Archive | October, 2011

Another notch on the post

28 Oct

 No, not that  kind of post. Honestly your minds are in the sewers… I mean the rejection post.

 I’m the not-so-proud owner of yet another rejection email for a job that, although I didn’t particularly want, I would have accepted if they’d offered. You with me?

Not only was I told ‘no’ in a Family Fortunes-esque eh-uh kind of way, the one shred of hope I had that they’d got it wrong and wanted to try me out, was cruelly snatched away.

The first email entitled Application Update  read: “Thank you for your application for a role with _______.

I’m sorry to advise that unfortunately, on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful following the shortlisting process.”

So far, so familiar. Though I don’t like the use of the word advise, I prefer inform, but perhaps I’m being a tad fussy. And shouldn’t ‘shortlisting’ be two separate words, or hyphenated?

It continues: “We received a high volume of applications for this particular role, therefore, feedback will be available on this occasion.”

I’d use the word ‘number’ instead of ‘volume’ – it is referring to applications after all. I don’t like the overuse of the comma. It’s not a sub-clause so I wouldn’t bother with the second one.

And I’m fed-up of hearing about my failure ‘on this occasion’. Which other occasion could they possibly know about? Do they read this blog? Perhaps.

I’m delighted that given the high number of applicants they will work hard to give me feedback.

Then an hour later my email inbox pinged. It read: “Please ignore the previous email sent.”

Huzzah! Interview potential? The dawn of a new employment era? Erm no.

I scanned down the rest of the email which was a copy and paste job from the previous one, apart from a useful addition which read:

“We received a high volume of applications for this particular role, therefore, feedback will NOT be available on this occasion.”

Hopes dashed, big fat rain cloud over my new era, back to square one.

It concluded with a wishy-washy, generic, thanks-but-no-thanks and good luck with the future statement.

I don’t want your best wishes. I want job stability, a monthly wage and your pension scheme.

Perhaps I should have a new approach and instead of getting upset and annoyed I should use the rejection for the greater good like this chap:





It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you

26 Oct

Given the economic climate, the jobs market and the saturated graduate recruitment pool, the latest figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) are hardly surprising.

AGR statistics reveal that the number of CVs submitted for each vacancy has doubled since 2009. The largest employers receive on average 83 CVs for each post, with some companies receiving as many as 150 applicants per job. Crikey.

So how on earth are you meant to stand out from the crowd? Well there are two important things to bear in mind: targeting a CV or job application specifically to the job advertised and harnessing the potential of social networking.

Casting one’s net far and wide might seem a good idea, however prospective employers will see through the generic and throw your not-so-carefully-written application out of the window.

Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Britain’s largest private graduate recruiter, told The Independent that the figures suggest students are hedging their bets by sending out CVs en-masse.

“I think the sheer number of applications – which far outstrips the number of students graduating each year – shows that students are trying to send out as many applications as possible. That might seem like a good idea but I’d actually argue that those who send fewer, but more focused and targeted CVs, tend to do much better.”

It would seem that in media roles, it’s particularly bad form to go on fishing expeditions of any sort.

That’s partly why it’s been quiet on the old blogging front (mea culpa). I spent two days filling in a job application form which required the usual information (qualifications and employment history) but also how my training and experiences fulfil the key skills criteria.

It doesn’t sound that difficult, but when you’re desperate to impress someone and it’s a HANDWRITTEN application (shock horror) it takes longer than you’d think. One typo and the whole lot needs to be re-written. And it did.

Secondly it seems the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has a new web 2.0 spin.

Greg Johnson, a business executive and careers coach, recently wrote a blog post on this very subject.  Although it’s essentially advertising a workshop on how to utilise social media in a job search, the second paragraph got me thinking:

“It is not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

That little add-on went round and round my head. Perhaps subconsciously I had recognised this, after all I have been attempting to get people to know me. I have this blog, I have contacts through Facebook and Twitter, and I keep in touch with colleagues from previous jobs.

