Situation Vacant

Ah…..job agents, you gotta love ’em!

I received a phone call last night at 6:30 pm. At that time, usually, I don’t answer the phone, but the truth is I didn’t realise what time it was.

An agent. A job. He tells me a little about it, it ticks all the high-level boxes. Before we get too far, I ask where it is. I haven’t driven since the stroke, so would be reliant on a taxi. He asks for my postcode. Thirty minutes. A bit far, but I can do that at a push.

I later look for myself. Fifty. That’d probably make it too far. I’d have to do the journey once and judge for myself.

He tells me the rough location. It is out on Salisbury Plain, which usually means just one thing – army. I’m not interested in Defence work, I tell him. Especially now, there is a clear distinction for me between helping people and killing them. The apps I write from home are largely to do with health, diabetes-related – if my software helps people manage their condition, all well and good. I take care to make them free to use because I don’t particularly want to make money from people’s misfortune.

He assures me that it’s not Defence.

Okay, send me a spec. A spec [specification] is important. Just its existence tells me that a client (or in this case, an employer) has put some thought into what they need. With bigger organisations, it also tends to mean that the role has been budgeted – there’s no point getting involved if the client isn’t going to be able to go through with it. I know this because I once hired, for big organisations. The job spec starts the whole process, without one you don’t get anywhere. The spec arrives – this skill, that skill. Nothing overly demanding. They tend not to be – location is the key nowadays and the work itself is a few levels dumber than I was used to. A mention of the skills they want, but not of the kind of projects they get involved in.

Fortunately, the agent has sent me a link to the client’s web site – normally, agents don’t give the client’s identity away so early in the game.

I follow the link. Not Defence directly, but Defence Logistics. Ever since Thatcher’s sell-offs, a plethora of private companies have sprung up, all of which engage 100% in defence-related activities, none of which are formally Army, or MoD [Ministry of Defence]. It’s one and the same to me. Black and white.

I’m relieved that my initial suspicion was right. I’m relieved that I was able to rumble this job before getting too far down the line. It does mean that the search goes on, but in the meantime, I have an app to finish.

Duh

It is Friday again, and time to take part in Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

This week, I had a choice. One from October 10, 2018, and one from October 12, 2018. 10 gets the nod.

In his own post, Fandango talks about things never changing, so I will continue that theme. As I look at both my Stats and previous Posts, oh and now my media, through the WordPress.com web site, and try to figure out what they’ve done with the f*in scrollbar!

Mister Bump

At certain times, I’ve worried about my future in the IT industry, just by virtue of being “too rusty” to be useful any more. Then at other times I realise I probably needn’t worry.

I have a digital (internet) radio which stopped working a while ago. All was fine from my network, but the radio was meant to connect to some cloud-based service, and couldn’t. I resolved to fix it this afternoon.

It turns out that the service provider had discontinued the service, which is why I couldn’t connect. Instead, they have a new service. My radio is quite old, must have been one of the first internet radios -we always had poor reception here in terms of RF signals, but good internet. So, over time, I can imagine things get superceded. Annoying, but true – companies think nothing of pulling the rug up from under their users.

The dumb…

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Mis-sold

My job hunt has not been very successful. An example happened about a month ago. It was a lecturer role. Now, I’ve never taught in my life, although I do have plenty of experience of software development, so I’d hope that that would be useful when you have a bunch of people specifically looking to get into IT.

I was encouraged by the job advert. It specifically stated that it was fine if you didn’t have teaching experience, so long as you had substantial industry experience. Exactly what I wanted to hear. The advert went on to say that, if you weren’t already a teacher, you’d be sent on some crash course. Fine.

So I applied for the role and I was encouraged because they offered an interview. I mean, they said that applications from non-teachers were welcome, but all the same, if you are a trained teacher, that must be an advantage.

So I was pleasantly surprised that they offered an interview. However, my joy was short-lived when I read what the structure of the interview would be. Or, of one aspect of it. Have any of you heard of a micro-teach? I hadn’t, despite all my IT experience. I was actually quite miffed that these people had said “teaching experience not required”, when it transpired that it was, very much so. Of course, I didn’t say anything other than to say thank you, but I didn’t want to go any further. From my perspective, the goal once I’d realised that the job was unsuitable was just to spend as little time as possible on it, instead looking at vacncies which might be suitable. I had said on the application form that I was disabled, so maybe when they offered the interview, they had some quota to fulfil? But really, I’m not going to take the time and trouble to even turn up, if all I am is a makeweight.

I bet the person they eventually hired was already a teacher.

Further Job Woes

It’s interesting, I was speaking to an agent this morning about a role, and they said the fatal: “your CV looks really good. Can you rewrite it?” (Spot the contradiction!) And I’m just left thinking “noooooo”.

