October 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
This month was another big one in London, but no surprises there, as I continue to add to my bulging bag of life experience, which has received a steady flow of new content over the past nine months. Between coordinating morning bathroom visits between four working adults and meal planning on a Sunday, so we’re not eating Tesco Indian every night, there are still firsts to be had.
September heralded the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Let’s make things plain: London does not do summer well. The activities and the endless lists of things to do are amazing, but the weather leaves a lot to be desired. Until mid-September it was just days and days of rain, but autumn has brought nothing but sunshine. I’m not even going to try to make sense of it and I definitely won’t complain. Who knows what will throw the balance off?
As a domestic goddess, I continue to go from strength to strength. Ahead of starting full-time work on 7th September, I went into fully-fledged preparation mode, readying soup to freeze and doing piles of laundry.
I also found time for a treat or two, whisking myself down to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Audrey Hepburn exhibit before it closed.
In a lovely, unexpected turn of events, I was able to catch up with a friend from Melbourne who’d made last minute plans to return home to London for three weeks to visit her family. It was so nice getting together, hearing news of home and being able to compare notes about the city. After a quick look at the Charles Pétillon installation, Heartbeat in Covent Garden, we headed to the colourful Neal’s Yard, a colourful courtyard tucked away from the milling crowds, to catch up.
While it felt like I didn’t see a lot of London this month, I did spend a Sunday afternoon wandering around Hampstead Heath with a few fellow newcomers. While there, we visited Kenwood House, which I didn’t even know existed and I got a healthy dose of library envy.
Since starting work, I’ve become better aquainted with Bloomsbury, which is fast becoming my favourite part of London and have also spent a bit of time in Regent’s Park building my squirrel army.
Seeing the park and the rest of London beneath us was a surreal experience, when we checked out the BT Tower viewing deck as part of Open House London.
Work, once I did start, was packed full of back-to-back introductory meetings with different departments, and then rather unexpectedly, at the end of my first week, a trip to Barcelona with the team for a couple of days, which was all kinds of madness.
Media people. Need I say more?
As I didn’t really know anyone, it wasn’t quite the trip it could have been, but I was grateful for the chance to see another city so much sooner than I’d planned. Weirdly enough, it didn’t feel like I was in Spain as I had very few run-ins with the locals. I think I only heard Spanish once and that was from a Chinese woman, who I ended up speaking Mandarin with because my understanding of Spanish is nought. Thankfully, as I also completely failed to find Park Güell while I was there, I have two great reasons to return.
True to form, I did a walking tour of the city on my free day and then spent the afternoon meandering along the esplanade, checking out Barcelona’s manufactured beaches. The sun was out and it was nice to have a break from the onslaught of new information that had been coming at me since starting work that Monday.
To be honest, the onslaught has been pretty consistent since. I’m learning about all things digital advertising, motoring and the UK media landscape, which means I am on a very steep learning curve, but as time passes, I can feel the pennies start to drop. I’ve got this.
Our biggest challenge for the latter half of the month was finding ourselves a new flat before our lease runs out at the end of October. For a solid week, I filled in spreadsheets with prospective one-bedroom flats and sent off e-mails to arrange viewings. We ended up going to a total of three, all on the same Saturday (with time for a game of cricket in between). Two we made offers on and by Monday we received word that one of our offers had been accepted, so that was that. It all happened so quickly that it almost felt too easy; I was half-expecting to be called later in the week with news it was all a mistake. Apparently, we were the second choice for our flat and since putting down our deposit other potential renters have crawled out of the woodwork with attempts to outbid us, but who cares? Money talks.
October is moving month.
August 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
For all of July and much of August, D.H. Lawrence’s The Lost Girl kept me company as I traipsed around London in attempts to settle myself within the city. I brandished the aged, orange Penguin almost like a shield as I rode the tube back and forth between appointments. I met with recruiters, all promising the world, or at the very least, a place where I could be productive and my skills be put to use, where my mind wouldn’t continue to congeal and my confidence disintegrate. In the meantime, I carried The Lost Girl as a symbolic gesture — I am not of this place, it announced, and I am completely out of my depth.
