Where The Hell Did My Job Go?


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'Make sure you always give yourself time for that afternoon down at the pub'

'It was worth reading even by under employed Americans'

'As one fellow job-seeker to another, hang in there'

'Let me check the spelling for you'

'Is it making money yet?'





Taking redundancy personally.

Friday, January 31, 2003

What a day! Fortunately I wasn’t stuck on the M11 and made it to the interview on time, albeit somewhat frosty. Unfortunately, my 10.30 arrival was 2 and half hours earlier than they expected. All my careful swotting and planning for what was in no doubt a very important meeting was soon thrown into disarray, as they tried to find out who was free to interview me. Within an hour I had seen and been grilled by 5 people, only to be told that I would have to wait until the middle of next week for the result, not later this afternoon, as I had previously been told! Aaaargh!

The best pre-interview advice I received was to ask each person who interviews you if they have any reservations about answers you have given. This gives you and them a second chance to clear any misunderstanding.

When I asked, it added another 5 minutes to the interview and I believe that the answers given then may have been the ‘make or break’ point of the interview.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I’m still taking the advice that the public sector is the only place with any money, I’ve found another couple of websites that specialise in public sector recruitment, Opportunites which didn’t have any for me and JobsGoPublic which isn’t as Thunderbirds as it sounds.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Thankfully they were refurbishing Job Centre today and had even less of a reason to care about my job search. I was out of there in under 10 minutes. Hopefully, that will still be the case in a fortnight.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Swotting for the interview on Friday. I’ve never really been to nervous about interviews as I always seem to do OK. For this one though, I think I owe it to them to be slightly nervous.

I’d rather be at the Penguin Parade.

Monday, January 27, 2003

There seems to be something about Friday afternoon’s at the moment. Like last week, things had been pretty quiet until a barrage of calls late on Friday.

One series of calls has resulted in an interview for a 6 month contract using Crystal Reports. And I can say no more or the agency will do me untold damage. The other resulted in a maybe for a job where the money isn’t right, but they may be prepared to stretch the budget a little bit further. That’s two in the pipeline, which is bringing January to a nice close.

In order to further develop my technical skills, today has seen me take receipt of XML in 24 Hours and UML Outlines, as well as finally managing to install Apache to host some web sites.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

A date for my diary arrived in this morning’s post. Not the expected wedding invite, but a missive from the Jobcentre. April 10 2003 is payrise day for everyone on Jobseekers Allowance. A huge increase of 70 pence to £54.65 a week. If you’ve got a suggestion on how I should best use my 70p, please let me know.

Lesson of the day: Include everything on your CV! No matter how irrelevant it seems. You don’t know who your future employer is, let alone what they are looking for. This lesson was learnt as I received a call from an agency to say that they thought my experience as a Bank Clerk would be useful for a position they had. I was quick to bring to their attention my GCSE in Accounting. Surely this position had my name written all over it. Only time will tell.

Shock news for suburbia that Tupperware are no longer operating in the UK. With helpful party advice such as ‘Arrange a date and time for your party’ and themes such as ‘Organising your kitchen cupboards’ and ‘Saving money with Tupperware’, it’s hard to believe the party is over.

Although the web site seems to be in denial.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
I had a great night last week ‘networking’ at A Ha Ha Ha comedy club in Soho. We were there to watch Alex Musson, a friend of a friend (the network expands!) With third billing he was one of the highlights of the night – and not just because he delivered the phrase ‘spontaneous lesbianisation’. Being jealous of his wit, I decided to look at his website which was bound to be rubbish. It isn’t. A professional web designer, I bet his CV isn’t very good. It is. At least he doesn’t donate any proceeds from his comedy magazine to charity. He does.

Drifting from the MSN Careers page, I find the CV Test and am disappointed that I only get ‘51% - 75% Good, but room for improvement’. So I took them up on the offer for a free CV review and look forward to receiving their advice.

I’m assuming that this Who’s Hiring page gets updated regularly.

A professional service at a knockdown price? I wonder if they give a discount for the unemployed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Whilst looking on the BBC jobs site I briefly considered a career as a Taxonomist, although the dictionary definition didn’t sound as much fun.

The MSN Careers site seems to offer much but needs more investigation.

