The Lost Girl and finding a job in London

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.

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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.

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

‘The most’ in this context is a little ambiguous, but I’m taking it to mean the most frequently. So let’s commence with a list of the top ten books I recommend most often.

1. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Three (or is it four?) stories unfurl simultaneously in this novel that was my introduction to Margaret Atwood. Now in her old age, Iris Chase reflects on her life and the tragedy of her younger sister Laura’s death. Told through newspaper articles, and excerpts of Laura’s novel The Blind Assassin, which is a story within a story on its own, Atwood’s bestseller is a completely submersive read and one I wholly and absolutely recommend.


2. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

“Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles”, what’s not to love? The film based on the book and written by Goldman is a cult classic and the book is just as wonderful. Different enough from the film to ensure it’s captivating from the outset, The Princess Bride is witty, wonderful and completely recommendable.


3. Wait by Frank Partnoy

Procrastinating is something we all do, but it’s nice to know that if done consciously and in the right way, it serves a useful purpose. Wait is an informative and well-written collection of research from a broad range of academic fields that investigate time’s effect on decision making. (Read my review here.)

4. The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

For a post-apocalyptic novel, this one ticks all the boxes. Unexplainable disease; barren, tempestuous environment; imminent danger and dwindling supplies, but it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. Aided by its unique structure, The Raven’s Gift is a well-paced, moody novel that’s definitely worth a read even if doomsday isn’t really your thing. It’s not usually mine either. (Read my review here.)

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5. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

For anyone suffering a bit of a quarter-life crisis, I recommend this book. Philip Carey travels, falls in love, pursues art and then becomes a doctor. I truly empathised with Philip’s confusion about the future of his life, and the fact that he could still have a worthwhile career after everything else he did was particularly comforting.

6. Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker

Not out until 11 April, I was lucky enough to get a review copy of Yvette Walker’s debut novel. It’s beautiful. Do try and get your hands on a copy. Stay tuned for my review.

7. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

14-year-old town outcast Jasper Jones risks a murder charge if young Charlie Bucktin can’t unearth the truth. Set in 1965 in the small mining town of Corrigan, Jasper Jones is a very powerful story about growing up in a narrow-minded world.

8. Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is one of my favourite storytellers and Hard Times is without a doubt my favourite of his stories. Blatantly anti-utilitarian, Hard Times explores the emotional impact of growing up, and working during the Industrial Age. A must-read.

9. Thank You for Not Reading by Dubravka Ugrešić

A series of essays about contemporary literary culture, Thank You for Not Reading is unlike any other book I’ve read.  Ugrešić’s dry wit and compelling backstory make this book an absolute must-read. (This review says it so much better than I can.)


10. Snobs by Julian Fellowes

For anyone that has fallen in love with Downton Abbey, Snobs offers a more contemporary take on British high society with the same wit and humour we’ve come to expect from Julian Fellowes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy…But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread

March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a tough one because I don’t often buy books. I’m a library kind of girl usually, but let’s see if we can scrape ten titles together for this week’s Top Ten. Consider the titles below not as books I had to buy, but rather, books I happened to buy.

1. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

This is one of my most recent purchases, bought at a second-hand book market in town. I can justify buying the classics without having read them first.

2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Bought at the same book market. So many people have wonderful things to say about this novel (Daniel Radcliffe lists it among his favourites) and I thought it’d be a nice, gentle introduction to Hemingway.

3. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago

This was on sale at Readings in St Kilda, which I used to frequent every six months or so in time with my sister’s performances at the National Theatre. Usually, I would only peruse the shelves, taking note of titles that were worth adding to my TBR list, but for some reason or other, this time, I felt compelled to buy. I got a small fraction of the way into Death with Interruptions  before becoming distracted by another book. A year or so later, I’m yet to pick it up again.

4. Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver

I received Jamie’s latest cookbook for Christmas after wanting it for ages, but I’m yet to cook a recipe. Or really, even flick the book open.

