New triumph….a new chapter for 2017.

Since the earlier part of this year my life has been somewhat ‘intense’. This has meant my blog has been put on hold for a few months whilst I focused mainly on job searching and dealing with other personal issues, as well as some occasional days out with my camera to preserve my sanity. Fortunately, I have had some great days out and have some new stories and photos to publish on here in the coming weeks.

The realization in February and March, knowing my job was soon coming to an end in mid April, having to be made redundant after only 8 months in this last job…… left me feeling rather low and at times very despondent. Inevitably, the situation of looking for and applying for and then attending any interviews became rather scary and bought on several panic attacks. In addition to all this I was having to ‘adjust’ to being on two new medication for my diabetes, which also had some rather unpleasant side effects.

Then I had to consider the next stage of my life……starting a new job, settling into it, meeting new people, becoming acclimatized to the new working environment, learning about the job what to do what not to do and so on. At times it became quite difficult…..but throughout all of it, I knew I couldn’t give up and therefore had to ensure it all didn’t become too much of a burden for me.

I believe as you get older, that despite your many years of experience and proven skill sets, it becomes a lot more difficult to compete for jobs, especially with the younger graduates that companies want to take on so that they can ‘mold’ them into shape, and into the image that the particular company wants them to be.  What has become more apparent these past couple of years is that employers are not prepared to pay better wages and so willingly take on youngsters for minimal pay in the name of apprenticeships.

This time however, financially, I was actually in the position where I could allow myself up to a maximum of around 3 months to find and start a new job without having to worry about paying the bills or having to sign on with the DWP and have to claim benefit for being unemployed. The turmoil and stress of that alone, having to fill in forms, attend weekly meeting at the local job centre, keep a record of proof that you were looking for and applying for jobs was something I did not want to have to go through again with them. This time I held the Ace card, and was in a position to be a little bit more selective about what jobs I went after, and whether to accept or not, the first job that came along that I was offered….simply because it was a job, and not because it felt right for me.

Realistically, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I did not want to be dictated to by the DWP or be answerable to them. I worked out my plan, first stage was to update my CV,  I shortened parts of it made sure I kept to the truth but made it a little more interesting and eye-catching to read and posted it on several reputable job sites. I had to work out a routine of job searching, setting up email alerts, covering so many hours per day on the computer looking at and applying for jobs, filling in application forms and so on. And in addition to this I knew I also needed to ensure I had proper breaks on the days in between, and got out into the fresh air and ate regular meals to ensure my diabetes remained well-managed, have plenty of exercise and kept my mind focused on other things such as my interest in wildlife and photography and day trips with a local coach company.

To my surprise, within a matter of 2 days of posting my CV I had quite a selection of different agencies phoning me up….I have seen your CV online on either CV Library or Monster etc and I am recruiting for a job which I believe will be just right for you. Great I thought, some real interest, then came the crunch….wrong location, too far to travel (everyone assumes you drive a car) or it was part-time hours, a temp only position and so on.

I did attend several interviews only to find that I received the feedback I had done really well…. but only just narrowly missed out, and was in a few instances  a close 2nd choice, when it comes to jobs, unfortunately there is not silver or bronze medals…..you just simply have to go for and obtain gold. In another couple of instances, someone had just that little bit better experience having already worked in a commercial office and the other job someone had already had experience working in an insurance office background, in another job I missed out purely because although I had a great administration background and wealth of experience, they believed I would become bored in the particular job and therefore felt I was over qualified!! The most annoying part about that was that I was never given the chance to find out or disprove them. I have always felt that you can’t actually get bored in a job, on if you let it. Even when there are quiet times there are still always things one can get on with.

There was another job which I had to say no to because the salary was ridiculously low, I told the recruitment consultant about this in our meeting, and that I couldn’t afford such a low salary, I was only interested in getting an interview for the job I had actually applied for through her recruitment company. I did get the feeling she wasn’t listening to me, and her mind wasn’t fully focused on dealing with me in the office, which I thought her attitude was very rude, she put me through for the interview anyway for the one I wasn’t interested in but didn’t put me up for the interview I actually applied for, but instead she had got jobs on her board that looked as though because they were only £7.50 to phr she was desperate to get people interviewed for them so she could get them of the board and get her fee for getting the jobs filled. In the end I reluctantly agreed and  just thought anyway the job interview experience would be good for me. When she phoned me about the outcome of the interview, I said no the money was way too low, her response was ‘Why did I not tell her this at the time I was in her office? Suffice to say I chose never to deal with her again.

Then, there was one was for a customer service colleague for a big ‘financial company’ based about a mile or so from where I live. When I attended the interview, I was shown a round a very large office, it was not what I expected and didn’t like the idea that it was in actual fact a call centre, and realistically lacked that personal level of customer service. The company came across that they were more concerned about achieving call targets, and answering the phone quickly, dealing with it and moving onto the next caller without really seeing the problem through.

As an experienced customer services administrator I am more interested in dealing with that one customer, giving them the best service, resolving the issues and completing the task before moving onto the next customer (may be I am just a little old-fashioned in my attitude of what proper customer service is all about!!) When I was asked at the end of the interview if I could see myself working in that office, I had to think hard and be careful what I said. I thought to myself, firstly, I desperately needed to get back into work, the salary and bonus system were good, it was closer to home, I didn’t mind working the odd Saturday on a rota system with a day off in the week, there was a good pension available and the job was permanent, and there was a structured training process….. but somehow I just couldn’t visualize myself working there, instinctively it did not feel right for me personally. I didn’t like the idea of a big call centre  and it made me feel uncomfortable. In the end I had to be honest and said not really, and added that I couldn’t see the job as a customer service role at a level that I have been used to. When I left the interview I had hoped that I had said the right thing to ensure they didn’t offer me the job. As it turns out a few days later they phoned me, they were impressed with me at the interview but took on board what I had said at the end and therefore had decided not to offer me the job. This was a big relief for me.

