Tag Archives: Funemployment

Howdy Stranger!

Oh my gawd, HI!

Man I haven’t seen you in ages! What’ve you been up to? You won a beauty pageant? And got a promotion! And found the love of your life?! Well, that’s not surprising at all since you’re so delicious. Plus, yeah, I’ve been stalking you on Facebook, so I kinda knew already.

Where have I been? Well, I guess I’ve been having a couple of those weeks that kinda answer the ‘why did you move to London?’ question that bewildered locals always throw at me. All credit to my funemployed pal JJ, who is the BEST at fun-hunting instead of job hunting EVA. What have we been doing? Well…

We went to THE GLOBE for FREEZIES! Not only did that tick off a massive London To Do, but it was the first ever musical at the (reincarnated) home of Shakespeare… history on history baby! Plus, it was a modern take of a Greek classic of Euripides, that I’m sure I must have translated at some point in my Classical days (*casually brushes off shoulders of leather-elbow-patched tweed jacket*). AND… golden speedos. Need I say more?

What else? Well there was the taping of the show Catchphrase. All I can really say is that the only time I’ve ever seen or will ever see that show was in person. I totally thought that freaking ‘golden robot’ (according to Wikipedia) Mr Chips was a banana, like, you know, ‘banana chips’? That or he’s just a chip. But that ain’t no robot! If that irritation weren’t enough, the super Essex simple-sweetie sailed away with over 20gs in prizes, while I was stuck there watching the host do endless retakes at the end for all the lines he or the production team gaffed. Seriously, go to Graham Norton. He knows what he’s doing. AND he’s actually funny.

That same week we took advantage of the London Design Festival to get free booze. Sounds like a non sequitor? Well, it was promoting stones that you freeze to put in your drink instead of ice cubes so as not to dilute the mythical glory of our Northern neighbours’ godly nectar. Simple design genius perhaps, but I was only interested in the magic the uber-proto-hipster barmen wrought to make me like whiskey! Load it up with mint and lemon and lime and I’ll be all over it. Or rather it’ll be all in me. ASAP. My mouth is watering now for Mint Juleps. And if that Blue Grass band would please alternately score my life with their sultry southern hick hipstering and narrate my life with their surprisingly broad Brit accents, I’d be even happier.

Then there was the Butterfly Enclosure at the Natural History Museum, which brought back memories of the Otago Museum Butterfly House in 2008. Granted, this one had less wedding dresses and MUCH less booze, but it was equally sweaty and just as much makeup ended up in my boobs. But I did find my new favourite butterfly. Granted, I didn’t have one before, but this one was epic. On the outside, it was pure folliage. Like, you’d have to have psychic powers that connect to butterflies to distinguish it from a leaf. But when it flexed its wings open, its insides were a triumphant regalia of blue sapphires. Commonplace on the outside and glorious on the inside – if you tell me I’m like that butterfly, that’ll be a massive insult-complement combo hit right there. Possibly a fatal hit.

And of course there’s the resurgence of pub quiz at a new close-to-my-house-thank-bloody-gawd location. Usually during the music round I zone out while my team shouts ‘MotzBach!’ and ‘Unicorn #5!’ and I get nuffin. But this week was a random hip hop theme, and my team watched agape as I managed an answer for all 20 question parts and got enough to bring us up from about 9th to 3rd. Who knew I was so gangsta? Yup, me, that’s who. Bad Geeks 4 Life!

But sadly, and despite my #1 thug status, now that the infamous JJ is employed once more I’m rather at a loss.

You know, we should totally, like, hang out… Maybe we could get coffee sometime?

Or I guess I could just go back to those ER reruns…

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I just did this search, and it made me sad. Aren't there any other options?!

No Dole to Bludge: a guide to being an unemployed Kiwi in London

In my last post I lamented the oxymoronic woes of Funemployment: so much time, but so little to do, and nary a dime to do it.

