The Final Count Down


“I think I’ll have to do more painting” I sighed as I stared around the four walls of the dinning room, “great, I can’t wait”.

Admitting there was still more work to complete, when I’m already working to a tight schedule, wasn’t what I needed.

Painting and decorating can be soul destroying, especially because every time I return to the UK I am faced with a million and one D.I.Y chores to complete.

Luckily, I’m quite a dab hand with a paint brush. I’m not sure if that’s because I have inherited my Dad’s genetics or if it’s due to the fact I’m arty and crafty in general. Anyway, this skill has helped me enormously over the last eight years.

As my house is over a hundred years old, there is always something to do, so by now you’d have thought I’d be used to it! Usually, I can get the work completed without a fuss. I take pride in doing a good job and there is something satisfying about seeing the end results, usually. Yet, now I have to admit that I am beginning to run out if steam.

Possibly this is because I’m on a final count down. Soon, my home of eight years will become a rental property.

Turning what has been my home, into a rental property for someone else to live in, seems strange and I have mixed feelings about it. I know why, because I am really quite emotionally attached to my house! Some of you might think that is strange, but that’s how I feel.

I know that the house needs someone to live in it, as I’m living in Madrid. And hopefully the tenants will care for it and look after it, and of course receiving a rental income will be a relief and add extra money to the pot. Yet, knowing there will be strangers living here, makes me uneasy.

So, as I complete my D.I.Y chores, for the benefit of someone else to enjoy, I see the house becoming ever more ready to become a rental property. I can’t help thinking though, that what has been a significant chapter in my life is now coming to a close.

Next time I return to the UK I will be staying with family. Also, I won’t need to complete any D.I.Y chores in what was my home, because it won’t be my home anymore, it’ll be some strangers home and responsibility.

 

 

 

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Tips For The Unemployed – Who You Know Vs What You Know


I have often wondered whether ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’, helps people get on in life.

Nepotism, face fits scenario, utilising your networks and calling in favours doesn’t harm when it comes to applying for work for example.

Yet, this hidden ‘who you know’ isn’t something people are comfortable talking about openly, and I’m not surprised considering it is an unregulated form of discrimination (in my opinion).

Sometimes being intelligent, educated, experienced, interested, capable, innovative, and so on and so, isn’t enough. Well, not unless you happen to be best friends with the boss too. Cynical, maybe, but also true!

Surely I’m not the only one who has experienced an employer telling them that their application or CV has been unsuccessful………..no, I didn’t think so. It might then leave you wondering why, especially when you tick all the boxes they require. You might contact the employer and ask, why, but their response is vague and somewhat generic.

Of course we can’t all be successful in every application we make, but I know employers do favour employees they know either directly or indirectly. How do I know? I have worked in enough places, and with enough people to have witnessed this happening, albeit discreetly.

This ‘who you know’ is apparent if you look a little closer. Just because a job is advertised to the public, doesn’t mean it is available to the public. Any job is only advertised because it is considered a breech of equal opportunities otherwise. Not to forget the job vacancies that are only ever advertised internally within a company; consequently the ordinary Joe or Josephine Bloggs never has the chance to apply.

This I feel is a loss, not only for the prospective employee, but the employer, their business and their staff.

There is so much untapped, under utilised and unrealised potential going stagnant in the jobs market. Potential that could add a missing element to a company. It seems some employers aren’t willing to actually change their recruitment processes though. Refusal to take a chance, broaden their opinions and think outside of their box (which I will discuss later), might make their business less innovative in the long run. Another fact is that most employers haven’t a clue about recruitment either, and often outsource this aspect to the dreaded employment agency (which I will also discuss later).

There also remains two main hurdles which employers like to place in the way of job seekers; work experience or lack of and qualifications or a lack of. The frustration of can’t get a job because you lack experience, but can’t get experience without a job is still a parody most job seekers face. Which is bizarre in the current situation of mass unemployment! The same frustrations are also linked to qualifications. Either you need them, as on the job training is practically non existent or no sooner are you qualified, you then have to retrain to be au fait with the next big thing. In either position, need training or need retraining finding a suitable job can seem like an almost uphill struggle.

Do employers expect perfection; someone they know, all the right qualifications and experience and everything else they may require on a nice silver platter? No, I don’t think they do, but I’m not sure they always know what they want or know good job candidates when they see them! This is when the ‘who you know’ does defiantly come up trumps over any other prerequisite; it helps to have help from an insider to overcome the hurdles.