5. Reading the Popular by John Fiske

I picked this up on a whim at an amazing second-hand bookstore closing down sale where everything was going for $3. After being out of uni for a couple of months, I was in desperate need of a media theory read, or so I thought.

6. Inside Little Britain by Matt Lucas, David Walliams & Boyd Hilton

Bought at the same closing down sale. I love the show, I love the comedy duo, I just haven’t been in the right mood.

7. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

A good friend was selling some of her books, so I bought this one, The God of Small Things and Life of Pi (which I lost somewhere in Canada just one chapter in). I’ve read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close since buying Foer’s first novel and was really impressed, but just haven’t felt compelled to pick up Everything is Illuminated yet.

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8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I made the mistake of attempting this one on holiday. One page in and it was already beyond me. I’ll try again; I just might need pen and paper nearby to keep track of the characters.

9. Creative Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Deangdeelert Cho

This was among my first Book Depository purchases. Fresh from completing a media degree, I thought learning the ins and outs of freelancing wouldn’t be a bad idea.

10. Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares

This was bought as a means of completing a collection, rather than because I had a great desire to read it. Or maybe I did. I can’t quite remember. The fourth book in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series was published in 2007, but I didn’t know until a couple of years later when I spotted it in a bookstore in New York, of all places. By that time I’d outgrown the adventures of Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget, but for the sake of nostalgia, bought the book anyway.

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Reviewing By the Book by Romana Koval

January 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s strange how our reading shapes the people we become. All those tomes read on a lazy Sunday afternoon or pages flipped into the wee hours of the morning have influenced our perceptions and views of the world. Some books come along at exactly the right time and seem as though they’ve been written especially for us and others impart wisdoms that don’t strike a chord in that moment, but we suspect are worth storing away for a later date.

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By the Book is “Romana Koval’s love letter to reading”. Looking back at her experiences through the periscope of pages she’s read, Koval explores the role reading has played in her life and the paths it’s pulled her down. For one of Australia’s most well-known literary broadcasters much has changed since the long afternoons spent stretched across the floor of the Camberwell Mobile Library, but one thing stays the same: Koval’s love for the written word.

In her memoir, Koval reveals that reading is more than an escapist pursuit to her. It is the basis of her understanding of her mother and the key to a great many worlds she had never dreamt of. The books that Koval holds so dear provide insight into the person she is: an inquisitive and deep-thinking adventurer.

I found the most compelling part of Koval’s book to be her ability to draw parallels between the events in her life and the stories she’s read; each story revealing retrospective insights about the people most close to her and the decisions she’s made. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the book, Koval places less emphasis on making connections between her reading and experience in favour of exploring some of her favourite stories in greater detail, which are predominantly tales of exploration and survival.

While reading By the Book you cannot help but reflect on your own most treasured reads, questioning the extent of their influence on your perception of the world. And that is the delightful nature of Koval’s memoir. Not only does she openly and honestly reveal intimate details of her own life, but her observations about reading prompt the reader to question their own relationship with the written word. Any lover of books will appreciate Ramona Koval’s By the Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life. Just keep a pen handy for all the books you’ll want to add to your own reading list.

Challenge Accepted

January 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last year, I kept a record of my reading for the first time since primary school (when parent-signed readings logs were the norm) thanks to Little Girl with a Big Pen’s 100+ Books Challenge. This year, I’m starting a fresh 100+ Books Challenge and taking on a few more.

All I can say is thank god I wasn’t participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge last year! I only read two novels by Australian women in 2012 – My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and Air Kisses by Zoe Foster. I also read The Emerging Writer, which was edited by Karen Pickering, and Voiceworks #90: Copy/Paste edited by Kat Muscat.

Of the 36 books I read, only seven were written by Australian authors – that’s an embarrassingly low percentage that I will make every effort not to repeat.

