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.

Living in a dream world!

Finally some good news on the job front 🙂

After more than two months of job hunting, completing applications and attending interviews and ending up feeling dejected and frustrated, I finally landed myself a dream job, be it only temporary.

My intention these past few weeks was to get myself a full-time. permanent job. I had no intention of looking for, or even accepting something temporary, but the past few weeks have dictated otherwise.

In recent weeks, I attended three different job interviews and unfortunately came in as second choice on all three occasions, leaving me feeling despondent and wondering just where I went wrong, and so why was I not first choice. In a nut shell, I have a great CV, but am hopeless (probably because I am out of practice) on interviews and interview techniques, and I have found out that with the questions being asked, is that interviewers are looking for specific answers and if it isn’t what they want to hear from you then you have failed.

I remember an old saying, ‘its not the winning, but the taking part that counts’. But when it comes to getting a job, second place really is no good, this is one time only first place would do.

Last Friday morning I had a phone call out of the blue from a lady from a recruitment office in Leamington Spa, in our little chat, she mentioned she had seen my CV on CV Library and after the usual questions she announced that she believed she had something  that might be ideal for me, because among other things I had stock inventory experience and held a qualification in logistics and also because I had SAP computer experience. She advised me that this massive very well-known global company in Birmingham where looking for someone to work with them for up to about 20 weeks, as a Co-Pack Administrator. Straight away I told her it wasn’t what I was looking for, temporary work was too unsettling and insecure, and at the end of the 20 weeks, where would I be, more than likely unemployed again.

We carried on talking for a few more minutes, and something made me think and say that I really do need to get back into work asap, and I really do need the money to pay my bills, and 2o weeks of a salary is much better than no salary at all.  I ended up saying yes I am interested before I realised I was saying it.  I was then asked if I had an interview arranged for Friday afternoon or Monday  would that be alright.  I acknowledged that it would be.

About 15 minutes later the lady at the recruitment office, whose name is Kam, phoned me back, and asked if 3 pm that Friday afternoon was alright by me, and I said it was. Kam then said she would email the information through, who, where and when. As she was talking to me the email came through and the company based in Bournville, Birmingham was none other than Mondelez/Kraft, the owners of Cadbury’s.  A great opportunity I thought, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t living in a dreamy chocolate covered world at that point in time. When I did pinch myself, ”ouch”, it hurt!

Fortunately, I knew how to get to Bournville, finding the right building in this huge factory and office complex was another story.

The interview, I thought went fairly well. Good job and pay, a possible 20 weeks work and even the chance to apply internally for a permanent position nearer the end of my contract there, should any be available. I left the interview being told they would have an answer for me Monday one way or another. This had to have been the longest weekend ever for me personally. Throughout the weekend I kept picking faults with myself, going over the interview, I could have said this or that instead of what I had said. Come Sunday night I went to bed convinced I had failed again, and perhaps came a close second yet again, and resigned myself to the fact I would be on my laptop all day searching the vacancies.

Just after 9.30 am on Monday morning Kam from the recruitment office phoned me, asking how it all went on Friday, what did I think about the job, the place etc, and if they did offer me the job if I be willing to accept it, I did say yes, but added that I didn’t think I would get offered it. As we were speaking on the phone she received an email from one of the two managers who interviewed me Friday afternoon, stating that they had decided they would like to offer me the job and could I possibly start Tuesday.

I have to say my first day there, I was very nervous, not sure what to expect, what would the team be like who I would be working with, how would I cope with  the role itself……..all the usual questions. And I must say sitting here tonight typing my blog, for the first time in several weeks, I actually feel at ease and I’m looking forward to going back there tomorrow, and not just for the yummy chocolate either 😉

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

Nice work……IF you can get it!

I wouldn’t say that I am impatient by nature, and I’m not the sort of person who would normally have ago at the ‘British system’ but this past week  the levels of severe  anxiety, worry,  frustration and even a little despair are already starting to creep in.  Most of last year for the first time in many years I was free of severe bouts of depression, felt I was a little more free of uncertainty, a little more confident, a little more in control of my emotions, all in all for just a year I had a taste of the ‘good life’, I felt what it was like to enjoy my life and more importantly to be able to get on with it, without the depression, anxiety and fatigue gripping me tightly around my throat.  However, that does not mean I am ready to give up on it, it simply means I want it back again.

Job searching is in itself a full-time occupation these days. I know that from my experiences a little over a year ago. My circumstances regarding a time limit to find a new job is far more important this time around. Despite compulsory redundancy again, I don’t have the luxury of having had a redundancy payment to fall back onto this time, and the bills still have to be paid.

