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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on*

So where did it go right? Why, after 2 years, 82 applications and six interviews did I finally get a job?

I have no idea. It's a mystery.
That is not very helpful is it?
But it's true.
Why my carefully constructed, honed and polished CVs made no impact when applying for jobs that you'd have thought I absolutely must be the best candidate for the job got nowhere, yet I managed to get a job in a totally different business sector will, for ever, be a mystery to me.

However I have learned somethings along the way (covering all 5 redundancies, we must learn from history) that I feel impelled to inflict on you. It may help, it may stop you making the same mistakes or you could always print them out and make a draught excluder from them.

Prepare for rejection (and more rejection).
Did I mention rejection?
Expect to be out of work for some time. Expect rejection, many rejections. Expect not to hear anything from most applications. Move on immediately - remember the HOE curve (yes rejection is very hard you don't have to tell me about it, now a fully qualified Master of Being Rejected) and keep looking. Keep a file of jobs applied for - you may need it as proof that you are actively job seeking.

Stay positive.

There will be good days, there will be bad days and there will be mind bendingly awful days. However there is a lot of silliness in the world. Sometimes it is very hard to see it but it’s there. And it can make you laugh. Well it made me laugh. Whatever happens try and bounce back. And there is life after redundancy. It may not be the life you had but it might very well be better.
 It might have more kittens and yawning puppies.

Use every way you can to find a new job.

Use every channel you can think of to find a job and keep scouring them. 
Do not stop using them even if you think they may not be working. You will not be able to predict easily where a job might be found. There are many channels: on-line jobs (Monster, Total Jobs, Fish4jobs), national newspapers (Times on line, Daily Telegraph, Guardian), local papers, local library, notices in shops, referrals, information from your friends and acquaintances and so. Get creative and think of any others that may work for you. Use them. Don’t stop.
 And if you keep doing the same thing you will keep getting the same result. Evolve and adapt.

Stop spending.

You may have a reasonable redundancy payout, statutory redundancy pay or even nothing. What ever you have you need to stop spending now because you do not know how long this is going to last. Cancel all non-essential spending and start budgeting and get real. The kids may hate it, your partner may hate it, it may put you in a difficult position with your employed friends but that’s their problem. If they are that insensitive then have nothing to do with them because they will only vex you more - or ‘get in your grill’ as my kids say. You can do without many things - stay solvent and, if you have any money left when you get the new job, then is the time to spend.

Keep fit. Learn something new.
This time may be gruelling, will sap your motivation and test your sense of humour. Don’t sit in the house all day telling yourself life is crap, get fit, walk, go running, do something, get creative, learn something new. You’ll feel a whole lot better and able to face the job hunt. And it is a way of demonstrating a positive response to this difficulty to a potential employer.
 Believe me chewing endlessly over and over the subject of 'no one replies to my job applications' tends to empty the room you are currently sitting in quite effectively.

Respect your partner’s space.
Your partner might be at home or still doing whatever they were doing before your job loss. Respect their position and their space. You are going to need them for lots of support and it won’t help trailing after them all day around the house like a demented toddler following their mother. They will not want to hear your ills and moans all the time - try and remember that and be supportive to them.

Don't pay good money to snake oil merchants.
There are many organisations that are waiting to take your severance pay, savings or JSA. They are very seductive and promise much - some are very expensive. But none of them will find you a job, that's always down to you. So you might as well save your money.

Sign on. Don’t be proud.
This is, admittedly, not the most rewarding experience you will ever have. Be prepared for quite a demeaning process which may include giving all your private financial details to a complete stranger in an open office. However you are entitled to State Support (subject to a means test) and your National Insurance will be paid. There is some help in retraining available and there may be jobs available that the Job Centre Team can put you in touch with though usually in Fife I found as a sous chef or CNC operator.

Sell yourself properly with your CV.