The Australian Women’s Reading Challenge is going to help me bring the numbers up (allowing me to crawl out of my hovel of shame). I’ve signed up for the Franklin challenge – reading 10 books written by Australian women writers and reviewing at least six of those.

I’ve picked a few out already:

And as part of a personal challenge of my own, I intend to review and/or discuss every book I read this year on The Prattler.

You read right, every book.

To help me with that, I’ll be doing some literary theory research because my critical language as it stands leaves much to be desired. Even if what I learn doesn’t make its way into my reviews, I feel as though making an effort to build upon my rather scattered knowledge won’t be a wasted venture.

Wish me luck.

My top 5 reads of 2012

January 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I recommended some favourite non-fiction that I’ve read in the last year, my favourite Australian novel and shared some of the greatest disappointments. Today, I give you my Top 5 Recommended Reads (that haven’t previously been mentioned). In no particular order:

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I wasn’t lucky enough to have my own overseas journey of self-discovery in 2012, but one of my dear friends was. Struck with the winter blues, I went to Canada to visit her for a couple of weeks. There, she lent me her worn copy of Siddhartha, a book that made me think about life a little differently and affirmed my desire to get some travel under my belt.

Like all good stories, Siddhartha is one of growth and change. The young Siddhartha leaves his family and friends in the hopes of achieving spiritual enlightenment. While not altogether a happy tale, Siddhartha offers lessons on materialism, love and inner peace.

Written in German originally, Siddhartha reads like a moralistic fable. It is short and its language, simple, yet it explores complex beliefs and philosophies. Refreshing for its conciseness, but also for how it leads to reflection on one’s own life and personal philosophies, Siddhartha is one of those novels that I suspect gives its reader something new each time its flicked open, no matter where you may be on life’s road.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I raced through the debut novel from Ransom Riggs. Beautifully illustrated with genuine vintage photographs, some more disturbing than others, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about teenager Jake’s search to discover the truth about the mysterious orphanage his grandfather spoke so often about. Convinced his grandfather Abe’s stories of battling monsters with knashing teeth and forked tails are stand-ins for the more distressing memories of WWII, Jake’s world is turned upside down when his grandfather is suddenly violently killed. Only the Children’s Home that Abe found salvation in during the early years of the war can offer any answers and so Jake travels to Wales to learn the truth about his grandfather.

Technically a Young Adult novel, Miss Peregrine’s has a lot to offer an adult reader. The story is intriguing and the photographs woven throughout the book give it an eerie quality. The characters lack some depth, which seems to have been sacrificed in favour of pacing, but these are debut novel jitters that can be forgiven. Riggs’ creative use of vintage images differentiates Miss Peregrine’s from the vast number of supernaturally-based YA novels published each year. That, coupled with its compelling premise, makes it a page-turner.

The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

The debut novel from Don Rearden was a pleasant surprise. I’d put my hand up for a review copy on behalf of artsHub not expecting a great deal because I’m not usually a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. All I knew about The Raven’s Gift, with the exception of the short synopsis in the Text Publishing catalogue, was that it had won awards. Read my review here.

The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey edited by Karen Pickering

Last year, signalled my first confident foray into doing stuff on my own. One of those things was attending a couple of Emerging Writers Festival events. While there, I purchased The Emerging Writer, the festival’s official publication made up of commissioned essays focused on every aspect of writing – why we write, what we write, where we write and how. Within the first few essays, I felt pinned, as if someone had written this book just for me. I was the “scaredy cat” Christy Dena wrote so humourously about. I have difficulty finding the balance between humility and confidence that Alan Bissett outlines in his essay, ‘The Cockerel and the Mouse: On Competitiveness’.

The Emerging Writer is not just about writing. So many of the essays therein can be related to any kind of work or project. Gaining confidence, being persistent and knowing the industry or environment, as well as one’s strengths and weaknesses are qualities we all aspire to have a better grasp on. I like to think of The Emerging Writer as a guide to any journey. After all, the bottom line always seems to be to back yourself.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Read my review of Jeffrey Eugenides’ award-winning novel here

I already have several books lined up on my shelf to read next and my list of ‘Books to Read’ isn’t getting any shorter, so if all goes to plan this year I should exceed 36 books, no problem.

