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Monday, 30 March 2009

Tales of the unexpected

Looking for a job is a lot like buying a house really.
You lie back in your sofa in your current home, just after switching off 'Grand Designs' where Kevin McCloud has once again waffled on about the architectural narrative remaining coherent ('I think it does'), finish your second bottle of wine and decide to move to the house of your dreams.

But you have to remember that for most of us buying a house follows this inevitable sequence:
What you want.
What you will accept.
What you end up with.

So it is with a job, especially when there are at least 10 applicants for every job, according to the Trades Union Council a few weeks ago. Ten, I should be so lucky, there seem to be the entire population of the Isle of Wight applying for every post that I think looks interesting.

When I last lost my job I once again went through the 'no need to panic, plenty of time, important to find a position that fits my skills, knowledge and interest' rationalisation, then panicked. Nah, I didn't I'm a job seeker vet, man don't panic, man gets on the street does a little hussling, y'know whad I'm sayin?

Well 70 plus unsuccessful applications later I'm beginning to doubt my strategy a little. Having spent all this time carefully targeting selected organisations, finessing my CV to meet the job spec and writing covering letters that Mr. W Shakespeare himself would have been pleased with and to have achieved nothing at all sort of tells me something and this is what it tells me...
If you keep doing the same thing you keep getting the same results.
So is it time to abandon the strategy, shout everyman for himself, push the women folk and children aside, grab a lifebelt and throw myself into any job that looks like it might pay something and the 'fit to skills, knowledge and interest bit' can go to hell in a hand cart? Is it time to respond to those advertisements tied to lampposts at road junctions that ask do you want to earn £2000 A WEEK? Just ring this premium number in Columbia and ask for Serge, own AK47 an advantage. Or should I consider a paper round?

I was in my school's CCF (Combined Cadet Force), RAF section. They probably have a MI6 section these days. Yes, that sort of school. Anyway we went on mandatory annual camps to military establishments all over Europe where we got to do all sorts of spiffing military stuff like fire big, noisy weapons (must tell you about the Bloodhound missile I fired at a Russian jet sometime) and get cruelly bullied by the regular squaddies who had very innovative uses for Kiwi boot polish. At one camp we had the task, as a teams of five, to cross the mythical bottomless ravine using only two planks, a teddy bear, tube of toothpaste, four sticking plasters, 10 foot length of rope, three oil cans, a woman's bra, (empty, pity) and a copy of yesterdays Daily Mail. I learned two valuable lessons here, apart from never volunteer and just how hard boot polish is to remove from the body:
  1. Sometimes it is possible, with imagination, teamwork, innovation, planning and not quite enough time, to figure out how to get the team safely across the bottomless ravine.
  2. Sometimes, no matter how imaginative you are, how well you work as a team, how superb your planning and despite having more than enough time it is actually not possible, with the equipment to hand, to cross the bottomless ravine.
What the military seem to be looking for in 2 is the concept of what I'm going to call Intelligent Capitulation. That is to say you realise that what is being asked for is just not possible so you stop wasting your time and give up and go and do something else. Or wait to be captured. Or helicoptered out. Or blow something up. I don't know I didn't join the army, stop asking.

So now we have two concepts to consider. I just like to get you thinking.
  • If you keep doing the same thing you keep getting the same results.
  • Intelligent Capitulation.

The problem comes back to process of buying a house. Do I now abandon my dream of having a replacement job with a salary that was similar to one I had? Do I dilute my expectations to that of looking for a job that is somewhat less than the package I had? Do I just accept anything at just about any salary as long as there is some income coming in? What do I tell the Job Centre when I sign on? Shall I tell them about my theory of intelligent capitulation and see if they still want to pay the Job Seekers allowance?

Or do I just accept that with my background , skills and qualifications then hell will freeze over before any one offers me a job with a significantly lower salary than I used to have and I might as well stop bothering applying for circular meat patty high temperature rotating operative jobs.

Answers on a postcard please.

Now then, I still have the bear, bra and one plank left - just place it on the Teddy Bear's head and tie it tightly. I'm sure we can cross the ravine that way.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Let us prey

Do you know what gets on my toot and really, really annoys me? Many things actually, so many that I need two bouncers with a red rope rail only allowing selected annoying things through, so that there is often quite a queue to get on my toot at any one time of the day or night. There is health and safety everywhere these days you know, the bouncers even have to carry those clicker counters to ensure that the maximum capacity of my toot is not exceeded.

What annoys me are those organisations that prey on your deep felt sense of insecurity as you search for a job.