When one job required me to be a member of the ISTC I had to check the entry qualifications. It appears that it only requires £50 to be a Professional Communicator. I sending fifties quid soon.

And of course I wondered which other professional bodies would be proud to be associated with me for a nominal fee. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals will have me for £28, the Institute of Professional Sales will consider my experience for £45 or the Royal Geographical Society will accept me for £30.

We finally have Scribbling Rivalry Press up and running. Go there now and buy a copy of Hobnobbing.

Friday, January 17, 2003
As my eBay empire expands to nearly one sale a week(!), I found myself trudging to the local post office to send off another book to another lucky customer. On my return I was faced with that classic dilemma – to walk or to help?

On spotting across the road, a man laid on the ground and a woman talking on her mobile, I thought I would at least offer assistance rather than ignore them and go home. It’s not as though I had anything to be doing.

She had seen the man have a fit and fall to the ground and had called the ambulance. All we could do was keep an eye on him, in case he had another seizure.

You will of course recognise this, as I did, as a great networking opportunity! I’d soon managed to turn the conversation around to my being unemployed and where did she work? A housing association. I had to tell her about my application for a job with Network Housing Association. She’d heard of them. Did she know about the Context system? Yes she did. Great. Could she get me some information about it to prepare me for a possible interview? Yes, she’d text me the company name. I gave her my number and said cheerio. About an hour later the text arrived and I found a wealth of information on their web site. Success. Just hope I get an interview now.

What can we learn from all this?
1)The London Ambulance provide an excellent service (they were there within 10 minutes).
2)You never know who you’re going to meet or where, every conversation could lead on to something useful for your jobhunt.
The conflicting advice must be “ensure that the airway is clear” and “never look a gifthorse in the mouth”.

Thursday, January 16, 2003
And then my prayers were answered! Success! It was as easy as opening a envelope.

The letter began “I was amazed when I saw how much money ca me flooding through my letterbox….” It continued “I turned £87 into £43,540 within the first 60 days of operating this business plan. If you decide to take action on the following instructions, I will personally GUARANTEE that you will enjoy a similar return!”

That guarantee comes from the author, David Rhodes of Norfolk. His life was transformed when he was made redundant in 1987 and transformed again when he followed this ‘plan’. Call me cynical, but when David fails to leave any contact details his guarantee seems somewhat…redundant.

For those that don’t know, this chain letter scheme would have me send £10 to each of the six named people in the letter. I would also send a copy of the letter I received to 200(!) other people who would in turn each send me £10. And so it blossoms as the letter circulates and the money constantly pours in through my letterbox.

I could only help wonder about the six people listed on my letter who are involved in this scheme. Are they rich? Are they stupid? Do they have 4096 tenners in shoe box under their bed? Are they sixty quid lighter than they were before they received this chain letter?

If you’re one of the six people and you’d like to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
A Morton, 42 Heather Road, Brakenwood, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 2PD
G Curzon, 81 Trueway Drive, South Shephed, LE12 9DY
S A Worden, 51 Holmesdale Road, London N6
J Edwards, 6 Jobs Lane, Tile Hill, Coventry CV4 9EE
J Barrand, 78 Hammond Way, Market Harborough LE16 9DY
A Arrowsmith, 111 Rosslyn Ave, Coundon, Coventry CV6 1GL.

Are you the same Mr Curzon that taught me GCSE Maths? And I’d particularly like to know why A Arrowsmith decided I was lucky enough to receive this chain letter?

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Halfway through January already! And still no job. Damn the economy!

Today is my first trip to the job centre of 2003, and it may be one of many. £53.95 isn’t a lot of money. £215.80 a month isn’t a lot of money. But you’d still be stupid to refuse it. And stupid is how I feel writing in my job log book that I’ve managed to make the required two job applications a week. So far this week, I’ve applied for 12.

The open plan job centre makes way for a sea of people collecting money. Once I’ve taken my ticket from the deli-counter style machine. It’s only a 45 minute wait by which time I’ve missed my half hour attendance slot through no fault of my own. Not that it really matters apparently. The person I hand my log book to (probably called an Unemployment Executive) doesn’t even bother to read it. I could have written my jobseeking skills as drinking tea and watching bid-up tv and she wouldn’t have known. I can now look forward to getting my money into my account. None of this old fashioned collecting the giro from the post office.

