Monday, 27 July 2015

The Joys of Job Hunting

One of these days I swear to God my existence will be so simple and mundane that my posts will consist of nothing more than me showing off photos of my latest shoe splurge and bleating on about how I can never seem to pluck my eyebrows evenly.  For now however, it's still about job hunting, hooray!  I've always been really lucky in that pretty much every job I've ever had I've just kind of fallen into or created for myself.  Been in the right place at the right time and all that.  Which is wonderful but they've always happened more by opportunity rather than necessity.  The icing on the cake.  The jam on the bread.  Trying to find and secure yourself a job when you actually need one however is quite different.  In a nutshell JOB HUNTING SUUUUCKS!  IT REALLY REALLY SUUUUCKS!

The suckiest part isn't even not getting the job, it's never knowing what the hell is going on!  Ah yes, things have definitely changed since my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed school leaving days.  Gone is the thing formerly known as 'communication' where you would send someone your CV, they would say thank you and either call you in for an interview or let you know that the position had been filled. Whatever the outcome, however good or rubbish you were, your prospective employee always had the common courtesy to pick up the phone so that you weren't left hanging for days.  Not so any more.  Which is kind of ironic when communication is so much easier!  Employers don't even have to phone people any more, they can get away with simply sending a brief polite email.  That would do.  That would be enough.  But noooo.  Nine times out of 10 (at least in my recent experience) nobody lets you know your application has been received, you don't get offered an interview, in fact you don't get told anything.  Instead you're just left wondering for weeks on end whether you're still in the running until you see someone else doing the job you applied for photographed in the local paper or when you're out doing your shopping.  Apologies if it sounds whingy but come on, do employers think people apply for their jobs for fun?  Yeah, we don't actually WANT to work or need the money, we just send you our CV's for shits and giggles!

Of course a lot of the time it's not what you know but who you know.  At least half the jobs I've applied for have already been given to someone else before they're even advertised; it's just mugs like me don't know it so you apply thinking you're in with as good a chance as everyone else.  There are definitely pros and cons of being in a small town like ours.  On the one hand, everyone looks out for each other and are brilliant at tipping people off about new or upcoming vacancies if they know anyone is looking for work.  On the other though, it's really horrible having to go up against your friends trying to get the same job!

And I'm going to be honest here and it will probably make me sound like a pompous cow but I'm sure I'm not alone.  The worst stab to your ego is when you apply for a job that you are hopelessly overqualified for and could do with your eyes shut standing on your head and you don't even get an interview.  In fact you could probably teach the management how to do THEIR job!  Maybe that's the problem.  Either way it's pretty soul destroying.  I had a conversation with a shop owner the other day about my job hunting woes and she confessed to having the same trouble.  She actually said 'Qualifications mean nothing around here sweetie!  Before moving here I was assistant to the CEO of one of the biggest companies in Auckland.  I arrived in this town and the only job I could get was stacking bread at the supermarket.  If anything, you want to play your CV and qualifications DOWN!' I knew she was speaking the truth - but how crazy is that?!!  Why the heck don't people want highly qualified, capable staff?!  Aren't reliable workers already hard enough to find?  It doesn't matter how highly qualified an applicant is, if they want the job, they want the job dammit!

Still, like I keep on saying, whatever will be will be.  And it's not like I'm the only one - Liam has been struggling to find work in Wellington since he moved there in February.  His problem is the opposite to mine, lack of experience.  'I've applied for heaps of jobs - but they all always want experience', he said glumly.  'How am I supposed to get experience when nobody will give me experience?'  I know my son, it's crazy and hardly good for a young person's self esteem.  Even trying to find a summer job before he left for uni proved fruitless.  The bars wanted experienced bar staff. The restaurants wanted experienced waiters and kitchen hands.  The tradies wanted experienced labourers.  It seems learning on the job is a thing of the past - but if that's the case, how is anybody ever supposed to get anywhere?