I then decided it was time to be serious about this social networking for employment malarkey and join LinkedIn. Cue confused face.

So I’ve joined, but my profile looks nothing like the others I’ve seen. It needs some serious work.

I’d rather have people ‘know me’ through LinkedIn thinking I’m a potential asset to their company, rather than thinking “What a sad case, she can’t even grasp how to use LinkedIn.”

So today chaps, it’s Operation Sort out Profile.

What are you up to?








Getting an interview: how to make an impression and bag that job

17 Oct

If you’re looking for guru-esque advice about how to pass an interview with flying colours, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.

The blog title is more of an aspiration, rather than a ten point how-to guide.

In fact being invited for interview is something of an achievement at the moment.  I’ve lost count of the number of applications that I’ve filled in.

And I’m not talking a copy and paste exercise from one application or CV to another. I mean full-on in-depth analysis of the organisation, its values and principles and how I’d hope to fit in.

Of course 99% of the time I’m unsuccessful, well I assume so as no-one bothers to reply, but on rare occasions I get a reply which says: “We would like to invite you to interview.” Exciting times indeed.

Now as I’m just another wannabe hack, you may assume that I’ve not been all that successful in the interviews I have had. This is partly true. However I do have a decent track record in some respects.

As part of my degree I had to organise a 12-month placement in Westminster. As I was interested in going down the media route I opted to apply for a placement at The House Magazine.  

It wasn’t a given that they would take me on, but I must have done something right during the course of the 30-minute interview as I was offered the placement there and then.

On the train back up to Hull I did what any self-respecting successful applicant would do, I toasted my success with a half a bottle of rosé that I had smuggled onboard from the King’s Cross branch of M&S.

Runaway success onboard the Hull-bound train

I passed an ‘interview’ for my waitressing job and I also passed the interview I had for a temporary admin role. Granted they weren’t the most difficult.

And let’s not forget the post-grad journalism course I’ve just completed – part of the application process was an interview, along with a written test. But let’s face it, it would be pretty dire to fail an interview for a course I was intending to pay for.

Since completing my NCTJ this year I’ve attended two interviews and failed to bag that elusive first media job.

The first interview involved a five-hour round trip travelling by trains and taxis. It wasn’t so much an interview, as half a day’s unpaid work.

I had to undertake a number of typical journalism tasks including re-writing news stories, editing copy, researching the latest updates from the emergency services and compiling lists of potential leads. After three-and-a-half hours of doing that I was then taken into a back room to be interviewed.

It was more of an informal chat than an interview, and after a cursory glance at my portfolio which he noted contained, “all the usual student crap” he asked me the grand total of three questions:

(1)   Why do you want the job? (Insert lengthy explanation with examples here)

(2)   How would you handle a death knock? (Same as above)

(3)   Are you willing to relocate? (Yes)

As we shook hands he promised to get in touch regardless of the outcome. To be fair he did, four weeks later. And he said no.

The second interview was a two-day affair which involved me working (for free naturally) on a Thursday and Friday.

I wrote, chased and filed copy, conducted interviews and organised the photo diary over the course of the two days, with the only interview aspect being a five-minute chat asking how I was getting on.

My portfolio of work wasn’t even mentioned. Again I was told I would be informed of the outcome by the following Monday.

I wasn’t. Instead I found out the following week that I hadn’t got the job by virtue of the fact that a mutual acquaintance had accepted the role two days earlier.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?

(1)   Most places don’t respond when they say they will.

(2)   My portfolio isn’t as important as I imagined it would be.

(3)   An interview is essentially a licence for an organisation to get a bit of free work out of as many applicants as possible.

(4)   A lot of it is down to who, not what, you know.

(5)   It will inevitably involve some chasing on my part to find out the outcome of the interview.

(6)   You need extremely tough skin to succeed in this industry.

 However the following is still important:

(1)   Dressing smartly

(2)   Believing in yourself

(3)   Taking a portfolio with you (just in case)

(4)   Researching the organisation

(5)   Knowing your own experiences, skills and how they meet the criteria.