A number of friends who know me well enough have advised me that with all my experience, skills and knowledge it won’t take me long for some one to employ me again. Whilst in one way I can agree with and understand what they say should be true, the main problem is getting employers and agencies to actually read and take notice of  you or your CV and cover note on your applications. I wish I had that faith in myself as my family and friends  have in me. It’s not easy these days to make any prospective employer see beyond what they feel they need to see. It seems they don’t want to see beyond a couple of sheets of A4 paper with your present/last duties and responsibilities on it.  At the end of the day I am just like anyone else on this planet, simply a government statistic. It seems that the combination of real experience, the ability to want to learn, and ability to be flexible and able to learn just count for nothing these days. Employers expect you to walk straight into a job already knowing every single part of the job.

There are so many differences in this day and age on how you apply and present yourself  for a job compared with back in say the 1980’s. The old method was to write a letter to an employer, requesting  a proper application form which could be anything between 2 to 10 pages long. Ideally, one of the ways you were assessed was by the quality of your handwriting in that letter and how well you completed the application form. Employers (back then known as Personnel Dept’s) would actually take the time to sift through and read applications, and draw up a shortlist of people they would like to meet at an interview.   Then the next stage you would be notified if your application was successful and whether you had been ‘invited’ to attend an interview or not.  At the interview stage  it would be would be based on how well you present and conduct yourself…..calm, confident, knowledgeable – hair and clothes neat and tidy, clothes colour coordinated, shoes polished etc, and you would be asked questions applicable to the actual job you were applying for.   In due course you would be notified whether or not you were successful and what would then happen if you were.

Although these interviews tended to make one feel very nervous, in one way it gave you  the chance to be able to present and sell yourself directly and have a good go at trying to get the job and letting any prospective employer actually make up their minds based on what they had seen and  learned from you and how you presented yourself and learn  about you by actually meeting you, and not just by assuming something. being able to meet someone directly and project that image made all the difference.  Even if you did not get the job, at least you were notified that you had not been successful…….a little acknowledgement does go along way to making one feel more human………which of course is a lot different to today’s approach of selection by automation and presumption by posting an online CV!

In this day and age the computer does the work, as do ‘key words’ on the online job sites. I can pride myself on an ability to be very flexible and adaptable whilst I have over the last 20+ years have been working in an office and warehouse environment.

The business that I worked for during all these years progressed considerably in what was an extremely difficult market, we as a company had to adapt to these changes in order to survive and stay ahead of the competition.  We all progressed with these changes, but a great many didn’t like the changes and didn’t embrace them. For some of my older friends and work colleagues they didn’t see a challenge as a challenge, but more of an intrusion in their routine of work, it was just something they had to do in order to pay the bills and afford to go on holiday every year.   I, on the other hand enjoyed an opportunity and was fortunate to be able to train as an internal BSI auditor, and achieved lead auditor status, thus I then trained other new auditors. In addition to this I put myself through night school for a year to obtain a professional qualification in first line management and logistics. For 10 years I was a union rep and health & safety rep, including learning about and understanding  risk assessment. I was a first aider at work for more than 12 years. Several times over the years I was appointed to lead projects. And whilst I appreciate that some, if not most of this is probably not actually practical to jobs that I applied for early last year, and am applying to currently, it must surely send a message to say to any new prospective employer that, although I don’t know everything, that I am flexible in my approach to any work I do, I can adapt, I can learn and even at my age still learn new things, and therefore I am willing.  After all I have just spent the last year of my life in a completely different company learning about watches, all different part for all different makes and models, what makes them work as well as the administration side of things such dealing with customers over the phone  ( another new skill…..customer services), as well as by email, and learning a brand new computer system and database. Had these financial cutbacks not taken place I would have learned a great deal more.

In one way the progress my old company made (D&A)  proved how very flexible and adaptable we could be on making progressive changes, so much so that another major corporation liked us so much they merged with us (at least that was the official announcement) the truth of the matter was when it came to eye care we were the best, and this other company wanted our brand name and all the excellent service and reputation we had built up. A bit like the guy who liked Remington  so much….he bought the company.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not sour grapes, its proof that our company progress was a threat to others in the optical business, because we made it into the best. The point being, all the changes that went on within our company over the years, the work towards all the improvements, our excellence, our reputation resulted in us all being able to adapt and be flexible in our work and in our approach. I for one was very proud to be associated with the name of  Dollond & Aitchison for over 20 years. It was a sad day for all of us when the ‘merger’ happened, because it meant it was the realisation that the great name of D&A and its reputation we had all been part of building up over the years, would disappear from the High Street, and would only be known by association under another companies name.

