Monday, 27 August 2012

Reflections of Being Unemployed.

Where job searching begins.
Hooray! I finally got a job. I'm particularly grateful to find something so close to home so my husband and I do not have to relocate, and in a sector that is so similar, if not arguably the same sector that I have been keen in finding work for the last 2 years. I felt this would be an excellent time to reflect on what unemployment has taught me.

I became intrigued by a debate via Facebook started by a semi-local radio station not too long ago, debating on whether the welfare system was too cushy or not enough to live at all. I thought the debate was rather dumbed down with the key focus being the 'standard' payment received. What anyone failed to mention is not everyone receives the standard payment, not everyone who makes a claim is the same. The debate was quite heated, and to be honest many of the comments I found were quite harsh, which inspired me to reflect on my personal experience, as well as promote other opportunities via Twitter for those who ever find themselves unemployed as I did. If I hear of any jobs close to the Kenmare area, I will continue to promote them. Prior to unemployment, I never really thought about welfare. Then again, this was the first time in my life since I was 16 that I was unemployed for a prolonged period. That being said...

I've learned not to pass judgment lightly. I believe everyone's situation is completely different and for many, talk is cheap, and it's easy to paint all those who aren't working (for whatever reason) with the same brush. Whether you're a parent, can only work part-time, whether short-term, or  even long-term unemployed, everyone's circumstances are different. I haven't met another person just like me. I wouldn't expect to meet someone with the same circumstances as the next person. Some people have kids. Some people have health issues which make them unable to work at that point in their life. Some people have little or no education, which makes them unqualified for available opportunities. Others have just had a hard and unlucky life. I'm not one to judge why you're out of work the same way anyone has the right to judge me and my circumstances. I can assure nay-sayers, that I'm certainly not that 'lazy-dosser-scum-bag' stereotype that seems to keep floating around, and you know, I haven't quite come across a single person that fits that mold yet, not even in the dole queue.

Once or twice I used to hear some old colleagues say 'I'd be better off on the dole' when I was working, but I don't know anyone who would deliberately take unemployment over being employed. My personal experience has thought me the grass is definitely not greener being on the live register. Stepping into the dole queue month after month, on top of all the job searching, and all the rejection letters from applications makes a person feel inadequate, inferior, and extremely depressed. I could understand how it could be easy to get complacent about it all and give up trying, so perhaps it doesn't mean the more complacent ones out there never had any ambition before. Luckily for me, I'm too stubborn to quit.

I learned that you can get you by, though it's not always ideal. I'm very lucky that I don't have children to feed. I honestly can't figure out how a small family would be able to live off of what me and my husband do. I've always been a savvy spendthrift, I've always lived on a tight budget. Living on small amounts is second nature to me. I keep my phone calls to a minimum. I always turn off the lights. I haven't refreshed my wardrobe since I worked, with the exception of a few 'refresher' items for a wedding, or an interview. Even so, I up-cycled accessories and articles so I never had a brand spanking new outfit. My husband and I didn't take a holiday this year. We didn't buy Christmas presents for our families, except a puzzle and markers for my nieces. I'm happy to accept 'tighter than a duck's arse' title. We ate beans and toast for dinner the odd time when we filled our oil tank for the heating, and even though we had heat, we usually light a fire and wear layers. We're also lucky that free food always seems to be on offer, whether a friend has taken a cow to slaughter, has too many cucumbers from a garden, or a family member foraging muscles, clams, mushrooms, or has some spare fish. Dinner never really seemed to be an issue. Me and my husband are not picky eaters. We're also not party animals, but we are sociable. By keeping our home open and welcome to our friends, we always felt like we are part of the action, even if we decide not to head out afterwards every weekend. It's amazing how cutting back on all the excess, you can spread a budget very thin and still be quite content. That being said, not everyone is as lucky as we are to have access to cheap or free food. If I still lived in Cork, I don't think my friends would be in a position to be offering me excess mince and cucumbers.

Working, and non-working life is different between urban and rural areas. While some people live in cities where it is easier to find a job, others live in rural areas, and the type of work available can vary depending on what part of the country you live in. The cost of living, and how much you spend on particular amenities can vary, like the cost of transport for example. Than again, one cannot spend so frivolously when services, facilities, and means of entertainment are also limited. I also recognize that not everyone is qualified to do the work that is available to them in their local area, which kind of goes back to the whole 'Not judging people' thing.

Employers are picky, no matter where you live, and can afford to be so. I could understand that it's not easy for an employer to sieve through hundreds of CV's - I can understand that it's not easy to narrow down to that one perfect person who will make your company shine like a whimsical unicorn covered in glitter in broad daylight, but do you think employers can be too picky at times?... Sure, an average or simple role might have some level of competent skills required, but isn't training usually provided? So why is it so hard to just pick someone and train them up? Stop wasting time and money. There are 16041 people on the live register in Co. Kerry as of July 2012. I'm going to take a shot that most of them are not going have the exact requirements, or live close enough to justify the commute for the pay, all due to the limited nature of living in a rural community. There's also a great article about why interviews are a waste of time, though I wouldn't exactly go as far to say the interview process is a complete waste, but I can see that you wouldn't want to make the process any more time-wasting than it ought to be. I attended a Group Assessment interview (not for the job I got, but I did find the experience interesting)- this is the future and I'm all for it - put 9 people in a room and see get they get on. Pick the top 4. New staff turnover sorted in less than a hour.

