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Thursday, 31 January 2019

How do you make God laugh?

How do you make God laugh? 
Tell him your plans. 
(Woody Allen) 
I used to command vast armies. I caused empires to rise and fall. People would seek my opinion, ask for strategies to be developed, ideas drawn up, innovation implemented. Papers would be written, actions agreed, plans executed. There would be many important strokey beard meetings. My word would be law. I could ask for tasks to be done. I could delegate everything. I could insist that things could be done. Staff respected me. Staff loathed me. Staff could not ignore me. I was a GOD (well, not really of course, sort of a quite important manager for that particular organisation. In my head.) 

I remember well, walking around a large site with a colleague on a warm summer's afternoon in one such role. We were both directors, me running the ordering of paper clips, highlighter pens, staplers (why do organisations need to order so many staplers, what do staff do with them?) and other such important and essential parts of Consolidated HeeHaws output and him, swearing loudly and profanely at any employee who was unfortunate to come into his gaze. He kept the operation on track through instilling abject fear and projecting a sense of barely restrained violence. Things were good. The business was humming. Output was outputting in an orderly way. No members of staff had been noted fighting so far that day, a rare occurrence, and no drug dealing was evident. We knew we'd got a dysfunctional business fixed. Mostly. 
We were being paid the highest salaries we'd ever earned with good annual bonuses on top. 
He turned to me and said 'Do you realise this is probably the best it will get?' 
Damn it, he jinxed it at that point. At that exact moment. 
Within months the business was up for sale, he'd run off with a secretary then had a breakdown, all the senior management team was made redundant by the MD, who turned into a total corporate monster, but who in turn was also made redundant followed by his wife leaving him. Ha. Karma. 
No Happy Endings in sunlit uplands here. 
But life goes on and I made my way, slowly back up the corporate ladder, then back down, then up. Sort of career snakes and ladders but with more snakes. 
I was there and now I'm here. 
Back in work. But now I sweep the streets I used to own (thank you ColdPlay for the lyrics). Anyway, after 12 months unemployment I decided that intelligent capitulation was in order and accepted a job that is somewhat distant from the management position I was in the way that Voyager 1 is now somewhat distant from earth. I’m not prideful. I’ll do it. Am doing it. 

Naturally there are upsides;
Some money. Not a lot. 50% less than I was earning but I do have an occupational pension so no financial issues. 
No staff.
15 minute drive to work
Able to turn brain off on arrival. 
Everything is above my pay grade. 
No work gets brought home.
I start and finish exactly on time. 

Naturally there are downsides; 
Able to turn brain off on arrival. 
Everything is above my pay grade. 
I work in what I will describe as a robust adult environment, 'jokes' repeated ad nauseum and constant laddish bants. After three weeks it has become...irritating. 
The job is dull. But I knew it would be and still accepted it so no complaining, all down to me.

I thought, I'll crack this in 10 days tops then hang on until ennui did for me. Got to play the cards you are dealt and other such cliches...'s been hard. It is many years since I've had to do administrative work, actual detailed admin stuff. In fact I can't remember ever really doing it. For years I've been a manager, a leader, delegating all these tasks and then ravelling it all together into strategic papers or action plans and then delegating it all over again. I mean in my last job I had Bob to do all this stuff. Bob loved doing the stuff. But me actually doing it...did I mention it's been hard? It's quite surprised me and I've made a fair few rookie errors, much to the frustration of management. Who is, basically, pretty much everyone else.
In a perverse way, and it is very strange feeling as being at home day after day is not the most rewarding way to spend one's life, I miss the freedom of being unemployed and the exercise I was getting daily, though I think I'd explored every possible route to walk around where I live. Many times. Many, many times. 

I've never had a job before where I actually work 9 to 5. As in leave on the stoke of 5. Previous ones have always been 'whatever it takes' and generally I've been happy to work the hours until, of course, I get made redundant and then I think 'So why did I bother then how come I got fooled all over again?' 
Thing is you have to recognise when you have a tailwind and when you have a headwind. Especially if you need to go to the loo. 

Change always means gaining something and losing something.

Brain the size of a planet as Marvin the paranoid android might muse and opening doors.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

On a dull cold January day what better than a new podcast? You don't have to answer that.

My latest podcast is now available.

I reflect on the last 12 months. What's worked and what might I have done better (other than not been made redundant in the first place that is).

Usual places, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn radio, iTunes, CastBox FM

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Would you take a much lower paid job? That's what I ask in my latest podcast

New Year, new podcast

When you’ve tried for many months and there’s no medium term realistic prospect of a job at anything like your old salary is it now time to start applying for much lower paid, almost certainly much less demanding roles? And if you are offered one do you take it?

Hope over Experience. Job applications and graphic language (the script)

This is the redundancy podcast.

The purpose of the podcast is to share the challenges of finding a job in your late 50s and 60s.