This is a CV that  led to working with a number of London banks. Plus, I’ve invested quite a bit of money into it, having it rewritten a few years ago by a professional CV writer. I’m supposed to forget that in favour of a comment from somebody I just met.

In particular I’m very careful to try and keep it to two pages, not on a whim, but because that’s roughly somebody’s attention span. Sad but true. The CV writer’s advice was also to “keep it to the last five years” – in fact I go back over 15 years, just because the roles (I think) were so prestigious, people are impressed when they see who the clients have been. Of course, I have to be incredibly brief in what I say about each role (fortunately one of them lasted 10 years, but within that role, I obviously accomplished a lot) because space is at such a premium.

Bearing in mind that I’ve been dealing with agents for many years, this is something I get from time-to-time. I mean, if you hear it every time you sent your CV off somewhere, then, fair enough, there’s probably something wrong with the CV, but if every agent asks you to rewrite the CV to highlight such-and-such, where such-and-such is different each time, and also a feature of this particular role… What the agent wants is something which is bespoke for every role you apply for, so it kinda negates the advantage of maintaining a CV in the first place. And as we get older, a CV inevitably throws up choices of what to say and what to leave out, so when an agent wants us to rewrite our CV, it is basically somebody telling us that we have poor judgement. I’m sure many people are very successful in what they do, and can demonstrate many years of sound judgement.

The role itself is for a government agency. I happened to mention that I had once worked for the government. “I didn’t see that on your CV”. No, because it was 1989-94. 25 years ago. Let’s be practical here. How detailed do you want a CV to be? I wouldn’t mind but if someone was interested in what I was doing 25 years ago, I keep a fully detailed employment history online, on one of the jobs boards, which goes back right to the start, and quote that link in the CV.

The icing on the cake was that, because I don’t have the exact skills that they’re looking for, they said up-front that they’d only pay the minimum rate on offer, until I’d successfully “retrained”. Forget that I’ve got oodles of experience doing something very similar, and would most probably be able to add value on Day #1 – that’s not worth anything to them. It was interesting too that they said this up front – if I’d have been hiring, that might well have been reflected in any offer made to a successful candidate, but I wouldn’t have said anything directly to them, certainly ot at this stage. I mean, I’m quite lucky in that I’m not particularly looking for big bucks nowadays, but the conversation left me feeling unconvinced that the client acknowledged that I had any relevant experience at all. I can accept that there might be some financial penalty for not being exactly what the clients are looking for, but I can’t help but feel that something would be going to waste if the previous 25 years were regarded as worthless. If I wanted my previous experience to be irrelevant, there are  jobs that come up every day in Salisbury which would be a far easier commute.

It makes me smile a bit because, just as I am constraining my search to the Salisbury area, they too are governed by geography. I know from experience that there are not many IT roles around here, I therefore assume that the converse is true – there aren’t a lot of people locally looking for IT work. Especially when the role is essentially civil service and therefore poorly paid (the salary on offer happens to be what I was earning in 1995, the exact same number, not even including inflation, so the role wouldn’t have been attractive to me unless I were constrained as I am). So just as I’m trying to be flexible in looking at jobs that are not quite 100% matches, I think they’re going to have to be flexible too, whether looking at me or the next person, or run the risk of not finding anybody.

Overall, I think, a pity because I am at a stage in life where working in the client’s area would be more attractive than earning lots of money. I should be exactly the kind of person they’re looking for.

Unemployable

Oh god, I’ve just realised that, since the stroke, I am now unemployable!

Prior to the stroke, I did well enough to sell my services to clients up in London. I was well-paid, and was never out of work.

Since the stroke, I’m far less keen on travelling, and in the 6+ months that I’ve been looking locally, I’ve hardly seen any jobs which are even vaguely appropriate.

I was optimistic, therefore, when an IT Lecturer job came up at the local college. I mean, I’ve no experience of teaching save for mentoring junior colleagues, but I figured that I had nothing to lose – my CV is an accurate reflection of what I’ve done, so it was up to the college to decide whether they were appropriate or not.

I was happier still this morning, when I got an email inviting me for interview. I accepted, but never really got the chance to look through all the attachments until this evening. It turns out that they want me to prepare something for the interview which they call a microteach. I’m guessing that’s some kind of presentation, but I’ve realised that I have no clue what to pitch at a 17yo. How much do they already know? How deep do I go? The term “micro-teach” is a foreign language, basically, and I have no clue how to go about planning a whole 90-minute session (which is, presumably, the CFE-equivalent of a lecture).