Ugh, God I'm having a grumpy day aren't I!  My apologies, I'm waiting to hear back about a job and the not knowing is driving me crazy.  Let's finish today with something positive, a rather cute little story about two of my favourite people - an elderly couple called Maurice and Pat.  Now I know Jehovah's Witnesses aren't popular with a lot of people but I absolutely LOVE mine!  I first met Maurice and Pat a couple of years ago a few weeks after I bought Nawtypoo Cottage.  They knocked on my door and introduced themselves, saying they had just moved to the neighbourhood after years spent farming in Taranaki.  'Oh lovely to meet you, I've just moved here too!' I told them.  However it soon became apparent by the magazines they gave me that they weren't just introducing themselves as neighbours but also as my new friendly local JW's!  However they were so sweet and lovely that I was happy to chat to them and ever since then, once a month as regular as clockwork I get a visit from them.  Even in the most revolting weather we'll stand on the deck and have a chat and most of the time we're so busy talking about what's going on in our lives they almost forget to talk about this month's religious topic!

Maurice, bless him had been growing progressively more deaf for a long time until he could no longer hear at all.  As time went by he stopped leading the conversation and had to be content with standing next to Pat on the deck and she and I would do the talking while he just nodded and smiled.  Then a few months ago Pat had a nasty fall and was airlifted by helicopter to hospital where she remained for some time with a shattered hip.  During this time, even though he couldn't hear a thing, Maurice kept up their monthly visits solo as best he could.  Much of the time all he could do was smile and hand me a magazine and I would try and talk directly at him in the hope he could read my lips.  It was sad to see such a lovely, gentle chap reduced to a world of silence and he missed having Pat by his side terribly.

This morning however the sun was shining and I looked out of the window to see a familiar white car pull up in the driveway and Maurice hopped out.  'Look who's back!' he smiled, gesturing to Pat sitting happily in the passenger seat with the window down.  'She still can't walk but I drove as close to the deck as I can so she can talk to you too.  And look!'  he beamed, tapping behind his ear at a brand new hearing aid.  'I can hear!  Oh Jackie it's so wonderful!  Who would ever have thought such a simple invention could make such an amazing difference?  I have my life back - in fact, it's even better than it was before!'  The three of us had a lovely chat and just like the old days he almost forgot to hand me his magazines before they were on their way again.  I couldn't have been happier for him and Pat too.  Some people just really warm your heart and those two definitely do!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Jack of all trades

Believe it or not, I haven't always been just Penny Wise.  I've had some amazing jobs in my time and I have been lucky enough to love them all.  To look at me now, most people would never imagine that I used to be able to milk a herd of 200+ cows by myself but I could and indeed did so for many years. In fact one of my proudest moments ever is still the day I calved my first cow all by myself!  It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and everyone else was at home watching the All Blacks game on TV. I wasn't interested in rugby back then so I volunteered to go and check the cows to make sure they were all OK and not having any problems as it was calving season.  I pootled off down the farm on my motorbike and cast an eye around the paddock - and then I saw her.  She was a heifer (for those not up with farming lingo it meant she hadn't calved before) and the birth of her first calf was well underway.  Unfortunately the two feet she had protruding out of the back of her were not front feet.  They were back feet, meaning the calf was breech; in other words it was the wrong way round.  Just like humans, it's not really ideal, being born head first is infinitely preferable!  Whilst plenty of cows are able to give birth this way unaided, it was apparent from all the usual signs that this one had been struggling for a while and was getting nowhere.  

