Tag Archives: employment

The Job Lottery

lottery balls

I was so lucky.

The week after I walked into a job agency, the last one on my rainy day trip in town, I started working for a local university.

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I am now doing administration for a team that deals with international student enquiries. It is work based around creativity, communication and technology and is infused with the excitement of students looking forward to exploring England.

Continuous improvement is more than a sound-bite. My colleagues are positive, supportive and most people clearly love what they do. Colleagues laugh every day (particularly the ones that go abroad for work) and the Director also has a great sense of humour, putting his “betting hat” on when he was betting on the World Cup and having a team meeting outside with ice-creams. People are inspired and motivated by him and he looks on the bright side.

My manager is the same. She sees someone else’s “problem” as her “challenge” that she can solve by liaising with her contacts. She supports me and encourages me to do new things and I have developed as a result. I will miss the office and she seemed genuinely disappointed that I am leaving in two months, but money talks. I am giving up 9-5 hours for irregular shift hours but better pay. I am looking forward to the mornings off during the week already.

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When I was unemployed I applied for a job as a civil servant and I am now returning. Back to bureaucracy but a different role which hopefully will be more suitable. I will be working afternoon shifts as well, perfect for someone who is not a morning person. I will pay for it by working 7am until 5pm on a weekend, three weekends in the month. That bit scares me but I got used to leaving at 6.30am for a 7am bus when I was a nursing student.

Touch-typing and clicking my way through paperwork will be much easier than trying to change a dressing and keep the new one sterile, with three generations of the family looking on, and applying a bandage with 50/50 stretch. I hope I can be the office first-aider. I already stepped in when a man fainted and the first-aiders needed prompting.

I have helped my new housemate find work by directing her to the job agency and helping her market herself.

You are the product, make yourself one that will fly off the shelves as the employers try to buy you first.

Do as much as you can to find work and one of your job application tickets may be a golden one.

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Recruitment agency registration

Today I had two interviews with job agencies for administration and legal administration.

Hand-mouse-keyboard

I didn’t need to set my alarm clock because my housemate gets up for work at 7.30. I didn’t mind as I then make the most of the unemployment holiday. Looking for work is a full-time job as I searched for jobs, re-writing my CV, filling in forms and then actually applying. I had struggled to get to sleep with stressful thoughts whirling around my mind. I dozed off and woke up at 11am. I dressed in tailored pinstripe trousers, a lace sleeveless top and a navy striped cardigan. I looked in the mirror and checked that I was business-ready. Fake it til you make it.

I had ensured that both appointments were in the afternoon as I am not a morning person. Apparently it is in your genes whether you are or not, so that is not going to change no matter how much caffeine I drink. I allowed 45 minutes for a 20 minute bus journey. Just as well as the bus was packed and stopped every few hundred metres to pick up yet more noisy students, mothers with children, and retired people.

The general administration recruitment consultant was a business-like young lady in a sharp black tailored jacket and trousers. She had brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair that was straightened to within an inch of its life. I admired her sparkly peach manicure as she went through the wad of registration bureaucracy. She gently persuaded me to lower my asking price from £9 per hour to minimum wage. Although I have eight years of administration experience, the consultant firmly urged me to lower my desired salary to minimum wage, due to the level of current job competition.

The company receive so many CVs that their email warns that you may not receive a response due to the sheer volume of applicants. In today’s market you have to stand out. It is not enough to have a degree when there are so many graduates, you need a masters. It is not enough to have some experience, you need extensive and recent experience. If you can’t get a temporary job for the CV you need to volunteer or try to get an internship.

Most of the employment available online was for those without qualifications, knowledge of Microsoft packages was the sole requirement. Typing jobs were few and far between and the recruitment consultant that this would severely limit the opportunities available. It doesn’t matter that I type at around 90 words per minute or that I have a bunch of text and audio processing certificates. For temporary work, basic administration skills are all that is required.

The legal recruitment agency meeting was helpful because I got advice on how to improve my CV. The meeting was in a new office at the top of a building, with a lovely view out over the cityscape.

waiting for job agency interview

My CV was not extensive enough, so I popped to the central library and increased it by a page. I added another three years of job history to make it more comprehensive. But the smiling young woman with long, ginger curly hair and square glasses told me that they had no temporary opportunities available at the moment. She would keep my file on record for any future opportunities. I was getting used to hearing this.

So, when should you choose a job agency?

