Tag Archives: unemployment

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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Rain drops keep falling on my head

I think I should start a blog about the weather, since that’s all I seem to be able to talk about these days. You’d all read that riiiiight?

  • “Weather or Not” (‘hot or not’ styles ORRRRR perhaps more of a ‘would you rather’ affair)
  • “Hot Topics” or “Topical Highs and Lows” (current events [lol, pun within a pun])
  • “The (not very) Bright Side of LIfe” (like Failbook, but with… Rain?)
  • “Blow you away” (umm… this could go in several directions, although if it’s anything like Wellington wind, you’re going dooooowwwn. If you know what I mean). 

I think the obsession with talking about sunshine is a symptom of the SAD perhaps, or a product of the season that has no name. No applicable name at least. I’d call it Sprinter, but it ain’t goin’ anywhere fast. I’d call it Wing, but it just won’t fly the fuck away!

I begin to feel that thinking about sunshine is like trying to understand the universe. Right when you think you’ve got it, the fragile notion slips through your fingers, and as you grasp for it, it shatters into refractions of your imagination.

I begin to feel that talking about sunshine is like calling for Beetlejuice three times. But instead of bringing it to you, it drives it away and you’re haunted by the rain instead, which prods you with an irregular rhythm reminiscent of the most irritating unrelated child.

I begin to feel that dreaming about sunshine is dreaming about home, and a dangerous game for an emigree far from home. You wake up with the image in your head and can’t quite figure out if it was dream or reality.

You’ll all be sad to learn that regular guest-star LD has just left the UK, turfed outa the country after two years of faithful service to the gods of theatre, art, and intellect. Along with thoughts on Zombies, she recently shared with me her theories on sunshine. Having moved hemispheres 4 times in as many years, she’s noticed a pattern – Shite Weather follows her. It’s not that she always moves at the wrong time, it’s that she gets the worst of all seasons no matter where or when she goes.

I laughed at her egocentric weather philosophies, as I laugh at those who take astrology seriously. It is human nature to make patterns where they don’t exist. It is confirmation bias to hear a list of generic qualities and think ‘that’s meeee!’

Until… I started to see the patterns myself. Like the Summer I shared with her in London which swung wildly from weeks at a time of rain to everyday 30 degrees – humid and sweaty either way at a time I was trying to get a job. Sweating off my makeup and dignity was not how I wanted to dress to impress.

Just imagine the sensation of being smushed ass to groin with a million strangers a day on an airless, aircondition-less underground when everyone just came out of the rain – jackets there’s no room to remove, damp hair steaming, sweat rolling off noses but arms trapped too far away to swat at it and desperate, ineffective attempts to blow it away with a lower-lip-thrust-exhalation (is there a word for that?!).

Since then we’ve had a Winter that’s driven me to blogging about the faarking weather more than once. More than twice. More than human decency can abide. Even English people (who like to complain about the weather even when the sun is beating down) have said that this has been a long cold Winter. The free Tube mags, bastions of journalism as they are, have had articles on how to deal with SAD in the face of the constant grey, and most of us have taken to drink. Like… more than usual.

But the icing on the cake, the sign from above, the confirmation of this most ludicrous theory, came last weekend. It was LD’s last weekend in London, and after a Winter that seems to have lasted exactly the length of her Visa, the sun came out to play. It may have still been in the mid-single-figures (that’s a generous description for 3 degrees, I know), but it was glorious.

I reached for my sunglasses, buried deep in the very small pile (have I mentioned I’m poor?) of totally unnecessary belongings. The daffodils newly planted in the revamped patch of council ‘green’ near my house reached for the skies, after previously dipping their heads to the ground a little more each day since planting, unable to battle gravity without the motivation of the yellow ball of awesome to reach towards.

But the creme de la creme, the incontrovertible truth, the astrology of… LIFE, came when I Google Mapped my way to LD’s house that fateful last day in London. Clearly the London gods and the Sun gods had gathered together, checked the airport departure lists, had a coupla gins, laughed unkindly at her, and got our the sunnies that she would never need:

SAD is the new fad

As Winter officially draws to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, but refuses to actually f*ck right off, I’ve noticed there’s a little SAD in all of us.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a bit controversial in medical terms, but generally accepted as a mood disorder or signifier of wider depressive tendencies. From my personal experience and observations of sufferers around me, the major symptoms are:

  • Obsessive planning of layers
  • Feeling disassociated from the concept of ‘daylight’
  • Anxiety related to opening curtains due to assumed horridness
  • Over-attachment to hot-water-bottles
  • Compulsive buying of scarves and bed-socks
  • Difficulty concentrating on anything other than booking sunny holidays
  • Abandonment issues geared towards the sun

I now think there are two different types of SAD.

My days as a student in Dunedin were COLD. The clear, crisp days were the hardest because they reeked of antarctic ice and the sun belied the chill and made the unindoctrinated venture out without full winter get-up. At least the cloudy days offered some sort of planetary insulation, as our houses had none, and thus we turned to the always efficient ‘booze blanket’.

