Tag Archives: career ladder

Crossroads

 

I come from a background centred around achievement. It’s a matter of family pride and the most common question people ask is “what do you do [for a living]?”

We’re judged on the job we have and stereotypes surrounding it, the jobs our children have, our homes, our cars and 44543483784241483TSzh5a2Qcthe clothes we wear. We’re all expected to have ambition, a drive to succeed.

But what if our dream turns out to be a misguided fantasy? What if we lose our drive and/or just want to enjoy ourselves after work?

I dreamed of being a journalist from a young age. I desperately wanted to join the fast-paced exciting world of newspaper journalism. Or at least I thought I did. But when I did extensive work experience I realised that the glamourous images in my head were vastly different from the nitty gritty reality, as I saw that actually, print journalists were low-paid, stressed out and had dubious morals.

I have an administration job and have just applied for one with a company rather than an agency, offering just £15 000 a year. Is that even enough to live on? I don’t think I can save for a house or drive a car on that. Unless you want to go into management, administration does not offer much in terms of salary or progression.

What if our goals do not fit into the vision that our family/friends/society has for us? What if we just want a happy life? I am expected to be a librarian, a teacher or an administrator. Mum says “just write a bestseller”, “be the next J.K Rowling”.

If only it was that easy.

When I declared that I wanted to be a nurse, all hell broke loose. My family told me they were stressed-out, low paid and bitchy. My nursing friends told me this was indeed true, but that little things like making a difference made it rewarding. All my friends told me to go for it and that I would make a great nurse. So I did, but sadly was unsuccessful. And as another of my dreams falls by the wayside, I’m taking stock and wondering what to do with my life.

Sure, if I moved to London I perhaps would have got somewhere. There are many large creative companies there offering positions with good experience and progression. But I strongly dislike it. It’s dirty, smelly and stressful. I feel claustrophobic with all the people pushing, shoving and coughing in my face. I feel the soot in the Underground sticking to me, and when I wash my face in the evening the water turns grey. I dislike the cold way people brush right past me, noses in the air, wrapped up in something I could never afford. On that note (literally), I dislike the sky-high prices blowing holes in your wallet.

So I’m left asking myself…

What do I do now??

confused

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Work Training Day

82203-343x343-Bad_morningToday I woke up at 7.30. This hurt as I normally do not have anything to get up at the crack of dawn for. After a coffee to ressurect me from the undead I went out into the snow. The roads were clear, so I left half an hour for a 25 minute journey. Once again I had the misfortune of a driver who waited behind buses instead of overtaking them, meaning that a 25 minute trip took 40 minutes.

When I got to the company, to my surprise, the main receptionist was unaware of where the course was in the building. She asked for the teacher’s name and I did not have it. I showed her the text I had received reminding me of it. She told me and another course candidate to go to the first floor and turn left. He was a young man with a round face and black hair. I was in an ironed shirt and work trousers, while he sported baggy black jeans and an Ed Hardy t-shirt proclaiming “LOVE KILLS SLOWLY”.

“A woman joked “why don’t you just have them, nobody else wants them””

We stood in a queue for a while, and I wondered where the teaching room was, as I couldn’t see one. Finally we got to the desk and there was a lot of confusion over what we were here for and where we were supposed to be. I showed them the text but it still did not help.

While they were deliberating amongst themselves a lady joked “why don’t you just have them, no-body else wants them”. Exactly the sort of ignorance from someone who is fortunate enough never to have been unemployed.

Eventually we were directed to the right floor. We were greeted by a tall angry blonde. She was a curvy lady wearing glasses and a skin-tight black dress. “You’re late” she informed us, “I’m not sure if I can take you. I’ll just check.”

She came back and said that she had been given permission to let us in. It emerged later that we were a full three minutes later than the 15 minutes allowed. We explained that we had spent this time being sent to the wrong floor and she apologised.

I hadn’t been looking forward to the training session. I pictured dropouts lounging back on the chairs smelling of weed, tobacco or poor hygiene in line with the standard Jobcentre experience. To my surprise this wasn’t completely the case.

We went round the room introducing ourselves and giving some history. First off was a suited, 50-something man with glasses. Bob was a sales manager with plenty of experience in different areas. He told us he had faced a lot of age discrimination and he believed this was stopping him getting a job because interviewers just looked at him as being ripe for retirement.