To alleviate the usual misery-guts whinge-whinge-moan-whine, I promised some (hopefully) helpful tips on surviving and ultimately leaving the cold dark hole of unemployment. I’m certainly no expert and there’s a billionty sites out there with generalised advice from actual-real-life professionals, which I might even link to if you’re lucky. But what I’m offering is what specific wisdom I could glean from my recent experience, of being a) unemployed, b) Kiwi/ANZAC, c) in London.

HAVE A BACKUP PLAN

Unlike the majority of other London Immigrants (i.e. UK and EU passport holders), ANZACs on a work Visa can’t claim benefits such as the Job-Seekers Allowance. While food and drink is relatively cheap here compared to back home, Rent, Transport, and socialising out on the town is extraordinarily expensive.

This means that you can never let your bank balance teeter too far towards the red, or you’re going to be constantly hypertensive if something stops the inflow of income.

If you do like to live on the edge, you at least need a backup plan. Whether this be borrowing from the olds, moving to Croydon, selling everything you own on Ebay, or just having enough on the NZ credit card for a flight home, having options (including ones you’d hate to action) is vital.  Even if you don’t want the red pill or the blue pill, it’s better than having no choice at all.

WOO THE RECRUITERS BUT DON’T LET THEM WOO YOU

Every recruiter I signed up with over my two brief periods of unemployment was wildly enthusiastic about getting me a job. I was ‘one of their best candidates’ and they’d have ‘no trouble at all’ getting me a great position and I’d get at least what I was asking for, because of course I was worth so much more, what with my experience and all. Every time I walked out elated, thinking this was the agent who would make the effort and get it done.

The problem with the London recruitment scene is that each agent has so many candidates on their books and only a limited number of positions across their desk each day. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of first-in-first-served system, and in fact it’s probably the opposite. If a job as a Data Analyst comes up on Tuesday morning and they met a Data Analyst the evening before, that person will probably get the offer.

This means you need to be in their minds as much as possible without being an annoying git. I personally HATE calling and harassing people so I’m not really the best at this part, but I have it on good authority from both clients and recruiters that if you’re really serious/desperate, you should call your recruiters every day to ask if something has come up.

My own experience last week backed this up: I went in to register and chat on Monday and they mentioned a particular job they thought I’d be suited to… I emailed through some documents they wanted the next day and mentioned that after thinking about it I was really keen on this sort of role… I didn’t hear back so called to check the documents were okay and asked again about the job, which hadn’t become available yet… and hey presto! On Friday I got a call in the morning, interviewed that afternoon, accepted 5 minutes later, and started on Monday.

EVEN REJECTION IS HARD TO COME BY

While it may sound like I swanned into a role, believe me there were lots of dead-ends in other areas in the same period of time. This includes waiting not only for jobs, but for rejections – as many other fellow job-seekers will attest, the recruiters don’t really care about anyone other than the successful candidate, so you have to harass them even for a no. I feel bad now remembering the ex-boyfriend I felt too mean to break up with, and in the process left him hanging and feeling like shite. I wish those recruiters would just dump me if they’re gonna dump me!

London has given me many things, but it has also taken one thing (other than my savings) away from me: as of last week, I can no longer claim to have been offered every job I ever interviewed for (*le sigh*).

HELP WANTED: WHERE ARE THE HIDDEN JOBS?!

Anyone who’s been on the dole in NZ and attended one of their compulsory ‘seminars’ (teaching everyone who goes on an unemployment benefit how to hold a newspaper in such a way as to appear to be job-seeking) knows that the advertised jobs are ‘just the tip of the iceberg!’ At home, you’d be encouraged to contact friends and family and former work colleagues, look for ‘help wanted’ signs in shop windows, and cold-call into businesses, handing out copies of your CV, ideally in a nice bright pink to stand out and freshly perfumed with the latest celebrity scent.

Over here, the only jobs advertised with a bit of Comic Sans on A4 in the show window are in the nail-salon-cum-hairdresser-cum-massage-parlour-cum-drug-den and the minimum wage jobs that always have a waiting list, such as the local gastro pub or Micky D’s.

