No it wasn't actually interesting at all it was largely management propaganda and pointy finger stuff along the lines of you haven't been doing this, never mind we never told you to do it in the first place, do it now, we will get round to telling you how to do it over the next three years...probably. As I say it was sent to all staff and police officers and it had the friendly, encouraging title of 'Force Orders.' Not an engaging 'Stuff you need to know, will help you in your job no end and we really like to assist you in finding out to make your life immeasurably better' or 'Stuff to make the management team look vaguely less incompetent than most of you already think they are' but Orders. Orders - You Will Do This. In the background the Comms team (hah) worked feverishly to get this out on time on a Friday. I can tell you what happened several seconds after it arrived in thousands of email in-boxes as you could hear hundreds of 'Delete' keys being hit. Civilian staff were not included the Orders - for officers only. And a good proportion of them had built in trash filters to delete the email straight away. Still this failure of communications persisted in spite of all the evidence that it was really quite ineffective. Which isn't like the police at all is it?

And my last one.
Holiday, or is it?
When I started work for an American company it was called vacation. Working for the French it was Vacances. Several British companies just referred to it as holiday and the police referred to it as annual leave. To be perverse, whilst there, I called it vacation or holiday just to note the confusion in the eyes of staff  staff who'd only ever worked for the one organisation and could only process the term annual leave. There's more in heaven and earth Horatio, then dreamt of in your philosophy.

So. Multiply all these phrases and add in acronyms and abbreviations, throw in the nuances of expression that only those in the know understand and you can effectively keep me discombobulated for months.

Other than that I'm not daunted.

Oh, and one other thing, it takes you months to work out how to use the photocopier.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

I need experience to get experience.

It's not all about me. Hardly any of this blog is which is undoubtedly a relief.
This is about my son. 
It's about lots of sons and daughters in their early twenties

My son. Great academic record in school and a very good degree from a Russell Group university. Good grades, mature outlook, positive, eats everything in the house and just cannot remember to close the toilet seat.

Since graduating he cannot a get a job. He searches and applies most days, usually with bespoke CVs rather than the click and send of the job aggregator sites like 'Believe', 'Insipid', 'We've scraped all the jobs from other sites and present them as our own', 'Munster' and so on. I've not met anyone whose actually got a job from one of these sites - that's for another day. Anyway it's not entirely true as he has a breakfast waiting job at a local hotel. His problem is twofold.

1. 'You don't have any experience in this role you are applying for even though it's the lowest step on the ladder.' 
2. His parents are foolish enough not to live in London.

So here we go again. How do you get experience so that you have the experience? 

1. Oh he's tried. Tried to get internships in London (and prepared to pay the accommodation himself), worked for free for a local business who promptly exploited him then ignored him, bought a camera to develop his creative skills, creates animations for his YouTube channel, blogs, podcasts, creates short videos, sent speculative CVs, networked and so on. I mean the boy has a multitude of skills but no 'experience'. Catch 22 then. If no one will give him a first job then how can he get experience? Of course he's not alone. He has many friends who are in similar positions. He has a number who have multiple gig economy jobs shuttling from one to the other during the week and are exhausted all the time, several who just took any job and loathe them and, of course, the very few who have landed on their feet and are doing just soooo well and humble brag on Facebook all the time. Don't you hate it when your friends are successful? He is also up against dim acquaintances and serial People Who Let You Down. I have a very long list of those people. Let me give you an example. A old school contact living in London potentially offers a room for rent in a house. Is my son interested? Yes he says, if the room has fewer than 5 cockroaches and isn't actually a waterlogged crack house slum I'll take it and look for a job whilst I live there even if it is more waiting work. He asks for details and pictures. He nudges his acquaintance several times, no response and then 'Yes I'll send them.' He's still waiting two months later. It isn't going to happen now of course. But naturally no explanation or apology.

2. We don't live in London. We are not that far away but it's not commutable. This is fatal. It seems that employers in London, where much of the industry in which my son wants to work are based, are very, very wary of offering jobs to people who don't already have a London address. Why is this? I am assuming it's the horrendous problem of finding a flat and affording it (see anecdote above). I say assume as they won't actually tell you (or him, my son) anything even if they respond which pitifully few do. Pitifully few means zero. As in no one does respond.

He has had several interviews but the outcome has been 'sorry you don't have the experience' to which I want to shout in their faces SO WHY DID YOU INTERVIEW HIM THEN AND LET HIM GO TO THE EXPENSE OF TRAVELLING ALL THAT WAY, IT'S OBVIOUS FROM HIS CV HE DOES NOT HAVE THE EXPERIENCE IS THIS JUST ABOUT YOUR EGOS? But I'm biased (if you can believe that).

Now I'm at the wrong end of my career. I would not be surprised if I cannot get another reasonable job. I know there is age discrimination going on, just no way to prove it. But it breaks my heart to see my son try and try and try and fail. Goodness knows he has learnt all about resilience and staying positive. Churchill said 'Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts'. Well my son has learnt that and shows astonishing courage. But as we all know continual rejection is hard, very hard - eventually you can end up believing you have no value. And what really gets my goat is that trite saying 'you can be anything you want.' No you can't. All those in good jobs need to remember just how lucky they were to get them. And it is 99% luck so don't kid yourself and try and tell me 'the harder I work the luckier I get' or I'll get really splenetic. And they need to remember that when interviewing those just starting out, as they did once and got the break. 

My son desperately needs that lucky break. He wants to leave, he wants to make his way in the world as we all do at that age. If you are out there - give him that break.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

It's not how many times you are knocked down that counts...

