In February, with tensions high in the sales office (heightened by a distinct lack of sales calls, the removal of temps, a visible drop in sales attributed to Brexit, the falling pound and poor high street sales), I was called to a meeting to be told that my and five other employee’s role was at risk of redundancy.
Now, I’ve been made redundant four times previously so, as you get more experienced, you start to notice the signs; Whispered meetings, lack of work, telling glances between senior managers whenever future plans are discussed. So it was no surprise that Az (my manager) laid out the company’s situation and plans in front of me. A month later, after playing all the silly redundancy games where they offer you a role clearly not suitable for you, meetings to discuss what you do and the passing over of duties to others, I was put on garden leave with a fairly nice redundancy package.
This was fine until a few days into my break from work, it became frighteningly clear that globally, something more worrying was brewing. Covid 19.
I’m now on the fourth week of my non-work period. I’m bored, feeling isolated and unwanted while still trying to stay positive, focussed and constructive. Sadly, with the whole virus thing going down, it seems that the jobs market is already starting to show signs of trouble.
The business man in me says “Why would a company hire an employee now when the likelihood is that that employee could be forced to self-isolate and stay at home?”. Furthermore, why would an employer put themselves and their employees at risk by conducting interviews with complete strangers? (Which, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable: An office full of people already immune to each other’s coughs and sneezes probably doesn’t want an unknown token carrying untold maladies being added to the mix).
I console myself in the fact that those people I left at my former place of work will no doubt face further challenges themselves: further drops in sales, lack of product being shipped from China, inter-office infections and associated absences and had I not been released when I was, I would be undergoing the same concerns I had then now.
But now the big smelly kipper. As long term readers will know, I have suffered from coronary heart disease for nearly 20 years now. I say suffer, that’s the medical term, I feel fitter than a whole Irish pub of fiddles. But by “suffering”, this allows me the grace of a free NHS provided annual flu jab. This, in turn, means that I fall into the “at risk” category which means that I need to engage with “social distancing” and potentially self-isolation.
Practically, I have been in self-isolation for nearly 4 weeks now. Apart from my Monday night Dungeons and Dragons session, the occasional trip to the shops, library and interview, and a trip to Liverpool to see the family, my social contact has been virtually non-existent. Then Mr Johnson says “Don’t go seeing people unnecessarily” which has put the kibosh on Dungeons and Dragons and with fewer interviews coming through I’m already doing a damn fine job of keeping away from the hordes of infected zombies out there. However, next week, it seems Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is on leave so I will have someone else other than myself to drive up the wall at least.
I love BBC Breakfast. Much more now that the awful strumpet Suzanna Reid has moved on to channels I never watch.
Bill Turnbull is like some calming midweek Uncle, regaling the viewers with tales of bad news from around the UK and the rest of the world. Steph McGovern is like a big sister with a sensible job and all the knowledge and advice about what you can do with your pocket money. Carol Kirkwood is like an intoxicated teetotal Auntie that forces you into your raincoat when it’s baking hot sun outside only for the skies to open later on and drown those foolhardy enough to go without.
I think I am much better qualified, experienced and knowledgeable than 98% of the “experts” on the BBC. I know about all manner of topics: Children, fruit, cake, fatty foods, computers, robots, worms, nose picking, pigeons, awful people, legs, BBC Breakfast experts, Children, bacon, little bags of toffee, dirty spoons, children, violence, games, snakes, light bulbs, social media, children, eggs, toy badgers….the list is endless.
Please BBC. Please have me on your show. I can talk about anything you like. I sound just as convincing and as knowledgeable as your usual selection of gobshites. Or maybe you don’t want any more gobshites? Instead, why not employ me to do the job of Charlie Stayt, Naga Muncheti or the other nameless and soulless presenters? I have much more personality.
Or how about if I did your research for you on slow news days? I too can research stories without any sound backing like DONKEYS GIVE YOU CANCER or ALLOWING CHILDREN TO BREATHE EVENTUALLY CAUSES DEATH or BBC BREAKFAST EXPERTS TALK 100% SHITE?