First up are those that clearly come from such on line job sites such as Monster - I'm not picking on Monster - no actually I am, they all seem to come from that source now I think of it. The emails start off innocently enough as the mark is identified; 'I've just reviewed your CV which is of considerable interest to me' (heart begins to speed up slightly) 'and I think it may be worth us meeting to consider your CV and possible career moves.' (Blood pressure rising, adrenalin starts kicking in, it might be an interview, it might be, OMG, a job offer). And then, so so seductively, the letter continues its tantalising message of hope until the sign off, 'Let's meet' it oozes, 'at our nearest office to you for a chat.' Then you notice, but only in the mouse type or by checking out its web site, that actually it is not a potential employer but an agency trying to flog you a course in how to find a job, for a big fat fee of course. It doesn't promise you will find a job. Just that it will take your money from you. And it doesn't tell you how much money either, presumably not until it has ensnared you in its web of promise and seduction.

Next on my list of let's profit from other people's misery shall we is the 'Is your CV being targeted at the right headhunters? Just send us £500 and we'll make sure that we distribute your CV to selected headhunters who will then whoop with unabashed joy, and jump in the air pumping their arms with clenched fists at seeing exactly the right candidate for the job they are seeking to fill, fall into their hands with no effort on their part just as they were about to despair. The job is practically yours right now'. This sentence is, of course, correct up to bit in italics. OMG people fall for this? Well of course we do, we are desperate, we need a job; any thing, including handing over large amounts of our fast disappearing cash has to be worth it doesn't it? Er no, in my experience. Handing over large amounts of cash to Snake Oil merchants is the last thing you want to be doing. There are plenty of organisations that help you for free - just look at the wonderful web site and you'll see what I mean. For £5. Kidding, it's free.

We have the pernicious CV writing companies. 'Just send us your CV for a free review' they gush and we'll tell you how to write a CV that targets your desired job with the accuracy of an American missile.' Oh yes? How so I ask? If CVs were that easy to manipulate that potential employers would immediately jump into their company car, drive to your house, go down on their knees and beg you to work for them the instant they glanced at the carefully crafted document don't you think that might, just somehow, have leaked out or potential employers become inured to them?

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm a pretty positive sort of guy that sees the start of each week as full of hope and promise (or a complete prat, you can take your pick really). But these sort of things just get me going. So much so I feel that I have to go to Tescos and see if I can buy some hope and promise there as these organisations do so well in destroying exactly that by about Tuesday morning.

I see the Government believes that there is an opportunity to fast track refugees from the business world into teaching. As some one still intimately involved in the world of education (Mrs EoTP and her job and with children still at school) you can only gasp open mouthed at the sheer audacity of the scheme. Now I accept that many of us ended up in the wrong industry, and some of us are still wondering how we can escape. I ended up in the car industry because Big Thirsty Cars of America offered me a job first during the milk round at Uni and hinted that a company car would follow in short order - and it did, a 2.0 saloon no less, with a brown vinyl roof covering, velour seat covers and optional push button radio (LW and MW, eat your heart out). One of the students I knew stayed on to to complete teacher training after Uni because he fancied two blond babes on our course. The rest of us could see that they would rather run around naked on the campus in mid Winter than have anything to do with him, though he and I might have voted for that if we'd had a choice and Mrs EoTP (to be, though I didn't know it then) was away for the weekend. However that decision cost him dear as he is still on the fringes of teaching and can't escape either.

I went to one of my child's parent teacher evenings last week. I get annoyed before I even get to them, and I've been to many now, and therefore been annoyed many times You'd think it would be the easiest thing in the world to organise slots for clots (i.e, us parents) and rotate the meetings in a controlled and organised manner thus enabling us all to talk to about our little darlings in the time allowed. You'd think. What actually happens is anarchy, every time, as parents/children/teachers fail to get a grasp of what is going on and mill around ineffectually. We never did get to see, literally, one teacher, who was surrounded by layers of parents even though it is meant to be a one-on-one meeting. The Government clearly believes that bringing in experienced people from industry will give a much needed boost to these apparently ineffectual academic types and sort things out. Well it won't because, in industry, the well paid executives are far more incompetent than in academia - it's just that they can hide their giant, enormous mistakes much easier than you can in public life and in the public eye - I present the evidence of the finance industry M'lord but, if you want back up, then the automotive industry is quite instructive. For example GM. And Ford. And, well, possibly many other car manufacturers. 30% over capacity in a booming world economy? No wonder they are in trouble now. I wouldn't want to be a teacher. I think that they do a great job with such variable inputs (i.e. kids) but one does question their ability to manage an organisation of more than three people. At times. Such as parents' evenings.

