Archive for August, 2011
Applications to graduate schemes have been invariably unsuccessful.
I think it is time for a change of tact.
I’ve been mulling over changes to the CV since the Dannii episode and have received droves of advice over the course of this process – keep the CV to two pages, don’t fucking swear, be less personal and forthright and so on. But the most monumental of advice came from Louise, who I exchanged emails with back in July. In the following email, where Louise refers to the mime email, I do not know what she is talking about.
The new CV can be found on ‘the CV’ tab above.
I’ll be reporting back next week to let you know if it fares any better with the prospective employers.
On to COVERING LETTERS 1 ?
There’s not a great deal going on at the moment so in an attempt to keep you interested I’m going to show you an old one that was so silly that I didn’t think it fit for consumption. Bear this in mind.
Sometimes I’ll apply for a job on the name of the job alone. In this case, for example, I liked the equation.
Sounds FUN doesn’t it? I applied. I’m very fast at applying now. I think I can apply for a job as fast as a recruiter can cut-and-paste a rejection email together. And that is FAST. I got the inevitable email back:
I had an interview!
Now I’ve been told that it is best to research the company that you are about to work for before you begin working for them: WMST Ltd is a “leading below-the-line direct marketing specialist”. I do not know what that means. I imagine ‘below the line’ is akin to ‘below the belt’ and that such a marketing strategy must be fuelled on the phrase ‘fuck’em where they live’ or a somesuch. They have a nice blue world for their logo that exaggerates the size of Africa: I thought about whether I could conscionably sell For Him Magazine. I thought about whether Kirsten had actually read the cv. I thought about Danniii. I thought about whether I could work for a company that exaggerated the size of Africa. I thought about whether a day trip to Reading might not break up the week a little bit:
Now before you say anything I felt so bad about the whole homosexual jibe and so uncomfortable about sharing it that I started counting all my gay friends on facebook* – in the classically fallacious ‘some of my best friends are…’ argument – to be wheeled OUT in case of trial (I’ve got gay friends, haven’t I Pete? Though having said that Pete when I invited myself round to dinner at your house in an attempt to push our friendship beyond the boundaries of the workplace you claimed that you never entertained at your house when I know that you’ve had Adam and Rob round for dinner and I know you make a mean slow-roasted pork because you’re always talking about it – why can’t I come round Pete?).
I knew this – the listing of gay people I know – would never be enough. A gesture was called for:
Not that I think I can buy an slur from the internet, no sir, but because it was the right thing to do.
*out of 293 friends on facebook 31 (10.58%) are confirmed homosexuals whilst a further 11 are suspected. Note that even ignoring the suspected cases I’m averaging (just) above the much vaunted 1/10.
THERE WAS NO INTERVIEW
On to TWELVE?
I am beginning to suspect that nobody counts you as a real-life graduate five years after the fact.
On to Eleven?
Neil hasn’t got back to me. Bradford Outsources’ phones are unmanned. I fear the worst.
The Bradford Outsource interview – Angelica, Sleepy Monobrow, Smirky Bentmouth, Neil, the whole gang – was a distraction devised by some bawdy prince-charming bent on taking Mother to a wine-tasting session and walking her respectfully to her door.
I kid. But Neil was so encouraging and nice that I wondered if I hadn’t maybe been given a break. Some trues:
True: I didn’t know what the job was.
True: it turns out that Bradford Outsource have a truly terrible reputation.
You know you’re on boggy ground when Google suggests ‘scam’ as the word most associated with your company. Apparently their ‘scam’ is to trick graduates, poor worldless graduates, into door to door sales. Can you imagine? Are Graduate schemes all D2D scams? What does a real one look like? I imagine frosted glass acclimatisation booths where graduates sit blinking at the light, sucking lungfuls of oxygen from a mask and watching in disbelief as everyone bustles about the office. “No-one is reading Ulysses”, they say to themselves, “OH FUCK NO-ONE IS READING ULYSSES”.
According to graduatescheme.com they are ‘quite popular with the students’ and ‘one can choose to work with IBM or joint the HM prison’s service scheme’. I hope I was applying for IBM, it’d be the ‘Julie’ debacle all over again at an HMP. Are they perhaps for me, graduate schemes?
In order to meditate more deeply on this and any other prospects that remain viable (and to get out of the house) I attended a careers-meeting with a wonderful woman called Esther. Wonderful Esther’d been handed the CV and had seen through the misanthropy and the self-regard to the scared little boy that I am. She offered to swaddle me in her considerable bosom. I was all for it. We set up an illegal careers meeting. Not illegal because we were learning about how to park on double yellows for a living, illegal because I’d never studied at the university the careers office belonged to and so was in no way entitled to Esther’s time. It was very nice of her to give it to me and THANKS ESTHER.