Two days after that particular interview I attended another interview for a rather well-known company whose humble beginnings started in Birmingham in the same year as I was born in 1965. When I read the advert on Indeed, for me it sounded like a really great opportunity. The salary was lower than I have been used to, but still adequate all the same, but having said that the job details, which would be in customer services appealed to me. It was exactly what I was used to, but in yet another different business background. There was room for progression, benefits, pension and logically being paid a lower salary meant paying lower tax. When I applied for this job, I suppose I really didn’t expect to be contacted by the company, I believed I would just be another application, my CV would not appeal to them and it would go on the no pile of applications.

I have learnt over the past five years that for every 25 job applications you make, whether via an agency or directly to a company, you would be lucky if you heard back from 1 or 2 of them.  Since February I have made, well over 350 applications on-line through job sites and agencies,  most of which I already knew I was over qualified for, or for which the job never really existed, or they were still advertised externally even though internal employees were going to or had already filled the posts. Worst case scenario, if I couldn’t get a job soon I would have to contact the DWP and be answerable to them, and so needed proof I had been applying for jobs in the meantime.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call on the Tuesday morning and asked if I would  be able to attend an interview at their UK Head Office in Birmingham (where the job would be based) for that Friday 23rd June at 2 pm. Of course I would. As usual I did my normal research on the company prior to the interview.  The chance to work for such a great company was now becoming more realistic, all I had to now do was prove myself at the interview.

On entering their big head office, I introduced myself at reception and said I was there for the job interview and who it was with. As I was about 25 minutes early I didn’t mind sitting down waiting in the reception area, and I picked up an old book about the story of the Michelin brothers and what they did, what they were responsible for inventing in the old days  (a bit more valuable research to show my interest about in the interview)

The time of the interview came around, I was met in reception by the customer services manager, then taken to an office and introduced to one of her colleagues and so the interview began. Some how I immediately started to feel relaxed and at ease, and for once had a little bit of confidence, and felt an element of positivity, and said to myself its time for me to shine. The interview, which included a couple of tests, lasted just over an hour and a half. Instead of one job available for a customer service advisor, there was also now a second job available for a customer service administrator. I was asked which one would I prefer if I was offered the job. Either, I replied, I had experience in both roles singularly and as a combined role. A couple of times I even made the two interviewers laugh. I had already thought long and hard the day before, and wrote them down in my notes, about what questions to ask them. Overall, I left the interview feeling a sense of relief it was now done, and I also had a thought at the back of my mind, I really would love to be offered this job…..it just felt right! I was advised that there were going to be more people interviewed after the weekend, and I would be advised of the outcome asap.

Last Tuesday morning, 27th June,  I received the phone call, and to my total surprise I was being offered the job as customer services administrator, they had apparently already made up their minds when I left the interview Friday afternoon. I was asked when would I be able to start….and so a brand new chapter in my life starts tomorrow (3.7.17) Obviously, I am very nervous and a little bit scared, but at the same time I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life, meeting new people, and working with a new team, and learning a new business.

Throughout this entire process these past few months, the most difficult thing I have found myself doing is to try to be and to try remain positive. I knew I would get a new job, but the burning question was how long would it take, and would it be right for me.

Start Where You Stand Poem – Berton Braley

Start where you stand and never mind the past
The past won’t help you in beginning new,
If you have left it all behind at last,
Why that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through.

This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned.
Don’t give the vanished days a backwards look,
Start where you stand.

The world won’t care about your old defeats
If you can start anew and win success;
The future is your time, and time is fleet,
And there is much of work and strain and stress.

Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,
Here is a brand new trial right at hand.
The future is for him who does and dares –
Start where you stand.

Old failures will not hold, old triumphs aid,
Today’s the thing, tomorrow will soon be.
Get in the fight, and face it unafraid,
And leave the past to ancient history.

What has been has been; yesterday is dead;
And by it, you are neither blessed or banned.
Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead –
Start where you stand.

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

Outrage with FIFA……how dare they!

With most of the daily news stories I try not to take too much on board, after all too much bad news can after all be very upsetting or depressing.

This morning whilst on one of my bus journeys to work I had a quick glance at the Metro newspaper (supplied free on our West Midlands buses). The headlines caught my eyes and so I picked it up and read the main story. having read it I found myself actually feeling totally outraged and at the same time frustrated for our football players, and at the same time proud that our players are prepared to show defiance over the no Poppy ban by FIFA.

FIFA have said that our footballers will not be allowed to wear any representation of the Poppy on matches that will be played Remembrance Day, and I quote    ”FIFA has banned players from wearing poppies because the world governing body prohibits ‘political, religious or commercial messages’ being displayed on the pitch”.

How dare they term our Remembrance Day as a political, religious or commercial message. They are the ones who are making the political message by making a ban in the first place…HOW DARE THEY!

For me and I dare say for the majority, the day is a day that as a country it is a commemorative occasion, and as people we stand united as a nation to remember and thank so many  who sacrificed their own lives to make this country and the world a better place for all. If people do not want to believe that and pay tribute, then that is their own choice, no one is forcing them to, however it does not give the likes of FIFA the right to dictate to us that our players can not wear an emblem that recognizes something very important in our history  past and present and something that is a long-standing tradition. Without the freedom this countries fallen has fought for, then my guess is  FIFA would most probably not even exist.

Why do FIFA even believe Remembrance Day  comes under any of the headings of political, religious or commercial message?