But there are a lot of hidden jobs in London that you might actually want. As above, recruiters have so few roles compared to job-seekers that most are filled on the same day they become available. So few make it to the website that you should never let an apparent lack of appropriate roles deter you. The recruiting role is somewhat reversed from expectations – it’s not you deciding you want the role and going for it, it’s the recruiter having the role and thinking you’re a good candidate. This means, once again, that you gotta get in there and harass the shite outa them.

But just like when you’re 15 and looking for a part time job you can work illegally cash-in-hand until the minimum wage age of 16, there are other ways to get in the know. The Kiwi/ANZAC network in London is really thriving at the moment, I’d say partially as a result of the absolute domination or all things social-media, and partly because, in all honesty, things are harder here than they used to. The London that our parents came to doesn’t exist anymore, and in a recession, this country wants to look after its own first, so…

USE YOUR FELLOWS

At the apex of these troubles comes sites/networks/social contrivances such as the Kiwis in London Facebook page. What started as a bit of a social experiment has gained snowball-like momentum in the past year and there are currently over 5000 members, which represents about 20% of all Kiwis in London as of the 2001 census. This sites operates as Kiwis in need connecting Kiwis who can help, with a bit of moderation, promotion, event coordination, and the odd Ozzie thrown in.

It is absolutely worth posting your query/need/want/desire on a site like this, with so many people in the same situation and willing to pay back the favours that have been done for them before. The busiest day ever for this blog was the day I unashamedly (okay, a little ashamedly) plugged it on the site, and since then, I’ve made an effort to help with Police check queries (my old job), liked pages, voted for contestants, and even met a dude to be a participant for his PhD survey. Pay it forward, and backward, and around I say!

BEEEEE THE REPUTATION

If you’ve never been anywhere you should have heard that Kiwis and Ozzies have a great rep in London for being hard workers. I always wondered at this until I got here and discovered the abysmal state of some people’s work ethic. The sad thing is that people who would be fired back home would do well here, but the plus side is that the ANZACs can cash in on this reputational beauty.

Whether you’re trying to sign up with a new recruiter, interviewing for a job, or trying to turn a temp role into an ongoing gig, the following all apply:

  • Be nice to EVERYONE
    When I was playing organisational-pleb for a day of very high level recruitment, I was very surprised to be asked what I thought of each candidate. So be nice to the doorman/security/receptionist as this could sway the opinion between two equally-qualified candidates. Plus, you’re a douchebag if you don’t. Once you’re in a job, greet every person warmly, from the cleaners and security to your team leader and the big boss. Spreading warm fuzzies around the office makes you someone people want to be around, and therefore hire/extend, and again, you’re a douchebag if you pretend the cleaner is invisible when she’s cleaning your dirty dishes. 
  • Everything you put in writing is judged
    I won’t even go into CVs and cover letters here (though I could now write a novel on the subject), but every email should be up to scratch, even if the recruiter doesn’t bother to spell check themselves. Toe the line between professional and friendly, check your spelling and grammar, use a logical subject line that grabs their attention, limit the emoticons (I’d say 0-1 is the only acceptable level, and 1 only if it is a long-standing friendly relationship and they’ve used them first), email the right person about the right job, and for gawd’s sakes attach a document if you say you’re going to! That or remove ‘attention to detail’ from your CV. You’re a little fish in a big pond now, and the tiniest things could make the difference.
  • Be on time
    Or preferably early, but not so early as to put their schedule out. If you’re running late, let someone know. If you arrive 3 minutes late to work, apologise. Don’t worry that this will only point out your lateness – chances are your boss has already noticed, and even if they don’t care, your apology shows them that you take their time seriously and have high standards for yourself. The same goes for lunch breaks and clocking-out: put in the hours it says on your timesheet, no more, no less, and work hard for every paid minute.
  • Say ‘Yes!’
    I’ve learnt from experience that you should never say yes to something you can’t realistically achieve – this only leads to disappointment on both sides, unless your boss is C.S. Lewis. But, being new and wanting to impress, you should always aim to say a modified ‘yes’. If your techtard boss asks you to whatzeedoodle the thingamejiggy, say ‘I’d be happy to do that, but I might need some help from person x as I’ve not done that exact thingamejiggy before.’ This shows that you’re willing to learn, but gives the boss the opportunity to give the work to a more experienced member of the team. If your everythingisurgent boss asks you to do ginormousjob#31127, say ‘yes I can absolutely do that. Would you like that to be prioritised over jobs 31100-31126 or is it not urgent?’ This way they understand your current workload and can tell you exactly where this onerous and/or totally unnecessary job fits in the pipeline. Either way, you still said yes, and showed that you’re a go-to person with common sense and prioritisation skills.