The last time I considered careers in a formal setting I was locked in a room with a computer. The computer asked innocent seeming questions about what I liked doing and I spent the whole time trying to find a set of answers that didn’t consign a boy to a lifetime of landscape gardening.
The meeting with Esther was considerably less lonely but fell foul of the set-the-goal-pursue-the-goal school of thought that looms large in all enterprises that wrestle with large groups of people who are expected to exercise a sense of autonomy. Esther was very gentle about the whole thing, made sure I knew that I didn’t have to set a goal if I didn’t feel I was ready, that the goals were entirely up to me and could be whatever the hell I wanted them to be. But, true to her training, lovely Esther is from the goal-school and she bent everything we talked about in that direction. This being my experience at the Job Centre and the Future Jobs Fund and now the careers office. I suppose there is a chance that these institutions are right about the whole thing. It is healthy to entertain the possibility, however slight, that they know better than me. What other method can encompass all hopes and dreams so simply? How else are we going to measure our successes?
But and BUT I wouldn’t be a responsible guardian if I pretended I was happy exposing my cherished hopes and dreams to such an old whore of a solution. Some I don’t know that I could admit to without first making 100% sure the straps of the straight-jacket were secure. Some I’m happy to exchange. This one for example: I’d rather like to arrest my slide into the yawning maw of minimum wage jobs foreverandeverandever. That counts as a GOAL right? Do we have a METHOD? Piss about on the internet? Current Result: nada. A graduate scheme then? Perhaps a man could work at a graduate scheme with a measure of dignity.
Technically you’re still a graduate five years after the fact. You’ve a shorter shelf life and you’ve been exposed to the business end of work, probably, and the chances are unless you’re a saint you’re might be a bit jaded and the moisturiser that you’re embarrassed to buy in the first place isn’t doing jack shit to stop your face sliding off your face. But you’re a graduate, and that’s what counts.
What sets a graduate apart from the rest? Lets have a look:
Things I Learned at University
That vinyl sounds better than CD. That just because you feel compelled to tell a girl that you ‘love’ her doesn’t mean that you ‘love’ her, if by ‘love’ you mean that you want to introduce her to your parents. That not many people eat well. That the 90% of philosophy that is abstracted philosophy is 100% masturbatory. That masturbating is something you do more of when you are sad. That if you try to infuse a look with the depthless love you think you feel for a person, that person will say that you are ‘looking at them weird’. What drugs feel like. That the one mood that you most closely identify with yourself is rarely attainable and that, regretfully, every mood is ‘you’. That worrying about whether or not something is ‘just my opinion’ is reductive and boring and a species of passive aggression. That there are some girls that you don’t want to have sex with. That autumn is the season that most mirrors the mind.
Not the most useful lessons for the workplace. What about the natural sense of superiority that a university education infuses you with? I used to work with a fellow called Matthew Took (Burnley bred/strong of arm/thick of head) who took my degree as a personal insult. He thought I thought I was better than him because of it. I didn’t. I thought I was better than him because I wasn’t racist. He could sing like a choir boy, that man. Absolute nightmare. But the old idea that the degree raises you above the common man survives.
Simon rejected my application to be a warehouse shift manager. I asked him why.
Disgusting idea isn’t it? Let’s abandon that one.
A graduate scheme success story: my friend Leonard is an English graduate who went on a graduate scheme and became a successful accountant – the English degree considered a boon by his company, the mark of a ‘rounded individual’ -the ‘analysis, communication and literacy skills gained from a humanities degree [the thing] that sets you apart from the rest’. Leo is not a drone or deeply compromised in a way I can tell and now has a measure of both financial and career freedom. I envy him it.
There seems to be a coming-to-a-point in my friend’s lives where they ‘wise’ up and stop fucking around. Sometimes it passes you by because it isn’t fun and maybe they’re revealing the final scorecards on an episode of Come Dine With Me you can’t work out if you’ve seen before or not, but these points decide lives**. You and I, conspirators, we might call it compromise so that we can file it under phony and not have to think about whether or not we’ll ever do it.
I think Leonard is wise. And that half the problem, my problem, the problem I hope a lot of us have since there’s safety in numbers, is not being able to bear the difference between the real world and the world of books or films or television or the imagination where life breezes by and any work anyone is doing is squarely off-camera, sort of in the way that the most grizzly & terrifying murders happen off-camera. Too horrible to look at. Or where untapped potential remains potentially bottomless and the thought that it possibly could be bottomless is addictive and comforting.
