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Monday, 23 July 2007

A slow emergency

I went on a First Aid course a few weeks back, something I'd been meaning to do for some time. Not a First Aid course for a career in crisis more's the pity, but one for what to do if someone has cut their finger and a Winne-the-Pooh plaster will just not solve the problem. But if it had been for a career first aid course just think what I could have done.

  • Defibrillator for a career attack.
  • Mouth to mouth for interviews.
  • Putting the career into a recovery position until the Paracareerists arrive.
  • Putting the CV into a splint to hold it in place until we can get some professional work done on it.

Well that's worked that metaphor to death, in a manner of speaking that is.

Anyway one of the big messages from the course leader is don't rush. Take things steadily and methodically like the paramedics as they descend from the ambulance and assess the situation before getting out the plaster of Paris, Savlon and machines that go "beep, beep, beep", like moorhens do.

This seemed to me like a good way to think of unemployment which is really a slow emergency in many ways. I mean you don't have to turn on the blues and twos for unemployment. The adrenalin pumping as you race to the scene of the incident shouting in the radio "We have a 10-15 in progress with an RTC involving a bravo india kilo echo and a whiskey alpha lima lima alpha bravo yankee. Or something."
No this all unfolds slowly over time. No wailing sirens and blue lights with a message over the airwaves saying "We have a 4th redundancy in progress, call in the tactical CV writing teams and forensics to go over the corpse of the career - no it's not dead we can rebuild it better than ever, just need to airlift it to the UK's finest career consultant." Nope don't recall that at all. You just have to take things methodically, assess the position and continue to apply treatment and eventually someone with a big clipboard will declare you well/employed again.

What you have is a slow burn heading slowly towards a disaster of months out of work, more rejections, the desert of jobs that is August as most of the rest of the world goes on holiday so decides not to recruit. Though who would want a holiday on a canal boat in the UK last week? The real emergency is many months away though it is still a gentle slide downwards towards it. However the emergency does slowly evolve around you - company car goes, stop spending money, cancel holiday, only buy clothes if necessary, do not go out anymore for meals/theatre, buy cheaper foods.

I continue to pick up small amounts of work here and there so it could be a lot, lot worse. Could have had the house flooded like so many people in the region where we live. Outgoings exceed incomings but not by a huge margin. We've just cancelled our summer holiday, a prudent move as Gordon Brown might say. We couldn't face being abroad but afraid to spend money - abroad will still be there next year anyway and we'll go somewhere then.

So 10-4. Roger and out.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The canal boat holiday of unemployment

Acquaintances of ours have just come back from a week's canal boat holiday.
They took their sixteen year old son with them.
It has been the wettest June since records began.
I am a patient man in many ways but I would have been driven to a frenzy of boredom on a canal boat within, oh about three minutes. When I knew they had departed on their holiday with the rain so heavy I couldn't see the space on my drive where my company car used to be parked it seemed to me that, for once, my lot at home was better than someone else's in so many, many ways.
I tried to imagine their conversation on board. "Look a moorhen. Look another one. Look another one." Occasionally it might get really exciting and become "Look a duck. Look another one. Look another one."
Then, "Dad I've left my iPod at home."
"Well, walk back home and get it because we've only moved .3 metres in the last three hours at the maximum cruising speed of 0.1 kms per hour and even if it takes you five hours we will only have moved 0.5 metres and that water vole has just overtaken us".

Imagine the relentless chug, chug, chug, chug, chug, chug of the Perkins diesel engine like a fiendish form of Chinese water torture, the dripping of water from the decks and the moorhens making their awful moorhen racket. And then, because of the rain, the descent of mega-boredom. No sitting on the warm, sunny English canal banks with a pint of the landlord's foaming Best Badger's Piddle - no it's slightly warm tomatoes and butter that is not quite solid from the fridge that isn't quite cold enough with bread that might just have a touch of mildew whilst being cooped up in a floating pencil box. Then there would be the excursions in the relentless rain. "I'm just walking to the other end of the boat. I'm back". "I'll walk to the other end. Oh I'm back". The most excitement would come from the wash of big motor crusiers that snarl past with their 40000 hp engines bubbling away at minimum revs but managing to achieve 45 knots and a bow wave that looks like a particularly spectacular Severn Bore. And then the evenings, oh God the evenings. Fitful light from two 40W bulbs that glow intermittently with the pulse of the engine, card games with the sixteen year old who has just discovered that he can't recharge his iPod from the boat's electrical sockets and bedtime at 9pm because there is just nothing left to do. And still the bloody moorhens will not keep quiet. And there are still six more nights to go. And it won't stop raining.