Next was Bogale, a Politics and International Development graduate who had been a maths teacher in Kenya and was originally from Ethiopia. He had been in the UK for four months but his English was pretty good. He was interested in being a Teaching Assistant.

Abdul had dropped out of an accounting and finance degree because he was going to live in Turkey, but it didn’t work out. He was keen to work in a call centre. He had worked for five years in a variety of jobs. His family ran a cake business in Iraq. He had a short black beard and was shy but laid-back, wearing a woolly hat and casual clothes.

Shabeeb had been a forklift driver for two years until he had been fired. He wore a cap, a big grin and casual clothes. He spent most of the class asking when we could have a break/go home/whether he had to be there the next day as well. He had a great sense of humour and made us all laugh.

Jamie was the guy I came up with. He was on a part-time I.T course at university and was looking for administration work.

Miss Bradley had done work in I.T, admin and sales and was a DJ by night. She was slim with long dark curly hair and a ready smile. She had been forced to drop out of university due to a custody dispute with her “psychotic” ex-partner. It reminded me of my experience of working in family law.

Ms Begum was a full-time mum and had worked at a call centre for British Gas. She was looking to get back into work and had the right qualifications. She was keen to work in customer service. Everyone in the room except her and Bob were in their late 20s or early 30s. They were a pleasant, friendly bunch.

The teacher said that she would not “tret” us any different due to what we had done in the past, we were all the same in her eyes. She had a talk about “elf” and safety in the building. I felt bad for smiling at this when she told us how an employer had told her she had failed a Family Learning teacher interview due to her strong accent. She said she felt like suing them.

She also disclosed that she was a trained counsellor, and that she’d naturally done this all her life, without realising it.

She told us to beware of stress once we got work, as due to the recession their had been a sharp increase in hospital admissions. I remembered how stressed I was when I worked three jobs, seven days a week. Stress can creep up on you and accumulate if you don’t release it regularly. Mrs Begum said that when she was stressed at work she had no outlet for it, as when she went home she had the kids to deal with.

Make time to relax for 20 minutes before you go to bed each day. Think about your day and what stressed you out and whether there is anything you can do about it, in which case do an action plan. If there isn’t, let it go.

Stress happens when we’re caught in between fight and flight mode. If we are prepared and have action plans and lists to tick off, we know what we are doing when, and can relax more. This is how I could be responsible for all the medical files in a department. My day followed a certain structure and I had time deadlines for tasks. I’d always keep in mind the next item on the to-do list and work my way through it. That way I wasn’t running all over the place wondering what to do next.

As soon as I’d said I was an English language teacher I noticed Tibuk’s eyes light up. We had a chat and it turned out that in my last job I was teaching the very syllabus he needs to learn! I may be able to give him lessons to prepare him, although of course I will need to see if I can fit it around work when (note I said when, not if – Positive Mental Attitude) I get it.

The day was actually really useful, even though I got a First in Careers Development whilst doing my degree. I learnt that I am weak on the personal profile in the CV, and what to put in there.

She asked if anyone knew what CV stood for. Everyone looked like she’d spoken another language, which she had. I informed everyone it was curriculum vittae, was Latin, oh and by the way vittae meant life, so literally it was curriculum life, which didn’t seem to make sense. There was a stunned silence for a moment.

This week is full of training and interviews! After applying for 5-10 jobs every day for a month I have two to look forward to. One is for a graduate position. I just sent off an application pack for another one. I am also thinking about applying for the Royal Mail graduate programme. I will keep you posted!

Work Training Day 2

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Today I discovered that criminal records were holding two of the members back. One for GBH, the other for breaking and entering. Both were misdemeanours of their youth which still count against them. One of them had a great sense of humour and we said that he should be a comedian because he made everyone laugh. It is a shame that their past could prevent them from moving forward with their lives.

Everyone in the group was easy to get on with. There was a supportive sense that we were in this together, although when I got an interview at lunchtime someone was a bit too keen on knowing what it was for! I once told someone about a job that I was applying for. She applied first and got it, so I’m more careful now.

Keep throwing yourself at the job market. The Jobcentre-referred course was great and I would recommend it to anyone. You think you know how to apply for a job, but it is not as simple as it seems. Every phrase can be read into, and it is all a carefully formulated plan. I am now going to re-do my CV, and I’m prepared for my interviews more thanks to plenty of practice.