I’d love to know what your favourite reads were of 2012. I’m always looking to add to my list.

Last year’s reading

January 1, 2013 § 2 Comments

Happy New Year!

I bought myself a new diary yesterday and this morning, I held the official changing of the calendar ceremony – somewhat like the changing of the guard, but with less fanfare and, if I’m to be honest, less ceremony.

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As midnight has long since ticked over, there seems no better time to look back on the reading I did last year and share with you some of the best and worst of it. I read a total of 36 books in 2012.

Non-Fiction

I was very lucky with my non-fiction reading last year.

The Book is Dead: Long Live the Book by Sherman Young was a perfect way to start it off. The Book is Dead champions the changes taking place within the publishing sector right now. Young argues that digital publishing, rather than the destroyer of printed books and literary standards, can be viewed as an opportunity to rekindle a book culture based on the sharing of ideas that vanished long before the coming of digital. Although published in 2007, Young’s book still holds compelling insights and predictions for the future of books as well as theories regarding the evolution of reading and publishing with it. A quick, easy and well-researched read, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the evolving publishing landscape.

Also worth a mention is Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination by Frank Partnoy. Initially drawn to the book by the hope it would justify my procrastination habit, Wait did that and then some. Published this year, Partnoy’s latest book draws on research about decision-making from a variety of different fields including psychology and economics. Through countless case studies and examples, Partnoy illustrates what intelligent decision-making looks like and the integral role that timing plays in the process. My review of Wait can be found here.

Australian

Read Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. It will break your heart. There’s a reason why this book won awards.

Biggest Disappointments

I was disappointed by a considerable number of books I read this year, unfortunately. Shappi Khorsandi’s memoir A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English was one. I assumed that because Shappi herself is a gifted stand-up comedian that her book would be funny. Oh, how wrong I was. Though it did have its moments of genuine humour, A Beginner’s Guide was more repetitive and confusing than anything else.

Shappi adopts a distinct voice to tell her story – the voice of her four-year-old self whose photo features on the book’s back cover. However, despite Shappi aging during the course of the story, her voice does not mature. In fact, Shappi after having her first child, recounts the event just as she did her farewell to her extended family in the Iranian airport at age three. In fairness, maybe it’s not that Shappi is adopting the voice of her younger self, maybe this is her current voice, or at least her authorial voice, but there are several clues that indicate otherwise. The repetition for one.

The food Shappi’s mother cooks is explained in detail throughout. Initially, the descriptions of the Iranian cuisine had me salivating, however as the story continues and begins to outline the terrible realities of the Iran-Iraq war, the references to food became distracting. I appreciate that eating and preparing food is a large part of Iranian culture, but the constant reference to it at times made Shappi’s offering sound more like a cookbook than a novel. I felt that the book would have benefited tremendously from one last heavy edit.

Similarly, Kate Summerscale’s historical narrative Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady was comprised more of superfluous details than worthwhile facts. Summerscale tells the true story of Isabella Robinson and her very public divorce case in the 1850s. Civil divorces had only recently been legalised in Britain and actions put into place to make them more affordable for the people. Isabella’s case was of particular interest because of the diary she kept throughout her affair that was used as evidence in court and consequently pasted all over the papers.

All the makings are there for a great book, but it just doesn’t deliver. Summerscale pursues obscure tangents that seem more about her showing off all the research she did rather than enhancing Isabella’s story. A high percentage of the book is superfluous fodder and the drawing of tenuous elements together in an attempt to make them appear significant. At its conclusion, I couldn’t help but wonder what Summerscale’s objective had been in writing the book.

Did you read any of the titles above? What did you think? And what would you recommend of the reading you did in 2012?

My five top reads are up tomorrow.

 

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