I COULDN'T CAREer LESS

Job, schmob – I need a career…

POST #7: Oh, the irony…

Given my last post, which was pretty much a comprehensive slating of how utterly rubbish most recruitment websites are, you would think that I might not be at the top of the Christmas card lists of the people who run them. I dare say they may not even like me very much and would have various interesting ideas about where I can stick my whingy, cutting and slightly self-satisfied comments. I certainly didn’t expect one of them to offer me a job.

But so they did.

Creativepool.co.uk is now 60,000 members strong and is one of the most successful creative agencies in the UK. Google  “creative jobs” and they’re at the top of the list – one up from the Guardian which languishes in second place. That’s pretty damn good considering their entire office is barely bigger than my lounge, albeit a lot funkier. And what do they want me to do? Well, first off, they want me to blog as one of a team of five bloggers. Which is handy, actually, because (and you may not be aware of this revelation) I do that already. Not only that, but I can be as edgy, controversial and generally rude as I like – just as long as I stick to the brief. I’m the Jeremy Clarkson of blogs! The David Mitchell of, er…more blogs! The brief, by the way, is to give “the creatives” out there the low-down on what’s new on the creative landscape. So that’s anything from design, innovation, fashion, digital media, social media, architecture, broadcasting… So if you have any ideas about what I can blog about, covering those subjects, leave me a comment and I’ll gladly take your suggestion and see what I can do with it.

Oh, and there’s more good news. I’m not quite sure how it happened (and I intend to find out) but my blog has reached Hawaii. Yes, HAWAII. And boy, does that make me excited! For me, every time I say Hawaii, I get a flashback of Jack Lord turning round rather snazzily in a “aren’t I handsome?” way, followed by a vision of a belly dancer, a very low-flying jet, and a canoe full of men paddling rather furiously. But to this day, I’ve never heard of anyone else called Danno, which I find rather surprising, given the number of Britneys and Neos there are, apparently. And what a great name for a footie ref: “Book him, Danno!” An opportunity missed, I feel. Though if he ever got as far as the addendum, “murder one”, I would suggest that the match be postponed. Or at least extra time added on.

So anyway, my first blog, which is a pithy celebration of the iPhone, is due out pretty soon. I’ll let you know when. I must admit, I’m eager to know what will happen once my work lands in the inbox of 60,000 people. Crank calls? Hate mail? Same old, same old…

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

POST #6: Monstrous-waste-of-time.com

Is it just me, or do other people find most recruitment websites useless? Well, maybe useless is the wrong word. Hit and miss, certainly. It’s hard to find a good one and I’m yet to hear of anyone who’s actually snared their dream job by using one.

In case you’re not familiar with the process, you sign up to a website, upload your CV, spending hours trawling through the various screens to fill in details about your profile and experience with the aim of receiving carefully selected email alerts with zillions of relevant jobs to apply for.

That’s the theory.

In reality, I have to say that these job-schmob.co.uk websites are pretty useless.

My profile is fairly self-explanatory: I am looking for copywriter and editor roles, I’ve got 12 years’ experience as a writer, editor and proofreader and have worked in broadcasting and media, customer relations, corporate communications and journalism – and I’m prepared to sell these well-honed skills within the rather modest “at least 30k” bracket. I’m worth a lot more than that, I would argue, but that’s for another blog post.

And yet, after going to such pains to make sure my profile was as perfect as I could make it, the other day inaccurate-job-opps.co.uk sent me a job alert suggesting that I apply to be a tree surgeon.

Not that the idea doesn’t appeal to me, in fact, on some level. I quite fancy wandering around Hampstead Heath or Regent’s Park all day in my jeans, racing green “Royal Parks” sweatshirt and hiking boots. Maybe they’d even let me loose on those buggies they drive around in occasionally. Given that I frequently spend nine hours a day in a converted factory in a 10×10 “pod”, in a pseudo-altruistic role as a subtitler (providing the subtitles on TV for the hard of hearing, primarily) which essentially makes me little more than a touch-typing battery chicken, the thought of being “free range” out in the open air is very appealing. But that hardly fits my profile on sell-your-soul.co.uk, does it?

Even when I do receive job alerts from incompetence-rules.co.uk which manage to fit some of my skills, my heart just sinks when I look at the wording in the adverts. At the risk of repeating what I wrote in blog post no.2, “I Should Of Got My Spelling Write”, what right does an employer have to expect “excellent written and spoken English” when they then manage to refer to “adition” and “borchures” in the very same sentence? Oh, and I needn’t apply if I’m not “pracitced in writing effective press releases”.