  1. When you are looking for temporary work. Agencies are best-placed to get work quickly. Temporary work is also ideal for those with bar work or acting jobs who need to supplement their income.
  2.  When you need a quick fix following redundancy or unemployment. Sometimes this can lead to full-time, permanent work, as was the case when I last worked with an agency.
  3. When you are not interested in taking over the office, but are content to be a cog in the wheel.
  4. When you are trying to get your foot in the door of a new industry.
  5. If you have recently finished school/college/university or if you are returning to the world of work following a break.

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Job agencies are like sales companies. They “buy” jobs for their potential employees and then they “sell” you to the company.  Some have better working conditions than others. It is good if an agency specifies in its recruitment material whether paid annual leave is included and how many days annual leave allowance you are entitled to. Some even have a pension plan. A good recruitment agency should work with you to try and match your particular CV to a job that suits your skills and experience.

If you are a fellow jobseeker I wish you luck. Never stop trying and never give up the fight. Today’s job market is tough but you have to stay strong.

win it

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Unemployed…again.

“The-greatest-teacher-failure-is.”-Master-Yoda-Star-Wars

Since my last blog post, my life has changed completely.

In November 2017 I decided to apply to do a postgraduate nursing diploma. I had spent years working my way up to a well-paid steady job as a civil servant. But I wanted to have a job where I could help people. It was a gamble but it was the last year of the bursary – it was now or never.

“My bursary was £450 and rent is £380 – all activities were limited by my budget.”

I am no longer on the course but I hope that I can start again, because I really enjoyed both the academic and practical aspects of the course. It involved military discipline and if I wasn’t passionate about nursing I wouldn’t have managed it. I woke up at 6am to go to placement, got back at 5 or 6pm, ate a sandwich for dinner and then wrote a 6 000 word essay in the library until it shut at 9pm…for over a month.

My bursary was £450 and rent is £380, so all activities were limited by my budget, even food shopping. Gone were my flights of fancy at Waitrose. Now it was Aldi or Co-Op basics. The 30p bag of pasta and the £1 jar of pesto with some defrosted peas or carrots became my go-to meal.

Despite the long hours and low budget, patients kept me strong, smiling and focused and made the experience enjoyable. Being able to provide care was a privilege and gave me a deep sense of contentment.

It made me realise that caring for others is not just what I do, it is a fundamental part of who I am. It gives my life more meaning and purpose.

This is why I volunteered to help at a Dementia Cafe with a wedding theme this week. I immersed myself in the experience, from blowing up confetti balloons to hearing people’s life stories. It was a welcome relief from the stress of feeling lost, confused and worrying about the future.

If I don’t get another chance, what am I going to do?!

Things couldn’t be tougher. The intense combination of university and placement have been replaced by throwing myself at the job market. My bursary has been stopped but I still need to pay the rent. I have already had to endure two consecutive days of rejections from two job agencies.

“I didn’t get off the sofa most days.”

If I don’t find work in June, I will be forced to give up my independence and move back in with my parents. My housemate couldn’t believe it. “I love living with you” she said, “please don’t move out.”

I never thought I would be in this position again. It has been two weeks so far. The first week I was an emotional wreck and I came down with a sore throat and a cold. Exhausted and drained both physically and emotionally, I didn’t get off the sofa most days, crying, blowing my nose through a full loo roll and watching TV. I didn’t have the energy for anything else.

But when you’re at your lowest, you realise how lucky you are to have so many good people around you. Everyone gave their time to listen, offer advice, meals, and a shoulder to cry on. With their support my week gradually improved, and I was able to focus instead on my birthday celebrations.

I have already tried to get care work but sadly it wasn’t possible. I have no formal qualifications in it (despite years of experience) and I can’t afford a car.

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A few days ago I decided it was time to stop crying and get off the sofa. Partly because I had watched everything remotely interesting on TV catchup, from the BBC to More4 and ITV. There was only dreary daytime TV left.

I started by creating a more positive and restful environment. I tidied, cleaned and hoovered the house. The saying “clean space, clear mind” is confirmed by research showing that messy rooms cause excess cortisol production and can be distracting for the brain.

I then began a Post-It Power Plan, where I brainstormed ideas to find a way forward. It was a good method to get some clarity in the chaos.

I am either too qualified or too unqualified – I am stuck in Catch 22 limbo.

Yesterday my job mission continued. I rang up three job agencies and applied for admin work online. So far I have been turned down by two job agencies on the basis that although I have experience, it is not recent enough. This is a new level of competition compared to the “you don’t have enough experience” response when I was last unemployed some five years ago.