Employers and or agencies will be inundated with CVs for most jobs - their first task is to carry out a paper sift on the applications - and they will be ruthless. Your CV is your only opportunity to get through that first filter so make it count. Can you describe what you do and the benefits you could bring to an organisation in one minute? Well make sure you can - the question you have to be able to answer is ‘what benefits to the company could hiring this person bring?’ And they don’t want to know about your hobbies and they certainly don’t have any right to ask for your age. If you haven’t updated your CV then do so now. Remember: contact details, profile, relevant competencies, examples of tasks (plus problem solving and outcomes), list recent employers (but you don’t have to list them all), qualifications - in my experience hobbies, interests, pictures of your cat, holiday photos and gold star from Mrs Edwards in primary school for making a paper mache dinosaur are not required but suprisingly often included.

Treat finding a new job as a job in itself.

Set aside time every day to look for a job or do something positive in finding a new position. There is always something that you can do

Don’t apply for jobs you’re not qualified for.

This is difficult but unless you want more rejection then do not apply for jobs you are patently not qualified for. Remember there are many more applicants who really will be better qualified so why beat yourself up?

Three steps backwards to go forwards.
There comes a time when you might have to accept the lesser paid job, take a considerable drop in salary and perks. That was then, this is now. Ask yourself do you want the money and see it as a way of fighting back up the ladder. Or do you continue to wait for the 'right job'. Ask yourself 'Do you feel lucky?' Well do you?

Voluntary contributions
Almost the subject of a blog in its own right, local voluntary organisations are looking for volunteers to muddle through the many layers of impenetrable bureaucracy as we speak. If you'd like to spend time helping others, just jog on down to your local volunteer centre, making sure it's not an Army recruiting office and ending up in Helmand Province.

With a little help from your friends...
Keep in contact, don't become isolated - contact by email, Skype, iChat, smoke signals, two tin cans with a piece of taut string. What ever it takes don't become isolated and, whilst I'm at it, thanks Neil, Dennis and Dick for your invaluable support.

And that's it, down to the irreducible level - forget the books, forget the seminars, this is what it comes down to.

And don't give up.

*Robert Frost

Monday, 25 May 2009

Life, but not as we know it. Hmmm

Sometimes you need to count the number of buses at the bus stop.

I'd walked into town last week to photostat all the documents required to prove that I exist for the new job. We'll ignore the rather obvious one of actually being in the room at the time of the interview which suggested to me that, unless I was some phantasm, my corporeal existence could be taken for granted.

No we wanted, or rather they wanted: birth certificate, driving license, passport, evidence of NI number, copies of educational certificates (I just knew someone would want to see my 'O' level in Agriculture), photos of me as a baby, saliva sample, DNA, palm prints, iris shots, and my Cub Scout badge for using a phone box with a 'Push button A' and 'B' (I cheated, I asked a passerby to phone Akela for me). Then, just as I was about to post the signed T&Cs I thought 'Sod this, I'm vastly overqualified for this job, I'm going to ask for more money' and walked home. There, on the door mat, was an invitation for an interview for a BETTER job with MORE money but two days after I potentially start the new job.

OMG, two years, over 75 applications, five interviews the last one being six months ago and now, in the space of just three weeks two interviews and a firm job offer. Now what do I do? It's true what they say about buses you don't see one for ages and then you find out they are big, run on diesel and carry upwards of 60 passengers to somewhere where you don't really want to go at a time that is massively inconvenient.

Well the first thing to do was to dither. Then procrastinate, then consider the HOE curve and finally cry hot tears of frustration. OK not cry, but is that frustrating or what?

I felt the only course of action was to first swear loudly, and for some time, in the fortunately empty house then call them to ask for more money...and I got it. So I decided to take the job where there was a firm job offer (and therefore money, even more since I asked) and sadly turn down the interview for the other where I might not get it - wouldn't I feel foolish then? After two years of determined searching that hurt I can tell you.

And now work. Next week.
But this feels odd.
I've had to check I've got enough shirts to wear during the week. I haven't.
I had to check if my ties were still in the proximity of fasionable. They are not, they are not even in the same neighbourhood.
I had to check if my suits still fitted. They don't, I've lost so much weight during the last two years.
It is going to cost a small fortune going to work just in buying clothes.
I hate buying clothes.