Well unemployment is nothing like that except it is. I was never too hot on logic and syllogisms. Unemployment is about being patient, stoic and knowing that there are six more metaphorical nights to go in this floating shoe box in the rain and the maximum speed you are allowed is 0.1 job rejections per day. Still no moorhens so that's a good thing, a very good thing. I find it hard some days to find things to do because of the restrictions on money and travel but there are ways and means to keep going and keep interested without going to bed at 9pm. It could have been worse, they might have gone camping. Let me tell you about the time we went camping in the Dordogne, oh you have to go do you, so soon? I'll call you shall I?
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Wednesday, 4 July 2007

"Nobody said it would be easy no one said it would be this hard", Coldplay

Well, a difficult week with three rejections in as many days. That tests your sense of humour I find. Anyhow the Prize family dusts itself off, picks itself up and carries on but this time with a new strategy. Mrs EotP will get a job. Not a strokey beard job for a multi-national manufacturer of vital bits and bobs made from colourful plastic but a local job that fits in the school term and our lifestyle. Our intended lifestyle post unemployment that is.

Easy of course. But is it?
Read on. Be amazed by Mrs EotP's account of the search for a job.
"To slow the passage of family finances down the plughole I must get a job outside the home and away from my own computer. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem I thought. I’m not too fussy about what I do, after all, I did some temping a few years ago which involved hour after hour of filing and photocopying and I managed that without my cerebral cortex boiling over.

Four applications, one interview and no jobs later I realise there is no skills shortage locally and I’ll be lucky to get a cleaning job.

I applied for a part-time clerical post and was told that the organisation concerned had been ‘inundated’ with applications and that there would therefore be ‘tests’ before one could get through to the interview proper. Yikes! Might there be an outdoor assault course or providing samples of bodily fluids?

On the day of the interview I was ushered into the reception area where other candidates (who looked worryingly confident) were browsing through personalised folders containing the tests. I was handed one, given two minutes to read it and then penned in an office with a senior member of staff who invited me to make a telephone call to a person mentioned in a case study. Whilst I explained the made-up scenario to the person acting on the other end who was pretending to be a difficult customer, the accompanying member of staff fixed me with a steely glare and ticked things off on a clipboard.

Afterwards I was taken to a large computer-filled room where numerous other people were typing away (I found out later that about a dozen candidates were undergoing the test). We were given a long handwritten letter and told to type it out and format it in a certain way within a time limit. All around me were the blurred hands and manic clacking of typists who could probably do 140 words per minute. I can do a hundred words less than that, don’t work with a PC but an Apple Mac, hate using Word at the best of times and was feeling that all knowledge about anything had just left my head. Managed to do it in the time available, although it wasn’t the loveliest piece of work I’ve ever produced, and got up to leave. Unfortunately there were two doors in the room so leaving involved going out through one into what looked like an unfamiliar corridor (thanking my lucky stars that it hadn’t been a stationery cupboard) coming back in, being looked at curiously by everyone still in room, trying knob of other door, finding it locked, laughing in a ‘ha-ha I meant to do that’ kind of way and going out through first door again feeling a complete plonker. I think it was this last bit that meant I didn’t get the job. My typing was phenomenal, my inter-personal skills second to none but I was crap with doors."

Now Mrs EotP has more qualifications than most, is a whizz on the PC and has held down very demanding jobs in the past. And all this malarky is for a part time clerical job. You can imagine how I feel trying for more senior positions. SAS survival course, trapping deer and eating raw flesh, weapons training? It does bring into sharp contrast the difficulties of getting any job.

And finally, to round off the week, met an acquaintance yesterday in town. "You are looking very well" he said "must be this unstressful life you are now leading."
Yes he is of course right, being unemployed for 14 weeks with no imminent end in sight is indeed blissfully unstressful.