But persistence is key if you are to break through the increasingly reinforced walls of the current job market. The next day I ramped up the pressure by going in person to other job agencies with my CV and even going into various businesses with it. It is always more effective going to a job agency in person than contacting them by telephone or email. In person they can practically smell your desperation as you offer to give their employers your time on any basis, working for any pay and at any level, as you hand them your CV, your passport, your CRB certificate and your dignity. They can see that you’re tired from walking around all afternoon in the pouring rain in your business power dress.

Next week I am going to a job fair where up to 25 companies will be hiring and I will be spamming companies with CVs. By the time I’ve finished, I will be surprised if there is a business in the city that has not heard of me. Short of walking around with a billboard strapped to me, reading “AVAILABLE FOR WORK NOW” and my phone number, there isn’t much more I can do.

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I now have a busy week of job-hunting to look forward to next week. I have signed up with one agency and I have an appointment with another next week. I also have an appointment for Jobseekers Allowance. I am dreading going back to this handout again, it is so shameful that at my age and with my experience I will now have to sign up to weekly harassment involving job skills workshops, when I got a first in a careers development module at university. I know how to gain employment. The problem is that I am either too overqualified, or too underqualified – I am stuck in Catch 22 limbo.

I was in this desperate position when I started this blog in 2013. The blogging community spurred me on and eventually my documented struggle to find employment attracted over a thousand views a month from all over the world.

If you are in the same boat and you are struggling to keep your head above water, read this article about the importance of learning from failure and being patient until you succeed.

henryford1-2x

 

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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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Anti-Wrinkle Ageism

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Yesterday I went to buy some more anti-wrinkle day cream. The media bombard us with messages that we should “defend” ourselves against signs of growing old. But is this just the ugly face of ageism?

We have an increasingly ageing population, yet age discrimination is still a big 271333881_5342e17059_zproblem. I have written previously about how a former sales manager in his fifties experienced ageism routinely at interviews.

The horse-racing pundit John McCirick, 73 has this month launched legal action against Channel 4, who he said sacked him for a younger replacement. Chris Moyles, then 38, was an excellent Radio 1 presenter, always entertaining. He was replaced by Nick Grimshaw, then 27, who is boring and self-obsessed, but knows a bunch of celebrities. A colleague had commented that Moyles was “too old”. Last year a 52 year old won an age discrimination case against his employers who replaced him with a 15 year old who they could hire for less. The year before that, a BBC Countryfile presenter won her case against being sacked because of her age.

HelpAge International has launched a petition which I have contributed to. It urges the government to press for a UN convention protecting the rights of  older people. So far over 8 000 people have signed it.

http://www.helpage.org/get-involved/campaigns/what-is-age-demands-action/sign-the-ada-petition/

Faukja Singh, 101, the oldest person to complete a marathon!

Faukja Singh, 101, the oldest person to complete a marathon!

Lets stop thinking that the passing of the years is some sort of problem which we must “protect” ourselves against. If you’re worried about looking old why not try natural methods of looking younger instead? According to research, exercising vigorously for more than 40 minutes a couple of times a week results in a younger-looking appearance over time.

I would rather look old than scary. I will fight for the right to be seen as experienced rather than due for retirement, and I will defend myself against ageism, not wrinkles.+Jackie+Stallone++'The+Expendables+2'+film+premiere,+Los+Angeles,+America+-+15+Aug+2012+

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Liebster Blog Award Nomination

I have recently had pleasure in accepting a Liebster Blog Award. I couldn’t find anything official about it but nevertheless I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I have found that inspiration has been squeezed out of me like an orange in the juicer since I started work. Training has reminded me of lectures at university. I was glad for the chance to write on this topic, as ideas have not come to me daily as when I was unemployed. After work all I have room for in my overloaded brain is the satisfaction that can be gained with food and sleep.

The award is for those with less than 200 followers and comes from the German for “beloved” and “favourite” – liebe is to like, if my beginners German is correct…I am glad to have the chance to advertise other blogs which I enjoy reading and which I hope you will.

Here are the rules to accepting the award:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
7. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Facts about myself

1. I have blonde hair

2. I have blue eyes

3. I am badly long-sighted. The optician recommended thick lenses and I made a massive fuss so he gave me lenses that look thin at a discount!

3. The first picture of me reading is at 5 months. I was holding the book the right way up and it was a story about a kitten. cuteness

4. I wanted to be a clown when I was 5 – I wanted to make people laugh like they did at the parties I attended. I still make people laugh, but usually unintentionally.

