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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Two weeks into London — and I’m doing way too much thinking

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.IMG_4316_edited

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.
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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.

 

A year in review

January 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

photo(4)Along with the traditional ‘Changing of the Calendar’ ceremony comes the annual reflection. I set a lot of goals for myself this year and fell short on more than one occasion, but that’s okay. I think part of growing up is being able to forgive yourself. After all, no one wants to be coupled for eternity with a taskmaster.

I was one month into job hunting by the time January 2013 rolled around and despite a couple of interviews in late January, was still sending off applications well into March. Then, in a bizarre turn of events, I was offered two positions: one full-time in advertising and the other, an internship with a youth arts organisation, on the same day.

When it rains, it pours…

Around about the same time, I stopped volunteering regularly at 3RRR as one of their social media assistants and my involvement with We Matter Media went on hiatus. It took a long time for me to find any kind of work/life balance, which meant that a lot of projects went on the back burner. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve made a real effort to get back into the swing of community media, but things are looking up for 2014. I’ll be Reviews Coordinator for SYN this year and I’m still hoping to get back on air at some stage. I’m losing the ability to speak coherent sentences so broadcasting may be just what I need.

In July, I met a hero of mine, Cary Elwes. In truth, I completely forgot he was coming to Melbourne for Comic-Con until I saw a couple of tweets in my feed that morning. Unable to find anyone to go with me on such short notice, I went alone. It was probably for the best that there were no witnesses to my fangirl-ing.

Also this year, I gained and lost a pen pal, became obsessed with Game of Thrones, bought way too many geeky t-shirts from Teefury, and stopped the house from burning down and the cat from dying for three weeks in June while my family gallivanted around Paris and London. My love affair with tea continued in 2013, an old nickname of mine was revived, I continued writing for artsHub, though assignments were few and far between (I really must look into that in the next week or two). I found a new weekly workout in No Lights No Lycra, the first of my high-school friends got engaged and I saw my OTP (sort of) reunited in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode.

I did, what felt at the time, like the bare minimum, to keep my mind from turning to mush, by attending a couple of arts criticism-focused seminars, which made me realise how much I love hearing intelligent people argue and also how much more I wanted to be doing in terms of arts criticism and wasn’t.

A uni friend and I took our relationship to the next level with a Hobart mini-break in early September. I had been working non-stop since April so getting away from the office for a couple of days was a god-send. Hobart did not disappoint either – it was absolutely beautiful!

Back home, I made it to the theatre several times, the symphony (!), the gallery, a film festival, the circus and an exhibition. Stuff happened this year, though it wasn’t all day trips, friends and flowers.

I learnt new things about myself this year, not all of them good. Again, I was hit by the winter blues, though not hard enough to flee the hemisphere like I did in 2012. I was drifting and then I wasn’t, I got bored and I got frustrated with myself for how I was spending my time. Yet, I feel like I’m steadily making headway, consistently striking things off the ‘things I don’t want to do’ list, and taking small steps towards making aspirations that sit better with me. It’s positive, in a slightly warped way and I think that’s where I am right now, pottering along in a more deliberate meander. Tangents welcome.

 

Mushrooms, hippos and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

October 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite (1919 Version) makes me cry — or at least it does when performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with the Disney Fantasia 2000 segment playing in the background.

I dare you not to feel something.

Self Image: one’s conception of oneself

January 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

There’s a video that’s making the rounds of YouTube at the moment. It’s the same video made by hundreds of different people all essentially saying the same thing – I don’t yet know who I am, I don’t know what this year will bring, but I hope it all works out. EricsNewDay’s Self Image 2013 video has inspired a heap of people (including a couple of my favourite YouTubers, missxrojas and EmelieofNewGloom) to reflect on who they think they are at the beginning of a new year. The result is a choir of unsure twenty-somethings all singing the same song. I don’t know why, but each video response seems drenched in self-doubt and fear. Maybe that’s a reflection of the age of the videomakers or the general tendency at this time of year to look forward, but in each video there seems a lack of general pleasure in being the person one is right now.

As a twenty-something suffering my own quarter-life crisis, I can identify with a lot of the fears these people are expressing. Currently jobless, I feel that I’m at a messy in-between stage of my life that’s impossibly important. The decisions I make now will play a pivotal part in the course of my life or (more likely) they could just shape the next few months. This is a chance for me to sit down and think about what I want to do career-wise and suddenly having all this time to do just that is daunting. I don’t think I’ve done enough of anything yet to know what I want to do. I don’t have all the facts, I haven’t done the research, I haven’t asked the questions. I don’t even have a gut feeling to fall back on. But I feel like that’s ok. Even though I keep making a thing of being unemployed (which isn’t technically true, I do have a casual job), I’m kind of grateful for the time. I just need to work out how best to use it.

Recently, I read an article by David Wong titled 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. The first truth is ‘The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You’.