Way back in the noughties I had the misfortune to work in a sixth form college. Regular readers will recall this was in the post industrial landscape that is Yorkshire. Cameron’s recent moral panic calls to mind the overbearing system of “safe guarding” that was in place at the college.
I must provide some back story. The IT manager could quite easily have been diagnosed with Aspergers had he been twenty years younger. He didn’t like change. Not one bit. Dingleberry, as I will refer to him, was one of those people who insisted on particular ways. Deviation from which would bring calamity, disaster and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
For example, one hot sunny day in May he insisted that the units, switches, servers and tape machines in the server cabinet be taken out and arranged in numerical, colour and size order. Why? No reason was given other than aesthetics.
Every piece of software had to be installed with default settings. “Out of the box”. Same with hardware. I dread to think of the security issues that he made with such a work ethic. Indeed, such was the “DO NOT TOUCH” attitude, the Active Directory contained accounts of people that had left the college over 5 years ago. That is the level of finickiness he operated on.
One day a whole class got into trouble for not submitting their history homework on time. The students were required to email their work to the teacher who would then assess the work and send it back. Only the teacher didnt recieve any work.
The teacher was a bit shit to be fair. She, like several other teachers I’ve met over the years, seemed to suffer from paranoia probably brought on by inadequacies, stress and plain stupidity. This particular teacher was convinced that this particular class had a grudge and were out to get her.
Sadly this was not the case.
However what happened was much more convoluted than any of her minor conspiracies.
The class were insistent that work had been emailed from home. The teacher became convinced that the class were telling fibs. Eventually she came to the helpdesk door to see me.
She told me that there was a problem with email.
Not so. I told her, demonstrating how I was able to send emails from an external account to my work account with ease.
The problem morphed into one to do with attachements.
Not so. Again, I demonstrated me sending emails with attachments with no issue whatsoever.
Don’t be stupid. But I’ll investigate further.
I asked the IT Manager if there was any issue with emails.
None that he could see.
I asked the IT Technician if there was any issue with emails.
Only an issue with the space between the chair and the keyboard.
I asked the Server Troll if there was any issue with emails.
No but there was an issue with his latest game of Dungeons and Dragons.
I asked the head of IT.
None that he knew of. However, I should check the newly installed spam filters.
I checked the spam filters. Therein there was over a hundred thousand emails. This was going to take me a long time to investigate.
Turned out that the spam filters contained “Out of the box” keywords. A whole lexicon or rude words, curses, inappropriateness and the like. Included were words such as: Pharmacy, penis, length, cock, schlong, kiddies, nazi, hate, escort, kill, death, murder, hitler, vagina, gash, flange, white power, drugs and much much more.
So you’ll probably now have guessed. The out of the box filtering had picked up that the emails sent to the history teacher with the assignment on the Second World War contained foul language such as hitler, nazi, gas chamber, antisemitism. The very same settings that Dingleberry refused to allow me to change.
So I changed it anyway and released the history homework (Nazi, Hitler etc), the chemistry homework (pharmacy, drugs etc) and the biology homework. I released the personal messages sent from divorce approaching husbands regarding them picking up the “kiddies” in the Escort after work to their end of the line with you wives.
I added a keyword.
I won’t say what.
But let’s just say that Dingleberry no longer received emails. Certain…important emails.
I notice that you are increasing the regularity of the appearance of people who seem to be experts on everything and have opinions on everything which, for some reason, you think reflects society at large.
I would like to offer my services as a gobshite. I too have strong opinions on everything from David Cameron’s underwear to the cost of prawns in the Middle East during the Byzantium Empire. I am an expert on everything and nothing. I have several years experience of spouting utter crap to backup people’s clandestine agendas and I am happy to cast aspersions and morals to the wind without forethought for the wider consequences.
I suppose my first job was as a paper boy for D Browns in Woolton Village. Browns is still there. D Brown, is not.