The only message it says is let us be allowed to show our respect to and remember the many fallen brave men and woman of this country and the Commonwealth who gave up their own lives to make the world a better place for the rest of us. The only difference is that we as a nation choose to remember these brave people once a year every year on the same date because it is a marked time in world history and they all deserve that recognition and thanks even if it is for just only one day each and every year, because after all it is a very important day.

I for one am proud to wear my Poppy as a way of showing my respect and thanks, this is not as a political, religious or even a commercial message or statement.  It is to say our lives could have been so very different, had it not been for the millions of people not have given their own lives to protect the future of so many millions of others.

 

misc-july-2013-special-57

Than you for stopping by.

 

 

All Hope lost….literally!

Isn’t it  strange that at the single blink of an eye how life can be so cruel?

Just a mere 5 weeks ago, in my last blog entry, I wrote about my new hope for the future with the company I had just started working for. Finally, at long last, the permanent job and the security that goes with it. It gave me the chance to be able to fully settle down into my new role and give total commitment to it and think about the next few years ahead and feel a little more comfortable about it all before its time for me to retire.

On 12th September I started working for Hope Cement/Construction in a new and very challenging role. I was finally able to start looking to the future with real optimism and start to make some ‘concrete’ plans for my  future. At long last the opportunity I have waited for since 2012 when I finished at D&A. A permanent job, no more temp contracts or worrying about what would happen when my next contract came to an end, where would I need to look now for that new job, how much more disappointment and uncertainty would  I would have to endure, how long would that next job last. An endless list of questions, which I had finally hoped had come to an end.

It occurs to me how strange it is that so many people enjoy the challenge of moving from temp contract on to the next temp job contract and not feel insecure, then there are people like myself (and may be my age has something to do with this) who don’t like that uncertainty, but who need more stability in there lives to be able to function properly and generally get on with their lives.

Over the last 4 years a great deal of my future plans and my life in general has been put on hold, all pending job and financial security, even my pension fund has been on hold, not being in a stable enough position financially to pay into that has been a huge worry.

On 1st August this year Hope Cement was bought out by the Breedon Group who are a major aggregates company in the UK. For those of you, who like me at first didn’t really understand the aggregates and concrete business. A short quick lesson… this means Breedon own quarries around the country, they extract these natural resources from the ground and process them to produce primary aggregates, mainly for the construction business. These aggregates are items such as  gravel or crushed rock and sand (but, I hasten to add, not your bog standard seaside sand) There are other companies who make the cement powder (Portland Cement) which is the binding material.

In short when you add together specific quantities of cement powder and the aggregates and the correct amount of water you produce a concrete mixture. All depending on what combinations of each product you use, plus any additives, then define what type of concrete is produced and for what type of job. When these mixtures are produced, a deep intense chemical reaction happens. However let me assure you that making concrete is not that simple, there is a great deal more to it than people realize.

With Breedon owning and running their own quarries, and Hope batching and delivering concrete mixes to major construction sites around the UK this has now produced a perfect marriage.

Like any major company changes, there is always going to be fallout.  In the short time I have been at Hope’s I have firmly become one of the members of the Birmingham plant and office team, as well as dealing with our Hope Doncaster Head Office colleagues on a daily basis. So the shock news from the announcements made across the company at the same time on Monday morning just gone, blew every one of us out of the water. In short, the new company restructuring means the Hope HQ in Doncaster will be closing with loss of all jobs there, our Birmingham shipping office, which is where I work, along with my two other colleagues in the office, will also be closing,  as will a few other small shipping offices across the UK and these jobs will all be centralised at the main Breedon offices. Unfortunately, this means because of the locations of these centralised offices many of us will not be able to travel there and take up jobs within the new company structure.  Fortunately, however the ‘batching plants’ will remain unaffected and fully operational. We have been advised that whilst the ‘transition’ of the business takes place, with regards to the offices and admin work from the smaller shipping offices into the centralised office, we will in about 6 to 9 to months for all those concerned (around 40+ people) be made redundant.

A bit of De Javu going on here I think!

This looks like history repeating itself, as was the case of Boots Opticians taking over the great Dollond & Aitchinson Opticians. Company restructuring, moving sections of the business elsewhere, job losses etc. It’s very hard to trust in the motives of companies who take over other companies….unfortunately this is what happens all to often now and how the average Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs is affected with their livelihoods. But in all fairness having said that, Breedon is a top company in its field and they want to expand their business, and their growth in the future, so in order to make money and gain that future success they have to find ways to improve their existing business and make saving in the present. However this means in short this is the start of the loss of all of Hope cement/construction.

My decision now has to be based on whether I stay and wait out the next few months, get more experience in this industry and get more shipping/logistics experience and at the same time guarantee myself a monthly salary and pension for that length time, and a small financial incentive at the end of it,  or whether I start searching for that all new important job that will define my future. At present I am having my doubts about whether a permanent position can be found, or whether I will be hopping in and out of short-term contracts, it is all so unsettling.

At the moment time is of the essence. There is a lot of ‘seasonal work’ to be had, which in short is more insecurity, and I do want to learn so much more about this particular job and the industry, I made a commitment to the company when I was offered the job and I feel obliged to honour that commitment and be true to myself as well as them for as long as possible.

At the same time I am feeling anxious about letting any possible opportunities pass me by on the job front in the next 6 months,  but having said that another 6 months job skills is another feather in my cap and will look good on my CV.

In addition to all of this Christmas is almost upon us, and this year will be so sad and different for myself and my family, as it will be the first one without my dad, and this added worry about the job doesn’t help matters.  And whilst I have appreciated so many good and positive comments from my close friends and friends on fb about my employability, this past week as well as in the past, it still worries me that getting potential employers to notice you is still the biggest challenge these days. The hardest part is not finding the job itself,or even doing the job. Realistically the hardest part these days is getting yourself noticed enough to have an interview set up and being able to present yourself and your abilities at that interview, and as so much of this is done through job agencies these days it actually makes it even harder.