The first month of job-hunting was nerve-racking, but I expected that. I’d heard horror stories about the two-year visa I was on making me illegible for just about all positions that weren’t short-term, because no one wants to hire someone who’s guaranteed to leave within 24 months. With each passing week, I became more aware of my numbered days depleting, making me less and less appealing to employers. And those recruiters who’d promised the world? They went quiet. I was still receiving daily calls from new recruiters, who’d stumbled across my CV on recruitment website, reed.co.uk, but the majority of these were for technical positions that I wasn’t interested in. Discovering this, they would promise to pass my details on to a team member who could help, but, as far as I can tell, this was never done. I was, for all purposes, on my own.
In the meantime, I continued sending off job applications for positions I found advertised on reed.co.uk and LinkedIn. When possible, I went direct, having found I had just as much success getting interviews this way as when recruiters did the groundwork for me. And I continued to travel around London, The Lost Girl wedged between my mother’s travel wallet and my pair of £2.50 Primark sunnies in the one black handbag I brought with me, working on perfecting my spiel about who I was, where I’d come from and what skills I had.
In one job interview, after hearing that I’d been in London for little more than one month, the woman I was meeting suggested that I was only at the beginning of my job search. As someone who had developed cabin-fever of the worst kind from too many days housebound to keep costs down, this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. How many months would signal the middle of my job search, how many until the end? Moving to London wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Well, despair was no good, and being miserable was no good either. She got no satisfaction out of either mood. The only thing to do was to act: seize hold of life and wring its neck. – D.H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl
In the end, I was contacted by a company directly, who had found my CV on reed.co.uk and thought I could be a good fit for a position they had available. It wasn’t this, but another role, I ended up interviewing for with them. After a couple of meetings, the offer came through and the rest is history. Insert big sigh of relief. Really, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect belated birthday present.
Now, for the lessons: if I could do it all over again, rewind back to the beginning of July and start afresh, how would I recommend my past self approach the job hunt?
- Alter your CV to comply with the standard UK format, making an effort to include key achievements for each position held and mention of all necessary technical competencies and skills within the CV itself. Do not reserve these for the cover letter.
- Do not under any circumstances include tables in your CV — some software used by recruiters cannot properly trawl your CV for keywords if your CV is presented in this format.
- Register with reed.co.uk, complete your profile and upload the updated CV there. Many recruiters and internal HR departments regularly search on Reed for candidates. Likewise with LinkedIn, so ensure that your profile is up to date.
- Don’t spend hours labouring over creating the perfect cover letter for each application sent out. Many UK recruiters, by their own admission, do not read the cover letter you submit, many preferring to create their own on your behalf or put your CV forward without a cover letter. If you know the job ad has been posted by a recruiter, a slightly tweaked, generic cover letter should do it.
- Of course, if you are applying to a company directly, do take care to tailor your letter and CV to the job specifications outlined in the description.
- Rehearse your spiel detailing your own experience aloud ,many times. Be confident in articulating what it is you did every day and how that relates to the position you’re currently interviewing for.
- Don’t be timid.
I finished The Lost Girl a while ago now and no longer have a need to carry it around. However, its lessons I will take with me, to go out on your own, take chances and rest assured that you will be found in the end, even if that end doesn’t quite look like what you anticipated.
Have you ever tried to find work overseas — what was your experience? Was there something you did or referred to to keep yourself motivated?
August 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
The sunshine is yellow here.
Gold paints the fences, the trees and parked cars. Shadows stretch themselves long and drag their feet with the changing of the light.
When I close my eyes, I’m a thousand miles away, far from the halting traffic, impatience and rushing bodies.
The sand is beneath me, the sound of waves on the cusp of my consciousness, and I ride the warmth like a current.
How can I be sad in this glow?
July 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
For some reason, I thought that moving to London would be a new beginning. I would leave behind everything familiar in Melbourne and start afresh. I would be forged in this move, forced to assert myself and step well outside my comfort zone with none of the familiarities of home and none of the support.
In fact, the opposite has been true. Melbourne is a band-aid that I can’t remove. London has revealed people from my past that I’d been without for years because the distance seemed too great, our experiences too divergent. Now that we’re in the same hemisphere, it’s become clear that — though uprooted and displaced — we are all essentially as we were. The time that’s passed means nothing.