(6)   Identifying your own weaknesses and how to improve.

I’ll bear all this in mind the next time I’m lucky enough to be invited to a job interview.

For now it’s tea, toast and yet another application form.

Easy like Sunday morning?

16 Oct

After my unexpected two-day hiatus from Wannabe Hack land, I’m back in business.

I had planned to write yet another witty, insightful and entertaining (ahem) blog post on Friday night, but unfortunately was drafted in to do a cover shift at the Bolton branch of my work.

I say unfortunately, but I quite enjoyed it. There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end, not knowing any of the staff, which table is which and how to use the computer systems.

Then on Saturday morning, as I was blasting my hair dry, I get a phone call from my supervisor:

“Hi Helen, did you know you were meant to be in work twenty minutes ago?”

” Erm, no. Oopsy.”

“Can you get in as soon as possible?”

“Erm yeah, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

So I was already 20 minutes late for work, was still in my PJs, and had mad hair. Great.

Credit where credit’s due, I was true to my word and was in work within the magical 10 minute time frame. I looked a little worse for wear (but nothing new there then).

Wigan Athletic played Bolton at home (Wigan lost… if you were interested) so we were busy bees making sure supporters were fed and watered before and after the game.

After a long, long Saturday shift I was back in on a Sunday, a day of rest, at 8am for a staff meeting. Joy and happiness.

Fast forward a couple of hours and I’m wearing my trackie bottoms, a sweater, and sporting a rather sexy electric blue snuggie while watching The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.

The way the weather is looking, I’ll have to crack out the onesie/adult babygro soon. It’s not the most attractive or practical outfit, but it keeps me lovely and warm and I’m sure it will be the perfect attire for job applications.

The Saturdays' Una Healy feels the onesie love

Not so morning glory

13 Oct

I knew as soon as I hit the snooze button for the second time yesterday morning that it wasn’t going to be a great day.

Wednesday marked the third day of silence from Blackberry (insert Steve Jobs jokes here), another wall of silence from prospective employers and yet anther pre-shift ritual of me hopping about in a mad rush.

I clearly had my journo hat on as I was up early(ish) researching and writing a blog post, looking at newspaper headlines and scanning social networking sites, all before my 10am shift started.

Given my dedication to early morning journalistic pursuits I only left the house at 9.45am and it was clear that I was cutting it fine traffic-wise.

It was only as I was driving to work through the wind and rain that I realised a number of things. I had no make-up on, I had the wrong shirt on, and I had no cash float. Great.

Make-up may seem low down on the list of priorities, but most of you haven’t seen me without make-up on. It’s tragic. Let’s just be thankful it’s nearly Halloween.

The wrong shirt? Well I thought I’d picked up the one with buttons on the cuffs and I hadn’t. I’d chosen the one which needs cufflinks, and can anyone guess what I didn’t have with me?

The lack of float wasn’t a complete nightmare but an inconvenience nevertheless.

Then to top it all, as I locked my car door I caught a glimpse of my reflection and saw I had inexplicably enormous hair. Think Monica from Friends in The One In Barbados. But bigger.

Big is beautiful: Monica's Barbadian bouffant

Two minutes after arriving at work I hastily applied some make-up, sorted out a float and donned a rather dashing pair of safety-pin cufflinks.

The hair? Well it stayed as unruly as a sackful of mattress springs throughout my entire shift. Wonderful.  

So if you saw a rather bedraggled looking waitress yesterday, whether it was me or someone else, spare her a thought. You don’t know what kind of morning she’s had.




Blackberry outage reveals technological dependence

12 Oct

So yesterday I managed to surgically detach myself from my Blackberry in order to pick up a racket and regin supreme on the badminton court. (Look, I’m rubbish at every other sport, let me have this one moment of glory…)

As I came off the court and checked my phone, I thought it odd that I hadn’t had a single email come through in the last hour.

I’d normally have had at least three loan shark emails trying to coerce me into taking on loans with obscene interest rates.