A  couple of years ago I was told I should change my CV and ‘tart it up’ by adding some stuff to it to impress  any perspective new employer. This is something I firmly do not believe in, may be my decision to not do that is my own downfall, but I have always been honest about my capabilities and don’t want to mislead any employer into believing I can do something which in actual fact I haven’t done.

For now I think the right choice is to stay where I am, get the next few months out-of-the-way and come the Spring it will be a new beginning for me as well. I do love Spring, it is my favourite time of the year, a fresh new approach, and hopefully a new opportunity. What can I say? This job was obviously not the right one for me.

Why are choices like this so hard to make?

 

 Choices

We all have a choice
to live a lie
or be ourselves
to laugh and cry
or to follow someone else

to look up and smile
or bow down and frown
to walk the whole mile
or take off our crown

We have a choice
to shout out loud
or chant a whisper
to fly through the clouds
or to be blown like paper

to conquer our fear
or hide in the shadow
to the wise words hear
or be thrown out the window

We all have a choice
to climb our highest mountain
or fall into our deepest hole
to drink from life’s fountain
or live life like a troubled soul.

 Allen Steble

Thanks for stopping by.

Now even more hope!!

As my regular readers will be aware, I used the word ‘hope’ in my blog a great deal. With depression there always has to be hope which is through being positive, this has always been one of my best survival strategies. If you do hold on to hope then this does in some way helps fight those dark times in your life.

A month ago my last job/work contract finished, and my hope then was to take a couple of weeks break, feel completely relaxed, recharge ‘my worn down batteries’, and then feel ready to  take on the job searching, with the intention in mind of finally finding that right job which would become a permanent position. Having updated, redesigned and tweaked the finer points in my CV it meant I was finally ready to hit the job hunting scene.

A peaceful week up in the Scottish Highlands, relaxing, taking in the fresh air, ticking a couple more boxes off on my bucket list and of course plenty of photography up there to enjoy.  Then a further week in and around the Midlands, Stratford Upon Avon, Worcester and also a steam train journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and in general taking advantage of our local bus & train services, getting out in the good weather, and doing more photography. Then back to reality for the last couple of weeks in finding that new career and all the rigmorale and stress that goes with dealing with DWP/Job Seekers and so on.

There has been no doubt about it, this has got to have been one of the worse years in my life so far on a personal level, my fathers death, being diagnosed with diabetes, the failure of the surgery and having to go through it again and finally my last job coming to an end.  The one really good thing that came out of it was how much I enjoyed this last job and the new friends I made. The job gave me back a great deal of  lost confidence in myself and my abilities, and for that I am more grateful than my  friends from there will ever know.

Anyway, hitting the job hunting and following an application to an agency at the end of August with my CV and cover letter I was then contacted with instructions to connect to a specific link and apply directly with the companies own recruitment. This took me to a company called of all names  HOPE Construction Materials, which had just been joined with another big company called the Breedon Group now making it the largest independent cement/ concrete company in the UK.

I made my application, and the following day received a phone call from their HR dept, advising me they were ‘impressed’ with my CV/application and could they set up a 1st stage conference call interview with 2 of their managers at the Doncaster regional office and myself for the following morning. No problem I said, and so the following morning at 9.30 am the phone range and so began the first stage interview lasting a good 40 mins. This was a first for me having a telephone based job interview. At the end of it I was told again they were very impressed with what they had just heard as well as my CV and one of the managers would like to hold a 2nd stage interview with me in person at the Birmingham shipping office and work site where the job was based. And so the interview was set up for the morning of Tues 6/9. Overall it went very well, and when I left there I was very ‘hopeful’ that I had got the job.

Just before 6 pm that evening my phone rang and within a couple of minutes I was accepting the job I was being offered and asked to start Mon 12/9.

Finally, Hope in more than one way!!

The job will be very challenging and there is a huge amount of technical information to take on board to understand the role of the job as a customer services agent/administrator. Three days into a month of in-depth training about the in’s and out’s of cement, aggregates and concrete mixes, I have to say I am really enjoying it. The small team I will be working with are great and have really made me feel welcome, as have the other colleagues around our various Birmingham/ West Midlands sites whilst on site visits all day yesterday with the Area Production Manager.

If you think concrete is such a simple and straight forward product, think again. In the first couple of days alone, I have had my eyes opened to it all. There are so many different standards of concrete to do so many different jobs, different types of mixes and so on. Learning about all the processes, grading, combinations really is quite fascinating, as is the history.

Did you know for instance the Romans were reported to have produced the first real form of concrete – the Colosseum was built between 72 A.D and 80 A.D under the Emperor Vespasian, in the heart of Ancient Rome. It was made from stone and concrete, this magnificent monument was built with the man power of tens of thousands of slaves. Fortunately these days machines can do the work. But it is true to say this was a true turning point in history, which has gone from that simple basic mixture into what is supplied all around the world today. Every single day we all somehow have contact with the grey stuff in our lives, and yet take it for granted because it simply is there such as the buildings we all live or work in, the ground beneath us we walk on in schools, hospitals, shops and supermarkets, farms, roads, kerbs and pathways…….the list is endless.

It’s true to say I have now been given a lot more ‘Hope’ than before…..and hopefully this is all a very good omen for me!!

 

Hope

Hope abides; therefore I abide.
Countless frustrations have not cowed me.
I am still alive, vibrant with life.
The black cloud will disappear,
The morning sun will appear once again
In all its supernal glory.

By: Sri Chinmoy

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A new road ahead.

It has been a very long strange and mixed 12 months. Some really rough and tough times these past few months on a health level and with the passing of my father in April,  but also some great times on the work side, and also the chance to develop my love of nature and photography and visit more places in order to do this.