Sometimes we might pretend The-World-of-Work has exclusive rights to the problem of our career and the problem it lives in the language they use and the way human lives are moved about like pawns. tWoW certainly has a bad name but it isn’t to blame for fecklessness or lack of courage.
None but a few nuts love accountancy. I could not love it. I could not love the other jobs but I did them. I thought they asked nothing of me. It’s the temptation – to do something that asks nothing of you lest something is taken away that you didn’t want taken. When, after ten years at work, I got on top of the fact that these jobs were taking something from me then I reacted like you would if you woke up covered in leeches. And I woke up poor.
I’m going to go and apply for some graduate schemes before I run out of cigarettes.
* Bradford Outsource rather playfully suggest in the job description that D2D might be the primary function of graduates:: with a “consumer-focused approach” you will “take the first step”, on your regular “channels of distribution”.
**Not the Come Dine With Me points, I should add.
On to TEN ?
Monster got back to me in monstrously quick time about the AWUYCV article
Question 1. Who is this aimed at?
Expected answer: No-one, idiots.
Actual answer: “These articles are aimed at job seekers like yourself to try and improve their CV and become more visible to the employers that use Monster as a means of finding suitable candidates for their available roles.”
Question 2. Couldn’t you have used nicer colours?
Expected answer: Certainly
Actual Answer: ” The colours used on these pages are used for their clarity in what message Monster is trying to get across to the job seekers”
Question 3: Where did you hear these sentences?
Expected Answer: On the train back to London
Actual Answer: “ These particular sentences have been selected based on the number of years Monster has been active as a job board and feedback from our clients on what they are looking for when searching for appropriate candidates.”
Wow. I was way off. Also notice how Monster have made the answers SO BORING that you can’t bear to read them more than once.
A classic defence.
Awesome Words to Put on Your CV A-Z skipping-the-harder-letters Slideshow Pt.2/2
The thing is available in toto on the tabs by the CV.
I knew he was going to call my name way more than I knew the last seven interviewers were going to call my name.
“Do we have a… Benedict?”
And in the mental fuzz of walking across the room to meet his handshake wondering what everyone is thinking I do not have enough space in my head to capture his name. He goes to shake my hand very high at about chest level and I wonder if this isn’t the new way of shaking hands. Keep the grip firm, not too firm, and don’t hold the hand for too long. I never get the name and so we’ll call him Neil.
Neil is a young man, twenty-five, with a kind inquisitive face and he wears his suit well. He asks how I am and I subdue flashbacks of the morning’s trouble-in-the-toilet and the impression that I have been soaked in boredom to lie that I am ‘fine, thanks’. He is fine too. On the walk to the lift we pick up the nondescript girl with the portfolio case who hadn’t left at all. Her name is Angelica.
Neil’s go-to conversational gambit is to ask you about your name. He will interview some 50 people today and I imagine by the end of his career he will have an encyclopedic knowledge of names and will be a terrible bore.
He says that Angelica’s name sounds Russian. She tells him that she is from Poland. Out of the lift, through a cardboard corridor and into Neil’s office-for-the-day. He sits underneath a gigantic clock that’s telling the wrong time and invites us to fill the two chairs infront of him. A group interview.
‘So nothing too scary today, just a case of putting faces to names. We’re interviewing about 100 people for the graduate position today and..’.
‘This is for a graduate position?’
‘I got told on the phone that it was for a Film & Computer Game Enthusiast’
‘Well I’m interviewing for the graduate position, so if you want to step outside Benedict’
‘But, no, I’ve got a degree’
‘So if you’re happy I’ll continue interviewing for the graduate position’
‘Very good, go ahead’
‘So you’ve looked at the website and you know what the position is about – Angelica – what attracted you to the position?’
‘I’m interested in accountancy and think that I could progress in my career here, I want to have my own business in five years*’
‘What business?’ I ask excitedly, trying to make the whole thing more conversational and less weird.
‘An accountancy business’
‘Oh, that’s good’
‘And you Benedict?’ Neil asks me
‘I’m going to level with you here Neil, I don’t really know what the position is’
‘You didn’t look at the website?’
‘I did not’
Neil moves mercifully onto our employment history and I tell Neil basically what is in the CV as he rilfes past my Sharpie penned covering letter into the meat of the document stifling confusion rather marvellously (Neil is scrupulously and somehow kindly professional throughout). Angelica tells him about her role at John Lewis and manages to get in that she uses Microsoft office all of the time and I am jealous that she thought of this and start feeling competitive about the whole thing. Neil then puts on this dreamy face and asks ‘was there ever a person by the name of Evans’ like a medium trying to fish your dead aunt (ONO) from the ether.