Yeah right...

I'm back, hello
A hiatus but, it was inevitable it seems, I'm back. 
And where is that exactly?
Well redundancy once again. 
There are some differences this time and I'll come on to that soon, just in case you were wondering.

Have you played the game 'if you had a hidden super power what would it be?' Mine is managing to join organisations that make me, sorry sorry my role, redundant. This is the 6th time, so you see I have quite a track record here, bet you can't beat that. And if you can I certainly don't want to know.

In my last organisation, where of course employees are the most valuable asset until they aren't, they used Action Learning Sets (ALS) to solve difficult problems. The biggest problem I saw was that all staff were permanently aggrieved about some thing at work and didn't actually get around to doing much as a consequence. Action Learning Sets. Nope I didn't really know what they were about either but, in essence it seems to be sitting around in strokey beard meetings trying to solve a problem collectively so that no one person could actually be blamed it it didn't provide a workable solution. 

Using a personal ALS I reasoned my time actually being paid to do a job was therefore limited. 
I deduced that when some one in authority asks 'what do that lot do and how much do they cost?' someone somewhere has just painted a target on my back. I noted this fact down in my little black notebook where I write down things that amuse me about work. I wasn't actually amused that I spotted I was highly likely to be made redundant only that, having seen it, I could now do everything possible to delay it. Reader (if I'm lucky) I'm 63. This was going to be much harder to resolve this time and by resolve I mean find someone else willing to pay me.

I have determined a redundancy theme for my experience. Or thematic as it was called in the last job.
  • 1 redundancy was a consequence of the entire company being closed.
  • 1 redundancy was the consequence of the company being taken over and the management team shipped out.
  • 4 were as a consequence of being hired for a non-job.

I couldn't avoid the first two. But the others. Let me give sage advice to myself even though it's woefully late.

Definition; a non job follows a restructuring in an organisation where a number of departments are rammed together following a desire by a very senior manager to be able to demonstrate continuous improvement during his/her next promotional interview. The restructure does not have to be logical, save money, mean better and more productive outcomes or thrill the staff. Indeed if the reverse is true all the better as no one cares because the person who thought it up in the first place was successful getting the promotion and doesn't have to sort out the mess.

The non-job role; having created this mess the organisation realises it has no one internally that will take on the role as they all know the story of the Titanic and no one wants to take the blame for hitting the iceberg. After all they can see the iceberg and they've only just set off. Recruitment therefore takes place from outside. Time passes, the new department fails, there is a contender for senior manager promotion (see above), the cycle repeats itself and there are casualties - me. And I've been the sucker from outside four times.

The role involves not really knowing why you are there, what is actually expected, how you know you've delivered a successful outcome and just what 30% of the team actually do. Even when you ask them you are not clear. They are not clear. The role includes considerable criticism from senior management for not doing any of the things you didn't know you had to do because they wouldn't tell you. They also criticise you for not telling your team, for the number of vowels in a month, for working too long, for not working long enough. And so it goes. 

Each of my four non-jobs shares the same characteristics and the same outcomes. 'Goodbye.' Except there was only ever one 'goodbye and thanks' and that was #1 above.

I will work again. At 63 it is going to be very difficult to get a job. However whatever I take on it will not be a non-job. I know every job has had to be created at some point but avoid the scenarios above - start in a long established role. Your survival chances are higher.

And what is different this time? I have a pension. Because of my age and because I worked in the public sector I HAD to take my pension as there was no financial advantage to deferment. No job seekers allowance, no signing on, no having to apply for 50 jobs a week. A modest income, but an income. 

So. It's not how many times you are knocked down that counts...

Back to applying for jobs (and the failure rate is 100% so far)

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

I give up - or do I?

You’re shown the bottomless canyon,
The other side to reach,
Your tools are ropes, planks, old oil cans and other aids,
To build a bridge to cross that breach.
A test of skill, creativity and imagination,
To complete the task new ideas you must tap,
Finding a way to reach safety and salvation,
Discovering innovative ways to bridge that gap.

And so it was with the university I worked for,
The task to get promotion,
Applying for jobs that seemed to fit,
But it seems I had a misplaced notion,
That transferable skills and applied knowledge might be valued more,
But it seems you can only have the job
If you've done the exact same one before.
I tried every way I could think of to get myself promoted,
CVs rewritten, advice taken, soundings and feedback taken,
I really became quite devoted,
To finding a way to move on up but in the end all was aborted,
I couldn’t find a way through the bureaucracy and fixed mind sets
My ambitions completely thwarted.

So sometimes you can’t cross the canyon, find a way across the abyss,
There just isn't a way to solve some problems,
Part of life is learning when to recognise this.
I don’t like to give up and walk away but I have no choice but to leave Higher Education,
I don’t think of it as a failure,
I call it ‘intelligent capitulation.’

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It's a piece of cake

I won’t eat KitKats, Dairy Milk and Mars Bars I eschew,
Eclairs, cream puffs and profiteroles I’ll hand straight back to you,
I want to keep myself quite fit, I’m really not a fake,
Oh no someone’s handed me my favourite kind of cake.

I work so hard at staying slim it really is a chore,
I’ve even joined a gym and keep going back for more,
I guess the weight problem is down to sedentary jobs,
Oh no someone’s handed me a plate of chocolate Hob Nobs.

It appears the older you get the calorie maths goes quite wrong,
I seem to be eating much, much less but the weight just has not gone,
I run for miles, work on the abs and walk instead of drive,
Oh no it’s Red Nose day, large numbers of pastries have just arrived.