But this isn’t my only bugbear when it comes to job sites of the workforpeanuts.co.uk ilk. Not long ago, I went to a recruitment fair. Don’t those two words fill you with bile-inducing dread? They’ve managed to take the exciting word “fair” which, to me, conjures up ghost trains and waltzers and candy floss and then turned it into some sort of disturbing Kubrick-esque nightmare. Anyway, I went along, suited and booted, with a stack of carefully pressed CVs, a warm handshake at the ready and my opening patter…down pat.

What a load of toss.

Many of the recruiters there were simply taking CVs and putting them in a pile on the desk behind them and handing out business cards. I didn’t see any actual recruiting going on. Welcome to the recession, I suppose, but come on, people, make an effort! Aren’t you supposed to sell your company to us willing-and-ables too?

You will have noticed that I have avoided naming real job sites thus far. I don’t mind naming this company which made a particularly bad impression on me at the recruitment fair: Hilton Hotels. The guy on the desk was audibly slagging off candidates to his colleague in what he obviously thought was a whisper, but wasn’t. And when I approached him and stumbled on “c-c-c-communications” (stammer) he openly smirked and said “YOU’RE in communications?” When I left, flushed but composed, I turned back to see the same conspiratorial nod to his colleague aimed at me.

No word of a lie. This cretin was chosen to face potential new recruits. Staggering. Yes, I did write to the Head of Communications at Hilton Hotels in the UK. No reply.

Personal bad experience aside, the presentations at the recruitment fair by the staff of monstrous-waste-of-time.com were, at best, shit. You would think that someone of my extensive vocabulary could think of a better adjective than this, but in fact, this was a careful choice. It was shit. In almost every way. The recruitment “expert” from monstrous-waste-of-time.com held a microphone a foot away from his mouth so that he was inaudible (yes, someone did shout out that they couldn’t hear him) and then proceeded to stand in front of the Powerpoint presentation which he had prepared on an overhead projector. He was vague, uninspiring, inarticulate and patronising. So describing his presentation as shit is arguably, in fact, being generous.

Really, all of my freelance work as a writer has been gained via word of mouth, which is a far better way of doing things. Yes, you need to be proficient at networking and being nice to people (and obviously have the skills to back it up) but the strike rate is pretty good, in my experience. So I think I may withdraw my profile from the various recruitment-hell.co.uk websites. Actually, maybe I won’t. I quite fancy seeing what other little gems they suggest for me and my skills. It’s a good outlet for what you may perceive as my anger, for a start! Just browsing now… Damn, I see the vacancy of chairman of ITV has just been filled.

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

POST #5: Call the police! (Actually, don’t.)

It’s a big decision. It could make me look bad. Do I tell you about it? Do I risk public humiliation? Do I undermine everything I said in my “I should of got my spelling write” post? To hell with it, why not.

I’ve done something bad.

Very…bad.

In the midst of a spectacularly boring day at work (I was subtitling an episode of Jeremy Kyle called something like, “Are you the father of my sister’s baby?” and Kyle was being even more self-righteous than usual) I applied slightly halfheartedly for a job I didn’t especially want. It was a copywriting role, admittedly, which is one of the things I want to do (hooray) but it was underpaid and not in a sector I’m interested in. It was one of those “apply for the hell of it” jobs, to stop me crawling up the walls. So what’s so bad about that? Well, let’s take my first sentence, shall we?

“I wish to apply for the position of Copwriter which I saw advertised on…”

Copwriter.

Now, much as I do have desires to write a rollicking good thriller when I retire, I’m not sure that an insurance company in Colchester is going to be very interested in that. I did spot my error immediately after I hit send and emailed them to correct myself, but by then the damage had inevitably been done.

So what’s my lesson? Well, there are two: take my own obvious but useful advice and check my spelling before I hit send and, importantly, only apply for jobs I give a monkey’s about. Lesson learnt.

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

POST #4: U r not the 1 we r looking 4

Call me an old traditionalist, but I do tend to think that texting someone to say they haven’t got the job and leaving it at that isn’t really the done thing. It’s akin to splitting up with someone by text; both show a lack of consideration and respect, and both can – and will – change your life.

It turns out that my A-Team on-hold script ideas weren’t enough to get me through to the second round of interviews for that job. Not that I had the opportunity to relate them, however, but I did make a good go of the exercises I was given. “Very strong” was the comment. I guess that’s something.

I’ve chased up the interviewer by email twice now. Nothing. I’m one of those people who likes to have closure, I’m afraid, so I’m still toying with the idea of pestering this person often enough that it just gets embarrassing. Not rudely – just enough to make a point that, if I am going to spend hours and hours preparing for an interview, the least I expect back is a bit of courtesy. I don’t think a few sentences which can be banged out in about one minute is too much to expect.