Browns is a traditional newsagent. It’s still going purely because it is the first shop on the way to the bus stop from a girls secondary school. Indeed, when half past three comes and you’re lucky to get a penny dip or your copy of the Liverpool Echo as the swarm of teenage girls outside prevents access to any but the determined.
The other curious thing about Browns is, they did not sell cigarettes. They didn’t have to. In fact, if they only opened at 8am to 9am and 3.30pm to 4.30pm, the owners of Browns could quite easily carry on trading for many years to come.
When I was a paper boy there, Browns was run by Tommy. Tommy was one of those people who was well known throughout Woolton village. A semi-dignitary.
My round was an evening round. I would hurry home from school as fast as I could, jump on my bike and head into the village. I’d then collect my 39 copies of the Liverpool Echo; count them and head out into the evening to deliver across the village.
First port of call was the Coffee House. A rough drinking hole, so rough, the chairs had bouncers and the windows were so thickly coated in nicotine the local tramps would lick the outside of them to get their fix.
Next would be Dewhursts the butchers (now a charity shop) where the butcher would joke and tease about how he used to keep an eye on me in my pram when my mum was out shopping.
A quick jaunt up to the village club before heading down to the village cinema and then out round the far end of the village estates.
It was quite a mixed bag of housing. From low income pensioners to upper class toffs in big manses complete with security systems and complex access to letter boxes. I maintain to this day that I had the best round of all 8 rounds at Browns. Why?
Well three things really.
1) Christmas tips were amazing (one year I took home over £100 in Christmas tips)
2) There were more conker trees on the route than anywhere else in Woolton
3) The last delivery was my mum and dad.
Three isn’t the limit. Other things that made the round enjoyable include:
– Bags of sweets bought before departure from the shop
– Only 2 dogs
– It was mostly down hill
– Magazines to read (Including Just 17, More and Cosmopolitan: all of which helped me, as a teenager, understand girls slightly better)
– £4.50 a week wage.
£4.50 a week. Not a lot is it? These days most paperboys wont even pick up a newspaper for less than £4.50 an hour. I didn’t care though. The wealth came from the “manly thighs” I have and the exercise I gained.
Since the news of possible redundancy, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career. Where I’ve come from. Where I am going to. The variety of jobs I’ve held down over the years.
I’ve also been thinking about how “music heavy” my blogs are appearing to be at the moment. I mean, I’m only just started on that, and I’ve still got several months of albums to listen to.
Furthermore, I’ve been looking through my old entries and thinking how different my entries are these days comparatively.
So, I thought why not do a few posts about something different. That way I don’t alienate my already existing audience. Therefore, over the next few entries, I thought I would write about my job history. Each and every job. The fun and disparity I had. The people I met.
2013 eh? Already bad luck for Comet, HMV and Jessops. Also Pearson in Practice where I work have decided to call it a day meaning I’ll be out of work in 90 days time. So bad luck for me too eh?
Anyway. In an effort to write away the blues, over on my Livejournal [http://stegzy.livejournal.com] you can find a project where I am intending to listen to every album in my vast mp3 library alphabetically and writing a little bit about the experience.
Over the next few days I will be copying those entries over here. For your entertainment.
When I left compulsory education back in 1992 A levels were hard. I’m sure they are still hard but back in the day, they were hard. If more than 20 people at your school got A grade A level results fingers would have been pointed and investigations into cheating conducted.
At that time we were told about the various career options open to us. Either you stayed on after GCSE and did A levels with a view to getting a job afterwards or moving on to university. Or you left school, did an apprenticeship if you could find one or joined the armed forces. Because I was bright I was told that my future lay beyond university and that I should focus on what I wanted to do.
Difficulty was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. To some extent I still don’t know what I want to do. So it frequently amuses me how it is universally accepted that 16-19 year olds should some how decide what career they want to pursue and make life changing decisions.
I left school with basic job search skills. I had several ideas what I wanted to do, mostly become a customs officer, but the careers department at school wasn’t all that clued up on careers that didn’t involve a pack of Happy Family cards. All well and good if you considered the police, the ambulance service, being a butcher or baker or an estate agent. However, woe betide any pupil set on a non-typical career such as Customs Officer.