Having said that I am now at yet another crossroads in my life, and yet I am seeking a new challenge and am looking to take the next step forward. In two weeks time on August 5th my current contract comes to an end, and yet again I will be looking for a new job, to some to find a new job it’s as easy as tossing a coin in the air, but for those of us who suffer depression and anxiety, it can be a very daunting prospect.

In many ways I have been very fortunate with this current position, I have far exceeded my own expectations and discovered new things about myself in my ability to tackle and solve problems and overcome a lot of obstacles. I have been able to maintain a  high level of professionalism, Iv’e been able to do so much in-depth work, and not just doing one or two stages of a job and then passing it on to the next person to do their part, but I have been able to follow many stages of an entire process through from start to finish. In addition to this I have been able to implement several new job procedures and carry them through to prove they can and do work, and Iv’e learnt a great deal about the rail industry, and I have also been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible and wonderful people and make some wonderful friendships in the process. Overall I have exceeded my own expectations, and I believe in all honestly exceeded my employers expectations of me, and I have to say that does feel good, and it also makes one feel proud to have made such an achievement.

One thing is for certain, I do feel a little more confident about my future job than I have done for many years, that is of course providing I get the right opportunity by a company willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity to prove myself. For the first time in many years I actually feel confident in my own abilities.

I have had a great year discovering the local nature reserve, through all the changing seasons, made friends with a Robin who I called Buddy. He has in recent weeks  flown the nest with his little babies, and despite knowing I will most likely never see him again, unless we both happen to make return visits to the reserve and his particular favourite tree. I do feel very privileged that I was able to make friends, share a trust and have a special bond with a wild bird and be able hand feed him.

That aside, I have also this year had to cope with the diagnosis of  Diabetes,  problems with my kidneys and cholesterol level, another lot of surgery and then in April the sudden and unexpected death of my Father.  An extreme combination of  similar problems that 15 years ago brought to my knees, and  my first dealings with  depression, but now despite how hard it is to cope with all this…some how I have managed to cope and  I have come to realise that it is due to a combination of the right daily medication, some really incredible family and friends, the pursuance of my love of nature and photography, and a job I love doing, but more importantly positive thinking and the confidence in ones own abilities, and to try not give up so easily.

So, my next step forward is to take a much-needed short holiday up in Strathpeffer  in Scotland the week after my job comes to an end, give myself chance to recharge my worn out batteries, take in the wonderful Scottish air, scenery and hospitality, take plenty of photographs and discover the wildlife up there, and also hopefully treat myself to a glass or two of some very fine single malt whisky from that region.  But, I do realise that I also need time to think about what sort of job I would like to do next, and how to balance my work life with managing my diabetes and also prepare myself  mentally for upcoming job interviews. So who knows what new opportunities await around the next corner.

 

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Many thanks for stopping by

 

Avoiding the scammers online.

As we all are aware science has made some huge advances over the last few years, we have seen science and medicine hand in hand make some wonderful and yet sometimes dangerous and frightening discoveries (such as man made viruses)

The main advancement however has been computer and technology, and despite all the incredible great things it does for us, it is also has its major down sides.

It would be accurate to say that every household here in the UK has at least one pc or laptop, android device such as a tablet or smart phone at hands reach, and even an ordinary landline phone. Services such as the internet and wi-fi have gradually taken over our lives. Namely this is because we want life to be ‘easier’ for us and ‘less complicated’ and because life moves at ‘a faster pace’. We want to commit our time to doing other things. In reality however are we doing just the opposite?

Following a bit of a scare a few months ago when it looked like my email account had been attempted to be hacked, (fortunately they didn’t get in) I decided to do a bit of research and have been reading a fair amount  about the scams that have been going on in just the last year or so, and how to avoid them.

With most of these scams, fortunately the majority of us already aware of. Some of these scams have been going on for years but have been adapted by the scammers to suit themselves. and the modern-day approach and with the use of updated technology.  There is hardly a week goes by that we haven’t heard on the tv news or via an internet news media connection about yet another scam system in operation to be aware of. What is alarming however is the number of people who despite being aware of these scams, still fall into the traps being set up by these ruthless, greedy and sometimes evil scammers. Every now and then a new one creeps in, we are  warned in the media about the new ones, what to look out for, what to avoid and what to do or not to do. The problem is by the time we are warned about it the damage for many has already been done and they are already paying the price for technology scamming.

I can recall many years ago Uncle Norman  once told me ‘you don’t get something for nothing in this world, if you want it bad enough you have to go out and  earn it honestly.

The problem is we are a modern nation where there is so much human greed involved. We see something available for free and we want it, fill out a few details online without really thinking about the consequences of what we have just done….other than the thought were going to get something big back in return. Of course in this day and age of such advanced technology, the only thing you get in return is your bank account emptied out, or your personal details stolen and passed on to some other scheming hacker or scammer.

One of the things I really find annoying is the so-called personal accident lawyers, who get hold of your phone number and contact you because, and I’m quoting in part from one recent phone call I  received ” we have information that you were recently involved in an accident with your car in Birmingham this year, which we understand it was not your fault and therefore due to the injuries sustained you may be entitled to compensation”.  Wait for it…  ”For a small fee up front we can offer you the services of one of our qualified personal accident lawyers”

Ha ha …what a laugh. When ever I receive one of these phone calls, then alarm bells start ringing….I smell a scam or con.