Say what you like about the BBC (some people are fans, some aren’t; I’m in the former category) but my recent experience of their feedback process was amazing. I went for an interview for a Content Producer role a few months ago. After being unsuccessful, the main interviewer gave me an hour and a half of his time (ie, double the length of the original interview) to go through every single answer I gave, telling me what I did well and where I could have done better. That’s perfect. I can learn from that and put the advice to good use. In fact, we got on so well that he gave me some other contacts to approach. Admittedly, none of those contacts had anything concrete for me either, but that’s down to circumstances and, dare I say, the economic climate, more than anything else. Contrast that to the text message I’ve just got; what a difference!

Regarding this latest interview, I did wonder when I first arrived whether I was a bit too mainstream for what was clearly a funky agency. I had toned down the suited interview look to “nice shirt, nice trousers, nice shoes” but given that my interviewer was wearing Converse All-Stars, I wonder whether she took one look at me and thought, “no, doesn’t fit the brand. Too clean.”

Again, call me an old traditionalist, but am I wrong to look like I’ve made an effort with my interview attire? Surely not. But then I’m usually better dressed than my interviewers and I’ve had a total of, er…one very successful interview (ie, the job I’m currently trying to leave). So maybe I need to be more hip and happening. I appreciate that it’s very much dependent on what sort of job one is going for. A city banker is hardly going to turn up in jeans any more than a fitness trainer is going to turn up in a suit. But what is the ideal middle ground which I seem to be getting wrong? Are jeans actually acceptable these days? Maybe for a funky creative agency, that’s exactly what I should have worn. Ah, but then, which brand? Paul Smith over Levi’s, I would guess.

Luckily, I have both.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

POST #3: Press 1 to speak to someone earning less than you…

So, do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the bad. End on a high and all that…

I didn’t get accepted for the BBC’s Journalism Training Scheme. Nope, they just didn’t want me. No explanation, but I guess they must get thousands of applicants per year and they can’t analyse every single application…I suppose…

I am, nonetheless, a bit disappointed. I did feel that I’d nailed that “mother” of an application form. It’s funny – with both the jobs I’ve successfully got in the past I’ve almost half-heartedly sent off my CV with a cursory covering letter (because I was just plain worn out by all the other massive application forms) and it’s those that proved to be successful. But surely that can’t be the way forward, can it? Surely employers want me to go through the job spec and say, “I can do that, I can do that, I can do that”. Tick, tick, tick. No?

But anyway, I’ve got a good strategy for this next interview. It’s an interesting role as a “creative and copywriter” in quite a niche market. Essentially, this company provides corporate branded scripts. Scripts for adverts, “on hold” telephone messages and brand-savvy corporate literature. I know I’m going to be tested when I get there, so my guess is it’s going to be something to do with writing a short script. Like most people, I tend to find being on hold rather boring. All that “I’m sorry, but all our operators are busy at the moment. Please continue to hold and we’ll deal with your enquiry as soon as an operator becomes available.” Blurgh! I’ve always thought that if these messages make you laugh, you’re more likely to hold. Agree? The same goes for those automated messages: “Press 1 to check your balance, press 2 for details of your latest payments…” Yawn!  It would depend on the brand, of course. No point in Natwest saying, “Press 1 if you wanna get da low-down on your cashish situation, bro” or “to chat with a brother, slip me some skin on button number 2″. That wouldn’t work, obviously.

That said, say you were phoning up, I don’t know, an insurance company. They’re notoriously bad for keeping people on hold and giving you a billion options. But if that genuinely is necessary, wouldn’t you rather hear something like this? …

RANDOM INSURANCE COMPANY:

Hi, thanks for calling Random Insurance Company. Grab a pen, cos it’ll be helpful to have one once you’ve chosen from the list of following options. But don’t hang up if you don’t happen to have one to hand – you’ll manage.

Press 1 to do such-and-such. Press 2 to do this-and-that. Press 3 to speak to someone rather than listen to any more options.

..Great, thanks for choosing that option. Feel good about it? You should – it was a great choice. Here’s where the pen comes in. Clench it between your teeth, smile broadly and say, “I love it when a plan comes together” like Hannibal from the A-Team. And if you don’t have a pen, turn to the person nearest to you, or find your reflection somewhere, and say “I pity the foo’ who ain’t got no pen!” like Mr T. If you’ve never watched the A-Team, go watch it. Now, let’s get on with it…

Wouldn’t you rather be kept on hold listening to that sort of thing than Greensleeves or Simply The Best? I would. Well, I guess we’ll see how I get on after the test, won’t we?!

PS: You may have spotted that here was no good news. Sorry for building up your hopes – but that’s kinda how I feel after submitting what I consider to be a killer job application. Welcome to my world.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

POST #2: I Should Of Got My Spelling Write

Well, it’s in: my application for the BBC’s Journalism Trainee Scheme.

