Tag Archives: training

My “Cancelled” First Half Marathon

I had completed my first ten mile run. I had walked some of it but a half marathon was only a couple of extra miles, I’d give it a go.

I wanted to support one of the run’s charities, a local Multiple Sclerosis rehab cent017re – I work with a friend that has it.

I had three weeks to prepare. I ran, cycled or swam a couple of times a week anyway, but I spent a week before it running every day, starting at 5k and working up to 16k, mostly on the treadmill. I prefer exercising outdoors because it gives you a sense of freedom, you actually go somewhere and you can enjoy nature.

My brother asked what time I was aiming for. I reckoned 2 hours and a half. It had taken me an hour to run 10 miles. He did his first full marathon last year in Copenhagen. We have a photo of him finishing, looking pale and ill. He reckons you need at least 8 weeks training.

He also cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats (the length of England) in 10 days (doing about 100 miles a day) when he was in sixth form and this year he canoed round all the major lochs in Scotland (52km).

Race Day

On race day I had some porridge with bananas for breakfast, great for slow energy release. I wore trainers I’d bought the week before, ones to stop pronation, or your foot rolling in towards your ankle when you run. They were specially fitted from “gait analysis” – I was filmed on a treadmill and action snapshots documented how my feet fell. I have used the same pronation trainers for years and never had any injury – I think because of the way they are made.

When I got to the stadium I had a cereal bar and picked up my charity t-shirt from where the finish was. Announcements were blaring out about the location of key areas. There was quite a queue for the toilets and I worried I’d miss the race. There was no indication of where the start was and quite a few people were asking around. Nothing was signed, but then I spotted the crowd and the time markers. I was surprised that I couldn’t hear any announcements. I wondered why I could hear them at the finish area but not at the start. When I did a 10k last year there were loudspeakers covering the whole of the start line and a guy with a megaphone on a platform getting everyone warming up.

Chaos and Confusion

The communication in this case was someone yelling repeatedly: “The race is delayed by 30 minutes”. He wasn’t wearing anything identifying him as an official so not everybody listened. Most people passed the message on, via chains of Chinese whispers.

About 15 minutes later the man returned, yelling “police are removing obstacles from the course“. I wondered what sort of obstacles and why.

My brother had recommended that I start ahead of the time I thought I’d run it in. The markers were all set out the same distance apart. This meant that there wasn’t enough space for the time the majority of runners were aiming for. I queued to enter the 2 hour section, which was only possible when runners left to warm up. I went back until I found a bit of space so that I wouldn’t be crushed when the crowd started to move. The earlier markers then went round a corner ahead of two hours, so we couldn’t see or hear what was happening at the start.

“Cancelled”

We waited to start for about an hour. At least it was warm in the crowd, but we had no idea what was happening as during that time we heard no announcements and there was not one official in sight. Eventually there was slow clapping from the 2 hour 15 section which rippled forward, followed about 15 minutes later by booing.

Then a rumour went back that the race was cancelled. Everyone stood there in disbelief. There had been no announcements, it must be some kind of joke, I said. Luckily a lady next to me, Sue, had an in-law who was one of the race volunteers. She had discovered by text that the water had not arrived for the race and that they were dashing round supermarkets buying more. I thought that wouldn’t happen somewhere like London.

We waited another 15 minutes or so and then someone in front showed us breaking BBC news on his phone – it was official. There was anger and disbelief. A lot of us were sponsored. Family, friends and colleagues had been generous. I didn’t want to let them down and besides, this was supposed to be my first half marathon. But in that moment, the whole crowd of over 4,000 just set off.

I saw Sue and we settled into a nice pace where we could just about chat. She was running for Macmillan and lived nearby. We passed two water stations, one after about 5 miles and one at about 7.

Superhero Spectators

The supporters were fantastic, there were people lining the route almost everywhere, with one group blowing whistles and horns. They were almost all holding out bottles. Runners passed these among themselves. I was moved by the kindness of strangers and the community spirit. Others had bowls of sweets, which helped keep sugar levels up at the half-way point. I saw people I knew and the cheers from them and the rest of the crowd gave me bursts of energy.