Moving away can be freeing because it provides you the space to become your truest self. You’re not tied to the expectations of people that knew you when. You can evolve as you wish, on a whim and as the wind changes — until something sticks. But what I’ve really enjoyed about the reunions I’ve had is realising that, despite this freedom, changes are subtle and small. We still relate to each other, just as slightly older versions of ourselves.
This is the first time that I’ve felt confident that I can accept the two parts of my life, where I am now and where I’ve left. Being here does not mean that I need to neatly divide one from the other; it was foolish to believe that I could.
Of course, admitting that, also means giving up on the idea that London is going to be altering in a way that home never could be. Maybe it was too much to ask that this move would bring with it great clarity and direction. I had few answers at home and I have no more here. That’s not to say that they won’t come, but I think that where I am may be inconsequential. There’s still a lot of grappling to be done.
July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
April 9, 2015 § 3 Comments
I’m hitting the road! I’m off to see the world! – Genie, ‘Aladdin’
So this is an official thing now. In sight are Costa Coffee and Hard Rock Cafe; it’s safe to say that I’m not in Kansas anymore. Rather, I’m set up at Changi Airport, Singapore, en route to London, where I’m moving. For two years.
An overseas move is a big thing regardless of your circumstance, but making this my first move ever is probably a bit over the top. Thankfully I’m quite sleep deprived so haven’t had the capacity to comprehend exactly what I’ve done yet. It all feels very unreal. The muggy heat in Singapore doesn’t help when it comes to imagining my new life in London either – though it’ll be 20 degrees on Friday, apparently. That’s promising!
As expected, the last few days were pretty chaotic, a lot of running into rooms and forgetting what I’d gone in there for, way too many trips to my local shopping centre and endless poring over and over my mega to-do list. I’m happy to say all the important things got crossed off: travel insurance bought, phone plan cancelled, and plane ticket acquired, albeit quite last minute. The thing I’m most proud of? Fitting all my stuff into 30kgs of checked baggage. Just.
The days leading up to my departure were made up of a series of lasts: last trudge up the hill from the bus stop, last lie-in with the cat, last wander up to the local shops, last home-cooked meal. It’s going to take a bit of a mental back flip for me to start thinking about firsts now, because the next few days will be full of them. We’re in exciting times!
Now, just another 13 hours on a plane. But if Singapore Airlines have that fried rice again, all will be fine.
January 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
In terms of pages read, it was a below average year for me. I’m not quite sure what happened, but it did (or didn’t) and there’s no going back now. Despite the smaller number of books read, there are a few gems worth recommending:
The Woman who Dived into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
Translated from Spanish, this story about tuna fishing as told from the perspective of Karen, a young woman with autism, is completely engrossing. Written in a truly unique voice that casts light on high-functioning autism, as well as the fish industry, The Woman who Dived into the Heart of the World is clever, insightful and hits all the right emotional notes, despite its protagonist’s apparent apathy.
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Maugham has a beautiful way with words that, while concise, effortlessly transports his reader to far off places. This time, it is 1920s Hong Kong, where English ex-pats have forged their own rules. It is in amongst this exotic and unfamiliar hustle and bustle, almost unreal in its liberties, that Kitty loses touch with herself and her marriage. When her husband insists she escort him to the heart of a cholera epidemic, Kitty is forced to consider the decisions that led her there, as well as her future.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This Australian debut novel from Graeme Simsion has been a runaway hit since its release in January last year and it’s clear to see why. Eccentric academic, Don Tillman has developed the perfect plan to find himself a wife. Dubbed ‘The Wife Project’, the survey is a surefire way for Don to separate the worthwhile candidates from the rest, but it’s hit a snag: Rosie. A laugh-out-loud page turner.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Convinced my travel adventures would be few this year, de Botton offered the perfect alternative with his 2002 collection of essays. De Botton’s thoughtful musings on the nature of travel and why it sometimes falls short of our expectations have inspired me to look with fresh eyes at the places I find myself in.
What were your favourite reads in 2014?