It was very possible that the calf could die left for too long and the poor heifer needed help but time was of the essence and I didn't want to disturb everyone else watching the rugby!  So I figured I'd have a go at helping her myself - after all, I'd been present at enough bovine births to know what to do!  So I approached as carefully and quietly as I could and grabbed hold of the slippery protruding feet.  This did not go down well and I had to hold on like hell as the mother took off in her efforts to get away from me, pulling me along behind her!  Luckily for me it wasn't long before she gave up and settled down nicely; I don't know if she knew I was trying to help her or what but it made our mission a heck of a lot easier!  I didn't have any calving ropes with me but I did have some baling twine on the bike and I cobbled a few pieces together like I had seen done and attached one end around each leg.  And pulled and pulled.  The heifer bless her did her bit too and before long, one healthy, still very much alive baby calf plopped out onto the ground.  I'm not sure who was more amazed, the calf's mother or me!  Fortunately instinct immediately kicked in and the brand new mum began vigorously washing her new baby.  I was so proud and exhilarated and relieved all at the same time and couldn't wait to whizz home and tell everyone.  They named the cow Jack in my honour and she went on to be the best milker in the herd!

Before Simple Savings  I also worked as a reporter and newspaper typesetter which I loved as the owners trusted me completely and gave me as much creative license as I wanted.  Our little office was the hub of the local community and every day was so much fun!  Before Liam was even old enough to go to school he was competent at using Photoshop and liked nothing better than to sit on my knee playing with photos and falling about laughing as he made his victims' nostrils bigger and swapped their eyes around.  I guess it was definitely a sign of things to come as his school and uni friends can vouch!

My most rewarding job however was when I was jointly running my own business as a 'people finder'.  Bear in mind this was long before the days of Facebook and people were a lot harder to find! It started when we set up our own NZ version of UK phenomenon Friends Reunited.  Aside from the day to day running of the site we would sometimes receive the odd letter from people who were desperate to track down long lost friends and family.  My heart always went out to them and my mum and I would dabble around in public records to try and find their loved ones.  We found we were actually rather good at it and after one of our first reunion stories appeared in the Women's Weekly, we were swamped and what started as just a bit of fun soon grew to become a full time occupation. Lordy how I wish I had kept all the cases, what an amazing book it would make!  So, so many wonderful stories.  We reunited brothers with sisters, children with parents, long lost work colleagues, childhood friends - it didn't matter where they were in the world, we would go to work with what little information they could give us and we would find them.  I even found the right John Smith in England out of all the blokes there with the same name!  It wasn't always a happy ending; sometimes I would have to break the heartbreaking news to people that their birth mother or father didn't want to - or couldn't - know them. It wasn't anybody's fault, just circumstantial.  Fortunately those instances were very few and far between.

My favourite case ever was that of a beautiful woman named Terri (I'm going to change the people's names here).  She wrote to me from Australia but had grown up in NZ.  As a schoolgirl she had a brief relationship with a chap who was a few years older called Pete.  He was a bus driver and would talk to her through the fence when she was at school.  I can't remember her exact age but I think she was only 15 or 16 when she fell pregnant and of course it was a big scandal so she was hidden away and when the baby girl was born, Terri's mother pretended it was HER baby, and Terri's daughter was actually raised as her sister.  Pete did know he was a father, thanks to a chance meeting with Terri several years later, when he caught sight of her with a little girl one day on his bus route. However he never saw her again as after that Pete changed jobs and moved away and Terri relocated to Australia.

By the time she reached her late teens, Terri's daughter had realised that her 'sister' was actually her mum and whilst this understandably took some getting used to, the two of them had a close bond and she began asking Terri about her birth father, wanting to know more about him and possibly meet him.  There was just one problem - Terri could not be 100% sure of Pete's surname.  Not only was it a fairly common surname, there were several different possible spellings of it, meaning we were going to have to try and track down every version of it - even then, Terri still wasn't totally convinced that it even WAS his surname!  But once again we took what we had and after months of searching, we found him.  Pete had by this time moved to the South Island and had got married and had a family of his own but was now divorced.  I remember the day I found his handwritten reply in our PO Box - it was so exciting!  He couldn't wait to be put in touch with Terri and his new daughter and it wasn't long before Terri flew from Australia to NZ to meet him.  And one thing soon became quite clear - the old spark from their teenage years was still very much there!  Next was for Pete to travel to Australia and in the months which followed much to-ing and fro-ing was done across the Tasman until one day Terri wrote to me to tell me joyfully that Pete was moving to live with her in Australia!  An incredible story, such a lovely couple and I still think about them and wonder how they are.