One of the toughest things about losing one’s job is having to find another one. The searching isn’t a problem; browsing job sites has now become a procrastination exercise. The hard part is writing the applications. Over and over, rephrasing the same old drivel in an attempt to prove that you are a superb communicator with well-developed writing skills and experience in llama farming who has a good grasp of foreign policy and countless sandwich-making accomplishments. Not really, but you know what I’m getting at. It’s that each job application has key selection criteria slightly different from those that have come before, which means having to start afresh. But I have a theory that the difficulty I have with selling myself to prospective employers comes down to the fact that I haven’t really, truly considered what it is I have to offer. What can the world get from me? What can I offer beyond enthusiasm and hard work? Surely I didn’t work my butt off at uni for four years so I could claim enthusiasm and a strong work ethic as my most impressive characteristics. I know enthusiastic, hard-working kindergarteners. We can do better than that.

I’m asking what do you offer? Are you smart? Funny? Interesting? Talented? Ambitious? Creative? OK, now what do you do to demonstrate those attributes to the world?

“You” are nothing but the fruit.

Nobody cares about your dirt. “Who you are inside” is meaningless aside from what it produces for other people.

I kind of believe it too. Manifestation is the whole point. How is what I am manifesting itself? Or does what I’m doing match up with the kind of person I think I am? If I see myself as creative, am I making stuff? Am I creating?

This year is all about matching up. I want what people see to be a true reflection of what’s going on in my head. I want others to see me as I see me. On my good days, of course. But I also want the reverse to be true.

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Last year, near the end of a Canadian summer, looking out across the lake, I played a parlour game. We had to pick one quality of each person sitting at the table that we’d like for ourselves. One of my best friends in the whole world picked my determination. I didn’t know I came across as an especially determined individual. Half the time I don’t feel it, but when she said that, I really wanted to. I wanted how she saw me to match up with what I thought of myself. I want to be consistent; an open book.

Someone once admitted to me amidst the throes of the high school jungle that they never let anybody know what they were truly capable of. They played themselves down. They played down their intelligence and uniqueness, hiding these qualities tight against their chest, like cards in a poker game. The winning hand.

I remember thinking that that was the most stupid thing I’d ever heard. Why would you want people to think you’re anything less than what you are? Having to go about life in a censored state seems wrong (not to mention exhausting), especially when what you’re censoring may be one of the most interesting things about you. You can’t exercise a quality if you’re spending most of the time denying its existence.

So, how do I see myself in January 2013?

Evolving.

You?

 

 

 

All that came before and all that’s yet to come

December 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

The end of another year, and based on how I’m feeling this December 31st, it was apparently little different from the ones that went before it. Except that it was.

This was my first year outside the safety net of formal education; I entered the real world (well, as much as one can without leaving the comfort of home). I got my first degree-relevant paid job. I lost my first degree-relevant paid job. I began writing book reviews for ArtsHub. I volunteered as a Buzzcuts Reviewer.  I went to Canada for two weeks. I went to the beach. I solidified some great friendships that I initially doubted would last. I made new friends. I became Features Editor at We Matter Media. I volunteered with a local festival. I made an effort to go to events I wanted to, even if it meant going alone. I became more comfortable with my own company. I read 35 books (hopefully, to be 36 if I can get a move on today). Stuff happened this year.

But I have much bigger plans for next year. The Prattler is getting a makeover. I’m going to return to the airwaves. I’m going to travel to Europe and find a job there. I am going to live in the UK. I am going to read more and write more reviews here.

I am. I will. I shall.

I’m considering picking up Mandarin again and I still have an electric guitar I was given as a gift a few years ago that I’ve barely touched. I want to start podcasting. I want to find a job in line with my skills that grants me the freedom to move out, but also challenges me. I want to finally be done with the casual job I’ve had since I was 14-years-old. I want to meet new people, have new experiences and focus on making original content instead of just passively watching/reading/sharing content made by others.

I want to use my mind. I want to have discussions with people about real things. I want to make a mark. I want to be able to identify what I can bring to the table. I want to be one step closer to knowing myself well.

And I will be.

The pyromaniac leading the blind

December 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I have no idea what I’m doing.

None at all.

I wish I had advisors that could follow me around and let me know when I’m making an idiotic decision. Better yet, they could be invisible, leprechaun-sized advisors that sit on my shoulder and whisper wisdoms into my ear.

Yes. Someone organise that.

nothing-to-do-eh: “The leprechaun tells me to burn things.”

Because navigating the great wide world of possible employment is hard and scary and leads to impromptu decisions. I am a ‘yes’ person. I say ‘yes’ a lot. So much so that I somehow got suckered into spending over $100 on skin care and agreed to make regular monthly contributions to a charity all within a 10 minute period yesterday. A sucker’s born every minute and I’m one of them.

Given my inclination (nay, compulsion) to agree and say, ‘Yes’ to most questions put to me, conjuring the bravery to say, ‘No’ to a company offering me a job is a little out of character. But I know that this is probably the right decision for me right now. Jumping ship to a completely different career path, although it’s “just a job” just doesn’t make a lot of sense. How can I give up on media before I’ve really given it a crack?

Leprechaun advisor, now’s the time to speak up.

I’m going to view this phase in my life as an opportunity to reassess exactly what it is I want to do because I am so, so, so far away from answering that question.

It’s self reflection time. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to that.

And just because you read to the end, here’s a treat. I dare you not to dance.

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