I hadn’t had any BBMs either. Hmmm.

I only put the proverbial two and two together when I heard the lunchtime news and saw lots of angry tweets complaining about the server crashing. Again.

I’d been lucky in dodging the service problems earlier in the week, but unfortunately wasn’t so lucky this time around.

 Yesterday, hashtags #RIM and #BB were trending globally on Twitter. It would seem that Blackberry owners were not happy bunnies.

Writer @catherine_mayer declared to her Twitter followers: “Black.b.erry n 1. An edible soft fruit 2. A prickly shrub 3. A useless piece of junk that hasn’t worked for three days #newdefinitions #RIM

Many users were lamenting their decision at choosing a Blackberry over an iPhone. Phil Knight, a solicitor specialising in property disputes, tweeted: “Will the #blackberry server let me down again today? Should have kept my trusty iphone!”

Although many Blackberry owners are businessmen and women, spare a thought for those of us who rely on our phones just as much.

Having the internet and emails with me means that I can leave the house without worrying about missing an important email, and can browse for jobs while I’m on-the-move. In essence I can job-hunt from wherever I am.

I’m surprised just how reliant I, and the rest of the Blackberry-owning word, have become on this tiny piece of technology, and it’s taken the server crashing and a complete Blackberry outage for us all to realise this.

In the last five minutes there has been a glimmer of hope. Three emails, the last of which was a pizza advert, have pinged onto my screen. Fingers crossed the rest will follow soon and we’ll be back to the normal state of play.

When life gives you lemons… ask for tequila and salt

11 Oct

As you’re already aware I’m on the look-out for a journalism job and so far haven’t had much luck.

Ideally I would have had a job lined up before I completed my course, like one lucky beggar I know who did just that. I can’t even be jealous because he’s such a nice guy and really deserved it.

If I’d had Lady Luck on my side perhaps I would have got the job I went for earlier this month. Alas, I got down to the final two and the other chap got it.

But perhaps this enforced stint of media-related unemployment will turn out to be really good for my job prospects in the long-run.

Having not landed a job straight away, it’s forced me to reassess my options and be a little more creative in how I pursue job opportunities.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I spent a bleak Monday afternoon perusing the reference section of the library. Making time to focus solely on improving my skill set may seem rather indulgent, but if it’s the choice between that and watch Jeremy Kyle repeats, I think the former is a better use of my time.

Given that I only work part-time I have the freedom to choose how I spend my days off. I’ve got some more voluntary work in the pipeline and I’m hoping to learn about HTML coding. Once I grasp that I hope to move onto yet another stage of Operation Different Ways To Get That Job.

Not only can I choose to spend time pouring over books but I can do exactly as I please, and today I hit the badminton courts with the boyfriend. I won two games to one. Natch.

For the time being, I’m starting to appreciate the opportunities media unemployment is offering me.

So come on life, bring on the lemons. And pass the bottle.

Forget making lemonade: try tequila, lemon, salt

To Wigan library and beyond: how to boost employability prospects

10 Oct

Today I did something that I’ve been putting off for quite some time, I joined the library.

Hardly controversial I know, but it signals a reluctant acceptance on my part that I’m staying put for the time being.

After I graduated in July 2010, I rather optimistically thought (hoped?) that after a couple of months I would land a job a media job and eventually work my way up the career ladder.

Although I was aware of the economic climate and the knock-on effect it had on the jobs market, I had no idea of just how tough it was, and still is, out there.

I wrote a feature on this very subject: Doles and degrees: The lost generation part two? for Manchester-based news website Mancunian Matters.

I was buoyed by Charlie Ball, the Deputy Director of Research at Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HESCU), who was optimistic for the future graduate market, but was all too aware of the warnings Dr Dalia Ben-Galim, Associate Director of IPPR, was issuing.

Her somewhat prophetic comments about high levels of youth unemployment triggering unrest seem particularly poignant, especially in the aftermath of the rioting seen across the country in August this year.

UK riots: mindless thuggery or legitimate protest?

