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Jun. 12th, 2016

chris

First week report!

So I've just finished the first week at Oxfam and on the whole it went fairly well, I think.

It's a small team: me, my manager (Jason) and two others (John and Bob). I'm taking over three 'in progress' projects, so I spent a big chunk of the week reading documentation to catch up with where they are. In some ways it was a very weird week: for various reasons I actually spent a big chunk of the time by myself - which luckily I don't mind too much, though it wasn't what I was expecting!

The upside of the fairly quiet week was that I didn't get inundated with introductions. Jason is working with his manager (Nick) on a list of people to get to meet individually, but I really only got introduced to a small handful this week. About 4 people in the first couple of days did stop by my desk to introduce themselves, which was nice.

In some ways it was unfortunate that it was Bob I spent the most time with as he was the person most likely to do the 'welcome to Oxfam, here's all the things that are going to suck' remarks. I mentioned this to Nick when we met at the end of the week and he wasn't surprised: apparently Bob has form for this sort of thing. Apparently he upset a new starter at one time by telling her that her predecessor hated the job and quit after a few months. Oh well, there was bound to be someone who's awkward...

I've met two of the three project managers - the other was on holiday last week - and had good conversations with both. What's good is two of the three projects are in areas I've worked before and the third is related to one of the others. I've also already been warned about the one person who is going to be awkward, so forewarned is forearmed!

I had a catch-up with Nick at the end of the week and he professed himself happy with how things had gone. I was also very pleased with myself for reviewing one of Bob's documents that was going out to a supplier and spotting a couple of mistakes that I then fixed!

So what do I think about Oxfam as a company after a week? Well, it's not a bells-and-whistles company that's for sure: everything is fairly basic. For example they don't give out mobile phones to employees unless they can prove that they really need it and while there are several kitchens on each floor, they don't supply tea, coffee or milk. I completely understand why: they have to justify to their donors how they spend their money.

On the other hand, they do try to live up to their values and they are very strong on the 'work/life balance' thing. They are especially good about working hours: you are expected to leave after you've finished your hours. My manager works the 8am - 4pm shift (we have core hours of 10-4, but it's up to you how you schedule the rest of your hours) and, sure enough, he is out of the office by 4:15 - and his manager is the same (they both have their work calendars blocked out after 4pm.) You are also encouraged to work from home one day a week; I'll settle on a day once I've got my first couple of weeks out of the way, but Tuesday is looking good (especially with rehearsals.) Oh yes, and I've had no problem with booking some holiday!

So, yeah, I'm fairly happy with the start. We'll see how things go next week!

Jun. 5th, 2016

chris

Bookzombie's Adventures in Jobhunting: The Post Mortem

So tomorrow I start the new job. It's going to be a weird first day: both my line manager and my task manager will be out tomorrow, so I'm meeting another member of the team who will do all the induction stuff and then I'll probably finish early and start the job proper on Tuesday.

One thing I wanted to do was think about what I learned from the process and what I'd do differently next time. As you've all sat through and supported me through this process I thought I'd share my thoughts.

1. The most important thing I've learned: don't stay in a job too long unless you are getting something good out of it.

Looking back there were several times when I probably should have decided to leave, or the times that I said I had decided to leave I should have stuck with the decision. When I joined Yell in 2001, it was to support the HR System. Within 6 months it became abundantly clear that it wasn't a full time job and so I ended up being transferred into the main IT department. This should have been an exit point if I wanted to maintain my career as an HR technical expert. Plus the fact that my introduction to IT was basically 'Here's your desk.' I wasn't introduced to anyone or given a clear role. Talking to people I became closer colleagues with years later, it turns out that there were quite a few people who had no idea who I was or what I was doing there.

I should also have left when it became clear that the technological world was moving on and my employer wasn't. One of the tough things about job hunting has been the fact that much of my technological knowledge is 10 years behind now.

And I definitely should have left at several points when I was just miserably unhappy.

So this time I plan to set myself some milestones and see how I feel about the job in 6 months, a year, 2 years, 5 years, etc. If I'm really lucky and love the job then it may be the last job I have before retirement (I was at Yell for 14 years. In another 14 years I'll be 63.) But don't hang around just for the sake of having a job.