Then, as Mrs EoTP also has a job we will, for the first time in our married lives, be out at work at the same time. So in our ever changing world we are having to evolve and adapt once again to deal with this. We've managed to fit our respective requirements for Mrs EoTP's little blue car (lbc) around our lives over the last two years but it now seems that I will also have to have a lbc of my own. Good grief that's a quarter of my yet to come salary already gone and I haven't actually started yet.
That can't be correct, can it? My WIGAJ list involves lots of expensive electrical gadgets for me and not necessary transport.

And yet it is. For the cruel fact is that it costs to go to work.
And yet I am not complaining. Not yet anyway, that will come after five months when the halo effect of having a job has worn off, when I discover that most of my colleuagues are paid at least as twice as much as me but collectively have half the qualifications and that I could do all their jobs without even breaking into a sweat. At least I think that is what happens at work, it is all in the distant past.

In the end I don't think there was a choice. Yep, I'd have loved to have a job with a salary near to one I enjoyed two years ago and all the rest of the 'package' but it's a very tough world out there right now as we all know and this might very well be the career change that gets me out of the industry that keeps making me redundant. I'd quite like a spell away from the Job Centre where they will be buying me my own seat soon, I've been such a regular visitor over the last few years.

So the JSA back-to-work form has been completed and posted to Fife - well that's where all the jobs ever seemed to be on the Job Centre Plus site, the contract of employment has been posted to the new employer, I've bought some shirts and ties (and Mrs EoTP has returned them and bought something more suitable) and we are good to go.

Once I've negotiated the use of the lbc before I buy my own.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Because I'm worth it?

I've been offered a job.
No really, after all this time, after all these applications, after all this searching on every job site in the known universe an organisation has offered me a job.

During the interview I batted every question out off the pitch (that's a cricketing metaphor I believe but as I loathe sport of all descriptions it might well be a reference to tennis for all I know) and kept thinking 'Is that the best you can do, come on make me really think.' Anyway the organisation rang later that day and said the job offer would be in the shredder. Post. Sorry that's just a habit after two years searching.

The thing is, and I say this with all due modesty, I am vastly over-qualified for the job and therefore, naturally, will be vastly underpaid to do it. Think Nurses. However as it represents 100% more than I am being paid now I think that's not a bad deal really and I'm very happy to be employed again. It's also a totally different business to one I've been in most of my working life i.e it doesn't lose money and most people currently want what it offers, unlike the car industry where I've come from where the reverse seems to be true. The last time I made a bid to leave the automotive industry in, oh let me see, 1985, this proved to be such an unmitigated disaster that I rejoined it two years later only to see my career path prove to be an unmitigated disaster for the next 20 years. There's consistency for you. Still I did get to travel around the world selling who-ha's to anyone who wanted them.

A couple of light years ago, in one blog, I explained my concept of intelligent capitulation - you can even Google the phrase now (you must have read it, 'Brilliant concept' The Times) - sometimes you just cannot cross the bottomless chasm with two planks, some string, a candle and an oil drum, and have to walk away. Thats walk away from the edge of the bottomless chasm of course, because if you went in the other direction you'd fall down it. That's how I felt with this job offer. I posed some questions to myself:
  1. Have you got a job?
  2. Are you anywhere near getting another job?
  3. Is the economy in free-fall, think it's on a bungy jump but has forgotten to tie the harness securely around its waist?
  4. Can you find any other jobs in the desired salary range?
  5. Are you already fed up with signing on?
  6. Has some one just offered a position you can make a demonstrable difference to and is willing to pay you to do so?
  7. Are you desperate?
Well it was 'No' to number 7, but the others had fairly self evident answers and anyway I believe I can make a difference and, in a couple of year's time, the economic outlook will have changed and we can see what happens then.

And finally...I signed on last Thursday, once again.
'Do you use the JobCentre Plus web site to search for jobs' the jolly Job Centre person enquired?
'No' I said 'I think the site is quite poor and just keeps offering me jobs as a sous chef in Fife, I prefer to use Monster or Reed Jobs.'
Patronising smile. 'Shall I search for you right now?'
'Please do'
And the result of the search?
An admin job for £10,000 p.a in Perth. 'Oh' she said 'I see what you mean. You carry on doing it your way.'
Point proved I think.

