Job, schmob – I need a career…

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? …


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 | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hmmm…I think you should copyright that idea for the phones, I suspect it might take off among mid range “younger” companies who don’t take themselves too seriously… 🙂

    I know what you mean about the application forms, employers do seem to pick up on the casual-couldn’t-give-a-toss approach, maybe they confuse it with confidence? 😉


    Comment by Phill Evans | November 15, 2009 | Reply

    • Hi Phill. Do you have any ideas on how I can copyright that idea – as it’s not an actual product? I have others, too! Great artwork on your blog, by the way… 🙂

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | November 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. Nice idea!

    Surprised about the application form though. The only jobs I ever got were when I had the job description in one hand, the person spec in another, the application in my third hand (well you get the drift), and I associated myself with the person spec and job description to every nook and conceivable cranny. Whenever I wrote “I want to be creative with you” or something similar, that would be the end of that particular journey.

    In fact I’m still waiting for a response from the GLC for a job application in 1984. I’ll give it a couple more years before I ring them.

    Comment by Chris | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. Bad luck with the application form. But I’m told they usually screen these things by computer at the first stage, looking for particular words and phrases. The computer doesn’t care for your mastery of expression, only the number of times you mentioned “team” “committed” (spelt write, obviously) “passionate” etc etc. Buzzwords depend on the organization. Frankly, I have no idea how anyone ever gets a job anywhere.
    See you in a couple of days – first time in nearly 20 years!

    Comment by Philip Roscoe | November 19, 2009 | Reply

    • Is that true about the computer screening? How ridiculous, if so! Mind you, I do tend to pepper my applications with words like “passionate” and “tight deadlines” and “team player”, so clearly there’s something else I’m doing wrong. Or maybe not. Maybe just getting an interview out of 800 applicants is quite an achievement in itself. My dad’s convinced that my lack of offers is because everybody is a lefty and hates the fact that I went to an allegedly posh school. You and I know different…
      Gosh, nearly 20 years. I’m sure the school choir reunion will be a gas. And under no circumstances will I take a massive pile of CVs to bandy around to all my former classmates who have done considerably better than me professionally… 😉

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great ideas Ashley. Looking forward to reading the next instalment….

    Comment by Anna | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  5. Hi Ashley,

    I’m laughing out loud at your “on hold” suggestions.

    I wouldn’t worry about the BBC business. Years ago I somehow schmoozed my way into working at BBC Breakfast News. Helped by colleagues I applied for the Broadcast News Trainee scheme and got down to the last 8 or so. However, it was pretty clear that there were certain expectations and it certainly helped that I’d been working within the Corporation.

    As for the school you (we) attended, if you say it with the right accent it can be pronounced a little like Birkenhead, and that should get you around that hurdle.

    In terms of finding the right career I agree it’s important. It’s why I left TV and became a teacher. I had plenty of work but something was always missing. For me, teaching was the right combination of stimulation, challenge, plus greater stability. Keep looking and dreaming – the right place for you is waiting out there….

    All the best,


    Comment by Sacha | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hey again. I have enjoyed reading your observations on the search for the perfect job. I actualy find it hard believe you are having misfortune in finding work doing what you love, if you’re putting every effort into the application process of where ever you apply for. I hate to think that there is even a small element of luck involved. I would prefer to make my own luck.

    I kind of know that music too. I too am doing the rounds of a job/career search. Its kind of like a little job in of itself, when you put in the hours to actually do the applications, touching up the resume and cover letters and so on. As for me it definitly won’t be my perfect job, not at first, which is Commircial Art.

    Of course the perfect job as we all know, is hardly like a job at all because chances its because you’re doing something you actually enjoy and gettting paid for it. Is that when it becomes a career, maybe?

    Comment by Rhonda | November 24, 2009 | Reply

    • I think luck most definitely comes into it – as does having the right contacts. How many times have you heard a film director say something like, “my dad was a film producer and I went to the set one day, was offered the role of second assistant director because the guy was off sick, and now I’ve got an Oscar.” I would say that happens a lot more often than you might expect. Well, maybe not the Oscar bit.

      I’ve spoken to countless people, in jobs which I want to do, who are there because they had lucky breaks. Yes, they usually have to have the talent (up to a point) in order to make the most of that opportunity, but not always. I also know dozens of wannabe film composers and pop musicians who are really excellent and really driven but who, in spite of this, still don’t make it. Nobody can tell me that the majority of pop musicians are talented. Some are, most aren’t; they just look right or know someone or are in the right place at the right time. Ergo…luck.

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | November 25, 2009 | Reply

      • I would add “timing” to this critical list. Whether you think it was deserved or not, I happened to be freelancing at the Indie around the time it launched the Property section, around 2002. I’d been doing a fair bit of work for the inaugural editor, and got on well. Cue property boom. Cue regular work. Cue permanent job and work permit. There was so much subbing work around then that the others who applied internally didn’t want to do the property stuff (it was half property, half Saturday magazine), so i got the job. i would definitely not be sitting here in cambridge, eight years later, if it hadn’t been for the evils of property journalism… Which makes it a particularly painful time to be looking for copy editing work. (i’m in an NHS comms job now BTW) Did you know that of our features team at the indie, only sarah is left (and i think she’s doing night shifts). everyone else got made redundant – so that’s a big fat swathe of super experienced journos you might be competing with. Depressing but true, I reckon the specialist editing is deffo the way to go.

        Comment by Chris Rush | February 17, 2010

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