FIND A WAY TO NOT GO CRAZY

This is where I can’t really offer any advice because I certainly don’t swallow my own medicine. If you read the last post you’ll know I turn into a mono-activity hibernation-station and no matter how much I know what I should do, and how much happier I’d be, I can’t seem to put it into action. So my only advice is: don’t do what I do!

Keep a reasonable sort of routine. Plan when you’re on the job hunt and when you can do whatever. Find free/cheap things to do that are still fun to do solo. Leave the house every day (wine from the corner shop doesn’t count!). Keep in contact with the outside world, and talk about things other than being unemployed (this is a surprisingly difficult one). Attack that to-do list with fervour, so that you have a sense of achievement to balance out the rejections. Read a freaking book and don’t resort to the Kardashians!!!

know plenty of you are currently/recently unemployed and have been through this whole rigmarole and probably done a better job at being in or getting out of the mire than me. So please, let us all know, how the hell did you do it? Are you still struggling away in the recruitment cycle? Are there any companies/recruiters/websites you’d recommend or blacklist?

Do you think there’s a secret formula to finding a decent job in London or is it all just luck of the draw?

An actual email I received while job-hunting

The end of Funemployment

‘Funemployment’ has to be one of the more self-deceiving euphemisms ever bandied about. Most of the definitions centre around what Kiwis would call ‘dole-bludgers‘, but my particular, recent brand is better characterised as:

The state of being corporately displaced … while managing to maintain a positive attitude. Also known as ‘Jobbus Interruptus’.

Before London, I had been unemployed exactly once since I was 16. This period of idleness was the Summer of 09, when I had a two month period between my part-time student job finishing and my full-time job beginning. So, even ‘unemployed’, I had work lined up, I had savings, and I had very little interest in the stultifying job market in Dunedin, getting up to speed (i.e. learning to make burritos), and having to lie to any prospective employer about my ongoing availability.

So I moved back to my mother’s to save on rent, I cooked, I cleaned, I drove her crazy sorting out cupboards (not something you should do without warning to a quasi-hoarder, sorry Ma!). I was bored, and most of my friends had left town, and I wanted to follow, and some days I didn’t really leave the house, but at least I had company for some of every day, and I had a plan, I knew when the next paycheck was coming, and I knew this was just the in-between phase of the move-to-Wellington goal.

Being unemployed in London is a bit of a different beast. I’ve done it twice now, and each had a different flavour. Each of these flavours was of the shit variety.

When I first arrived, I knew that I would be sans-job and sans-flat at the same time for a little while, and that it was gonna suck arse for a bit. I was prepared for this – I had savings, I’d just had a great trip around Europe/Russia/Baltics, and I had friends in the same boat at the same time. So we whined about it together, we met up virtually every day, we got out in the sunshine when it wasn’t raining, we saw what we could of London on the cheap, and spent the rest of the time in the pub.

It was rubbish being at home alone in a horrid estate where everything was broken, and the landlord was a veritable nutcase. It was scary paying huge amounts in bond and rent and having to buy all the basics like bedding and toiletries and food all in one go, not knowing when the bank balance would next head upwards.