It should be remembered that the Internet in those days was basic if not non-existent. There was no vast careers database available to people at home. You would have to attend at careers service offices who would shrug and tell you that there was no work and that you might as well give up and just sign on until something comes along you fancy.
Over the years that followed, so did my career choice. Customs seemed like a nigh impossible career to break into, few vacancy adverts were placed in the local press and by 1995 my appetite for a career in Law had started to develop. With a few months of experience in a law office I was convinced, mostly by the assurances of the adults around me, that getting an entry level job in a legal firm would be a breeze. Home printers were few and far between in those days. So all applications would have to be hand written and all vacancies sourced through either the job centre or through the local press.
Bored of life on the dole and constant rejection letters (yes, in those days companies replied to you even if it was just with a “no thanks”) I attempted to make the move into a career in law by enrolling on the only suitable course I could find in the area. That being an ILEX course based at Southport college, more than 20 miles away from my home.
It ran one day a week. Every Thursday I would travel the distance on the train and return on the last night train to leave Southport. This I did until a month from the end of the course the Job Centre told me that they would not fund the following year and besides that they had an interview for me to attend, failure to attend said interview would result in cessation of benefits.
I attended, got the job and stayed in the post for about three and a half years. Unfortunately, it was not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted a career in Law. “Fear not” I was told “It’ll give you relevant experience”. Desperate to escape the daily humdrum of no hope of promotion and dead end job, I bailed at the first opportunity. Following the advice that it was best to remain in employment than to leave and look again. That was a stupid thing to do.
The next 10 years involved working in ICT. I never wanted to be a computer technician. Fuck, I’ve never met anyone who works in ICT that set out to work in ICT. In those days, jobs in IT were easy to get into because few people had the qualifications or experience. Thing was, every day I spent in ICT meant that I was limiting my future prospects to that of ICT related careers. Recruitment agencies would only offer call centre work. Applications for career changes would go without response. Those that did said “No relevant experience” or “Insufficient qualifications”.
Aware that the job market was flooding with graduates with far less work experience than myself I plunged into a Journalism degree on the advice of a career consultant. I now find myself struggling to compete in a shrunken jobs market despite the assurances of my tutors that my worldly experience should make me more employable than my contemporaries. I am back working in ICT. For less than before.
I guess having a career plan helps. Problem is I am reluctant to fix on one specific career choice. The avenues that lie before me mostly involve further study. Applications to entry level graduate careers receive “No relevant experience” and “inappropriate qualifications”, responses I believe are veiled “You’re too old” replies. And that’s only those firms polite enough to reply.
It’s hard not to think that I’m on some employment blacklist. Even recruitment agencies do not respond. Those that do give the usual “Nothing on our books as yet”. Firing off CV after CV into cyberspace results in nothing. All the time the clock is ticking. Unable to gain relevant experience because I have insufficient experience. I’m 36. I have experience. I can manage a team of administrators and teams of media students. I can type, use HTML, instruct, use computers, communicate via telephone, email and inter-personally. But no. Nobody wants me.
It’s plain to my sight that even when you take into account the lack of jobs out there, there must be something about my CV or work experience, that puts potential employers/HR departments off. Even my companion, who was recently made redundant, gets more recruitment agencies calling than I do. I bet it’s cos I’m ginger.
Regardless, I am conscious of the approaching wave of 2011 graduates. The flood of students with “good” A levels (better grades than me!) up to and including 2015. The lack of industry and opportunity in the UK and the fact that each day I spend in ICT I am making myself more unemployable to my chosen career change.
Answers to comments to this post through LJ may be delayed.
Further to my last entry here I have managed to obtain a short contract of work. Hurrah! You might say. You might even assume that I am pleased. However, I’m not.
Four years ago I moved from Liverpool to Yorkshire. It was a necessary move and it held the prospect of stabilizing my three year old marriage which was facing difficulty. The job I left in Liverpool was well paid. £23k helpdesk technician. A job I wasn’t 100% happy in even though I had held the post since 2001. Prior to that I worked in a poorly paid civil servant post where my ambitions for career development were not being met.