Again I would recommend agencies – I have found getting an interview with them much easier and they are a foot in the door to permanent work.

I am encouraged by the course and am actually looking forward to interviews for the first time. It’s simply a matter of preparing yourself – getting the ID documents, dressing for success, preparing for competency-based questions (Explain how you dealt with a difficult situation) using the CAR/STAR method (if you don’t know what it is ask to go on the course!) and brushing up on the skills you’ll be tested on.

I’ve spammed the job market for a month and I’m only just starting to get results. It may take time but if you ensure that your CV and interview preparation and skills are in line with what is needed you will be fine.

Good luck fellow jobhunters! Keep on it!

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Recruiting to success

employment and recruitment agencies

Looking for work?

Why not try recruitment agencies?

Some people dismiss these based on their abundance of short-term, low-paid work, or bad past experience. But the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.

Today I got a call from a job agency I registered with – they have a graduate job at a government company they would like to interview me for. There is a recruitment freeze on the company’s website – the agency got access where I could not.

Previously I spent months out of work until I signed up to a great agency. I had previously signed up to one who told me that due to the recession, even they had been forced to make redundancies, and that the market wasn’t just bad where I was looking. Great pep talk.

They never contacted me, and when I rang they told me there was no work available. Granted, this was during the recession, but I expected better customer service.

So after working for a bad agency that later went bust, and a great agency that got me job after job, here is what I have learnt. I hope it helps you choose the right agency and helps them choose the best job for you.

– Listen to feedback from friends or family. Apply to agencies you hear good news about.

Check you have the qualifications for the job you are applying for. Today I paid for a bus into town and back and gave up my morning for a useless interview. As soon as I met the recruitment consultant she told me I did not have the essential skills! This was not on the job advert, an example of “hidden” skills – they assume (assume makes an ass out of u and me!) you have them.

– If you feel you are unsuitable for the job you are doing, let the agency know. I was once put forward for a data-entry job. I had no data-entry experience. When the manager dismissed me he told me the agency had informed him that I was experienced in this.

– If you are in a job where you are struggling to work due to the office culture, ask for a transfer. The agency will be happy to keep you on their books.

– Be clear about what skills/qualifications/experience you have in each area of the work you want. For example, if you are going for administration work, you might tell them that although you do not have data-entry experience, you would be happy to undertake training, and that you have a secretarial qualification. Highlight your strengths and the sort of work that would suit these.

– Make sure you are clear about what the job entails before you accept, and don’t be afraid to say why you think you are unsuitable and what you would prefer instead if you think it doesn’t match your skill-set.

– Wear professional dress for the interview, and ensure you have all your documentation – passport/driving licence, National Insurance card, CRB (if necessary) and reference details.

Benefits of job agencies slide1

If you are nervous about interviews, the Jobcentre can send you for free training. I am going on a two day course next week, and I hope it enables me to be more confident and sell myself better. I have never had an interview with an employer for a recruitment agency. All you need is one chat with

them and then you are on their database, ready to be matched up to one of the many jobs they get sent through every day. You’ll be spared from the intimidating scenario of sitting in a room/standing in a queue as long as the Jobcentre with the opposition, sorry, competition. You don’t need to have that “group presentation” where someone aggressively butts in to your carefully planned monologue.

Recruitment agencies have better access to help you crack the job market. Online job adverts can expire within an hour under the weight of hundreds of applications. But if you’re on a recruitment database and someone has already been hired, they’ll look at the next position.

What you see on online job boards is only the tip of the iceberg.

They may be able to market you and your skills more effectively. I find it’s often easier to get others to talk about you than advertise yourself.

They may be able to offer training themselves, and they ease access to large companies. Instead of going through the various stages of the recruitment process, I was given a start date and off I went. No first, second, third, fifth round and days spent jumping through hoops. It saves time in getting work.

Don’t forget to go for an agency that deals with, or even specialises in your area of interest. For example, in Sheffield CRA Consulting deals solely with jobs in law, Reed specialises in office work, and Office Angels is a big recruiter for the NHS.

Recruitment days

I went to my first yesterday. I had two interviews and handed in a c.v. At a Group Information Session, the Jobcentre adviser told us it was an “employers market”. He showed a list of the types of work most commonly searched for. These included construction and office work. Then he showed us the most popular work advertised including care work and construction work. The demand for clerical and administration work far exceeds the jobs on offer.

jillpollack.wordpress.com - Tips on how to make an office job work for you!

jillpollack.wordpress.com – Tips on how to make an office job work for you!