‘Yes! A Paul Evans!’
‘I know his brother’ Says Neil and whether he knows him or not Angelica is astonished and says ‘that is useful’ and while I’m turning over what useful could mean in this context (did Angelica just get the job? Does that mean I didn’t get the job?) Neil turns to university degrees
Angelica has predictably done an accountancy degree and I begin to suspect that the position must have something to do with accountancy. Neil picks up my CV and kind of leafs through it theatrically and inscrutably and just fires away with the same question about the degree.
‘And how did you find it?’ He’s on the education page of the CV and I sort of lean over and point at the entry. ‘Pointless?’
‘Pointless’ I concur more smugly that I’d intended.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Without point.’ ibid
The three dot silence hangs so heavy that I push myself into feeding him some horseshit about Philosophy teaching you ‘how to think’ but that it isn’t all that vocational and I’ve spent most of my salaried career being told ‘don’t be clever’. Neil then does a nice thing and talks about reading Descartes as part of his extracurricular drive to fill his head with knowledge while his head is at its most receptive. ‘Something in common!’ I think, and so talk about Descartes by the fireside with his piece of wax subtracting all of the qualities of the wax until he has got to the very stuff of wax itself and about how he has to call in God to clean up the mind/body mess he’s got himself in as a kind of lame deus ex machina (I actually say deus ex machina aloud in the interview and reader it is not the first time).
‘I haven’t read all of Shakespeare’, he says ruefully, ‘and only a bit of Plato and Socrates’ and so I relate how fun Plato is, saying something like ‘you’ve got Socrates, Telemachus, a load of wine and some good looking boys in the corner- you’re having a great time!’.
A good joke or story can really make the difference in an interview.
After a few more questions where I feel like I might be closing the gap with Angelica, Neil asks us about what Key Skills we will be bringing along to the role. Angelica is bringing organisation and drive. Two is a good number, just makes the plural, isn’t too showy – Angelica knows her stuff. I’m bringing honesty to the table but also – and I’m not going to pretend this isn’t preplanned – I look Neil clairvoyantly in the eye and say slowly
‘but I think I would be very good at it’
disregarding entirely that I’ve already admitted that I don’t know what it is.
‘Right, he says turning to Angelica, would you be interested in coming back for a second interview?’
‘And the same question to you Benedict.’
‘Yes, Neil, I think I would.’
*Why always five years?
On to Nine?
Jobtitle: Graduate Scheme Company: Bradford Outsource
SAOC – Self Assessment of Chances
MiR – Mood in Room.
14:01 I park my bike up outside a building that I think is the correct building. It is so windy the trees look like they are underwater and my hair is everywhere. Two men walk past me, laughing. I think they’re laughing at me but then think that that’s quite a vain thought so resolve to think its just good hearty laughter. Even though they’re both looking at me. They are not the prettiest twosome.
14:03 Enter building. The entrance is marble, as promised, but is contrived so as to make the marble look cheap. I dawdle behind one of the laughing men who has got to the desk ahead of me. He has spiky hair and is small. When I get to the receptionist with the star-trek eyelashes and cervically pink lips I ask whether this isn’t the Bradford Outsourcing building. It is! I am doing well. She gives me a sheet to fill in and tells me to go through to the waiting room.
14:04 I walk past the short, spiky haired boy and his cohort who we’re going to call Goofy and whose features are splayed across his face in the same way a premature babies’ are. They are laughing conspiratorially again. It is now harder to believe they aren’t laughing at me. The room is just round the corner and has thirteen people in it. Even though very loud dubstep is thrilling through the room the floor clicks conspicuously as I walk across it. Everyone in the room is hostile.
14:06 With my own pen (pilot G2, a worldbeating pen) I fill in the sheet that the receptionist gave me. The sheet is very easy. I ask the lady next to me what she put in as her career ambition so as to make conversation.
Lady: You just take it to the woman at reception.
No I know, but what did you put in the ambitions box?
Lady: Oh on the form?
Yes, in the career ambitions box.
Lady: Just that I wanted to reach my best potential.
Lady: In anything, just whatever my career is I just want it to reach my best potential
Ok. I put that I want to be liked. Universally liked.
Lady: Oh ok, that’s a good one.
Aside from people being called away this exchange is the only exchange of words between anyone for the entire time I am in the waiting room.