2. Be less self-deprecating. Sometimes I'm just too hard on myself. The problem is that I am all too aware of my limitations and I often advertise them too much - you may recall that one of the elements of feedback I got from the OUP interview was that I was actually too honest about the things I didn't know how to do, when I could have sold my capacity to learn more. This was something that I did do better at the Oxfam interview: although they did ask me about some of the things that I wasn't terribly knowledgeable about, I did make of point of saying 'Yes, I know I'm not going to tick all the boxes, but can learn fast and I have all these other skills that you're looking for.'

I'll admit this is something I need to look at in my life generally: I'm often too quick to tell stories about times I've been a complete idiot about something, or been really clumsy, or whatever. I know it's a defence mechanism, but it doesn't really do me any favours.

3. If a company treats you poorly as an interviewee, they're likely to treat you poorly as an employee. So if weeks go by without a word, write the opportunity off and move on. Both OUP and bluewolf badly let me down over this (to this day, I've still never had a peep of feedback from the latter) and I expended a lot of energy on chasing and worrying about them.

4. Try not to despair. It took me around six months from when I started looking to getting the job, and I was starting to worry that nobody would want to employee me, but you only need one good opportunity at a time. In the end the right thing came along (as far as I can tell so far anyway!)

I'm sure there are other things I'll think of later, but that's the things I can think of right now.

Tomorrow, a new era starts!

May. 24th, 2016

chris

Bookzombie's Adventures in Jobhunting The Finale!

So who has two thumbs and a new job? That would be me!

I've had an offer from Oxfam, which I've decided to accept. The salary is a bit of a compromise: not as good as I was pushing for, but there is good mitigation for that.

The feedback was that they really liked me: they thought I would be a good personality fit for the team, they liked my attitude and approach and my interest in non-profit organisations. They were also impressed by my presentation.

The downside - and why the compromise over salary - is that they had other candidates who had better technical knowledge. This is totally fair. I always knew that my rather aging technical knowledge - due to working at one company for a long time where they have a fairly stagnant technical stack - would be my weakest part. But it seems that it was more important to find someone who fits the team than to tick all the boxes technically.

I'm quite ridiculously pleased with this result. I'm not telling everyone yet (so I'm talking about it here on LJ, but not on Facebook) until I've got the official offer and sorted out the admin. We're also working out a start date - as next week is a bank holiday week, I've put in a bid for earliest starting date of 6th June.

So there will probably be an epilogue at some point, but in the meantime I am a very happy bunny!
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May. 23rd, 2016

chris

Job news

...is there none. Still waiting. I had a quick email exchange with the agent and she's been told that I should find out tomorrow or first thing Wednesday.

I hate this bit.

(I am keen on the role, I liked the people and most days the journey will be better than my old commute. But I'll admit that one of the things I'm really looking forward to is not having to go through all those flippin' JobServe lists every day...)
chris

Good news? Maybe?

I'm trying not to read too much into it, but I've just had a call from my agent for the Oxfam job. One of the people who interviewed my has called her to check on what my salary expectations are.

So it sounds possible that they may be making me an offer, but I'm trying not to get too excited about it, as it may be just a generic query, or something they meant to ask at the interview and forgot.

But at the very least it means that they haven't yet written me off!

Trying not to freak out...

May. 18th, 2016

chris

Oxfam interview

So I had my Oxfam interview today. My style was somewhat cramped by the fact that I am still suffering from the Cough from Hell (15 days since a full night's sleep and counting) and had almost completely lost my voice. I managed to croak my way through the interview and the presentation this morning, but by late afternoon I'd lost my voice completely. I'm definitely planning to have a complete rest the next couple of days!

Anyway, the interview itself seemed to go fairly well. Most of the two hours was taken up with the usual competency-based questions. I don't think my answers to a couple of them were terribly exciting, but had the advantage of actually being true. The presentation also seemed to go down okay as well - I was supposed to have 30 minutes, but we were running short of time so I had to skip through it in 15. That wasn't too bad as we had actually covered a lot of the material in the previous questions.

So it's just waiting now. They will be interviewing into next week, so I don't expect to hear anything until towards the end of next week. I was given to understand from my agent that they were only having face-to-face interview with me and one other person, but what they said either indicated that they were interviewing more, or that the other person isn't being interviewed until next week and they didn't want me to know that there was only one other person.