Firstly, where the heck do they get their information from? If I had been involved in a car crash I think I would have known, and I definitely would have known about the injuries I sustained (unless I got a bang on the head and somehow totally forgot about it!!)  Oh, and as for my car, just one problem there…. I don’t drive. Birmingham is a huge city….so saying just Birmingham is somewhat vague. Then there is the bit that ……I ‘may’ be entitled to some compensation, but for small fee up front……  There it is… that small fee up front bit. Oh and they will also need my bank account details for paying in my compensation should I be successful in winning my claim.  Need I say any more? I have been receiving several of these phone calls over the past year and normally, I would jump in and say at the start of the conversation I’m not interested, you have obviously been misinformed and on that they would put the phone down on me. How rude is that? They could at least follow the phone call through, seeing as they had made the effort to contact me,  and the other problem the call is out of area, no phone number to get back in contact with them. Recently however regarding this one particular phone call, I did listen and then decide to try to play them at their own game….. and I let them do all the talking, and what do you think happened at the end of the conversation when I said ” ok, that’s all well and good, but where did you get this information from and which part of Birmingham was this supposed to have happened, oh by the way what car do I own…..of course they put the phone down on me, they obviously realize I’m on to them. Such utter rudeness….I listened to their entire spiel, they could have at least had the decency to listen to mine 😉

That is one of the simpler scams I have come across and been unfortunate to be at the receiving end of, and of course we all know these and the PRP scam calls have been going on for a number of years now.  What is even more annoying is that a lot of 0843 telephone numbers are recorded messages, so you don’t get a chance to speak to anyone anyway….. but they seem to constantly ring you back on their automated phone system,  I really can’t see the point of that. In reality of course these people are criminals, they lie to us, and they cheat us and use various different methods to steal from us, in order to make our lives more difficult and their own much easier. What I do find highly disturbing is the number of elderly people who are being targeted and caught up in these scams, simply because they are more vulnerable, quite possibly because they are less aware of some of these scams and how they work and don’t have the ‘know how’ on technology like the younger generation.

Fortunately, my father is more wary of these phone calls and like me he will challenge the caller if he thinks or even knows it is a scam caller. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other elderly people out there who are not so wise on these modern scams. In  years past, a lot of the elderly were conned in ways that meant rogue cowboy builders turning up on their doorsteps and telling the occupant they noticed a loose tile on the roof, or faulty guttering, or something wrong with their building, or their drive way.  This of course frightens the elderly victim that there was going to be substantial damage caused to their property, and thus they parted with their hard-earned/saved cash to have totally unnecessary jobs supposedly carried out. Back then however because those responsible turned up on people’s steps they were most of the time identified and charged by the police.

These days however, those responsible don’t need to show their faces to any of their victims. Just by the pressing of a few buttons on a computer, or a small chipboard on an ATM machine the deed is done and no trace of those who did it. Surely with more people being aware of this factor then you would have thought people would be more wary and try not to fall into the trap.

The world-wide web has done much to enhance our lives over the last few years, we press a few buttons and within seconds we find the  information we seek. However, some of these scammers and hackers have devised ways to attack us by back door viruses or a harmful trojan that can enter our computers and steal information. The latest worrying threat is this Ransomeware, which it appears even the FBI have been concerned about in recent months. In short the criminals find away to lock your pc, you no longer have access to it, but they claim a ransom to unlock it.   You click on an infected advertisement, link or email attachment, suddenly, a pop up appears. The screen tells you that all the files on your computer have been encrypted, making them useless unless you have a key to decode them. The problem is with this, these scammers are attempting to make money out of us and of course we are not all rich or as well off as they believe us to be, so there are those of us who don’t have the sort of money these people seek….but for some unknown reason that does not seem to deter them. Like us ordinary people who use the pc or laptop as an everyday work tool, we have in away become addicted to our computers, these hackers and criminals have become addicted to scamming us. They simply can’t help themselves or understand what they are doing is very wrong.

I recently started receiving stacks of emails every day for about 2 weeks from a company whose email ended in   1und1.de, after a while my automatic reaction was to unsubscribe, which takes you to website to do so. However, when I clicked on the unsubscribe on their email, fortunately my Norton Security kicks in and warns me not to go there. So alarm bells start ringing. Firstly were do these companies get our email addresses from? Instead I emailed the details and some examples to spam@uce.gov and within a couple of days I stopped receiving any more emails from them.

Of course the first thing we do when we receive an email from an unknown source, is to open it to find out more about it. They make the emails interesting for us to do that, and of course human instinct kicks in and curiosity gets the best of us and before long we are opening it, connecting to their websites and wallop, their job is done.

Another thing I have become more aware of is the free downloads from companies who offer anti-malware software, I recently looked in to installing one of these and found that one particular one called Yet Another Cleaner (YAC) is actually a company who does the opposite of what they say they do!!!  I installed it and found after a  day or so  I was having problems rather than resolving them. After that I uninstalled it all, and decided to look into it in more detail. What I actually found out about them rather alarmed me. After doing some more in-depth research I looked at a very reputable company with a blog and website for even more information called Malwarebytes. What they revealed was even more alarming about YAC. It appears YAC have ‘stolen’ and copied Malwarebytes software, adapted it to their own use and added some viruses. I decide to download directly from their website malwarebytes.org  their anti-malware software, and have to say it is really good and very reassuring. On running my first scan they found over 100 problems which they quarantined ready for me to delete, and the astounding thing is almost all of the problems were associated with YAC.  The good thing with Malwarebytes they offer a 14 day free trial and for an extremely affordable annual fee (less than £20.00 per yr, which a small price to pay rather than being held to ransom,) you can then have peace of mind by ensuring you have some really good extra defences in place. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware’s industry-leading scanner detects and removes worms, Trojans, rootkits, rogues, spyware, and other dangerous malware from your home PC. Even pc advisor recommends this company, so that is reassuring, as once this type of defence is in place you are less likely to get scammed via your pc.