With the first sugar hit wearing off, I suddenly felt a bit tired and had the rest of the sweets I’d been carrying for this point. There had been spectators until about 6 miles. I hadn’t drunk more than a bottle of water as I hadn’t wanted to get the stitch. At 8 miles there were no more as we were in the inner city industrial area. This meant there was no more water.

Casualties

When I hit 10 miles my legs decided they wanted to stop running and went heavy. A grey-haired runner had just collapsed at the side of the road and an official was bringing him round. Then I passed a young runner who was unconscious with blood on his mouth, paramedics around him. I felt like I was running in a war zone. I could be next I thought, with my parched mouth and heavy legs.

All I could think about was finishing. I remembered my brother’s advice that when you’re tired you shouldn’t run as if you’re tired, as that makes it worse. So I lightened my pace and managed to keep going, but exhaustion made it a massive effort. It was time for sheer willpower to keep my legs moving.

I finally came into the stadium and saw a sign “800m to go”. I sped up a little, not realising how far 800m feels when you’ve been running for 13 miles.

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Overtaken

Then I saw the “400m to go” and remembered how I felt in a school sports day race. I had no energy and was flagging but then someone cheered “it’s now or never!”.  I looked at my watch. I had to do it in under two hours. There wouldn’t be a repeat of this, this was my one chance. I accelerated and sprinted the last 400m.

I collected my race pack and looked for a water bottle. There had been one in my 10k race pack. Nothing.

Someone at the finish line had pointed out a water table further down so I went there. A lady looked helplessly at me “sorry”, she said. To the left of the table were four empty 2 litre water bottles.

As I finished I saw someone being attended to on a stretcher in the middle of the stadium, who was then rushed off in an ambulance.

The Long Walk Home

I was dehydrated but managed to get public transport to town. Then the bus didn’t turn up as the roads were still closed from the delayed race. So I took it on myself to walk the 3 miles home. It would be a challenge but I could do it. It was worth it, as on the way I met and chatted to a neighbour, who kindly sponsored me.

After walking uphill for the last two miles I was exhausted and had a migraine the rest of the day, but when I woke the next morning I was fine. A bit of a tender hip and left leg but the day after that I was fine.

Outrage

The event made the national news. Our local MP, Nick Clegg, said that lessons needed to be learnt. The winner said that it was the “first and last race” he would run in Sheffield.

 

We were still timed and knew that without sufficient water, we ran the race at our own risk, but I think the organisers should learn from those that arranged the BUPA 10k race, which was flawless in every detail.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me. The page is:

https://www.justgiving.com/firsthalfmarathon2014

Finally, a big thank you to all those who handed out water and saved the day.

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A Cheer-ful Community Race – My First City 10K

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Yesterday I did my third 10k and my first out of the countryside. There were over 3,300 entrants and the atmosphere in the city was electric.

My friends had told me they were doing it only a few days before the event and I was lucky that there were still places.

I had not done any training whatsoever. In fact the last time I had run was a month ago. However, before that I routinely did a couple of miles once a week. I also cycle to work regularly but that is a different sort of workout. It is about the race’s distance for the two journeys.

On race day I woke up at 5am excited and had some more carbs before going back to bed. Later, when I had put on my lucky running accessories and psyched up with some power ballads I set off. I had to leave my bag in the city hall and I hoped it wouldn’t get stolen as it was a free-for-all. I was almost late for the race queuing for the toilets – outside were a mere 20 to service thousands. I felt queasy and, worrying that I might be getting hungry and would then not be able to run, I dashed into the now empty bag area for my cereal bar. This was a bad move as I later got a double stitch for about 4k. But it’s true, if it’s not too bad you can get through it, and I did, gripping my fingers into the pain source to dull it.

runningecard05Crowds had gathered all along the route, filling every space near the starting funnel. I stood in the road, packed with competitors, most wearing charity shirts. There was an upbeat, excited tension in the air as we shifted and stretched. The starting horn went off periodically as we surged slowly forward. There were so many runners that I couldn’t start in my heat and had to start last.

