Friday, June 18, 2004

Gizza Job!

Currently on a sabbatical from employment I am reveling in my new nickname of 'Dosser Watski' (thanks Jake). I left my old job in February for a break and have been enjoying lazing around doing as little as possible in the meantime, which I suppose is remarkably similar to my performance when I was working...although im being paid a damn sight less. Well im being paid nothing really.

Recently and very reluctantly I've dipped my toe back into the employment water, more through financial necessity than anything. None of us work because we want to. Its only mad people that really enjoy working, the kind of people that have 30 cats, these people are best given a wide berth. I've been contacting agencies and employers directly, etc and in the last month I've been up hill and down dale visiting these agencies and having interviews. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your outlook, I now have 2 job offers on the table. This brings its own brand of problem which I'll elaborate on later.

Its more specifically my experiences with agencies that id like to talk about. Most of us have been headhunted at some stage or at least contacted by agencies when we are least expecting it. It was always a tradition of mine to answer the phone to agencies on the hands free whilst in the car with the boss:

Watski: "Hello Watski speaking"
Caller: "Hello Watski,this is A creep from A Dodgy Agency, im just getting back to you on the position you applied for at 'Youre in so much trouble now PLC'
Watski: "Erm, erm, erm....i cant talk right now"
Boss: Complete silence..... for a long time. Only interrupted by the scratching sound of pen of P45.

The problem is that not answering your work phone in working hours whilst at work with your boss arouses suspicion in itself. You could always say 'its not convenient to talk right now', but you might as well stick a CD on with the song 'that was an agency on the phone, but you already knew that didn't you?' on repeat. You must remember that song.

It just got so much of a hassle that i never used to return their phonecalls, how do they expect you to explain a day out of the office going to an interview for something you weren't interested in in the first place? I wonder what the generally accepted strategy is for dealing with employment agencies. Swearing would feature heavily i guess.

I digress. I think i am a digresser by trade, i wonder if there are jobs as digressers? I could do that, id be good at that. Anyway, coming back to the present day i really never realised that there were so many agencies, web sites, etc set up to help/hinder job searchers. I believe that i have been in contact with most of them at some time or another in recent weeks. They must look on new job seekers with the blood thirsty lust in which Dracula preyed upon his victims. Whenever i mention agencies i want you to picture that thought.

You tend to become a hard nosed job seeker pretty quickly and immune to most of the bile they throw at you. But the first few steps are trepidating - you are at their mercy. At first the agencies would say 'the CV's great, you'll have no problem. Will you do me a few things?' And here begins Watski's job seeking advice Rule No.1.

The first request asked of me would be to keep them in touch of any developments - great in theory but when you are applying for jobs all over the place with all and sundry agencies but in practice its impossible. Ignore this request - they're just being nosy and want to know if any other agency are doing a better job than them. Which they are. The second thing i would be asked is to 'let them know which jobs you are going for as it gets embarrassing putting people forward who have been put forward by other agencies' - again ignore this request, for the same reason as the first question. They just want you to do the work and dont want to be seen as the same as all the rest.

The third thing that would be requested of me would be to not apply for the same job through another agency as again it gets embarrassing. Again, ignore this request. It seems a pretty honourable and moral thing to do as a job seeking virgin but i have lost count of the times an agency has said that they are putting you forward for a position you are interested in and thats the last you hear from them. Resulting in you seeing the same position advertised and thinking 'no, i wont apply for that because thats already in hand with that other agency'. Little do you know. And then you miss the position entirely. This has happened to me a few times. The Look After No.1 rule seems pretty sensible now but it can be tempting to be a bit overawed by agencies to start off with.

Its very easy to get carried away with agencies - most of them double up as car salesmen at the weekend, or sewer rats. Its true. Their 2 main aims are to a) get quality candidates to interviews and b) make sure one of their candidates gets the job. Dont be fooled into thinking they have your interests at heart - they are the new estate agents. Nothing seems to get in the way of those 2 aims, not even the small matter of not fancying the job. So here begins Watski's Job Seeking Rule No.2: 'Dont fall for the flattery'

Some agencies insist on seeing you in person which often means a long trip to their offices for a half hour chat. This, they say, is because they dont want to put forward people who they havent had chance to vet personally. This is a lie, they have an office game where they all try to get someone to travel the furthest for the shortest pointless meeting. The most worthless trip ive had was a 6 hour round trip to Bracknell for a 30 minute chat. I rang them the day before to see if i could have a telephone interview, they refused and said it wouldnt be a wasted journey as there were lots of things happening. I havent heard from them since, have i Ashwood Associates? Im not saying dont do this, you just have to bite the bullet sometimes, but i wont condone personal violence. Just be prepared for nothing coming from some meetings. It can be a little dis-heartening in truth if you let it get to you. I find chocolate helps.

Its very easy to fall for their flattery. They can make even the dullest job sound interesting, mine-clearing in Iraq suddenly has exceptional career development potential. You can find yourself having 3 days worth of interviews for a job you never had any intention of taking even if you were offered it, just because the agency made it sound 'just your thing' and you dont want to let them down because they sound so nice and are working so hard for you. So make sure you only have interviews for positions that you would consider accepting.

Rule No.3: 'Set Yourself Parameters' links in with Rule 2 to some extent and its that you must set your self parameters that all jobs must fall within, it may be salary, location, anything. Just so that you arent tempted to go for something that involves you doing something you dont want to. Dont be afraid to say no to the agency, they dont care, they'll be onto their next victim within 3 seconds of putting the phone down to you.

Getting to interviews is a job in itself, ive a pretty good sense of direction as most men have. They do!. I went for an interview at a business park near Birmingham recently and ended up 40 minutes late for it when i planned to be 30 minutes early. There are so many business parks near Birmingham called almost the same things and some of these parks stretch 'near Birmingham' to ridiculous lengths. Having a 'B' in your name doesnt give you the licence to advertise that youre near Birmingham.

The road planners have a little game of their own too, the main purpose of this game seems to be to give you directions for the park you want then fail to give any more directions to it. I was about to give up when i found it entirely by accident - the God of Interviews decided that id had enough punishment and placed the venue right in front of me. "Go on, show him the way. He's had enough". I was beginning to think it was an initiative test. Pity he didnt help me with the heat in a car with no A/C too but i suppose we cant have everything. I was sat in reception and the receptionist must have had 5 calls from people who couldnt find it too. Which made me feel much better, i felt part of the stupid club.

This brings me to the final Rule No.4: 'Dont be rushed into anything'. Today is Friday and im sat here with 2 job offers in front of me, i should be happy but i can see my life of freedom and laziness being packed away into the loft with a sticker on that says 'DO NOT OPEN TILL OLD AND GREY'. The problem is that theres probably another job offer coming on Monday afternoon but the 2 i have at the moment want an answer by Monday lunchtime. Ive already put their deadline back and probably cant stretch it anymore. One agency is putting pressure on me to accept one of them and the other is putting pressure on me to put a decision off. Bet you cant guess which agency belongs to which job. They can almost smell the pound notes that im earning them and nothings going to stop them.

Consider yourself briefed and fore-armed.