It was daunting, also, to scour the city for jobs and flats, constantly being mildly lost, never knowing what you’d see when you exited the station. How do you know where to look for a flat when you don’t know what the different areas are like? Which should you get first? You can’t choose what line to live on before you know where you’ll be working. But do you really want to start a job when you’re living on a couch?

In the end, I was very lucky. The day I started looking for a job, I got an interview lined up for two weeks later. I didn’t try very hard for anything else because I had a feeling I’d get it, and I did, and started the next day. Just as the flat situation got desperate I got a sublet, on the same line as work, and 5 mins on foot from friends.

I certainly can’t complain about two weeks’ unemployment, but what’s trying is having to do it all again. My job finished before Christmas and so, after a very cheap sojourn in Morocco, I was back in London and back in limbo.

It was more scary this time, because like before I have rent, and bills, and travel costs, but unlike before, the savings are gone. It’s not like I’m going to starve, but I need money for my student loan to stay in my NZ accounts, and have quite a sum tied up in bond, and can’t max out the credit card in case I ever need an emergency flight home.

There is no surplus, no fiscal blubber, and that is fucking scary. I grew up on the constant verge of going under, and so, from the second I could earn my own money, I put it in the bank, and I watched it accrue with a pleasure that was more to me than any item I could buy with it. Kate Moss infamously said that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but I think she may have confused ‘skinny’ with ‘millions in the bank’, since being skinny is her fortune. Security is not something I could ever inherit, and security is what I worked so hard to carve out of my meagre paychecks.

And so I’ve found this last few weeks absolutely terrifying. I had an idea in my head that I’d write a bit of a series on ‘funemployment’ as I like to write about the experiences that are common to all Kiwis/newbies in London, and show the shit side, offer some advice, seek some advice, and then show what it’s like on the other side and why it’s worth it.

Obviously this hasn’t happened, and I instead went into my bat cave, which is what I tend to do when I’m left to my own devices: activate hibernation mode. Seriously, I should not be left alone for too long. The result is always the same: my sleeping patterns move by several hours towards night-owl proclivities, I catch up on every show I’ve never cared about, I ignore my to-do list, I eat £2 oven pizza daily (seriously, I found a really good one), and I squint into the light out the window and hastily draw the shades again.

I have my excuses of course. It seriously is freaking cold in London in January. The other day I saw that the high was going to be -4C. The HIGH! How can a negative be a high?!?! I grew up in what is considered a miserable cold place in NZ, and a temp like that would be newsworthy as a LOW! So, since I can’t afford proper warm things, it’s natural that I stay indoors right? And the warmest place in my house is my bed, as it’s in an enclosed space that can actually warm up, and has blankets (aka one cheap Argos duvet and a crappy sleeping bag draped on top), and my computer is there.

I have to be at my compy to do most things job-related. And near the phone, so I can’t go out and go underground, or I might miss an opportunity. And where would I go? All my friends are working and I have no money!

So, what this all results in, is me being a total slacker hibernater. The weird thing is I’m super motivated when I’m at work – I’m the super organised, everything before deadline, clear desk, tidy drawers, logical email folders sort of person, who gets things DONE! But when unemployed I didn’t even do things I wanted to do, like read, or sell stuff on ebay, or go for walks, or write postcards.

This reminded me of despairing to a high school teacher that my best friend was planning to drop out because she couldn’t handle the pressure of her three subjects (5-6 was a normal load). Mrs Martin told me that the less people do, the less they feel able to do, and busy people always fit more in because they’re used to being on the go and getting things done.

I think this is absolutely true of me, and I know that I’ll get more done this week than I did in the last three, because…

I HAVE A JOB!!!

I start tomorrow, and it’s more money (well, more than sweet fark all) and an easy commute, so cross your fingers for rad workmates and social occasions, good work and plenty of it (throw some overtime at me baby!), great smart awesome bosses, and a nice long stay in the one place!

Since I didn’t provide my planned series on the great tribulations of unemployment in London, look out for an upcoming post on No Dole to Bludge: a guide to being an unemployed Kiwi in London.