Archive for the ‘Jobseeking’ Category

Tips for working mums (or those who want to be)

In Jobseeking on March 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Actually, I should just clarify that headline. When I say ‘Tips for working mums or those who want to be’ the tips will be for those who are already mums but who want more work, not those in work who want… That wouldn’t be appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

#49 Dreaming of Soho, sandwiches and a really good cup of coffee

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on June 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

So it’s now finally official, I didn’t get that job. But before I cave in to disappointment, I thought I’d pause one last time to indulge the fantasy I’d created about what it would be like to be back working in an office…

The fantasy basically involves me meandering up through Soho in the morning, perhaps pausing to indulge in a really good shop-bought takeaway coffee, full strength, ground on the premises, and with that pleasing crema it’s impossible to replicate at home. Read the rest of this entry »

#47 Somewhere between Station to Station and Low

In Jobseeking on May 31, 2010 at 10:38 pm



What can I say? It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve learned so much.

For those lovely people who misunderstood and thought  I actually got the job mentioned three posts ago – I didn’t, or I should say haven’t so far, only interviews, but that’s a start. Last week I made it to the third and final round of interviews, gave it my best shot (ok, messed up the second interview but really went for it on the third). Even managed to come up with three passable ‘interview outfits’ out of a rather limited wardrobe/budget. Read the rest of this entry »

#46 Kids

In Jobseeking, Kids on May 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

‘I mean I like spending time with you, Mum, but it would be good if you could get a job.’

Great. Not even your children respect you when you’re unemployed. You spend you working life feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your children, give up your job even, and it turns out they’re not even that bothered.

My eldest (the one, above, who is sick of me kicking around the house) won’t even let me pick her up from school any more now she’s old enough for an Oyster card. She’s already cut her own door key and we’ve given in and got her a mobile phone so we can keep tabs on her. My youngest still holds my hand on the way to school without realising it, but dumps me as soon as he hits the playground. Read the rest of this entry »

#44 Baggage

In Jobseeking, Kids on April 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Phew, just about made it from ripped-jeaned mum to plausibly employable professional in just 72 hours.

But here’s the inventory of what I had to empty out of my bag in order to restock it with grown up things like business cards and make up:

Two packets of colouring pencils from a child-friendly restaurant

Six 2010 season Match Attax trading cards (happy to trade if there are any Hull fans out there)

Two Love Film DVDs that I STILL haven’t had time to watch

a glittery hair tie

a single, child’s sock

five notebooks (have rationalised down to one)

two biros that don’t work

one pencil, minus point

6 Eurocents

a compilation CD

a wrist support

two miniature bodylotions from a hotel bathroom

a nit comb

the timetable for kids classes at the local sports centre

sunglasses (it was rainy)

a wooly mitten (it was warmish though)

four packets of tissues

a Build-a-bear loyalty card

Return family tickets to Manchester for a fortnight ago

an empty bag of Haribo

a tiny booklet of seed sticks

out of date book bag notes

a cheque book with no cheques left

two pots of Vaseline rose flavoured lip balm

an AA battery

a conker

#43 OMG I’ve got an interview!

In Food & Drink, Jobseeking on April 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm

The latest fashions v the latest cakes: introducing the Whoopie Pie!

Read the rest of this entry »

#42-and-a-half: Over to you…

In Homeworking, Jobseeking, Kids, Tales, Tips on April 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

So I’ve been banging on about me, but what about you?

It would be really interesting to hear everyone else’s experiences of being unemployed, under-employed, job searching, home working, being made redundant, feeling bored of looking after children, thinking of going back to work, or thinking of jumping ship.

Do you have any tips to pass on? Any observations to share? Spleen to vent?

Visual entries also welcome.

In the best traditions of the current exploitative jobs market, I can’t actually pay anyone to write anything of course – I just thought it would be fun.

You can remain anonymous, or plug your own websites/Twitter accounts/Facebook groups/CV to your heart’s content.

There’s no way I’m letting you all become administrators of this blog, so I’m thinking you could send me something via this Facebook group, email me if you already know me personally, or put something in the comments below that I’ll cut and paste into a proper blog entry.

[If you are more blog-minded than me and have a better solution as to how to make this work, please let me know!]