I feel reassured that the Jobseeker Direct scheme finds jobs for 2500 people a week. With the current unemployment rates at 928,300, I should be employed within 371 weeks or just over 7 years! All the more shocking when unemployent is at a 27 year low. How lucky I am to be made redundant at this easy time!

Monday, January 13, 2003

It never rains but it pours. When you’re redundant and are ‘lucky’ enough to own a car it seems that the downpour is torrential. OK, it’s only been a new battery, a new clutch cylinder and now a new tyre, in the three months since being made redundant. It all adds up when you’re trying to limit yourself to the expense of one daily travelcard a week, especially when they’ve gone up ten pence!

The cost of all these car parts will however be covered by the cheque shortly to arrive from WAGN for the refund of my season ticket. As anyone who has travelled with WAGN will know, the word ‘Delayed’ seems to be part of their Customer Charter. I’ve calculated that in six years of taking my short commute into Liverpool Street, I’ve spent more time on the platform than I have on the train!

It was enough hard work trying to obtain the Refund Application Form in the first place. After a paperchase involving two forms and three stations I was assured that my refund was being processed. It was some six weeks later before they assured me that my refund was definitely lost! I have been re-assured that someone is looking into my claim, although they’re not sure who. When I check the morning post, I am disappointed by WAGN on a daily basis, but at least it happens within the comfort of my home and not an a windswept suburban platform.

After making a couple of follow up phone calls to agencies to find people ‘on the other line’ or ‘at lunch’ I quickly lose my patience with agencies and return to old fashioned job hunting methods.

It’s been some time since I’ve filled in an application form and it was with some regret that I did. I thought I had progressed to the big grown up world of CV’s and covering letters, proving myself to be employable by communicating in my own style. Not so with an application form. I felt like I was sixteen years old again and applying for my first job. It was everything I could do to not list Scouts as a hobby.

Once the form was complete it was time for some pro-active job hunting. As part of building up the Top 100 companies list I would visit corporate sites and check under their Jobs/Careers section. It’s surprising how many companies advertise this way (although whether they advertise elsewhere too I don’t know.)

After site number ten, I’ve seen, again, lots of unsuitable vacancies. I’ve also built up a list of site to check back on in the future!

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The job hunt really began today! I can’t remember how I came across JobStats but it’s a great site which gives you a snapshot of the current state of the IT job market showing the demand for each skill. It shows (unfortunately) the steady decline for IT vacancies over the last 12 months. Not the most inspiring news, but sometimes it’s better to know the truth!

JobStats then links to Jobserve to display the vacancies for your chosen skill. Very soon I had built a list of 10 jobs that looked suitable using Crystal Reports and Winrunner as criteria. Unsurprisingly, the remainder of the day was spent writing covering letters to highlight my skills as in their advert. I’ve not had much advice in the way of writing covering letters. Perhaps I should hunt some out. I’ve taken plenty of advice about my CV’s and am quite happy with them.

By the end of the day I had one agency call me for more details and they are putting my CV forward to their client. I should hear something by next week. A good start to the New Year!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

It seems that I am only suitable for three of the five shortlisted jobs from yesterday. Don’t know what I was thinking of…

For the other three it’s just a case of rewording the advert so that it looks like a covering letter. It’s important that the letter has the main points of the advert so the job agency can quickly read it and see that I am a suitable candidate. It’s then important that key phrases from the advert are included in my CV as the covering letter will never get as far as the client who would like to interview me, if only she knew it!

Without biting the hand that might possibly feed me. Some of the agencies are not the brightest bunnies in the employed world. If they cannot see the same phrases in your CV as they placed in the advert, you are no longer a candidate. Your database programming skills will be overlooked if they require RDBMS knowledge. As will your team leading if they are looking for mentoring. These people are not all knowing experts in their field. The majority of the time, they are people like me and you who just ended up in a job by accident, perhaps even because they were made redundant.

A case in point this morning as I began to apply for the second job on the shortlist when I realised that the job advert was very similar, hang on a minute, identical to the first one. Both technical author roles. Both listed by different agencies. One based in Cambridge. One based in London. The chances of two different jobs having identical requirements in slim. The chances of a Recruitment Executive still feeling lazy after the new year celebrations is more likely. Perhaps my CV will strike a chord and I’ll be given the chance to enquire further over the next couple of days.