At the time, there were few people with IT qualifications on the jobs market. I embraced the emerging technology with gusto and found I had a seemingly natural ability to grasp the complexities of computer software and hardware and share my knowledge with others. It was easy in those days to get into IT roles. Hence being able to get the well paid helpdesk job.
Of course, not having anything much in the way of IT qualifications at a time when a growing number of people with IT qualifications were emerging onto the jobs market meant that well paid helpdesk jobs were few and far between. Indeed, when the move to Yorkshire became reality the only jobs recruitment agencies offered me were call centre orientated and the only job I could get on my own initiative was a very low paid one in IT at a sixth form college.
By this time I had become disillusioned with my career in IT. It seemed that all I did was wipe the bottoms of better paid people who, it appeared, should really have known better.
I sat in the office one day and contemplated my career. Which direction was I taking? I never really wanted to work in IT. I had just fallen into the career. All the jobs I saw that I could do required a degree and my lack of which seemed to be going against me. Thus, the sensible thing to do, it seemed, was to start again from scratch, get myself a degree in an area I was interested in and try, at the age of 36, to carve a new career for myself.
And so that is what I did. Only the problem was when I graduated this year, the journalism, writing and media world was completely and radically different to the world I was tempted into by poor careers advice and traditional thinking. Competition for graduate employment these days is high regardless of which subject you study. Attempting to break into a new industry as a mature student was never going to be easy and only made even more difficult by an unpredictable recession.
So back to the gist. Why am I unpleased about my new job? Simply put I have fallen back into the career I had so desperately attempted to escape. The shackles of experience heavy around my neck. Even though the position is only for four months and I have only been working there a week I already feel resentment and anger with the job, the world and especially myself for being so desperate for work that I would prostitute myself back into my old industry sector, sullying my CV with even more IT related work instead of riding the storm and attempting to pepper my CV with experience relevant to the industry I want to enter.
I must tell myself that the job is only until either something better comes along , until the contract ends naturally or until depression hits. I must tell myself that I don’t have to put the job on my CV. I must tell myself that I can still do voluntary work to gain relevant experience. I must tell myself that I am not too old, that the employers looking at my application forms, covering letters and CVs are not thinking “We want someone younger” because, as we all know, that is illegal these days. I must tell myself that no matter what, I can convert the distaste for my current employment into energies better used in searching for and applying for jobs that I would prefer. Or maybe I should just stop trying to fool myself, bury myself into my work and accept that I am the exception to the “as you get older your salary increases” rule. Accept dissatisfaction and consider those people who are unable to get work themselves because of various circumstances, personal and external.
Answers to comments to this post through LJ may be delayed.
Excellent at taking the blame for stuff with having over 30 years of experience in being blamed for all manner of misfortunes from the loss of data from floppy disks to the breakdown of marriage.
Have a good golf swing. Never played golf on a proper course but have been shown the correct stance by a colleague.
Can deflect embarrassing answers with the skill and dexterity of a politician while not actually telling a mistruth or being misleading.
Have experience swanning about looking important having been a prefect at school and many years of work experience in the area of walking up and down corridors with a large bunch of keys.
From good family stock. Father has a double barrelled name and I am a member of the Masons. Yes I am!
Skilled at appearing to be busy while actually not having much to do other than attend meetings at gentlemen’s clubs for lunch.
Any chief executive job or position within a company requiring a fall guy for any failings which, of course will naturally turn out to be entirely my own fault. Examples: Oil rig leak, employees mucking about with accounts, leaks of embarrassing financial or political misconduct.
The position will offer excellent remuneration (but I’m willing to take a fraction of what all the other fall guys get paid) and a tasty pension and share options on successful completion of role.
If you are an employer looking for someone like this, please get in touch. I could save your company a great deal of money by undercutting your current fall guys by at least 75%.
Answers to comments to this post through LJ may be delayed.