Trainee. Hm. I need training. Well, retraining, certainly. There’s something about the word “trainee” that makes me think of apprentices on one of the government’s Yoof Training Schemes, for some reason. I’m no snob, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. That label.

Actually, that’s rubbish. I think maybe I am a bit of an intellectual snob. I do constantly look at people and wonder how the heck they keep their jobs, let alone get them in the first place. Not just anybody, you understand. I mean people who have better jobs than me. For instance, I recently applied to one of the country’s (in fact, world’s) leading academic institutions for a communications role. I won’t name them in case it comes back to bite me on the bottom when I eventually win the Booker Prize. But anyway, the first sentence, from the head of that department, read: “May thanks for your email.” That’s right. “May“. Given that much of the job would have involved proofreading for this person (or at least, this department) I kinda think that he should have practised what he inevitably would have preached and proofread his own emails before sending them out. In a two-sentence email, there were three mistakes. Nothing as forehead-slapping as “should of” or something equally toe-curling, but honestly, sir, if I’m going to spend time asking you for a job, at least have the grace to make just a little bit of an effort when you tell me to sod off.

Applications, as many of you will know (unless you’re lucky enough to be in your dream job already, or ambitionless enough not to care that you aren’t) can be very tiresome and very long. The one for the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme, for example, requires one to write four mini-essays. That’s quite a lot, I thought, as I got down to business. Not only that, but you have to constantly use the lingo of the day which, in my experience, mainly refers to being “passionate” all the time. Passionate about editing. Passionate about new technology. Passionate about being passionate… How anyone can be passionate about auditing or chartered accountancy is beyond me, to be honest. Whilst I like working with words, I hold up my hands and say that I’m actually a lot more passionate about being happy, healthy, enjoying life with my wife, Formula 1, the odd glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and chocolate.

But rules is rules and I’ve just made pretty damn sure that I’ve come across as passionate in all four of my application essays. And they’d better bloody believe it; I spent hours on that mother…

October 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

POST #1: A lovely fresh croissant

A lovely fresh croissant – that’s really all I’m missing. Not in general; I mean at this specific moment in time. My location is a bit surreal. I’m actually in Bishop’s Stortford Public Library with my laptop, creating a blog whilst sipping a ‘venti cafe latte’. But I regret not buying a lovely fresh croissant to go with it. What on earth am I doing here at 9am on a Saturday morning? Well, you see, it’s like this…

Marjana, my wife, is a teacher. A very good one, as it happens – though I would say that – here in Bishop’s Stortford. Not having learned to drive yet (we’re working on it) I’m being a good little husband and driving her to school on Saturday mornings from our home in Northwest London. Yes, it’s one of those six-day week schools. I went to one myself and, strangely, I’m not as resentful about it as one might think. So anyway, while Marjana is musically shaping the minds of the future until midday, I’m sitting here in the library – croissant-less but caffeined up after our 7:15am start – filling my time with iPhone apps…and job apps.

You see, my wife has a career. She trained for it through university and beyond, and is doing exactly what she trained for. I, on the other hand, am careerless. That’s not to say jobless, of course. Oh, I have one of those – always have had. The trouble is, it’s been the same job now for over nine years…and it’s a job, not a career. In my book, a career is something you want to do day in, day out (assuming you haven’t won the lottery or are independently wealthy by some other means) and not somewhere where you go during the week and think “how did it come to this?” almost every day.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. When I first got the job as a television subtitler back in 2000, I was very excited about it. I was using my editing background, I was in the fast-moving broadcast industry, plus I was doing something vaguely altruistic (or at least helpful) for the deaf community. But now, somehow, over time, when I am subtitling what I can only refer to as the arse of programming with toxic eye-garbage like Jeremy Kyle polluting our living rooms on a daily basis (rather than something cultural and enlightening like the South Bank Show, which I did in my first week at work) my enthusiasm has waned somewhat. I honestly think I’m better than this. Not just me – most of my colleagues are too.

I don’t presume to know that they’re all as unhappy as I am at work. In fact, I’m sure a lot of them aren’t. But it’s also a highly creative office where we have a number of published authors and various other intellectuals and experts, all doing what they really want to do on the side while the subtitling job pays the bills. And I’m in that category too.

So what am I doing about it? Well, I’m applying for lots of jobs (sorry, careers) while freelancing as a copywriter, editor and proofreader. But what do I really want to do? What do I want my career to be? I’m good with words, I know that much. (Go on, find a typo in here, I dair you.) So it seems logical that I should do something related to that for a living. That is, of course, assuming that my musical career is doomed to failure. More on that later.

For now, though, I will sit back and admire my first post on my shiny new blog, safe in the knowledge that I couldn’t career less.

October 17, 2009 Posted by | The big opener | , , , , , | 10 Comments

   

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