It took so long that my boyfriend thought he’d missed me. The starting horn blared and I was held back by a wall of joggers until I found a gap. Then I was off, carried away with the enthusiasm and good spirit I clapped and waved to those running past on the other side, to their bewilderment. That was the lovely part of the race, the paths were parallel to each other so you could see the athletes and aspire to be that the next year and see your fitter friends. I was too in-the-zone to notice much but the occasional group of supporters. All the kids wanted to high five you like a hero and I was especially grateful to the sweet Grandma sitting on a fold-out chair whose face crinkled into a smile as I waved at her and  she clapped me on both ways.

With my terrific playlist and the blended sound of cheering pushing me forward I completely missed my boyfriend on the way up. Another advantage of the track going straight back down was that he didn’t lose me. It was helpful having kilometre markers so you knew when you were nearly halfway. As I hit the 6k mark I spotted my boyfriend. He’s waited almost an hour for a few seconds of support and managed to take a photo or two.

A highlight was a sprinkler tunnel, adding welcome relief to my pounding heart and burning body. The second wind I had somehow experienced in the last race didn’t quite kick in and going uphill on the way back really separated the wheat from the chaff as those who had not paced themselves fell back gasping for breath.

I managed a short sprint to the finish line, bringing me into the top third at 55 minutes 53 seconds. This was a personal best and I was delighted. WinHill_0051

I then foolishly decided to do do a 462m hill-climb walk with my boyfriend in the afternoon. At one point the path reached up almost vertically into the sky as I scrabbled on the rocks. But no challenge was too much for me now and I soon reached the top, although when I did my legs made a silent protest and went weak. Luckily I found a stick on the way up and supported myself on that. The view in the golden evening sunlight with a fine mist in the valley was incredible and I wish I had taken my camera.

The run was a wonderful experience and I want to do it again. I felt relaxed, triumphant and high on endorphins afterwards.

I didn’t do it for charity this year as I am already doing my first fundraising event – a 40 mile bicycle ride. If you can spare even just a little for my British Heart Foundation cycle please help the cause by clicking on the link here.

I think if I have energy to do a hill climb 6 hours after a 10k I should probably run a greater distance. Maybe my 2014 goal will be a half-marathon. Now that will require training. Are you a (female) runner? Read this post to find out!

So go on, compete in a city 10k next year. Be part of a an event uniting those of all ages and backgrounds in a thrilling uplifting and challenging race. It will be tiring and you may be a bit achy the next day but trust me, it’s worth it.

 

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The Power of Networking

Since I threw the stone advertising unemployment into the Facebook lake, there have been quite a few ripples, as old school friends got in touch saying they knew about something or could ask for me.  As the Japenese saying goes, a rolling stone gathers moss.

These positions were available through agencies that were not based in the city where the job was. So there would have been no chance of me knowing about them otherwise. In these intensely competitive times, it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s a case of contacts – from a course you attended, college or university.

At first I was too ashamed to broadcast my job seeking status. I thought it seemed like failure when many of my graduate friends were in nice impressive jobs. I’m rather envious of a guy from my year who is now a broker at Christies, constantly posting pictures of his champagne lifestyle. By their mid-20s it seems most graduates have found decent/steady employment.

I told one friend that no, I was not above doing warehouse packing – any job to release me from the state’s shackles.

Speaking of which, I waited 45 minutes for my Jobcentre appointment to make a new claim. Security staff hovered about occasionally as I sat there, steam coming out of my nostrils. I had paid 20p extra on a quicker bus and I had run to ensure I could not be sanctioned for being late. The worst thing about being unemployed is being at the beck and call of the all-powerful Jobcentre who control everything from what you have to do next on the endless run of job skills workshops, to whether you get to eat or not.

I had a job to apply for and I had to send in details before 5. This didn’t happen. I was expecting a call back about a legal matter (more on that story when it gets to court). This did not happen as I can only be contacted on my home telephone – my mobile is broken and I cannot afford a replacement. The charger on my old replacement mobile has broken so I need to buy another. There are always things to be bought.

I sat next to a guy who was being text by an angry girlfriend, unhappy about his financial situation, or maybe about his personal hygiene, judging by his overpowering natural cologne. He had been in the Jobcentre for two hours and he waited an extra 30 minutes to be seen, such was the backlog. His friend next to him had just got a delivery driver job. He had his tracksuit on, hood up and was bouncing about with suppressed joy. A girl on the other side of the room with bright red hair was sitting with her nose aloft, reading a novel the size of War and Peace, wearing a tracksuit but with walking boots instead of trainers. We almost quick marched out of the place and into each other.

