A bitter taste

How often are we left with regrets? Clearly every decision we make has its own consequences, and we hardly regret them all, but when a choice we made in a spirit of positivity turns around and bites us on the arse – that is when we find ourselves regretting our decisions. For instance back in the spring it was announced that along with their new album “13” heavy metal pioneers and legends Black Sabbath would be touring the UK in December. Since Sabbath have been a fixture in my music library since I was about fifteen, and in a position to just about afford the (rather pricey) tickets I leapt at the opportunity to catch them live for what could easily be the last time. (Although with their history they are in with a serious chance of collectively cheating death so many times they actually become immortal.) Wind the clock forward and it was apparent long before I left my job that I would not be able to afford the additional costs of the trip to London required to actually go to the gig. With regret therefore I decided to sell the tickets.

Today was the day that I should have been in the heart of a crowd of sweaty 50-somethings rocking out to a band that have inspired an entire genre of music and were personal heroes of mine growing up. It is this that I regret; that I cannot experience this event.

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Disheartening reality

Job seeking has begun in earnest now, application for benefits is in pending approval (may not be a doubtful as it first appeared) and meetings with my job coach have begun. These are in increasingly demoralising and make it difficult to maintain a positive outlook even though they provide some of the tools towards finding work. Maybe they can act as a reality check to stop me from building castles in the sky and pinning my hopes on unrealistic objectives. When training staff or managing their performance I have always been taught to provide “SMART” objectives. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Realistic within a Timeframe. This was also a useful way of planning any activity or event, so I should adopt this method of organisation to my search for work. I also need to set long, medium and short-term objectives to meet.
With this in mind I need to think about what I actually want and compare it with what I need and also what I am capable of doing. I know that I would be able to learn how to do anything, but in today’s economic climate employers would rather employ someone who doesn’t need as much training. This leaves me to face up to evaluating my existing skills and thinking about them in ways that would appeal to prospective employers. This is where a lot of the job search sites come into their own. They seem to work by building a profile of your skills , qualities and experience and allow you to match these attributes with vacancies listed on the sites. You can filter the results by various categories and assorted requirements in terms of salary, location, grade, etc. Some are better than others, and a lot of vacancies are posted on multiple sites, this leaves you inevitably viewing and dismissing several instances of the same vacancy, making an already fairly tedious task high on unbearable. Learning how to optimise the use of these sites will; I feel, be critical in using them effectively.
Maybe on reflection, this isn’t as disheartening as it first seemed, but rather an initially grim reality check that has down the seed of a more determined form of optimism and less castle building on shaky foundations. As to how long I can afford to be unemployed is another, increasingly pressing concern that is beginning to rear it’s ugly head. Time to take the weekend off and do some work on the house I think.

Keeping Busy

In an effort to keep myself busy in the down time between searching for jobs, applying for jobs, waiting to hear about jobs, I need to find things to keep myself occupied. Not only that I must push myself to learn new things as I revisit old pastimes, developing new techniques as I brush up on the skills I have already. Alternatively I could try my hand and something completely new, perhaps using it as the launching point for a new, complementary career path.

To this end I spent some time today working on some flyer/poster designs for my partner’s childminding business. These should help her to drum up some business in order to improve our family cash flow situation. So it helps on a few levels, I didn’t learn a huge amount, but it was still a worthwhile use of my time. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the results here in the near future, but they aren’t quite finished yet.

Tomorrow I have a meeting at the Job centre+ to discuss my application for JSA that I mentioned yesterday so that will hopefully be interesting. I wish I could believe that as based on second hand experiences of others the job centre aren’t always the most helpful. Although this may be because of the attitude of the job seeker as much as anything else. Whatever the case, at the moment I should look at these meetings with an attitude of positivity rather than negativity, or I’m writing things off before giving them a chance.

Packing a parachute

As I base jump into unemployment I realise that perhaps I should have packed a parachute as there is precious little by way of a safety net waiting for me at the bottom of the cliff. It may just be possible to take steps to this end on my way down. In this period of uncertain financial times and booming unemployment there are plenty of resources available to the job seeker, recruitment agencies and career advice websites are everywhere. Traditional recruitment tools are still there, newspapers continue to advertise vacancies; and in this holiday season businesses will continue to need casual staff. Using the tools that work best for me will ultimately yield the best results, however I have very little experience in looking for work; so how will I know which is best for me?

In order to decide, my only real option is to try as many as possible and see what works out for me. To this end this morning I embarked on this process by wading through the turgid mire of bureaucracy that is the Jobseeker’s Allowance claim form. Now available entirely online to say that this was an arduous process is an understatement, especially if you are living as a couple and your partner has just started a new business. I can understand that the information is required in order to help prevent benefit fraud and the like, but as an online only service (that it has become) it is lacking the key things that make online service good. Speed, simplicity and efficiency, it leaves me feeling that an online only service is the wrong way to go for government forms. Having completed the form I was taken to a page linking me to an array of helpful links for the prospective job seeker, however the link I was interested in at the time; one to help me assess my skills as I worked on my CV, only led to a different list of links to many of the same sites, but nothing akin to a what I was actually looking for.