This COLD was definitely the instigator of SAD in Dunedin. I remember feeling like I’d not been warm in weeks. Like my toes didn’t belong to my body. Like my fingers were blunt, rusty instruments of no discernable use. Like my electric blanket was my true Lord and Saviour. In the shower my butt shivered while my front broiled as I turned the temp up to max and my numb toes sprang to life with the searing, ecstatic pain of renewed life!

In London the cold is much worse, but more manageable. The central heating is much better (i.e. they have heard of the concept) and so even in phases of bone-chilling wind that freezes your nostril hairs and hurts your brain in waves of inhalation, you’ve generally started the journey warm and know you’re heading for the sweaty mess of the tube, followed by the invariably overheated office.

What hurts in London is the dark. Wake up in the dark, go to work in the half-light, endure office illumination, watch the sun set at 2.30pm, walk home in the dark, be at one with the dark, you ARE the dark. Considering a major treatment for SAD is bright light therapy, I think they realised before I did, that it’s the lack of sunlight causing the depression, rather than the cold/wet/mouldy/blurghness of the season.

I know I’ve become a bit of a skipping disc on repeat of late. I’m cold. I’m so poor. Everything I own has holes. It’s dark all the time. I need a job. I’m old. My back hurts. I want snuggles. Where is my life going?

It’s hard, but I chose it. Does that mean I can’t complain? No, I don’t think so (obviously!). My Other Mother taught me with her hangover-sympathy that it doesn’t matter if you made yourself sick, you’re still sick. So here’s me complaining, as per usual. But I also like to complain with purpose, so I’ve made a plan.

To bludge off others, I’ll call this my ‘Happiness Project’. Mainly because I can’t think of anything that doesn’t reek of church or death (‘out of the darkness, into the light!’). There’s an actual Happiness Project that inspired me, along with that of my fellow Kiwi Blogger RunawayKiwi, who’s similarly on a mission to use creativity to beat the insipid greyness.

Since I’m terrible at completing personal projects (apart from this blogging thing – how is this still going?!), I’m making the rules simple and easy to follow.

#1: I must do something other than go to work and go home and watch stuff EVERY DAY (i.e. actively participate in my own life).

#2: I must leave my area (Mile End) EVERY DAY.

The aim of #1 is to do something fulfilling every day. This can be a London-y thing like going to a show, museum, gallery, park, event; It can be seeing friends, or going on a date; it can be writing a blog or something else creative; it can be skype-ing, emailing, postcarding friends and family back home; it can be as minor as walking home on a nice evening via Tower Bridge and the Thames. It is anything that I’m not being paid to do, that brings me happiness.

The aim of #2 is to avoid the Sundays where I spend 99% of the day in my room mooching about on the interwebz coz I ‘need a rest’. Ultimately this ends in guilt at wasted time, inability to sleep the night before work, total lack of even basic achievements like doing washing, and GONADS disorder (Guilt Over Not Always Doing Stuff). Like you’re just hanging around, full of potential, but you’ve got nowhere to go, or no-one to go there with. *Totally gonna have to trademark that*

I decided on this plan on Tuesday, and it is now Saturday night and I am winning at the game thus far. Achievement unlocked! I’ll let you know how I go, if you let me know how you battle your location/time-specific downers.

 

 

Where are my pancakes?

I already gave sh*t up for Lent

Today my Facebook feed and the nitwitterings of the office were filled with one common cry: Pancakes!

Apparently today is Shrove Tuesday, also known to the masses as Pancake Day. Another religious day taken over by food and opportunistic marketing – Huzzah! Being irreligious myself, and having been generally surrounded by other Darwin worshippers back home (apparently one of the most secular societies in the world), I was not in the least clued up on this holiday, or its connections to sweet celebrations around the world, including carnivals, bonfires, Mardi Gras, and of course, eating pancakes.

While never my favourite sweet treat, pancakes use up a bunch of kitchen staples like eggs, butter,   wine, chocolate chips, chilli (yeah okay, I’ve never made pancakes), and so they are perfect for the use-it-or-lose-it night before the Big Fast of Lent.

Even I knew that Lent was all about giving something up for some vague length of time (approx. 6 weeks, or 40 days and 40 nights) in order to justify all those chocolate eggs and bunnies you’ll be eating come Easter. That or it’s your second attempt to make those failed New Years Resolutions stick.

Okay, so that’s my secular shakedown of it, but when I was asked today what I would be giving up for Lent, I did in fact think of Jesus. Because Sweet Baby Jesus, haven’t I given up enough already?

I’ve been planning a post on things you can and can’t live without when traveling, as I think it’s often a surprising dichotomy – in particular for first-time travelers – and I learn a bit more each time I head away, especially when it involves extremes of blustering snow, burninating sunshine, getsfarkingeverywheresand, or bugs of every delight. But, since I’m in London for Lent, here are the things that I have been and will be living without on my rather extended ‘city break’.