So, 15 months since graduating I’m still in employment limbo. I am earning, but not in the field I’d love to work in.

I’ve had a taster in the form of studying for my NCTJ qualifications and numerous work placements, but getting that elusive paid media job is tantalisingly out of reach. For now.

So this morning, on a delightfully grim day weather-wise, I decided to don my waterproofs and go to the library to see what they had on offer. I was pleasantly surprised and left with the weight of a small child’s worth of books in order to initiate Operation Different Ways To Get That Job.

I chose one book based on what I thought was an incredibly pretentious title, Brilliant employability skills: How to stand out from the crowd in the graduate job market by Frances Trought.

In Trought’s defense it’s a really good read. I had a cursory glance at the first chapter over a cup of tea, and then couldn’t put it down.

It isn’t new ground-breaking information, but it really helped combine all the advice given during my time at university and throughout my post-graduate studies. It also showed examples of key recruitment terms in job application contexts. Well worth a read if you’re in the same boat as me careers-wise.

For now, it’s time to bury my nose into the pile of other books I checked-out and see where they lead. Onwards and upwards!


Strictly catching up

9 Oct

One of the benefits of working a long Saturday shift is the promise of a self-indulgent Sunday catching-up with all the  TV programmes I’ve missed.

Having worked an 11-hour shift with no breaks – a new personal best (or worst) – I had missed out on a serious amount of guilty-pleasure television including Merlin, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor. Never mind food.

However it was all worth the effort as today, after a home-made Sunday roast (chicken and all the trimmings, if you’re curious) and an indulgent sticky toffee pudding for dessert, I plonked myself in front of the TV.

At the end of a five-hour marathon of TV viewing I felt numb with pixels. However my viewing highlight was Russell Grant’s performance on Strictly to Abba’s Dancing Queen. (If you haven’t seen it yet, please YouTube it, I guarantee it’ll make you smile.)

Feeling the groove: Russell Grant throwing some Strictly shapes

I beamed throughout his routine amid a flurry of frills, feather boas and sparkles. It proved to be the perfect antidote to a miserable few days job-hunting. Or scraping the barrel jobs-wise to be more precise.

This got me thinking, instead of moping around about the dire jobs market I need to diversify in my job-hunting quest. So, starting next week, I’m initiating Operation Different Ways To Get That Job. (It’s a working title.)

As well as chasing the slim-pickings that are out there I’m going to take a more pro-active approach to getting work. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I’m unsure whether I’m just experiencing post-X Factor/Strictly highs where it seems anything is possible.

At least my career lows are not being played out on national TV, unlike a certain Ms Currie. Again.

From journalism to male modelling… and back again

7 Oct

I woke up this morning with a renewed enthusiasm for job-hunting and, armed with a mug of tea, booted up the computer excited for the possibilities today could bring.

I took a look at the usual suspects, holdthefrontpage and W4MP  (slim pickings) and so decided to take a cursory glance at what potential jobs had landed in my inbox.

Job hunting from the comfort of your own home

Like most people, I’m signed-up to a number of job listings websites which aim to narrow down the job search by emailing over jobs you’re interested in. Naturally, as I’m interested in journalism, job titles such as editorial assistant, trainee journalist and media assistant are vacancies at the top of the pile. Each day I spend a good half an hour wading through them to see if any look like they’re worth a punt.

What made me smile this morning, was a listing from Jobrapido which read:

Jobrapido has found more than 100 new jobs that match your profile.
Click the links below to view the jobs:
Editorial Assistant (15 new jobs)
Editorial/Manchester (3 new jobs)
Junior Copywriter (4 new jobs)
Copywriting (more than 100 new jobs)
Journalism Copywriting (11 new jobs)
Male Model (6 new jobs)
Journalist (11 new jobs)

Male model?! And it’s listed above ‘journalist’!

So if all else fails I’ll need to get buffed up, and have a sex change. As the famous meerkats from Meerkova say. Simples.

Aleksandr Orlov philosophy: simples