Killing time and money on Amazon I accidentally came across the jobs section. With a total of 15 jobs listed at their head office in Slough, they certainly warrant being included on my Top 100 list. In fact, at the moment, they are the only entry. There was only one position of interest to me, but more of that tomorrow.

I managed to fire new year emails off to about 7 people this afternoon. I’m still in touch with some of the people I used to work with before being made redundant – some of them also redundant and some still employed. Ensuring that I remain in contact with as many people as possible is important as being at home robs you of workplace chatter and office gossip. Also, at the back of my mind is the statistic that 30% of jobs are found through word of mouth. A very scary statistic when you have a small group of friends who work in your field.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003
The job hunt begins in earnest by avoiding looking for work in the hope that I could pounce on it this afternoon.

Spent time tweaking a graphic and looking at the admin functions of CFM who are hosting Scribbling Rivalry Press.

Looking at Blogger.com as somewhere to host this journal. It looks as though I also need to find somewhere to host the site if I want to do more than host a simple blog. Although I could be wrong, that will become apparent over the next couple of days.

The peddlers in Laos seem to be working hard enough to keep the Jhai Foundation web site up. A great idea started by a veteran's conscience putting into place a huge community project of which the Remote IT initiative is only a part. They readily accept donations via PayPal - it's so easy it's rude not to! If you would like more information before donating, please read this article at Digital Dividend.

However, another weblog site that I was keen to have another look at, took it's turn to be offline. Has Graham Dell taken to a pedal powered server too?

As the job hunt finally began I was ready to pounce on all those choice vacancies still sleeping from the season's festivities. And there were a surprisingly high number of them. From a couple of hours trawling, there is a shortlist of 5 waiting for me to do something with them tomorrow (I know I should have done them today but things just snowballed! - I spent too long looking for more vacancies and there were none!)

Having spent time looking at public sector jobs on the advice of a CEO withing IT that only these organisations are recruiting (an overstated comment but there is enough truth contained within), I came across NetAid. The site pairs off small organisations that need assistance with IT projects and individuals with the necessary skills and time. While I'm not sure that it's right for me at the moment, I'll bear it in mind if my ability to remain unemployed continues and I get itchy fingers. Until then, the job hunt must get more of my attention which is why this must end so abruptly.

Monday, January 06, 2003
Not so much a new years resolution as a process to extract some substance from the whole redundancy experience. This journal will be used to track the progress of my job hunt and the myriad other activities which will be taking me closer to employment.

What has triggered this journal? The new year signals the 3 month mark of my redundancy. According to prior calculations this means that I will run out of money in another 3 months. I am half way to the panic point!

The job hunt strategy will continue to focus on cwjobs.co.uk where the majority of IT jobs appear. The search will expand to my list of Top 100 companies. (This list still needs to be compiled!) If after a couple of months, I have not found gainful employment in one of my chosen fields as a business analyst, test analyst , crystal reports writer or technical author, I will be applying for any and all suitable positions.

In order to ensure my employability I will be working on a number of sideline projects including my own website (maybe), an eBay store (likely) to generate a bit of extra income, gaining further certifications from Brainbench (definitely) and writing a book to help others cope with the redundancy process.

My first task this morning was to prepare graphics and PayPal links for the Scribbling Rivalry Press website. The company is run by my ex-MD who is self-publishing a poetry collection entitled Hobnobbing. The first batch have been collected from the printers today and he is keen to have them selling like the proverbial from his site.

Whilst taking a break I found myself checking out old favourites Slashdot, The Register and NTK. Whilst on NTK reading about a project to provide a bicycle powered network to neighbouring villages in Laos. Intrigued and willing to donate some money in a fit of new year (yet unemployed) generosity I tried to access the site. It seems that the villagers were not peddling hard enough to keep the site running!

From NTK I drifted onto Danny O'Brien's site Oblomovka (the meaning of which I am sure will become clear on subsequent visits). Danny is one of those industry figures who always has his finger on the pulse and a wry comment to accompany him. A site that I'll be checking back on regularly when trying to construct my own web log site.

AmIMoreEmployableTodayThanIWasYesterday? No.