Health and social care is an expanding sector. I waited in the administration interview queue for ages. When it came to the healthcare assistant (care worker) role I was the only one. If you are a caring, dedicated person why not make a real difference for the same salary. Some agencies pay for the CRB and the training. I do care work on a Saturday and it changes your life. Since I started it I have really developed as a person. I am more understanding, more patient, a better communicator. These are also useful transferable skills. You build up a working relationship like no other, one of trust and compassion. When I go back home I feel happy and more motivated. I have done something to change someone’s life for the better, by doing something I take forgranted.

Stories and laughter can be shared while you work.

Stories and laughter can be shared while you work.

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Musings and Observations of an Unemployed English Graduate

The state of the job market 2013 is summed up by the statistics on a recruitment website – 5 million c.vs to 64,000 jobs.

Some jobs are up for less than a few hours before closing under the weight of applications. In 1 hour a job can be viewed 170 times, and each job has 50-200+ applications.

I was recently turned down for a receptionist interview – I met all the criteria with experience and additional qualifications but they had received “in excess of 200 applications”.

Every day I spam admin and care work employers. From doing this every day last month I managed to get one interview.

Labour’s target of over 50% of young people going to university has worked. So effectively in fact that graduates are now being overlooked in favour of postgraduates – I know people who have had to do a masters because an undergraduate degree in a non-vocational subject isn’t enough to beat the competition. I would like to do another degree, but as the tuition fees have gone from £1 000 to £9 000 I can’t possibly afford it. I still owe Student Loans £7 000. It goes up by £100 or so every year and I haven’t been able to earn enough to pay it back yet. In the 70s a member of my family did two degrees with government help – a general one and then a job-based one. Bursaries are not what they used to be.

Our generation often thinks that debt is normal. A lot of students aren’t bothered about debt – they’re already saddled with it. Many use their overdraft and go into debt on their credit card.

Many students saw, and still see the loan as free money and bought luxury items or went on holiday with it. It would be paid back one day. Unsurprising then that with these attitudes, public debt has doubled in 5 years to over £1 000 billion and is projected to rise by a hundred billion every year. Perhaps the increase in public debt is partly attributable to the rise in the cost of education.

As soon as you come out of university, you’re applying for jobs against people who have experience. But you have to have a job to get experience. So unpaid internships and voluntary work are sometimes the only option. I did unpaid work experience until I ran out of money, and then looked at another career area.

I sometimes wonder whether there was any use in getting a degree. It developed intellectual qualities but didn’t really make me more employable. One employer remarked that I was overqualified for the job. It’s disheartening applying for jobs requiring 2-5 GCSEs when you have a degree. I would recommend saving thousands and thousands of pounds and a hefty loan and doing a paid apprenticeship instead if your degree is not job-related.

Granted, if I’d moved to the big smoke I would’ve had more opportunity. But I don’t like the dirt, noise and crowds of London, and it would be tough doing an unpaid internship there with student loan debt and no savings. Still, it’s the best way to start – a friend got a marketing job doing unpaid work there, and others I know did the same, living for free with their family or friends. It’s all about contacts, and often it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I can’t help but think that maybe the method of separating people into grammar school and technical school sections wasn’t such a bad idea.

Perhaps I’m just in the wrong industry – my boyfriend’s housemate informed me that his son came over to the UK aged 20 and got a job with no trouble. He went into a recruitment agency and they paid for forklift driver training. From that he got a better-paid job. Perhaps manual work is different.

I feel like I keep getting on the career ladder and falling off – I’ve done teaching, admin and care work but most were short term jobs and I left a secure job for a job where I was promised pay and didn’t see any, hence my predicament. Luckily I do a Saturday job for a few hours so I’m not totally reliant on National Insurance based help – which runs out in June.

So if you’re in sixth form and looking at university, think about what will happen afterwards. Look for gaps in the job market and think about whether you need to go to university to do what you want to do – you wouldn’t want to end up with thousands of debt unnecessarily. My friend decided not to go to university due to fees she couldn’t afford, and now has a job in the NHS with the experience she gained instead.

I’d welcome comments from you, my new reader.

unemployment-grads-cartoon

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