Please be careful out there in 2016…don’t be the victim of any ruthless scammer. Life is sometimes too easy, don’t make it any easier for these criminals. Remember…you don’t get something for nothing in this world. It is so easy to click on the wrong button and end up getting scammed

The below information is courtesy of BT Yahoo.

From fake tickets to pension fraudsters: the worst scams of 2015

The last 12 months have seen a whole raft of new scams attempting to steal our money by various means. Here are the worst ones we encountered.

Sadly the number of scams that fraudsters are attempting shows no sign of decreasing.

Here’s a look at some of the worst scams we’ve seen in the last 12 months:

The most convincing scam

Everyone likes a pizza or curry, which might explain why so many people were taken in by a scam promising a £10 Just Eat voucher simply by answering a few questions.

It appeared to be a genuine email asking customers to rate the service they received, with a £10 reward to be spent via the website for taking part. Inevitably, users were asked to enter their bank details in order to gain the £10 credit, allowing the fraudsters to steal their details.

The email was especially convincing because it contained victims’ full name and other personal details and asked them to sign in using their Just Eat details and password.

The most persistent scam

Criminals pretending to be internet service providers or software companies is nothing new. They ring up victims and trick them into allowing remote access to their PCs, usually claiming they have been infected with a virus.

The victim then allows them into their computer so they can ‘fix’ it. Some crooks even charge a fee for this service!

Obviously, once they have access they steal as much information as they can or blackmail you into paying them more.

However, in 2015 computer takeover fraud rocketed. According to Financial Fraud Action, there has been a surge in reported cases over the last 12 months. This is partly down to several high profile data breaches, which the crooks used as a cover story for why they needed to fix their victims’ PCs.

The most official-looking scam

Back in September, the DVLA warned drivers of reports of people receiving emails demanding they verify their details or risk losing their licence.

As with many phishing emails, it contained a link to a replica website that requested driving licence details and bank information. This unpleasant little scam tricked people by using a very convincing fake website, along with an urgent threat – few people can risk being left without a licence and so many responded before they even thought about it.

The most devastating scam

Pensions underwent some drastic changes this year, which had two key effects: first, they gave retirees access to large pots of money in one go and second, they resulted in a great deal of confusion.

Of course there’s nothing fraudsters like better than confusion and large pots of cash. It’s their dream scenario, which is why in September The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) put out a statement warning people that scammers were pretending to be official representatives, talking older people into signing up for shady investments.

The meanest scam

All fraud is cruel and has the potential to devastate the victim, but this scam was particularly mean. Rugby fans were delighted when the World Cup came to the UK, but so too were the scam artists.

It was against the rules to sell or transfer tickets, or to buy them from any but the official vendors and Rugby World Cup 2015 had reserved the right to cancel any tickets that had been passed on this way. That meant that many people bought genuine tickets at higher prices than the face value only to find they were out of pocket and could not receive a refund.

Not only that but some professional-looking websites were selling tickets that either broke the rules or had been faked, according to warnings from Which? There was even a rash of scams where people were told they had won tickets in a lottery and or automated ballet, which then required the ‘winner’ to pay an admin fee to claim their prize.

Those poor fans forked out a fortune for illegal tickets but found themselves ripped off and watching the games in the pub like the rest of us.

The sneakiest scam

When Microsoft launched its new operating system Windows 10 in August, fraudsters across the globe decided to cash in too. There were reports of Windows users receiving emails that appeared to be from Microsoft, offering them a free upgrade if they clicked on an installer in the message.

As soon as the recipient did so, the link released a load of ransomware onto their PC and warned them that their files had been encrypted. They would have to pay in order to unlock their files or lose them forever.

What made this scam so very sneaky was how genuine it looked – as long as you didn’t notice the occasional typos. It appeared to come from ‘update@microsoft.com’ and so looked very genuine, and it even had a disclaimer at the bottom saying it had been scanned for viruses.

The most subversive scam

While most scam artists hide behind computers and rip off their victims over the phone, a few went undercover this year. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau warned that customer service and front-desk banking staff are being befriended and then groomed by fraudsters, sometimes over months.

These bogus friends monitor staff and then ‘meet’ them on their days off, before gradually seducing them into stealing personal account data.

One ex-bank employee, who is now in prison for his part in the theft, explained that he met the fraudsters at his local market. “They were nice people. I had no idea they were fraudsters. This went on for a few months before they asked me to do anything. They were really clever and over time they got to know more about me personally.”

The employees are either bribed or coerced into sharing information. Of course, when the scam is found out the original criminals have vanished, leaving only the staff member to carry the can for their crimes.

The most likely scam for 2016

There have only been 16 reported cases of this scam so far, but experts have tipped it for big growth in 2016. The NFIB has warned of fraudsters ringing victims to tell them they have been in the wrong council tax bracket for years and are owed a rebate of around £7,000.

Once the victim is convinced, they are asked for an admin fee of between £60 and £350 to process the payment after which, you’ve guessed it, they never hear from the caller again.

According to Action Fraud, this scam has only just started targeting victims, typically aged over 60 and in the Sussex area, but they expect to see more of it. Definitely one to be wary of over the next 12 months.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope, faith and positivity bring good results!

In October and November of last year my biggest concerns and worries were about my health problems and the setbacks and lack of  opportunity to look for and secure a new job once my last temp contract was up. Despite feeling low and vulnerable, I tried to be positive about the future. In order to get through this uncertain period of my life I had to be optimistic.

Under any normal circumstances in the past I would have crumbled and completely sunk at the fact that I had no job to move on to and I was also facing the torment of not knowing for several weeks whether or not I had bowel cancer following emergency surgery early November. Instead this time, unlike other times I ‘chose’ to become focused on being positive and hopeful about the future and realized that it was up to me to try to be in control of my anxiety and depression, rather than it be in control of me (which is easier said than done) In that last temp contract I had proven to myself as well as others  that I had many transferable skills and in those few short months at Mondelez I had learnt several more to add to my skills and experience list.

