So, with the first of the month, the job search has become more urgent and whilst I have a few applications out and about, this week's work involves finding work and it's been damn hard work. I've registered with a couple of big employment agencies who specialise in placing administrative staff and I'm also spending about four hours a day cruising three of the major job search websites and preparing a 'cold call' around the businesses close to me. It's tedious, laborious and I'm beginning to feel quite anxious about the whole thing. I'm trying to tell my self that 5% unemployment means that 95% of the employable population are in work so why aren't I? I'm also trying incredibly hard not to be harsh on my previous employers for landing me in this shit in the first place.
There are two traditional ways to apply for positions. The first is online where you hit the little orange "Apply Now" button and complete your details, attach a cover letter and your CV and send the application off into the ether. I've found that this one doesn't work for two reasons.
- Sometimes the job is a 'bait' job to get you to sign up with that particular agency. I know this because I've applied (as an experiment) for the same job 3 times over the past month and keep getting a polite "We've had many applications for this position but unfortunately you were unsuccessful". Nothing wrong with that you say? Except the reply bounces back faster than a speeding bullet which intimates to me that nobody has actually read my CV or cover letter and when I ring, I'm told that the position has been filled yet is still being advertised? Shonky yeh?
- Due to the current unemployment situation and the number of people looking for work and the number of totally unsuitable applicants, only the first 10 CV's sent through actually get a guernsey. I was told this by a recruitment agent from one of the agencies. "We receive about 500 applications for each position so we can't possibly look at them all. Especially when half of them are from Engineers in Mumbai!" Now that instills confidence.
In order to make an 'online' application work, you need to follow up with at least an email and a phone call. Ask lots of questions and present yourself as interested but not a nuisance - fine line!
So what to do? Of course, make an appointment to meet with the recruitment specialists at said agencies, prove that I'm not a zimmer frame wielding blue rinser and state my case. So this I have done. The first was easy. Nice kids, a quick skills test and optimism all round. Yesterday however was quite another cup of tea.
It's a hard job selling yourself. Especially when your confidence is at an all time low and you know that you have to take a severe drop in salary in order to be considered but hey, I dressed up, did the 'do', manicured the nails and tried to hide the rather nasty cold sore that has popped up on the side of my nose (stress response I guess, I never get cold sores!) and impress the pants off these recruitment chicky babes. And yes, they always seem to be very young and sweet chatterboxes who tend to talk over the top of you with their well prepared spiel and animated expressions. Man these women are the epitome of happiness. Very belittling and strangely humbling which is probably a good thing or so I keep telling myself.
So, once I arrive, I'm greeted by a chocolate-cake-eating receptionist with ridiculously long "American Nails" with little pink squiggles scrawled on them (very professional!) and given a plethora of forms to complete. Tax forms, Super Forms, Application Forms, Privacy Statements and requests for my preferred type of work, hourly rate, salary and geographically desired workplace. Why they ask that I'll never know because clearly my hourly rate is too high and they don't have my desired workplace on their books.
Then I have to provide 100 points of ID, my qualifications including certified copies of the Degree I earned in 1979 (what that's worth these days one can only speculate) and my JP Certificate. Happily completed and having provided everything but my bra size (shame because it's pretty enviable!) I am ushered into the "QWIZ" room where a bunch of online quizzes on MS Office applications and data entry are awaiting my keyboard skills and incredible knowledge.
Yesterday there was another 'mature woman' being 'tested' at the same time. She left after just 10 minutes which terrified me. Was the test that hard?
Typing is no problem, I'm fast, reasonably accurate and hey, it's a computer, there's backspace and spell check - not allowed when being tested of course, these all count as errors. The annoying thing about this typing test was the dreadful grammar, conjunctions used to start sentences, no hyphens in words that quite obviously should be hyphenated and a plethora of commas in the wrong places. So despite fighting the urge to 'correct' the two page passage and with extremely sweaty palms, I flew into it. Then there's a Word knowledge test. No problem there. I've been using it since PC's were invented. Stick that up your pre-pubescent recruitment folder! Then there's an Excel test. Not my strong point I have to admit but apparently I have intermediate skills. Followed by numerical and alpha/numerical data entry (pretty awful actually, I've never mastered the numerical keypad but then I don't want to do data entry!) and finally a Power Point test which I passed easily with flying colours - Ooh pictures and colours - I'm good at those.