Anyway back to retraining. I have been extensivley retrained I can reveal. It was suggested to me (and when Mrs EoTP suggests you'd better listen) that we needed a grout cleaning brush, as my bathroom cleaning came under some detailed scrutiny a week or so back. Apparently the grouting wasn't clean enough and needed a good scrubbing and therefore I concluded I needed a good scrubber. The old ones are the best I feel. A grout scrubber was bought (men - Lakeland - sells everything for the house that you never knew you needed and then some) My grout now gleams with the intensity of three white hot suns as do my toilet bowls and basins.

See, we men can multi-skill and multi-task and if the Job Centre ever finds out I'll be cleaning the municipal toilets as part of my next career step.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Cold comfort

Mrs EoTP has a job (yippee).
Mrs EoTP is home at the moment, and has been for two days, with a streaming cold, which she has very kindly shared with me.

Thank you, Mrs EoTP.

As someone without much work to do, (but don't get me started on the toilets and bathroom which 'need cleaning'. Mrs EoTP doesn't take much notice when she's out at work but she has the eyes of an eagle at home) when you don't feel well you just stay in bed as everyone leaves for school/work. Or you wave them off and then dive back into bed and feel very sorry for oneself all day, such a luxury.

Of course, at work, there are all these procedures to follow when you've been off sick.
  • Notify someone who is the slightest bit interested. That's not always easy as all your colleagues are immediately ensconced in their own work on arrival at work or at least arguing about who is going to make the coffee. Of course you have to tell them this in a voice that suggests that you could come into work if it was absolutely necessary and would be sure that your slumped, fever wracked body in the corridor wouldn't get in the way too much but if it is OK with them you'll just hang on at home with your tissue box clutched to your side.
  • Find out if you have to call in sick on subsequent days. Nobody ever seems to know this.
  • On returning to work try and figure out how on earth you report your sickness and decide how graphically to describe the symptoms which are generally asked for in a big box on the sickness reporting form. Too little and there may be just the hint that you've been swinging the lead; too much and you've been Googling for just the right words to elicit full sympathy and plausibility and noted down an illness that only three people in the history of medicine have ever had.
Many smaller organisations seem not to be too bothered about all this reporting stuff. They wave an airy corporate hand at you suggesting 'oh don't worry about all that malarky' but actually means 'We'll make sure we make it up from you in the next year as you work twice the hours you are actually paid for.' And of course we do make it up - or you do if you are in work. I don't have to at the moment but just find that the ironing mountain is three times higher than when I last looked at it.

Then there is this fiendish system called the Bradford factor: using a cunning formulae and algorithms devised by the Devils's own little imps it measures the disruption of short, unplanned absences thus;

B = S^2 \times D (and you thought you'd left algebra behind for ever didn't you?). Don't say that this blog doesn't teach you anything. This identifies malingerers with the accuracy of an American missile. Sort of like a speed camera for illness at work really.

Of course for most illnesses the most sensible thing to do is take to your bed and ram Ibrprofen down your throat until everything seems a whole lot better. In just about all the illnesses I've presented to my doctor in the last 10 years that has been his stock response : 'Oh I've had that just take some Nurofen and stay at home.' No more signing off from work for a week. Though I did ask for a little more help than that when I fell headlong down the stairs and dislocated my shoulder.

If you are of a certain age then you may remember Mother's remedys. Mrs EoTP and I do.

  • Colds, No tissues just one hankie which would be soaked after an hour as would the pockets of your school trousers, skirt (or both if it was a public school). Your nose would be the colour of the plastic noses for Comic Relief. I tried to dry mine (hankie not nose, there was health and safety even in the 1960's) on the fire guard of the coal fires in the classroom. Yes, in the classroom, Big cast iron stoves. With coal scuttles.
  • A warm onion in a bag for earache.
  • Warm olive oil poured into your ear to cure earache.
  • Syrup of figs for the going problems
  • Milk of Magnesia for the stopping problems
  • Calamine lotion - for making you look stupid with pink residue drying on your skin
  • A scarf tied around your head when you had mumps
  • Vick's rubbed on your chest to help just about everything

The other thing that always helps is a Brandy. Surely it's not too early for one of those? Well I'm working on Doctor EoTP's orders so mustn't ignore them, must I?

Monday, 9 March 2009

I'll be back

The one thing you discover about searching for a job is's just a job.

The last month has been a very difficult one with a death in the family. Naturally that takes precedence over all other things - like looking for a job.

Still, the show must go on, and I still have things to ramble on about. And will be doing so later this week.

I will be back.