#42 A year of living frugally

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on April 26, 2010 at 10:29 am

It was this time last year that I realised that I was unemployed. My last book (The World’s Greatest Cities, since you ask) had finally gone to press after a full on couple of months, and the other small writing jobs had been filed. It is a common experience for the freelance to come to the end of bouts of intense work and realise that you haven’t had time to line the next things up. But in the past, something had always turned up. Not this time.

As is standard practice, I dropped a line to all my contacts letting them know I was free, pitched a few ideas, applied for some jobs. But nothing. Then more pitching and applying. More nothing. And so on… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

A year on and I can talk it all up as a ‘learning experience’. I’ve used the time to trim budgets, making us a leaner fitter household not weighed down by too many  financial commitments allowing us all to keep our options open. I finally embarked on a printmaking course at one of our wonderful adult education colleges that the Tories will probably kill off (Morley College), and felt the thrill of learning new things again.

I’ve toured secondary schools exhaustively and been heartened by the improving standards of the state system, despite received opinion otherwise. I’ve subsequently got my daughter into a local school that’s just been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (from being a no-go zone a decade ago) without even having to temporarily rent a house in the catchment area, fake a separation from my husband, or pretend I go to church.

I’ve realised that I don’t actually miss those interminable meetings that seem to take up 50% of office life – it’s a relief to be able just to get on and do stuff. I’ve been to careers workshops, sent my details round agencies and signed up for every jobs websites. I’ve realised that filling in job applications and looking for work is even harder than a full-time job – at least with a job you get holidays. I’ve done some really dull stuff for the money which has freed up time to do some really interesting stuff for none. I’ve taken heart from all the entrepreneurial things I’ve seen my friends doing and stopped thinking the world owes me a living.

I’ve gone from being antisocially miserable to artificially chirpy, reasoning that sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to solve anything. Most importantly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my career has hit the buffers and needs to follow a different track, but found that the change of scenery is actually quite pleasant.

I’ve talked to lots of other people who are at different points on the same journey: some still at the stage of despairing that there doesn’t seem to be anything out there, others well ahead of me and now enjoying hard-won success after a period of gloom. Some contemplating that leap into the unknown (go on, jump!).

The past 12 months have been bloody hard work, and will continue thus, but that’s how it should be. Friends, family and former colleagues have been incredibly supportive (thank you!) and even put some work my way (thank you again!). Though my earnings for the last tax year have been pitiful, almost half came in the first three months of this year, which I hope means things are picking up for all of us.

My next book – writing this time, not editing! – is due to be filed at the end of May; another proposal is with an agent. And I’m so busy for the next month I’m even going to have to get some temporary childcare.

#33 Just say, ‘No’

In Jobseeking on February 26, 2010 at 12:23 am

This week I have found my self in the enviable position of having to turn down work. Twice.

I have also NOT applied for five random jobs I saw advertised that a couple of months ago I would have thrown myself at in desperation (and been summarily rejected).

Is this the so called green shoots of recovery? Or just the crocuses? I was silly busy this time last year too. It was after Easter, when the new tax year started, that it all went pear shaped.

But when any offers of work still seem like a Christmas present, how do you know what to turn down? Try this simple checklist:

Do they pay well?

Everyone needs a sugar daddy. If you’ve got someone who’ll give you large sums of money on a semi-regular basis, then roll over and take it.

Will they pay on time?

I’ve known people to spend more time chasing payment for a piece of work than they spent doing it in the first place. Usually from my former employer. Why is it that company accounts departments fail to grasp the urgency of paying a freelance or subcontractor on time, yet if their own wages were late they would hit the roof? Really, we should all refuse to work for such people ever again. But we won’t.

Will it be fun?

If you went into a profession like music, art, theatre, publishing,  fashion, architecture, media, food, teaching, or anything vaguely creative or nurturing, chances are you didn’t do it for the money. It was probably because you couldn’t face the tedium of working in a bank. Why abandon your principles now?

Does it involve free food?

In the past 12 months my earnings have been scant, but I have eaten award-winning lamb burgers, with tangy mango chutney, followed by outrageous cheesecakes, drunk artisanal beers and fashionable spirits, enjoyed dinner a deux at Brixton’s Upstairs,and star treatment at Le Pont de La Tour (where Blair once took Clinton).

Do I want to work for them again?

If the answer is an emphatic yes, then you may have to accept that you are going to be exploited in order the name of future business. Call it a ‘loss leader’; it sounds more deliberate. In the mean time, the NUJ offers advice on how to negotiate good terms.