I've always done it my way.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Routine matters

You see when you have a job you have a porpoise. You have a purpose as well (Blogger spell check not working too well today).

You get up on a Monday, moaning about the time and how you are so tired, stuff breakfast into your complaining body, stagger into the car still half asleep thinking about the budget, sales, deadlines, memos, have any of your colleagues actually bought milk and coffee supplies, drive to work but not remembering the bit from leaving your house to getting to the car park, and then collapse gratefully into your seat at your desk. It takes 45 minutes for Windows to boot up on your PC. You can then moan to all your colleagues for the first hour or so about the dreadful weekend, try and find someone with fresh milk to put in the coffee when you've first found someone that a) has coffee who will let you have some or b) was foolish enough to leave their coffee unguarded and so was assumed to have volunteered it for the other 25 members of staff who have also now found this trove. Men will not buy fresh milk incidentally. They would prefer to shave lumps into their coffee from the rancid whey left from milk gone past its sell-by date by some margin rather than call into Tesco on the way to work.

You can waste another hour as you try and get the photocopier to work. Photocopiers have three states: warming up, on and jammed. 'Warming up' takes about a day, 'on' lasts for exactly the amount of time it takes you to get to the machine needing 45 collated, stapled copies for a stroky beard meeting in a hurry when it goes immediately into the 'jammed' state. Only one person in the entire company knows how to resolve the 'jammed' state and she is on holiday in Florida. Very occasionally the photocopier enters a new state, 'Add toner'. This is guaranteed to happen when you are wearing your newest, brightest, whitest shirt or blouse and you end up looking like a Friesian cow.

And so the week continues.

Tuesday is still an opportunity to have many 'coffee machine' meetings ostensibly for informal internal lobbying but really to moan about the management whilst drinking scalding, bland, liquid from plastic cups that are marginally thinner than the average condom.

Wednesday is a difficult day being half way between the two weekend states and generally, and unhappily, this is when the work often has to be done.

Thursday is a chance to catch up on the paperwork, emails and office gossip and CC in everyone else on the email network slowing the server down to the pace of an asthmatic snail.

Friday is, of course, only half a day long and that is mostly spent talking about the upcoming weekend and wishing everyone a 'good one'. For many companies, Fridays are enlivened by a dress down policy (which is interpreted to mean dress up) and where half of admin wear clothes that would be more suited to a club environment and are therefore deemed 'inappropriate' by HR but somehow 95% of the male members of staff find a compelling reason to visit admin on that day. 60% of the management team wear patterned jumpers and Rupert Bear type trousers that are more typical of a particularly brash Florida golf course. 10% of management wear clothes that would be more suited to a club environment and somehow several members of admin find compelling reasons to visit their offices or desks to discuss urgent admin problems concerning stapler supplies. 10% of management always forget about dress down days and dress in suits and try and pretend they knew all along but have client meetings and the balance is HR and no one knows where their offices are so can't recall what they wear anyway. And Windows takes 60 minutes to shut down and 'save your settings'. Where is it saving them, in Nepal?

And then the next week starts all over again.

But if you don't have a job...

You don't have a routine. There is nothing you actually have to do - well, apart from searching for and applying for jobs and that is quite important really, but that can be done at any time of the day or night. You can clean, shop and watch the 18 episodes of 'The Wire' that you have recorded at any time. Dress down day is everyday and I can't find my watch anywhere as I no longer need to wear it all the time. But I think it is important to find some rhythm to life even if that rhythm is a longer beat than it used to be. It takes work to deal with the lack of routine but that in itself can be quite liberating. Don't get me wrong I want to get back to work as soon as I can but just how often in life can you be largely free of the routine of work? Especially when I can send Mrs EoTP out to earn money.

Hedy Lamarr said 'Some men like a dull life-they like the routine of eating breakfast, going to work, coming home, petting the dog, watching TV, kissing the kids, and going to bed. Stay clear of it-it's often catching.'

There's something in that.
Now what shall I do next?