So I’m left knowing that I can’t let my application progress. I’ve got 25 years’ experience in IT, but micro-Teach tells me that I’m totally unsuited to any form of teaching. And, given that I’ve seen so very few jobs so far, I don’t think I’ll be employable again unless/until I’m able to travel back up to London again.

Chalk and Cheese

I saw a job vacancy today, for Public Health England.

It is essentially a civil servant role, with matching salary scales. I can’t imagine they attract many qualified applicants – it’s around a fifth of what I was earning in London 20 years ago.

But, salary is not top of my list any more, so there might be people like me who want to do something for the public good. It’s in Porton, close enough to be a taxi-ride away, so I thought I’d apply.

I clicked the links and was presemted with what looked like a “standard” NHS application form. The form asked for two referees up-front, before I’d even been successful at interview, which I found weird for starters. I certainly wouldn’t want them to contact people if I hadn’t got the job, so why is there a need for that information at that point in the process?

The other thing that raised an eyebrow was that the form seems to expect real people as referees. What’s so unusual about that, you may ask? Well, many of the banks I worked for in London did not allow employees to give references. All references were issued by the HR departments, and basically were of a legally-neutral form. “This is to confirm that Joe Bloggs worked here as a Street Cleaner between 1st January 2001 and 31st December 2010”, etc. So it basically witheld any opinion on Joe’s performance, lest either Joe or his new employer should decide that the reference was inaccurate.

So the environment that I’m used to seems diammetrically opposite to that of the NHS. I don’t suppose I should be too surprised, since the salaries are diammetrically opposite too, so there are probably very few people who’d apply for both. In development terms, we’ve hit an OR!

It’s even more colvoluted in my case, since I worked at these banks through my own consultancy company. I’d agree a contract with the bank for six months, a year, and at six-months-plus-one, I’d be out of the door, unless something else was agreed. So there’d be no record of Company X employing Fred, say, rather one of Company X entering into an agreement with Fred’s Company Ltd. I guess many HR people would not think to look at those records, especially when many of my key contracts were, say, 1995-2005 – a while ago. Of course, I worked after that, but I wouldn’t necessarily hold these people up as referees. Irrespective of the NHS or not, I’m not sure how that would work.

So I’m currently left stumped by this application form. There is a contact mentioned on the job spec, so I have emailed them to ask. But my wife (a practise nurse) constantly reminds me about how rubbish the software is where she works, and if the NHS has a de facto exclusion of anybody who’s been good enough to work for a bank, then I might have found the reason why.

Job Hunt

As part of my job search, I signed up to a site called reed.co.uk, and set up a search. I asked for all jobs within a 10-mile radius. I know from other job search engines that this search yields 20-25 jobs per day, many of which are at the local hospital. So, imagine my surprise when their search email told me that, in the course of just 24 hours, there were more than 350 jobs!

I saw straight away that their search contained jobs that were not 10 miles from Salisbury, but 50! I mean, what is the use in that? If I’d wanted to see jobs that were 50 miles away, that’s how I’d have set up the search. Someone has obviously decided that it is better for their site to send out great swathes of information, even though it is irrelevant, than to send a smaller amount of useful information. Answering my own question, presumably this allows them to say to advertisers, hey, we pushed your add to a zillion people! no matter that to most of those people, the ad was useless.

It kind-of brings into sharp focus exactly who this site is aimed at. They’re obviously a company, out to make a profit for their shareholders, and the way they make money is per imprint. Any service they appear to offer to candidates is purely by-the-by. You think you’re signing up for one thing, and yet their goal is something else. It’s a bit like Facebook – you think you’re taking part in some nonsense quiz, and all of a sudden Cambridge Analytica are telling you who to vote for.

So my dilemma is straightforward. Do I continue with these emails, in which case I’m headed for a lot of wasted time manually sifting through their false positives? Or do I can the search, write it off as a waste of time, and hope that if that dream job does come along, I find out about it anyway from one of my other searches?

Thoughts about jobs

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, so finally I thought I’d put something down.

I had an interview about a month ago, it made me reflect on the issues facing disabled people.

I mean, often when we go to interviews, we’re nervous about what it will contain, what will be asked etc. I wasn’t so much in this case – I have many years experience in the field of software development, although (a) most recently it was at a far ore senior level than I was being recruited for, (b) my experience was in different technologies than what they were looking for, although there was some crossover, and (c) I’d been out of the industry for five years. I’d like to think that (c) isn’t a factor but I’m bound not to be as sharp as when I was immersed in IT every day.

But it made me think, the issues were not the interview itself, but just getting ready and dressed up, getting up the flight of stairs to the interview room, signing in and out at their reception. And so on. It’s kind of weird that everything is back to front now – doing the job would have been easy enough but the issues are all the peripheral things!