14:07 I hand the form to the receptionist and ask how long she thinks it’ll be before my interview. She tells me I am third in the list. This, I will discover, is a lie. I walk past Spiky & Goofy again. They are now openly laughing at me. I notice that Spiky’s hair is so thin and artlessly spiked that you can see his scalp and I think he must be very ill and that his illness must be essentially moral.
14:09 Back in the waiting room I have slouched into 1/13 black canvas tub-chairs in what I think is a professionally neutral cross legged manner. Curiously, every chair is ripped in exactly the same place. The walls of the room used to be white. The ceiling is tiled with whatever is marginally less deadly than asbestos and the light is fluorescent. Including myself there are 8 men in the room and 5 women. Of the eight men I am the only one whose hair exceeds one inch. 5/8 men’s heads are shaven or have been shaved in the past month. Shoes are universally bad.
14:11 I take a few seconds to assess my competition. One man’s face is undulating unnervingly as he genuinely reads a newspaper. The word that best describes the undulation is awesome. Next to him sits a girl who fills her suit to the seams, is wearing Jarvis Cocker glasses and is pretending to read. Sleepy Monobrow slumps in his chair as if he’s awaiting results in the clinic after his friends egged him on to do things with a girl in Amsterdam that his mother would not be able to bear knowing the details of. After nearly making eye-contact with Sleepy I become fascinated by my cuticles. SAOC: Fair.
14:17 The man with the undulating face has been called. The interviewer was awash with charm and easy handshakes and Undulate was suddenly animated and threw himself into the handshake with gusto. A new woman walks mantis-like across the clicking floor and sits in Undulate’s old chair. She is wearing a velveteen flower the size of a dinner plate in lieu of a belt buckle and shoes designed by a masochistic Willy Wonka. She has an underdeveloped chin and a toothy pout. She will be called Sneery.
14:19 The woman who wants to reach her best potential is called. I wonder: ‘Why Dubstep?’
14:23 I complete the inventory of the room:
- 1x sensitive looking blue-eyed boy (defining fiddle – thumb twiddle),
- 1x shifty looking fellow who gives the impression he’d try and fuck you if no-one were looking*,
- 1x Cameron Thomas (read from tattoo on arm),
- 1x delicately pretty girl,
- 1x cage fighter with arm in cast,
- 3x unreadable Asians.
14:25 I realise that I have made my foot numb by sitting in the professionally neutral cross legged manner. I look around the room to see that I am the only one who has adopted the pose, every other male sitting defactorially. MiR: bored.
14:27 One of the unreadable Asians is called. Her name sounds like the word: vagina. No-one laughs or exchanges looks.
14:29 I examine the three pastel Rothkos that are mishung on the walls and stare for a while at a desultory and yellowing cactus that is slowly dying in the corner. From where I am sitting I can see the corridor. In comparison to the people in the room the people in the corridor so animated as to appear to be from a different planet entirely.
14:30 An Asian man wearing a chequered shirt that would hurt your television enters. Sleepy Monobrow is feeling at his face and I take the opportunity to note that of the 6/8 men are playing with their faces. I remember reading that playing with your face is a gesture of reassurance and so a sign of inner turmoil. SAOC: Improved.
14:33 A blonde woman with a pronounced smirk enters. There are no tub-chairs left so she leans restlessly against a wall. MiR: hostile.
14:36 A woman whose outstanding feature is a kind of black plastic portfolio case walks out of the room without being called. I assume she has tired of waiting and is going back to whatever it is she normally does.
14:37 Cameron Thomas and another man are called. Cameron Thomas is not called Cameron Thomas as his tattoo led me to believe. He is called Ryan. You get the sense, when people are called from the room that you will never see them again, one way or the other.
14:39 Sneery is called. Her shoes look like they want to hurt me. I realise that the room is so horrible that it makes everyone look seedy. SAOC: So so.
14:44 Smirky Bentmouth accidentally makes a noise with her shoes and Bighead (a new entry, unremarked) turns to look at her but Smirky is pretending to look at the ceiling. Smirky Bentmouth knows Bighead is looking at her but will not look back from the ceiling until Bighead looks away. Bighead looks away.
14:45 Sulky Blue-eyes takes his phone from his inside jacket pocket and looks at the time and then looks at the ceiling despairingly and rearranges his arms into a full-on FOLD.
14:47 I catch myself playing with my face. SAOC: Poor.
14:48 I myself am called.
*Whether you were man, woman or beast of the field.
On to INTERVIEW 1 PT. 2 ?