Filter this: Or how an entire history class ended up on report due to web filters

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.

Obsessive Compulsive Diserver
Obsessive Compulsive Diserver

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.

A desk of help
A desk of help

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.

Aliens.

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.

Out of  darkness
Out of darkness

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.

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Jobs #1

I suppose my first job was as a paper boy for D Browns in Woolton Village. Browns is still there. D Brown, is not.

D Browns, Woolton
D Browns, Woolton
Woolton Village Club
Woolton Village Club

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.

This used to be Dewhursts.
This used to be Dewhursts.
Old peoples flats
Old peoples flats

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.

Oh and the sweets

Woolton Cinema
Woolton Cinema

and the free cinema entry…..

Jobs #0

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.

Stay tuned.

A levels? Arse levels

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A Levels were hard in 1992 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.

Rather be a customs officer than a lumberjack 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.

My career in law began and ended here 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.

Southport College 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.

ICT Hell 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.

Could I be blacklisted? 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.

Or old.

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.

Further machinations of a frustrated job seeker

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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.

 

Pic-urbis-supercity 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.

 

duck 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.

 

images 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.

 

property-graphics-_1070775a 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.

Job hunting

The plan today was to look around the city of Liverpool and pop into a few recruitment agencies. I’m never sure whether this is the right thing to do as most of the time recruitment agencies just say “Email  us your CV” which to me means “Fuck off and don’t bother us with your worklessness”. Smaller scale recruitment organisations tend to be a bit more accommodating in that they’ll sit you down, get you to fill in forms, pass the time of day and get you to do a typing test before telling you that they’ll be in touch as soon as something comes in. Which again is code for Fuck off and don’t bother us with your worklessness”.

At least that’s the impression I get from recruitment agencies. Another impression I get is how that even though if you  have a million years of administrative experience but follow it by 3 years of potato farming, they end up saying “Not enough relevant experience”.  Those last three years are crucial. It’s as if all the stuff you’ve done in the past matter not and that some how your ability to function wanes depending on how long since you last did that thing. If that makes sense.

Conversely, to me at least, it appears that this rule does not apply to call centre work. You could have been a world class surgeon for the past 30 years and maybe earned a bit of pocket money for a couple of months working in a call centre back in the early nineties. However if you put that stint on your CV you are marked for life. All recruitment agencies will offer you is chuffing call centre work.

Anyway, the laws of probability mean that not registering with recruitment agencies is probably a bad idea. After all, the more walls you throw something at, the more likely something will stick.  However, some recruitment agencies will tell you to only register with one to prevent your details being circulated multiple times.

But the impression I get is that recruitment agencies tend to be ultra selective. That could just be my paranoia or it could just be true. I don’t know.

So there I was, trudging round the centre of Liverpool, rain dripping off my face, clothes sodden and hair drenched. But something has happened to Liverpool over the past 5 years. Weird stuff. Stuff like…new shops….retail palaces….bars….boutiques….where once there were offices now stand posh restaurants and stuff….

After failing to locate 5 of the 6 agencies I’d set out to find….I came home. More despondent than when I set out. Guess the old ways of walking in will no longer work if you can’t find the agencies in the first place.

Qualification:Experience Relevance Quotient

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Looking for work is arduous. Filling in application forms time after time after time with the same information, slightly tweaked to promote relevance to post applied for.

jb I must have filled in more application forms during this period of unemployment than I did during the last period back in the nineties. I suppose this is because everything is online now. You fill in forms, click send, then either you get a “Thank you for your application” or you get nothing. Leaving you to wonder if you have actually just spent the past half hour filling in a form with data that has now gone into the ether or to the great spam folder in the sky.

It has been 3 months now and out of over 100 applications filled only one interview and that…well that we’ll just ignore because nobody likes bureaucracy and, as first impressions work for potential employers conversely the same applies for potential employees.

Not being restricted to looking in one geographical area should mean, according to the laws of probability, that as a job seeker I should be getting a 3:1 interview ratio. But no. This is not the case.

wood Being a new graduate? At 36? I can’t help think that this is not the boon that I needed to find further employment but the detriment in that employers look at my CV and think “36? Only just graduated? And in a subject unrelated to their existing career path? Must be some sort of mong”

And so the search continues. My email inbox, once filled with playful notes from colleagues and friends, now replete with job vacancies. A surprising number of which duplicate. Indeed, the duplication often means that you could apply for the same job several times. Something that has happened. Several times.

This week  I shall be in one of the aforementioned geographical locations in an attempt to find work by going out and meeting people. Taking Norman Tebbit’s advice and getting on my bike to look for work. Work that, I am becoming increasingly under the impression that, does not exist.

Job search

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Probably one of the most disheartening things about looking for work is the fact you constantly fill in forms with the same information over and over again.

 

Ever since I’ve found out my results, in fact no, ever since April, I’ve been looking for something work like to do. It’s so hard. Everytime I fill in an application I think “OMG I’ve had such a shit career how the fuck am I to get a job doing this?". Admittedly, if I was an employer, I’d look at my CV and say “This guy?…nah”. Sometimes I think maybe I should become the employer. Other times I think teaching. Maybe even a stint at Tesco or somewhere.

 

Ye gads. It’s so depressing.

 

And the longer I spend not doing something, the more my qualifications seem like a waste of time. People say “Oh but you’ve got so much experience”. This is true. I have. I am experienced in customer services. I am experienced in IT. I am experienced in wiping people’s arse for tupence ha’penny. But those jobs pay shit these days. My needs are greater in line with aspirations and the like.

 

So far I have applied for 20 jobs and not a thing from any of them. I’m starting to think these jobs don’t exist. And no…I haven’t signed on yet. I can’t face signing on.

is to

It seems that careers and job prospects are the theme for May. Not just in my book but in other peoples. Once again I approach the edge of employability and I must decide my method of decent. Do I dive in head first hoping not to hit my head on a submerged rock? Or do I lower myself down gradually on a weak rope? These are the questions I ask myself. And yet I look around me and see others in similar situations. Other people that walk with me on my life path. I ponder the vast oceans of unspent and unchartered talent; the underuse and misguidance many of us face and recieve; the yawning gaps of apathy, diffidence and dispair we must bridge before we can move on; the familiarity we must leave behind if we are to change lanes and overtake lest we be stuck in a perpetual traffic jam.

Several options lie ahead for me.

  • – Keep following this path and see where it takes me.
  • – Double back
  • – Return to the slow lane and hope for someone to let me back into the middle lane
  • – Pull into the services and take a break
  • – Forge onward in the hope that the road conditions gets better and the traffic lulls.

It’s like a trip to a part of the seaside you’ve never been to before. The only images of which you have seen are postcards sent from those who have reached there before you. Will it be as idyllic , peaceful and serene as the pictures would have it? Or will it be garrish, overcrowded and awful akin to Blackpool or Skegness? The only way we can ever find out is to wait until we get there. When we reach our destination do we keep on driving? Or do we stay in a shitty B&B with flys in the lampshade and a peculiar smell coming from behind the wardrobe? Do we hope to find a more tranquil location? Or do we put up with the hordes of day trippers and kiss-me-quick hat wearing retirees in the hope that one day they will move on?

On my path, I intend to find that sleepy little seaside village. The one with the pub and the post office with a little giftshop. The one where few people go except perhaps to pick up a bottle of milk on their way to the caravan park. The one that only the locals and a few hard core surfers know about with the beautiful rolling sandy shoreline and occasional fishing boat. That way, when I get there, I can send you all postcards. Left turn ahead? Or do I turn right?