As I have mentioned already, I have worked in my fair share of places. I have gained plenty of transferable skills, expertise, experience and qualifications, including a university degree; yet I often find I struggle to really fit into the employment market. Am I a community development officer, a charity fundraiser, a volunteer manager, a PA, a tutor, a counsellor, an employment adviser, a researcher, a writer, an artist, a life coach? Well maybe! Yet in reality I don’t fit into any one of these categories 100% even though I have gained the relevant qualifications, and so on and so on to do these type of jobs.

This is where the employer and their boxes come into play. If you don’t fit into their narrow ideal and required person specification, then basically you might as well never have gained any qualifications or experience (regardless of how bright and dynamic you might be). What I mean is, there is little flexibility or thinking outside of the box! Recruitment is so staid! This is where the employment agencies fall down in their so called recruitment role too.

Employment agencies have a bank of regular temps they call upon to apply for any of the new job vacancies they have on offer. These new vacancies are passed on from businesses to the agency; most businesses want to save money by advertising work and screening potential applicants via the agency. The problem is that all agencies only deal in specific employment sectors, and deal only with specific skills for specific jobs. So for example; a secretary is required and your job title has always been business admin, and your CV reflects this, the agency can’t see how your skills, although no doubt an almost perfect match, could possibly fit with the secretary vacancy available. Also, they tend to stick to their bank of regular temp employees, limiting your chances of truly getting any work once you are signed up for work with the agency.

Again, often the ‘who you know’ comes into play when you deal with employment agencies too. They like familiar faces.

It’s complicated with an agency! I mean that too. I have found one job via an agency and that was when I was 18. After this point, they basically run out of use for me! I prefer going direct to the employer, as agencies are for me are gatekeepers who guard their vacancies and turn away good people.

So, how can you make that leap between having the qualifications, skills and everything all singing and dancing with whistles attached to actually getting a half decent job, without having to know someone who can help you step up or onto the ladder first?

Well you could try bribery, lies, deceit and of course pretence.

No, only joking – I’d never advocate such extreme and possibly illegal acts to secure a job, of any description, although it might work well for some people out there!

Regardless of the frustrations, to be forewarned is to be forearmed in any situation. So I have included a few tips that have worked for me when I have been job hunting, and have helped me overcome the hurdles that can be in place. Also, these tips helped me to not feel that ‘the job market sucks’, because I felt I was at least trying to be proactive:

1) Research the company you want to work for – before an application you need know what the company does! Yes, there are people out there who don’t do this, and fall flat very quickly. This research can also apply to speculative applications too. I’ve known people who have contacted companies on the off chance to enquire whether there are any vacancies available. Although there were no vacancies at that particular time, the people made such a good impression upon the employer via the telephone, they have been offered an interview on the spot.

2) Ask questions about the role you are applying for – often speaking to the Manager or even the admin team before you apply for a role can endear you to them. You can make an excellent first impression, which they will remember.

3) Tailor your application or CV to match their job requirements in every way possible. Generic CVs or answers to application questions won’t cut the mustard. Think about all those transferable skills you have and make them shout out at the employer! Ensure to include everything you think is relevant; if it isn’t on your application for an employer to see, don’t assume their psychic!

4) Remember that not every employer is an expert in recruitment or interview techniques. So, if an employer feels they have a rapport with you, they may feel more inclined to offer you a job. Make them feel comfortable, and show then you have everything they want and need in an employee.

5) Research possible interview questions – this helps as some questions will inevitably come up and doing your homework prior to interview makes you look like a pro. Also, know what the company does (as per my first point), they will ask what you know about them, be assured of that!

6) Don’t ask silly questions – enquiring about the fantastic salary, bonus or holidays, regardless of how tempted you might be to do so it will signify the end of your interview!

7) Rehearse – the presentation or any answers to questions, study the information you have about the company. Sounds self explanatory, maybe, but these points are often overlooked.

8) Feeling over confident – this can trip you up, so don’t ever think you’ll ace an interview, as being cocky isn’t prepared and isn’t endearing to an employer.

9) Ask to visit the company before the interview to meet staff. They might not accept this offer, but it shows willing.

10) If possible, become a volunteer – this can help you get a foot in the door, you can see first hand how the company runs, and get a feel for the place. Also, it will allow you to know whether or not you could see yourself working there. Plus, it’s added experience for your CV.

11) Ask friends and relatives if they know of any available jobs – ‘who you know’ can sometimes bring unexpected job opportunities. It isn’t always a bad thing to take some time and utilise your contacts.

12) Apply – don’t expect one or two applications a week to bring you success. The more you apply for the more chances you have in securing an interview.

13) Make an employer smile or laugh – during an interview it is OK to use humour to your advantage. Just don’t be rude or act like your high; they won’t be laughing with you in those cases.