One completed, an inexplicable and totally confusing 'report' is generated whereby they can apparently judge my keyboard and knowledge skills. Buggered if I know how because I couldn't understand a word of it.
Then comes a meeting with firstly, the 'perm' recruitment specialist. No, she does not have a hairdressing qualification specialising in spiral locks, she is the 'permanent' position person. Who incidentally, keeps me waiting a full 20 minutes while I read a briefing on how not to keep your employer waiting if assigned an interview. She's a perky little Lilly Allen lookalike with an eyebrow-hiding fringe and a hairstyle that's overly familiar with a GHD. She has a loud and husky voice and is talking HR-speak at a million miles an hour. She's confident, expert, assures me she's been working with the company for a very long time (must have been a child prodigy because I wouldn't put her past 20). It's clear she hasn't read my resume so we go through strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs. She's happy that yes, I'm employable but generally 'overqualified'. For crying out loud! I need a job, I don't care.
She states that my experience is too broad and we need to narrow it down a little for each position application. She assures me she's on my case and will look for something in the finance industry.. " . . but I don't want to be in the finance industry!" says I, "Yes but that's where your expertise is so I'll put this forward to one of the big fund managers" she retorts. "Yes but fund managers are laying people off left right and centre at the moment! I told you, money and security are my main motivators and the market hasn't bottomed out yet!" . . .GAH . . . she totally ignores this as clearly the young thing does not know what a 'fund manager' does. Did she listen to a word I said? Unlikely as she talked on top of me for most of the interview. Anyway, we'll see what she does. Crazy thing is that there were two jobs posted this morning which were perfect for me and she hadn't even seen them when I called her . . .my confidence is waning even further and I was quickly torn to shreds by a phone call announcing that she had a lot of applications to process and that it could take days before suitable candidates were selected. She pretty much told me not to annoy her every time a job pops up on Seek or in my email. Damn my impatience, I think I've put her offside already.
Then in comes the 'temp' representative. A slightly older and baby-bumped version of the first, dreaming about her $7000 baby bonus and paid maternity leave no doubt, with overly-straightened hair and frankly an overly-animated face. Her piercing blue eyes cutting into me and the constant raising and lowering of slightly ginger eyebrows as she rapidly alternated smiles and frowns I found rather disconcerting. She basically told me I had buckleys of getting the hourly rate I wanted. That she'd find something once I got 'desperate' but had little on her books at the moment and without further ado, whisked me out of the office. I didn't like her much but then it was probably her 'honesty' that scared me.
So I came home in last night's peak hour traffic, longing to be stuck in it on a daily basis because that would mean I have a job but feeling totally dejected, pessimistic, aware that my earning capacity is little more than it was over 15 years ago and furious that administration is the only freelance/contract work that pays less than the full time salary. How I regret giving up on teaching so long ago, how I regret taking voluntary redundancy from NSW Police, how I regret ever saying I'd work at Parkside for a friend. It' becoming very difficult to look onward and upward.
So my daily routine since last Thursday has been getting up at 6am, browsing Seek/MyCareer/Career One hoping that I can find a 'real' job not just the same one re-posted to engender interest in a particular agency. Applying for jobs . . then pottering around busying myself in order to feel useful.
I'm not really in the mood for blogging. I'm sick of sitting in front of a PC preparing applications for positions that are already filled by 'acting' personnel (Basically they're advertised because they must be, not because they're really seeking a new candidate). I'm sick of relying on young things with huge disposable income because they still live with mum and dad, who don't understand the desperation I'm feeling and smugly telling me its an employer's market as if I came down with the last shower. I'm very disappointed that so few positions are advertised directly by the companies themselves. Ah well, it's week one of the serious hunt so hopefully I'll have the intestinal fortitude to keep going.
I'm seriously contemplating being a lollipop lady for a big construction company . . I look quite good in high-vis gear and I've always had a penchant for sensible shoes and would you believe it, the pay is better! OK I'm off to pissed and cry a lot!