Over these past three to four years or so most of my worry has been focused on settling into a new job. I have to be the first to admit I have been through a lot of emotional trauma, the disappointment of other people letting me down, my health problems as well as  family health problems and so on.  One thing however is for sure, I am now learning  to trust and even understand people more, and accept them for who and what they are, rather than judge them, this does not mean I am naive. Far from it in fact, it simply means I am in a position to show empathy for others, and have a greater understanding which in itself has made me realize how important it is for others to also be able to be positive, have faith and hope.

Throughout the past three months following my physical recovery, I have been focusing mentally on getting that all new important career sorted, and finding that right balance for my mental health in between job searching and taking time out with my camera and time out with my family. This time however instead of thinking and saying to myself  ‘if’ I get another job, I have been telling myself ‘when’ I get another job. I have to admit there have been occasions, especially throughout February as time has plodded on, with the disappointments of not securing a new job in spite of actually securing three interviews where yet again, like last year I was second choice, which in the job world is really no good at all, as only first place counts.  As a result there were times my hope, faith and positivity faltered, and I was finding that my hope was slipping away from me and I started to find the black dog was once again starting to nip at my heels. My motivation to try to find work slipped away from me and I literally found myself simply going through the motions of job searching any viable jobs rather than searching for something in my area of experience. Looking back even now, I realized for a few short weeks I was on the brink of tipping over the edge.

About mid February I applied for one particular vacancy (for a Stock  Integrity Lead Administrator) online, for a locally based company which is in actual fact the leading UK company in its field and  one of the biggest globally. As had been with all the online agency applications for every twenty jobs you apply for your very lucky if you hear back from just one of those applications and get invited for an interview, if you are fortunate to receive a reply from them then its the usual standard reply of, we are sorry but in this instance you have not been selected for an interview, etc etc. So imagine my surprise when the agency got in touch with me and said the company were very interested in meeting me for an interview. By this time the spark still hadn’t ignited and I suppose realistically I went to the interview sort of half heartedly expecting like the last three interviews to get no further. However on stepping inside the building on that late February Wednesday afternoon, I did manage to find myself on becoming more positively focused and determined to try to do well at the interview. On the whole I thought it went quite well, when I was leaving I was advised that they still had several other people to interview before deciding who would be wanted back for a second stage interview.  Thinking no more about it, I decided to simply put it down to more experience at being interviewed and how to deal with competency based questions.

The following Tuesday afternoon I received a phone call from the agency asking if I would be interested in attending a second stage interview with this same company as they were very impressed with me at the interview as well as my CV and my long list of combined admin and warehouse environment experience.  Obviously I said yes, and the details were emailed to me to attend on the Friday morning of that same week.

This particular job was being created because the company had recently won a major contract with a very big and very well-known High Street chain store. The job would mean working very different hours to what I have been used to all my  life. But in all honesty I didn’t mind this. The idea being as a Lead Administrator, who ever got the job would be working directly with, and answerable to the Warehouse Operations Manager and his deputy and dealing on the front line with the admin side of this particular companies contract and ensuring the goods coming in for delivery and then leaving for dispatch to the stores were duly processed correctly on the computer system and to basically ensure the smooth running of the processes. A wonderful and challenging opportunity I thought, and on leaving the interview I actually felt a bit more confident and positive, at the same time I had to remain calm and realistic about the whole thing in case it didn’t come off in my favour.

After that weekend of wondering, on the Monday morning (2nd March) I received a telephone call from my contact at the agency asking me how well I thought the second interview went. I thought I need to be careful here I didn’t want to sound to over-confident, but advised my contact that I personally thought it went well, and that I was very impressed with the company and the job.  A moment later I was being asked would I accept the job if I was being offered it. ”Yes”, I replied. And then I was asked about when I would be able to start.  I advised her that as soon as possible, and that I would basically just need a day of two to deal with the job center and council and sort a few things out. That’s good she said, because they would like to offer you the job.

And so begins a new chapter in my life. And the best ever birthday present ever for my 50th (even if it is a month early) Over the next three weeks, I will be involved in the initial set up for the stock and the processes so that we are ready to launch with the contract on 1st April, and from that point I officially take on my new role and new hours.  Although it is at this stage a 3 months temp to perm contract,  we will see how it goes from there….hopefully in the right direction. For me personally this is an exciting and challenging  time, as well as feeling a little nervous and scared, and to be involved at this stage so early on in its development, and to not just walk into a new job and be part of what already exists. Its early days yet, but the people I have met and will be working with are great, very friendly and helpful. Having spent my first three days last week settling in and getting to know my way round the huge building and getting to meet new people, it means this week the work starts in earnest.

It just goes to prove that remaining hopeful and positive, and having a little bit of faith in yourself and your abilities can make all the difference

 

“Start Where You Stand” Poem by Berton Braley

Start where you stand and never mind the past;
The past won’t help you in beginning new,
If you have left it all behind at last
Why that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through;

This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned,
Don’t give the vanished days a backwards look,
Start where you stand.

The world won’t care about your old defeats
If you can start anew and win success;
The future is your time, and time is fleet
And there is much of work and strain and stress;

Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,
Here is a brand-new trial right at hand,
The future is for him who does and dares,
Start where you stand.

Old failures will not hald, old triumphs aid,
To-day’s the thing, tomorrow will soon be;
Get in the fight, and face it unafraid,
And leave the past to ancient history.

What has been has been; yesterday is dead
And by it, you are neither blessed or banned;
Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead,
Start where you stand.

Many thanks for stopping by, and letting me share my good news with you all.