There were many more wonderful cases and I would love to have kept doing it but in the end the demand became too great for two people.  Our little business was bought out and ironically I began working as Regional Manager for the very company we had originally set out to compete against - Friends Reunited.  My days were spent liaising with media and PR agencies and I got to hang out with the likes of Trade Me founder Sam Morgan and negotiate deals with scary bigwigs like the heads of Telecom. My life couldn't have been more removed from my cow-calving days!  I spent a very enjoyable two years with them before stumbling across Simple Savings by chance one day in a copy of That's Life! magazine.  As soon as I saw it I wanted to be part of it and the rest as they say is history.

So what exactly is the point of today's ramble?  Well I'm job hunting you see - now that experience is a whole separate post in itself!  This is just a bit of background before I move onto the real job hunting blog.  But it's not about 'oh look how wonderful I am, I've had all these cool jobs' - quite the opposite.  Like I said, I've loved every single job I've ever had and I'm well aware how lucky I am but it's turned me into a bit of a spoilt brat.  Since the age of 18 I have never, ever had a 'normal' job.  Even the part time job I have now has lovely varied hours.  In every job I've ever had I've done what I want when I want and have worked largely off my own initiative, without an ever-present boss breathing down my neck.  It's been bloody marvellous I can tell you and I don't want it to stop!  But unless an incredible opportunity presents itself very soon I am just going to have to suck it up and let someone be in charge of me so that I can get to where I want to be - debt free. It's something I am really struggling with (told you I was a spoilt brat) - I can't imagine doing the same job day in, day out.  I can't imagine doing a job that won't grow or change or has a rigid description.  I really have always been a Jack of all trades!  Who knows, maybe it will be good for me?  Would certainly be better for the bank balance!  But giving up my independence will be so painful!  Still, I have to actually GET a job first. And if I don't, well I have several options up my sleeve.

What IS brilliant, is that the horrible situation I've been unable to write about all these weeks seems to have been well and truly resolved.  It's going to take me a while to be able to really relax properly but a U-turn has been performed and we are back on the right track, woohoo!   

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Accidental Arseholes

In my job I get to be nice to a lot of people.  And they're nice right back to me.  Which is nice all round!  No wonder I'm happy in my work.  That's the way it is with people we don't know very well though isn't it?  We know how to behave, we know our boundaries.  We treat each other with respect and dignity and expect nothing less in return.  On the extremely rare occasion a customer is unpleasant to me, I still smile sweetly, however I make a mental note that he or she is an arsehole and remember not to go out of my way for them next time, then move on to the next thing.  End of story, like Taylor Swift I shake it off, shake it off.

People are always telling me I'm strong.  Sure, I'm strong when it comes to pulling rabbits out of hats so I can feed my family.  I'm strong when it comes to standing up against people who are nothing more to me than a stranger's name at the bottom of a bill or an insurance company.  I'm strong when it comes to talking my way out of a parking fine.  And I'm strong when it comes to fighting for the underdog.  But when it comes to standing up against people you love?  I'm the biggest wuss on the planet.  The thing is, as I've discovered, it is these people you need to stand up to the most of all.

I can't believe it's only been a month since I wrote; it feels like a year.  These past weeks have been absolute hell, for reasons I unfortunately still can't say.  I have never felt so desperate, so hopeless, so horrendously alone in my whole life and I didn't know if there was ever going to be a solution or an end to it.  To be honest I still don't, I'm just hoping against hope.  I don't pray very often but I've been doing a lot of that too.  The crap thing is, I know that even if I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel in this situation, I'm already hurtling along from one hell straight into another, because all the while I've been barely able to function and unable to deal or act with everything going on around me, I have emerged closer now to losing my home than ever.