14) Dress smart, but not too smart – this might sound like common sense, but the amount of people who don’t grasp this concept is unnerving. Tracksuits, leggings, jeans and OTT jewellery, for most types of interviews are a definite ‘no’. Also, if you are a fashionista going for an interview, which isn’t with Vogue magazine, dull down the fashion or face alienating the interview panel. You want them to remember you not your clothes. If they are left thinking ‘they were weird’, because employers will judge, as we all do; this won’t make them want to hire you.

So that’s it, and although I didn’t intend to give a ‘lecture’ on job seeking do’s and don’ts, I have somehow managed to slide off track! Anyway, I hope some of what I have included in this post can prove helpful for someone, somewhere. I hope it also highlights that although job seeking can be the most frustrating, and stressful thing to do, and the odds might seem stacked against you, you can achieve successful results. Nothing is impossible if you put the effort in, and get savvy with some of the simple rules.

Many thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour


Blog Tour:

A writing friend, Paula Read AKA Champagnewhiskey, tagged me in a blog tour. Paula is a writer and environmentalist, cloud gazer who is located somewhere in France. Her blog is diverse and interesting, of course it is also a great read! Just like Paula, I don’t usually comment on my writing via my blog, although I obviously do write, but lately it hasn’t been as often as is usually normal for me! Anyway, I will endeavour to write about my writing, so thanks for tagging me Paula!

Upon What Are You Working?

I have a habit of skipping from one project to the next. My writing habits match my reading habits actually. Generally I have to be in the mood for whatever it is I read, therefore I often have five or six books I switch between, so to it is the same for my writing!

I have been writing a ‘trilogy’ novel since I was 24, which could be categorised as horroresque, I suppose. I also write short stories, which again have the hint of horror about them, and of course the political press releases and columns I write currently for my work.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

Well, that I can’t answer! Every writer likes to think they are unique, yet, in reality we are all influenced by what we read and enjoy. I’m not so bold as to claim I’m new and fresh and funky! I haven’t reinvented the wheel here! In my case I know I have a good stock cupboard in my mind, whereby the words and styles of other authors linger as reference points. Authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, M R James, Robert Bloch, James Herbert, Shirley Jackson and so on and so forth, have been part and parcel of my reading and imagination process since I was tiny! I wrote because of these authors, which might seem sacrilegious to you folk out there, but horror was my first love. Horror made me enjoy reading, and writing, well before Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte ever did. Therefore, these horror authors laid the foundations of my writing style.

If I say one thing about my work or style though, I do like to think that I don’t write artificially, I.E, it’s not just regurgitation of other classic horror tales, regardless of the influence they have had upon me! I also like to remember that horror can be horror in any context, it doesn’t have to be some surreal and fantastical plot or circumstance to unnerve. My style/genre is true to me and what I know and feel; it is always my story, told my way.

Why do you write what you write?

Well, either I write short stories or have to live with a running commentary going on in my mind! I write because I hear, visualise and feel my characters. I can be out walking, and will pass someone or someplace, see something, and without warning I’m inspired and a story begins weaving its way into my mind. From this point I think about the characters and I flesh out the plot. In doing this the characters world becomes stuck in my world, so, I have to write it down or face hearing voices! Does that make me crazy?! Probably, but it works to inspire me, and it always makes the story/plot/character more real to me. If I can’t hear my characters speak to me, then I can’t write the story.

How does your writing process work?

Sometimes I finish a writing project straight through to the end, depends on the length of the story really. In the case of my trilogy novel, it has been some years of editing and rewriting, but amazingly, after what could be a year break from writing it, I can pick up the plot and carry on! As I have said, my characters talk to me! They are ghosts intruding in my reality, and they never shut up!

Usually I do a rough draft of a story on my laptop first, which I then edit until I am finally happy with it. I sometimes write in notebooks too. I love the written word, pen to paper, so often I will scribble an idea or even edit something whilst I am taking a flight somewhere (I’m never without one of my precious notebooks and favourite writing pens)!

I write anytime and anyplace, literally. I have woken up at 3 a.m and been struck by an idea, merely from looking out of the window at a car passing by! If an idea buzzes around inside my head, well, I have to write it down regardless of the unGodly hour or how inconvenient it might be. I must confess, I even used to write my stories whilst at work! No one ever knew, and it was a great way to escape the dull working day!

Who am I tagging?

Well, I’m tagging all of you out there. If you feel so inclined to participate in this Blog Tour Q&A’s then just do it! Please let me know though, as I would love to read what you answer! This might be the lazy option, but cut me some slack as I am writing this on my iPad, and you know I think it isn’t the best tech for long winded writing malarkey!