If I don't get an offer, I'm pretty happy that it's because I just don't quite fit the role, rather than because I didn't sell myself well at the interview. I will still be disappointed, because I'm really quite keen on this one,but I've done what I can.

May. 11th, 2016

chris

Cough, cough, coughety cough cough cough

Yep, so the cough has settled in for a protracted stay. I've been getting to sleep at around 4am and getting 3-4 hours sleep for the last 4/5 days. I think that must be the point at which my body says 'I don't care how much you want to keep coughing, I've got to get at least a bit of sleep.'

Normally, of course, this would just be a 'bugger' and you get on with it. The problem is that I'm playing a part in a show in which I am supposed to be singing falsetto (in a 'Bee Gees' sort of style) and, well, I just don't have any falsetto right now. It's not a disaster, most of my stuff is with other people - I only have about 3 lines that are just me singing (well, only 3 where it is supposed to be just me singing anyway!) and it sounds fine if I sing an octave down, but it's just really disappointing as I've worked very hard to get the singing style right.

My biggest worry right now, though, is that if my throat doesn't get a rest from the coughing then I might lose my voice completely before the end of the show. Trying not to stress about it (I'm pretty sure I've had this problem once before and got through it), but it's niggling at the back of my mind.

(No remedy suggestions, please! My throat is getting all the TLC that it can, but there's nothing in the world that actually stops you coughing - not even the so-called cough suppresents...)

May. 9th, 2016

chris

bluewolf job update

I've just had a call from the agent and while they still haven't actually had any feedback, he is advising 'putting a red line through this one in the spreadsheet.' Basically the agency have placed 3 people with bluewolf this year: one has since resigned and another has been let go. bluewolf are also not paying their agency bills properly. So it does not sound good. Frankly, I'd pretty much got to the conclusion myself: it's nearly seven weeks since the interview and they haven't even had the courtesy to give the agency a quick call to say 'yay', 'nay' or 'still thinking' - is this the sort of organisation I really want to work for?

So a red line it is. Onwards!

In other news, we had both the band call and tech rehearsal for Sister Act yesterday and they went pretty well - despite me and P. still having coughs and not much voice. I didn't get to sleep until 4am-ish again last night due to coughing so I've now been to the chemist and Got All the Drugs, so hopefully I should get more sleep tonight...

May. 6th, 2016

chris

Updates

I have a confirmed face-to-face interview date for Oxfam: 19th May. It will include a presentation (gulp!), but I will get the scenario in advance so I can prepare (slightly less gulp!) Apparently they have only invited two people in for face-to-face interviews, so the odds are good at least!

I've started refering to the bluewolf job as 'Schrodinger's Job' on the grounds that until someone feeds back to me about the interview, I both have and haven't got a job offer. Honestly, I've actually given up on this one, but it would still be nice to get some sort of feedback...

In other news, P. and I are celebrating the last few days before our next show by getting colds. Sigh. We are both recovering, but this is just sucky timing. We've got the band call and tech rehearsal on Sunday so while it would be nice to be able to sing, it's not the end of the world if we can't, but lots of people from P.'s work are attending opening night on Tuesday, so hopefully we'll be back to full voice by then!

Cat watch: Snowy is remaining fit-free still at the moment...

Apr. 29th, 2016

chris

Quick updates

1. I took Snowy in to the vets again yesterday and the verdict was that as it was still only two fits and she has recovered quickly they don't want to put her on the epilepsy treatment this time. Advice is to carry on monitoring the situation and if she does have another fit in the near future then bring her in the next day and they'll put her on the treatment (we also have anal diazapan to give her if she has another fit as well, so that's fun...)

2. I am sometimes an idiot. I've been hanging around this morning expecting a delivery of a present for my niece that I ordered yesterday. I'd remembered the delivery as being booked for between 7am and 10am today. Turns out when I checked that I had entirely screwed up the order and instead of getting 'free next day' delivery I'd managed to pay for a delivery Saturday morning between 7am and 12am. Doh! Not a disaster but I don't think I was firing on all cylinders yesterday. I've been having some sleeping issues this week and was very washed out yesterday, so I'm happy to blame it on that!

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