Undeterred I pressed on into a skills assessment provided by the National Careers Service, this site has thus far been a helpful tool although I am yet to fully explore the page. I have been working through their skills health assessment, which provides insights into career paths that might suit according to one’s existing skills, interests, motivations and aptitudes. How useful this will turn put to be we shall see, and should I find similar tools it will be interesting to compare the results. Still, I’ve made what can be construed as a start on the path to finding a new career, and have begun to lay the parachute out for folding before packing into it’s bag.

Mood

The importance of demeanour and nature as two key features of any individual’s personality was first introduced to me by White Wolf Games’ Vampire: The Masquerade; a pen and paper role-playing game. In the game the two features served as a mechanic to encourage a deeper involvement with the character you were playing. Your demeanour was how your character presented him or herself to the world of the game. Whereas at it’s simplest your nature was how your character played the game, it described their motivations, desires, wants, needs, doubts, fears, and insecurities. The same basic principle affects the real world too, everyone has an intrinsic internal personality, and they also have an external face that they wear to interact with the world.  Now as to how many of us actively look inward and rationalise our own natures and demeanours, it is hard to say, it is not an easy thing to do. We are inherently close to ourselves and therefore find it difficult to find the distance and perspective required to examine ourselves in this way. While creating a personality and stepping into it or writing a story based on the characteristics outlined is within our grasp.

There are times when perhaps it is important to take a step back and look at things in this way, to challenge our own perceptions of ourselves. What might motivate us to scrutinise our own personalities in this way?

For me yesterday was an example of the kind of situation that might motivate one to self scrutinise in this way. The day got off to a good start, I productively helped and supported my partner in preparing the house for a client meeting, as she is starting a new childminding business. Following that I took advantage of the dry weather to make some progress in tidying the garden shed, which had gotten a little out of hand in terms of clutter and had become rather disorganised. Then it was time to meet up with my father and brother to watch the Wales vs Australia match. The rugby was frankly frustrating, with peculiar new law interpretations and some tactically poor decision making from Wales ultimately costing them the game. The journey home was similarly frustrating, thanks to the local bus company’s apparent inability to cope with the increased volumes of traffic caused by major events in the city. By the time I got home, having walked some half of the way I had had enough, my earlier positivity had been eroded and my mood was darkening. Arriving home I found that my partner had been significantly delayed in her plans also and as a result she’d not had time to cook the meal we had planned. I reacted poorly, for no real reason, I selfishly vented my frustrations with the events of the afternoon on someone who is in no way to blame, someone who is my closest ally, my best friend, mother of my child and my love.

As I calmed down it led me to question why I had behaved in this way at all, was my nature inherently different to how I’ve always thought of it? Was there something darker lurking underneath what I’ve thought of as my happy go lucky exterior? I don’t think I have the answers to these questions yet, I’m not even sure that I need to answer them at all. Asking them may ultimately prove to it’s own reward as my level of self awareness increases.

Stepping off…

This blog is intended to help maintain my focus as I take a step into the unknown, unemployment. I will use this place to track my thoughts, observations, fears, hopes and anything else that comes up during this new stage of my life. 

 

In background, I am thirty years old and have been unemployed for all of about four days since I was eighteen. I studied chemistry at the university of Hull, graduating in 2006; since then I have worked full time in the hospitality industry and have been in management for the last five years or so. I have a mortgaged house, a fiancee and a beautiful two year old daughter, two weeks ago; for reasons I won’t go into now, I decided to leave my job and start something new, as to what that should be I’m not sure yet.

A bold step? Sure. Stupid? Reckless? Risky? Maybe, hopefully things will work out for the best.

I have come to the conclusion that my main asset is now my time, to this end I need to be careful to use it well as I try and sell it on the job market. So long as I achieve something worthwhile with my time be it in pursuit of paid employment or developing new skills, taking exercise, bonding with my daughter or cooking a meal for my family, decorating the house or even writing this blog charting my daily accomplishments and maintaining my momentum rather than lapsing into inertia, and perhaps also my failures in order to learn from them and turn them to my advantage.

Since taking this step I have taken a short holiday visiting my partner’s family in Northern Ireland, giving me time to relax and get away from the pressures of home for a short while and giving me time to adjust to the idea of being jobless for the first time in my life. Speaking with my fiancee’s father helped me to be confident that I had taken the right step for my family in the long term, we have a tough time ahead of us I’m sure, but we will prevail.

I am aware that there is a real danger here that this won’t pay off, but the fear of this cannot be my overriding concern, to quote Frank Herbert’s Dune “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I must face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”