Have I done this before?

eg written virtually the same article? Played virtually the same character? Delivered the same presentation? The business-minded response would be to jump at the work as a cost effective means of operating  – requiring minimum additional preparation – and the only way to turn a profit. Personally I find such repetition stultifying. Which is probably why I’m broke.

Is it for a cancer charity?

There are some clients you should feel morally obliged to say yes to. And probably waive your fee. Especially if it involves young people with cancer.

Will it lead to other work?

For example, you might hope that writing a blog might lead to writing a book for not much money which might lead to writing a piece for a magazine for slightly more money relative to time taken but still very little, which might lead to another book commission for a bit more money than the first time round, and so on… Or at least keep your fingers exercising.

Do I have time?

If you’ve spent the past year getting used to being broke, then you are in a strong position when it comes to turning down work. Take advantage of the fact that you are now accustomed to not having any cash to view the possibility of cash as a bonus rather than a necessity, and one that should be weighed up against other pleasures. Ask yourself which you need more, a weekend drinking beer and reading the Sunday papers, or one spent tapping out lists of things to do in the Easter holidays.

Having applied this simple checklist to recent decisions of my own, I have:

* ‘sacrificed’ half term to work with other people’s children on something that turned out to be surprisingly rewarding,

* drunk too much coffee during brainstorming sessions on projects that aren’t going to make me rich but will be great fun all the same,

* rejected a commission off the back of a book I wrote ten years ago,

* passed up an offer from my ex-employer who is bound to pay late,

* done a favour for a good cause for someone who always pays on time,

* regretted committing myself to some menial work when I was desperate and is now getting in the way of me taking advantage of other opportunities,

* worked most evenings on a cash cow, and

* helped fundraise at school.

Last night I said farewell to our pub quiz; tomorrow I’m treating myself to a morning of licensed lying down (otherwise known as Pilates).

It may not be the best business practice, but I’m probably having more fun than most accountants.

#26 Ideas to inspire you

In Jobseeking, Tips on January 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Another month, another round of redundancies, this time more of my ex-colleagues . Luckily they’re all excellent, talented people who will fare much better than the title they’re leaving.

But at some point after going from an intense, exciting job in the centre of ‘the world’s second most exciting city’ (according to the book I edited last year, ‘The World’s Greatest Cities’) to sitting at home in their slippers (see post #7) even they will need a project.

Unfortunately, ‘a project’ is not the same thing as ‘an income’. For that you’ll need ‘a job’ (see post #11), ie a random means of getting money which may, or may not, be related to your interests and ambitions. In the current climate, probably not.

‘A project’ on the other hand will allow you to use your brain, creativity and talents. It will furnish you with fulfillment and make you the envy of friends who still have ‘a job’ and therefore no time or energy to take on ‘a project’ because they are too busy doing all the work of the people their company made redundant.

For example, I’ve just read about woman who has suspended her full time job-search and will be cycling to the world cup instead. If you want to go with her, you can email her on joinmecycle2sa@gmail.com.

Or you can try something more sedate. Here are just a few of the impressive things my friends have been up to that inspired me to get off my own gently expanding arse:

Starting a community garden

Launching a little coffee van business

Setting up a Saturday stall at Greenwich Market

Setting up an independent Manchester publishing house, Nightjar Press

Podcasting for petrolheads

Setting up London gay literary salon Polari

Taking over their local toyshop and turning it into a local cooperative

Writing and illustrating roleplay games

Setting up a street theatre company

Retraining as a midwife

Producing and playing at their own music nights

Organising penguin tours and creating the award-winning Sea Cabbage Cafe in the Falklands

At least three people who’ve got the funding together and are making/have just made films (guys, if you give me some links I’ll put them up)

…and I’m sure lots more that I’ve missed (but will add when I remember them!)

Hopefully some of these will eventually turn into ‘a job’ or some sort of moneyspinner; but even if they don’t they’ve provided their instigators with an outlet, and the community with something more.

For most people, the fatal mistake is to waste too much time deliberating about exactly which of their many brilliant ideas they are actively going to pursue. That way they end up doing nothing. Stick a pin in a list. Roll a dice. Pull bits of paper from a hat. Tippex™ them onto the back of snails and race them…

In no time you’ll be far too busy to worry about the fact that you’re skint.