Re-enacting the past

For shitz and gigglz I took Zoe to the Great Central Railway near Loughborough. It was a special day there as they were holding a Second World War day where each of the four stations were “zoned” into different “fronts” of the Second World War. It was a very enjoyable day out, with people dressed in period costumes, stalls selling period things, period food and drink and music from the era.

While walking round I was struck by the thought of how iconic that period was. It was a time of strife, knuckling down and patriotism. It was a time that many people today lived through themselves. Unlike the likes of say Civil War re-enactment this period was still in living memory.

And that got me thinking. What will people re-enact in the future? What iconic periods have we lived through in recent years? Will they re-enact say, the 1980s? The 1970s? Or even the noughties? What would they do?

Well, now you can join in on my special 1980s re-enactment.

80s

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.