In this second mini vlogg I’m going to discuss some graphic language. The graphic language of job applications. As we all know to get a job you have to, of course, apply for a job unless you get the very rare and unexpected call from a head hunter who offers you the job of your dreams out of the blue. I’ve seen more unicorns than had calls like this.

When it comes to job searching I believe that each week starts full of hope and promise. I like to think that I'm a fairly positive sort of guy in the circumstances, or possibly misguided with a tenuous grasp on reality, you can take your pick, but sometimes I find the ducks of promise are quickly shot down by the gamekeepers of despair.

I think most of us travel in hope. You know the sort of stuff: your teenager might spontaneously clean their room, they might change their underwear more than once a week, they might have a conversation with you that includes words with more than one syllable and lasts longer than 20 seconds, they reply to your emails, someone in a call centre is actually able to sort out your problem, that sort of thing. However hope is usually tempered by experience and often our plans end
up in remote rural bus station late at on a Saturday night after the last bus has left and there's not another bus until Monday. Next month.

So it is with applying for jobs. Unless you are applying for a job so ludicrous and so far beyond your abilities and qualifications (and I still don't understand why the American Constitution won't let me run for President) then you cannot but help but hope, some teeny weeny goes against all probability speck of hope that you'll get the job you applied for. And, because you have this teeny weeny goes against all probability speck of hope then, like a grain of sand in an oyster, a little pearl of optimism starts to grow and glow faintly in your heart - go on, don't deny it, it does doesn't it, and you start to visualise yourself in that very job, start to think about the commute, the dress code, whether there’s a staff restaurant and how many days vacation will you get. 

Well it's no good, this has to stop for your own peace of mind.
Therefore i've produced a scientifically based series of graphs to demonstrate this tendency in a variety of job seeking circumstances and to help you all quit hoping unnecessarily - it’s a bit (but only a bit) like a Government Stop Smoking campaign except with a lot less money involved and no pile of cigarette stubs outside the door where everyone goes with coffees to have a drink, smoke and a serious slagging off of the organisation and management and have you seen what they've done to our budgets, slashed them how can I run a department on 35p a year? I call these graphs the HOE curve.

HOE = Hope Over Experience.

I have five scenarios.

I’ll start with the 'applying for a job on a on-line job site'. Here you can see that once you have submitted your resume you may as well go and free the pet hamster, sell the car, disconnect from broadband and go and live in remotest Peru because you are never going to hear from them. Ever. Again. Notice on the graph how one doesn't even start off with any hope at all as we all know that a giant set of electronic points is directing all Resumes into space as part of the CETI project and, even now, aliens on the planet Thorg are involved in the universe's largest ever job paper sift which fortunately will prevent them from launching their Earth invasion fleet until 2506 at the earliest.

Next we have the job application where your skills and experience exactly match the job specification, so much so that your Mother must have written it. Note how you start off with such high hopes and then, as time passes, those hopes decay a little and then you start hoping again, then fading steeply and rising so that the graph looks like a little range of mountains such as Hobbits might have to climb whilst they follow the quest of the Ring. Perhaps tomorrow the call to an interview will come.

Now here we have the graph that shows the HOE curve for those jobs that we think we might have a bit of a chance with. You know dark horse, got to be in to win.

Note here that despite all the evidence and knowing that there are 603 much younger candidates for the job we still can't stop ourselves having just a glimmer of hope and that we'll hear. Something. Anything.

Next up is the ‘l applied for this job so long ago it would just about do if I were offered it, but I’d forgotten all about the application and suddenly they’ve called me for an interview.' Here we started with a modicum of hope dropping quickly to zero and then, after an eon of nothingness, climbing vertically back to the hope zone. Then, just as quickly, plummeting like a downed duck. 

Finally we have the ‘Employment Centre insists you apply for three jobs a week if you want to be able to continue claiming unemployment benefit' HOE curve. Even though there are zero vacancies in your sector but 35627 job seekers we know, they (the Employment Centre) know, the recruiters know, even the aliens on Thorg know that this is just plain silly but we we must abide by The Rules. But then you never know.

So there it is . Scientifically graphed evidence that demonstrates that you might as well forget about 99% of all job applications the moment it leaves your hand/PC/Mac/iPad/quill and indeed you might as well shred some of them yourself straight away as it saves time later in the process - if you are gong to be contacted then you will be, so no point worrying unnecessarily. The Gamekeeper of Despair has just reloaded both barrels. You're not going to make his day are you?


If there is one thing I’ve learned, well two things actually because I also know not to eat yellow snow, Persistence pays off. We must not forget the HOE curve because it shows that, sometimes, the ducks of opportunity get away and leave very large messages on the head of the gamekeeper of despair. And that message says 'never ever give up'. Yes, you have to have some luck as well, and sometimes that luck comes sooner and sometimes later.

So I leave you with the last graph. It’s tough. But don’t give up.