5. I read the Famous Five Series by the time I was 6.

6. I started learning the piano when I was 7.

7. I wrote a trilogy when I was about 7 called Twinkleberry the Elf. Sadly it was lost when we gave it to a family friend as a present. I remember one chapter where Twinkleberry gets locked in a cage in a lion pit and has to magic his way out…

8. I read the Lord of the Rings when I was 11. My favourite bit was where Frodo got stabbed, I had adrenaline going! I didn’t understand most of it but liked the fantasy of it.

9. I watched my first horror film aged 14 and was scared of sleeping in the dark for a while after!

10. I was too scared to try snails in France – the black slug peeping out of the baguette was more than I could take and I started crying! I was about 11…

11. I have never had a TV, which explains most of the above…

Here are some of the blogs I follow. Apologies if I have missed you out or if you have more than 200 followers – as I’m new to the blogging game I haven’t been able to see the number of followers on some blogs, especially given it’s getting late and I’ve worked today…

I would like to present the Liebster Blog Award to (in no particular order)…

1. http://ladybuglizziegail.wordpress.com/ The lovely lady who nominated me – she blogs on a variety of topics from anime to vampires.

2. http://davidanaturephotography.wordpress.com/ A photographer with great perspective, focussing on still life and nature shots.

3. http://wtpho.com Amazing travel photos, the latest ones of Vancouver reminded me of my lovely trip last year…

4. http://itsaneuthing.wordpress.com/ Engaging opinions on EU news.

5. http://eyespeak4u.wordpress.com/ Interesting insights into daily life – I particularly liked it when she wrote a post showing the perspective of her child on an issue, it was refreshing. WordPress is full of dull diaries but this stands out, as does the following link:

6. http://missyhren.wordpress.com/engaging witty writing of an unemployed graduate.

7. http://lifeonabranch.wordpress.com/diary of a graduate on minimum wage, as I am! I like the latest post on how to spend in thrift stores.

8. http://happilyeversingle.wordpress.com/If any of my readers are unhappy about being single I refer them to this blog, this lady looks on the bright side of life.

9. http://theonlyenglishmaninthevillage.wordpress.com/ I once considered English language teaching abroad, here is someone’s experience of it.

10. http://eharmono.wordpress.com/A laugh-out-loud look at online dating.

11. http://chinupchesthigh.wordpress.com/ As described on his blog “a 30 something’s guide to self discovery” a bravely written psychological eye-opener.

Eleven Questions for Me

1. What superpower do you wish you had?

I wish I had the superpower that the main character of Limitless has and of course without the side effects. That is, to be able to understand everything and for all information to just sink into your spongey brain. Right now mine feels more akin to a brick.

2. Favorite television show?

As stated before, I’m not bothered about TV and I still don’t have one so I watch Iplayer occasionally. My guilty secret? I enjoy Don’t Tell the Bride! Entertaining programmes don’t have to be intellectual. I’m not someone that has dreamed about their wedding since they were little! I like the comedy of a hapless boy of a man being given £12 000 to spend on a wedding which he has no idea about. Oh the drama. Oh the dress disasters.

I’m looking forward to watching the one I have linked, about a guy who gambles on whether to do the wedding in Las Vegas. He wins and so the decision is made, but will his fiancee marry him in Vegas at a tacky ceremony?? or will he be down on his luck??

3. Cats or Dogs?

Neither, both seem a pain to look after although I don’t mind other people’s.

4. What was your favorite subject in elementary school?

English

5. Zombies or Vampires?

Neither, they’re both ridiculous.

6. What is one book you can not live without?

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – any of them. She’s the most skilled writer ever.

7. Are you a morning or a night person?

Night owl!

8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I don’t think I’ve seen enough of the world to know. I liked New Zealand’s laid-back lifestyle though!

9. Superman or Batman

Superman, I prefer predictable hero to troubled tortured soul.

10. Android or Itunes

?? No technology at all preferably, it always breaks.

11. Who is your hero ??

My boyfriend 😀

My 11 questions to you, my esteemed bloggers (many of whom are also my followers, I salute you for that)

1. If you could be invisible what would you do?

2. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

3. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you?

4. What’s a quirky fact about yourself?

5. What do you find most enjoyable? e.g. hobby

6. What does success mean to you?

7. How do you save money?

8. Do you live life for now or save for the future?

9. How did you meet your other half OR what’s the best thing about being single?

10. What makes you feel confident?

11. If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you’d do?

I also welcome answers to these questions from other readers.

Thank you again to LadyBugDreams who made my dream of winning a blogging award come true! Thank you also to all my followers who inspire me to keep writing. Now I must go, as my brain has returned to nudging me about sleep, now that the food part is content.

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