Last week I reluctantly had to deal with signing on to the Jobseeker website, filling out pages of information just to get an appointment to go and see an advisor. Then at the appointment I was given a pile of paperwork, and told basically this is what I must do to prove I am looking for work and applying for jobs. One has to log all the applications/job reference numbers made. If my advisor feels that there is a job on the Universal Job website that is suited to my personal skills/qualifications and I haven’t applied for it, they want to know why. You have to prove to Jobseekers (or more to the point the government) that you are doing everything within your power to find a new job, if you can’t prove this then they can stop your money. Even though a huge number of jobs out there pay minimum wages, and just isn’t enough to pay the bills and cover the cost of travelling to and from work, they still expect you to apply for them. I for one certainly don’t expect to be valued on a salary at the high-end of the career market, but at the same time I am worth a good deal more than a minimum wage that won’t cover my ever rising bills and general living expenses. I’m not extravagant person by nature, but who doesn’t enjoy the odd little luxury every now and then.

What should be changing is the way in which employers and job agencies deal with online applications and not just look at the ones that stand out to them, and the government needs to deal with setting the minimum wage levels higher than what they currently are. Until the government do this then all and any employers can afford to just pick and choose who they want for their own sake rather than give any prospective employees any real chance to apply for certain jobs and prove themselves and better themselves, not because they have got degrees from University, but because a lot of people like myself already have plenty of experience and because they can be flexible to learn a certain amount more. Agencies can afford to weigh up certain and specific pros and cons of each applicant based on what the employer dictates as their needs for the vacancy, but I sometimes have to wonder if their system of weighing up is in actual fact an ideal one. Further more these days, if you are fortunate to get to the interview stage you have to know all the information you can get hold of about the company and its profitability, it’s shares on the market, who’s in charge at the top etc. If I went for a cleaning job, or a clerical job, or warehouse picker/packers job, what the heck would I need to know all that for!

I said this last year, and it’s happening all over again, it feels big brother is watching you! And I’m not paranoid…..not yet anyway!

This is not me being a defeatist, but how can you prove to anyone that you are doing all within your power to find new employment, that you want to work, need to work and yet you are not being given the chance to either be acknowledged by employers or agencies who work on their behalf. Everyone who applies for jobs is being told the same thing, that you have to make your CV stand out above anyone elses. the competition out there is so fierce that most of the CV’s just aren’t given a second glance. Either you have all the experience that is required, or you don’t get a second looking. A perfect example of this is two jobs I looked at last week stated must have experience at numerous things, I ticked all the boxes except 2 on one application and 1 on the other application, because I didn’t have the full range of expected experience. there was nothing to say that the right applicant could be taught the missing lack of experience.

Ah well here goes another week of full-time employment looking for full-time employment, I’m determined to not let the frustration, anxiety, despair, worry and every other negative emotions set in. But in this situation easier said than done.

In the meantime in order to preserve my current reasonable level of mental health, I will have to give myself time to get out with my camera and away from several hours a day looking on the job sites seeing if that right job presents itself.

As old Yosser used to say, ”Gizza’ job!”

Many thanks for stopping by.

Tomorrow is another day!

A new year, a new start……and perhaps God willing a new career!

Imagine my surprise last Monday when a young gentleman phoned me out of the blue asking if  I was interested in a particular job he thought might well be suitable for me. He had seen my CV on-line at CV Library and was impressed by my credentials!! On telling him yes, once he had given me the details, he said he would get back to me…hopefully with an interview. Imagine my surprise when he phoned me back four days later with a job interview for tomorrow afternoon at 4.00pm because the company also liked the information on my CV.

This has of course left my mind racing, and some what anxious…..but having said that right now I feel fairly calm, and I have come to the conclusion I can only do my best. Confidence doesn’t even come into it at the moment! Knowing what my job capabilities and work  record and experience is…. is one thing…..being able to sell yourself to any new prospective employer is something else.

Bearing in mind this will be my first ever job interview in just over 20 yrs, and I know things have changed. I’ve done my ‘homework’ and learnt a little about the company involved (although until these last few days I have to admit I had never heard of them before, but the more I read up on them the more I like the sound of them.) For obvious reasons at this stage I am unable to divulge the name of the company or any information about them. I have made notes, have written down questions etc etc…..and I suppose realistically I am prepared at this stage as I will ever be……..but after all tomorrow is another day.

I have to admit I never expected for one single moment I would be getting a job interview this soon after being made redundant from my last job, and to be perfectly honest I don’t imagine I will for one single minute get the job…….that isn’t pessimism creeping in….that is just being realistic. Positivity  is one thing but when it comes to this type of situation in this day and age one has to be realistic as every day you hear stories about the availability of jobs, and the number of people who go after them only to be bitterly disappointed they never get them. So I am keeping an open mind about the whole situation, and even if I don’t get the job it will be a learning curve for me on the rights and wrongs of job interviews, and what to expect in the future. But one thing is certain….one has to hope and one has to try to be positive.

 

Searching for a new job/career has to start somewhere, and the start of the new year is a good a place as any.

 

Thanks for stopping by.