But that's another blog for another day, I need to gather my thoughts before we catch up on that.  The good thing is that as always, something positive has come out of this almost unbearable time.  I have learned a LOT and it is that I want to share today because I believe I am far from alone.  I apologise in advance for the frequent use of the word 'arsehole'; you can change it to whatever you want, it's just a word that resonates with me and makes it all a little less dramatic and serious because it is a serious subject.

Some people are natural born arseholes.  They are always arseholes, day in day out and are arseholes to everyone.  Fortunately these are relatively few and far between.  What are far more common however are the acquired arseholes.  You see these all the time but may not recognise them yet. These are people who are nice to pretty much everyone else except you.  They used to be nice to you as well but somewhere along the line you threw them a doormat and lay down and let them walk all over you.  They know you better than anyone, know how to push your buttons, manipulate you, guilt trip you and quite frankly treat you like shit, all without consequences.  You're not sure how or when things became this way but they did.  Why?  Because you love them.  Even though they make you feel bad, like you don't matter, like you're nothing, you still love them.  Which is pretty ironic really isn't it, considering we pour all our time, love and energy into making THEM feel good!

When it comes to natural born arseholes, there's nothing you can do but let's face it most of us don't want them in our lives anyway.  Let them go and hang out with the other natural borns!  It's the acquired arseholes which are the problem because you love them with all your heart but they are bringing you DOWN.  I see examples of acquired arseholes all the time on Facebook statuses - parents who are miserable and downtrodden because their kids take them for granted and do nothing around the house.  Couples where one half is permanently in a state of heartbreak because they make all the effort and do all the giving and the other does nothing but sit back on their laurels and take, take, take.  I'm sure you can think up a few more examples but they all have one thing in common. They behave that way towards you because you LET them.  It's your house but the kids have the run of it.  They talk back or even down to you because there are no consequences.  Your partner doesn't need to put any effort into your relationship because they already know you'll do enough for both of you.  The longer you go on accepting this acquired behaviour, the more you start to shrink inwardly. You feel sapped of energy until you no longer even feel like getting up in the mornings.  If the people you love most treat you like crap, well you must be nothing, right?  How can you respect yourself if they don't respect you? You must be a really bad, worthless person.

I realised during the worst of this hellish period that I have been allowing people to make me feel this way for a very long time.  I'll repeat that, I ALLOWED them.  They did not force this behaviour on me, I permitted them to treat me this way.  It doesn't matter whether your acquired arseholes are children or adult, they ONLY act this way because they have been allowed to. And as we all know with habits which have developed over a long period of time, it is very hard to break.  But it can be broken.  I broke it.  It almost broke me in the process but I did it.  You don't like to pull them up short.  You don't want to say 'mean things' (they're not actually mean, they're long overdue, you just feel mean saying them) because you don't want to hurt them, you want them to still like you.  And you know what?  They still will like you.  Because even if they don't see it straight away, deep down they know their behaviour isn't OK either.  After all, they're good people really, that's why you love them.

I'm sharing this because I know there are people out there as broken as I have been.  It is only when you realise that YOU are the problem - not them, that you realise that you also have the power to become the solution.  Once you have that knowledge and start standing up to your arseholes you WILL see results.  It's pretty bloody liberating I can tell you.  It's a shame isn't it, that we can't all just be nice and have everyone be nice back, just like the customers at work? But it's OK to command respect from the people you love; in fact it's vital that you do.  So to all those people on Facebook whose sad statuses I have read lately and the many more who suffer in silence, please learn from me. This is probably the most honest thing I have ever written and to anyone who has never been in this position you will most likely think it's a load of complete codswallop.  But to anyone who has, I hope it helps.  Someone once said to me 'being nice gets you nowhere'.  I disagree - it most definitely does. But as with anything in life there has to be a balance. As I have learned, it's never too late to find yours!