I know the job market is currently in favor of the employer the same way it's a renter's market for finding a decent house that doesn't cost an arm and a leg at the moment. This is also why I'm not too quick to assume that just because there are hundreds of jobs postings on, doesn't mean that there's plenty of work to go around. I would suggest though, if you are a job-seeker, to keep your chin up, and always try to sell yourself in the best way possible to each employer, and of course make sure you are a good fit for the company! Remember, you should evaluate them as much as they are evaluating you. If anything, this process takes some bitterness out the rejection letter. I once interviewed for receptionist position and I was rejected via text, and this unprofessional texting behavior did make me feel better about getting rejected - why would I want to work for someone who couldn't bother to send me a letter or an email? One day, I might even make an art piece or installation out of all of my rejection letters, just to see much my rejection would be valued at.

Life takes you in unexpected directions. When I became unemployed, I was able to enroll in the Business Studies course and meet a lot of new lovely people within my community. I was able to expand my working and business experience further afield, rather than stay limited to just the Arts. It also made me able to try new things like Payroll and Gardening. These courses were as useful in content as they were in getting properly aquatinted with the local Kenmare community.  My previous job did not exactly show people in their finest moments as wonderful human beings, thus fueling resentment when I first moved here so I'm glad that I got a second chance at rediscovering the community.  Who knows what would have happened if I stayed at my old job.  What I do know is that I'm content with the direction in which life has taken me, and believe everything happens for a reason.

And finally....

 Unaware I was being snapped by my husband.
I would like to end by saying that I look forward to my new job as an Administrator for a small community network. Just to add my Disclaimer: my blog does not reflect the views my new employer (anyone I end up working with now or here after) nor do I intend to make this blog a way of promoting my employer...unless of course, I want to, and they want to and it's all in good nature. I think the job will really suit me, and I hope to work to the best of my ability. Though myself and Shadow will miss morning sleep-ins.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Attempting at creating structure and content.

So, it's been almost a month since my first blogpost and I appreciate the amount of views over the last few weeks. Though I'm still trying to figure out what direction this blog should go in, and what should I write about. I know its going to be a 'lifestyle' blog so I don't want to be pigon-holed into one particular interest. That being said, What should I write about?

'Shadow and his boul' by Audrey Atkinson

Should I write about my dog, Shadow? I don't want to end up being one of those crazy dog people who talks about their dog all the time...I've always loved animals, but I think I might be getting very close to being one of those crazy animal people... After all, I refer to Shadow as my little baby.

Should I write about my new-found cooking skills? Learning to cook has been practically a life-long learning curve for me. When I was a kid, the only things I really mastered was Bisquik pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell's soup, Mac-and-Cheese pasta, and heating up a can of Spegetti-O's. No, I don't blame my parents for not teaching how to cook, in fact, my mom is pretty handy in the kitchen and my dad is the self-proclaimed 'grill master', a title of which one to my knowledge has tried to debate. I just don't think I ever really had an interest in cooking as a child, so therefore they never pushed me to try. By the time I reached my teenage years, I started working part-time in Pizzerias and/or Retail outlets straight after school, working as late as 10pm, and past midnight on weekends. Dinner was never too far away whether it was at work, at home, or at the local late night diner. College didn't change much either. I was either in school or working. But I did manage to learn a thing or two about Shepard's Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese, and a mean Irish fry-up. Now that I'm out of college and married,  I thought it was time I learn to cook. I have grown a hearty collection of fabulous cookbooks and finally figured out the key to making a half decent omelet, now if only I can master it to perfection, then I'll be the business.
'Spinach Omelet' By Audrey Atkinson  
I should also mention that I joined a weight loss program, so its even more crucial that I learn to cook healthy things if I want to reach my goal. I enjoy the 'Criss gets fit' blog, I subscribed to it via RSS feed.  I'm really inspired my this person, and though I don't really wish to blog about my own personal weight loss journey, I don't mind mentioning fitness and healthy eating from time to time. I'm sure there is plenty of good cookie and cake recipes out there, but I have to be good, especially if I am to fit in a lovely bridesmaid's dress by 2013.

Or perhaps I could write about my studio, and the work that is going on in there. Although my job search over the last few months has stifled my artistic motivation. It's funny how I used to complain about not having time to make art, but now that I have all the time in the world, I lack structure and discipline, and it's pulling me into a very depressing state of mind I'm desperately trying to crawl out of. Maybe if I incorporate my progress on my projects I can finally, well make progress!

Audrey's Studio
I find a lot of arty and crafty ideas on Pinterest and would like to try to incorporate that into my blog.

Speaking of job searching, I've been constantly trotting the job search trail since my course finished. Every CV and cover-letter  edited, analyzed, and tailored to each job application takes up a lot more time than you always think its going to take. But I think my perseverance might be making progress:

After one interview resulting in a rejection via text (how very unprofessional), I ended up with another four interviews in the space of a week! Two went down very well, and the other two I am still preparing for. Watch this space!

'Bookshelf' by Audrey Atkinson
There's a lot of interesting, or less interesting things, I could write about. I could write about all my likes and dislikes, my travels, my life, my husband, the evolution of my garden, etc.

Speaking of gardening, I was actually going to write a blog post about that as I have been doing some volunteer gardening and did a poly-tunnell workshop that I found very inspiring. Before I go blogging about my recent gardening away from my own home, I have to ask special permission first. This bummed me out at first, as I was really excited to have a solid second blogpost and was cut short, but I also think this buys some time to structure out what entries to do at what times of the year.

At first, I thought this could be a weekly blog. Now I think it might turn monthly, or maybe every fornight. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how I get on. I did manage to join Twitter last week in hopes to broaden my blog audience.

So, watch this space for Cooking, Gardening, Travel, Arts & Crafts, and maybe even some Doggie tales, without any that 'dear diary' kinda stuff.