I understood this display, having read The Week in an effort to show that I most certainly did not belong here thank you very much. I also didn’t like the way we seemed to be called “customers”. I wasn’t buying anything, I just needed temporary financial aid. The sooner I could escape from this two week cycle of despair the better.

Finally I was seen by a lovely girl who apologised for the delay and continuously apologised for Jobcentre policies. I had apparently been penalised because I hadn’t been in to sign on. Why? Because they’d referred me to a “Finding and Getting a Job” course and I was on that. When I pointed this out she tentatively said that had I contacted them to inform them of this within 5 days my benefits would have continued. When I asked why I wasn’t contacted for 27 days she apologised again for the policy.

I once again provided every payslip for my Saturday job, but still have to fill in a form telling them what they say. I have applied to get the money back for the past 26 days, but this depends on a God-like decision-maker, sitting in some cushy office upstairs with that all-important rubber stamp. (Update – I never got my money back).

But I won’t be messed around for long – things are looking up…

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Pros and Cons of Unemployment

You’re probably wondering how there could possibly be any upsides to unemployment. But some of the negatives have a silver lining…

Negatives

1. Financial hardship

Most of us do not get much in benefits and every time you go shopping you have to be aware of your dwindling bank balance. You have to budget according to your reduced income.

2. Cold callers article-2167683-0C6EFE84000005DC-962_468x286

Thinking it’s that important interview call you rush to the phone, only to hear it’s some rude dimwit advertising something you have no interest in!

3. Daytime TV

4. Negative attitudes towards your job status snooty

Don’t listen to them though, it’s just ignorance.

5. Lack of company

Most people you know are working and you’re home alone noting down details of every job you’ve ever done and every qualification you’ve ever achieved.

Positives

1. You have more time

You may be busy filling in application forms and doing interviews, but in between you have time to enjoy yourself (albeit with free or cheap activities).

2. You can go to events during the week

I went to a lambing event yesterday, something I couldn’t have done if I was working. I saw piglets, I had a meerkat on my shoulder and saw a skink, armadillo and racoon for the first time! Unfortunately the 80 lambs were 4 days overdue and didn’t appear. We just saw a lot of grumpy sheep standing about, scoffing so much hay you weren’t sure which lump was baby and which was belly.

3. You learn/have to be more sensible with money images

As it runs out, you think of ingenious ways to save, such as living on tins and frozen food! You should minimise expenses or debt will be your enemy. You may start going to your grandparents for Second World War/post-war saving advice. In those days it was “waste not, want not”! We need to remember the wisdom of  previous generations facing harder times than we are in today.

4. You can enjoy the sunshine

I went for a run this week in the glorious sunshine under a bright blue sky and took in the scenery. Usually I’d be in an office during the week. You may miss the sun as you work, and when you get home you may be too tired to enjoy the fading light. Now you can enjoy daylight hours outdoors. You may have more energy to enjoy the day. You can get a good sleep with fewer early starts.

5. There is good support for Job seekers

Unlike other countries, we are lucky enough to have a welfare system. I have heard of free training courses which may help me find work. I have already made use of free interview training. People are generally understanding because they’re aware of the tough job market situation.

5948249-piggy-bank-squeezed-by-a-measuring-tape--concept-for-money-is-tight-budgeting-squeezing-money-out-ofTurn the negatives into positives

Money is tight, but when we do have it,  we may be thrifty enough to start saving or spend more wisely. Maybe you do a training course and edge out the competition to get the job. Your dream job is still out there, there are just more people applying for it, so you have to stand out from the crowd (this does not mean wearing a pink suit to an interview). You may have had more interview practice than employed people going for the same job so you may perform better.

Of course we all want a job, but when we fall on hard times it’s best to make lemons into lemonade, rather than eating them and getting bitter.

Another blog writer suggests throwing the lemons you’ve received back at life!
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is an expression meaning when life gives you negatives, turn them into positives.

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February 22, 2013 · 1:48 pm

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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