High Heels
Towering stilettos, or in my case, moderate mid-height-heels, are the luxury of those who can assume decent paving on their clickety-clackety journeys. With the state of London’s pavements, even the tiniest rise of heel here leaves you in danger of an unintended moment on the ground, surrounded by belligerently oblivious ankles, or at least an embarrassing wobble and clutch at a passing stranger.

If you’re like moi, you will at least awkwardly yell ‘fark’ a little too loudly as your heart ba-dumps at the just-missed danger. Combined with the accent, the failed fashion sense, and the inherent bed-head, it just comes out a little drunk-at-9am hobo in my case. I must have fallen down a few too many times one night when I actually was drunk, as I seem to have written something about just such an occurrence that I don’t exactly remember here!

Perfume
This is not the only luxury beauty item that I live without, but it is perhaps the most iconic and therefore noticeable. I call it a luxury item for a reason, but I’m sure many would disagree and call this a ‘must-have’. I only got into perfume after living with the infamous LD, whose penchant for parfum was also heavily influenced by the celebrity-perfume-obsessed LC. It started with a birthday gift, worked its way into my going-out routine, and suddenly it was just as hard to leave the house without it as with my handbag or my face on.

For traveling, I would always recommend a small, drop-proof scent-deliverer, such as the apparently-indestructible tiny glass bottle range from the Body Shop, or your fave frag in a refillable spray canister. And yet, for myself, in London, I just have to go without. It’s one of the many things that is nice-to-have but far from necessary, which requires a large outlay in one hit, and that I just can’t justify.

Decent breakfast foods
LD and KJ, who’ve both traveled extensively with me, will tell you that I’m a fussy breakfast eater. I always have been, thanks to my mild lactose intolerance (coffee: good – bowl of cereal: puke), aversion to the vast majority of jams (dear gawd don’t even show me marmalade), honeys and other sweet spreads (Nutella is delicious but for breakfast?!), and hatred of both super grainy AND white bread.

Although I was in other respects an incredibly unfussy child thanks to my mother feeding me Vegan, Dahl, Hari Krishna food, or whatever the current vogue was, I know my whole family was grateful when we discovered in my pre-teens the inimitable and apparently acceptable combo that would reign supreme forever after: Vogels Original Mixed Grain Toast bread and Promite. Never heard of Promite? Neither has anyone else. But it is the awkward younger sibling of the infamous twins Marmite and Vegemite, who the presses kindly ignore (much like that younger Olsen girl), and it is as different from them as they are from each other (i.e. probably not much). And dammit I like it. A fabulous workmate slipped me some before I left NZ and while I’ve just run out, I know that more is coming in the visiting suitcase of my mother in June. A bit of a wait I know, but nothing like the Marmite-lovers’ fiasco after the factory was badly damaged by the ChCh earthquakes and is only just spurting out the black gold again.

By some miracle, I have also just found that my local Budgens stocks my Vogels (albeit a slightly different shape and colouring) in a randomised pattern throughout the week that reminds me of learning the Boss levels on Sonic the Hedgehog II as a ten year old: I know there’s a pattern, and dammit if I’m not gonna keep trying ’til I figure it out!

More than one blanket
You know how I mentioned I look like a hobo sometimes? Sometimes I also feel like one as I do a caterpillar roll in bed to try to tuck the edges of my one thin blanket about me. One of the biggest expenses of moving to the other side of the world (excluding the flights of course) is setting up shop in a new house. Of course there’s the bond and rent up front, but there’s also the basics of daily life. Luckily it is absolutely standard in London for a room to come furnished, usually with a bed, chest of drawers, wardrobe, and maybe a bedside table, bookshelf and lamp.

But on the very day I moved into my first London flat (for that gloriously absurd month that resulted in a court case in our favour but no money – and I could really use that £800!) I had to go straight out to buy duvet, duvet cover, pillows, pillow cases, sheets, and towels. Naturally, I went to cheap-as-chips Argos, where you order from a catalogue, pay, and wait for your goods to be brought up from the basement (it’s too late at this point to care if they’re any good). Although I’ve been here over eight months now, and it has become A LOT colder over that time, there has never been a point at which I had enough spare cash to go and buy a second duvet. Instead, the also-cheap-as-chips sleeping bag that I inherited from a friend who was going to throw it out (non-hobo equivalent of dumpster-diving) lies over the end of my bed like a loyal dog, and my hottie (hot water bottle, don’t get excited) snuggles up to me sans-cover and always pushing the boundary between pleasure and pain.

Job Security
After 11 years of continuous work, except for one brief spell of ‘I’ve got a job starting in six weeks, so… yeah…‘ and an actual career path potentially laid out in front of me, I threw it all away to gallivant about the world. That sounds terribly negative, but of course I thought long and hard about it and decided that the unknown was a necessary evil to achieve adventure and enlightenment and life experience and who knows what other tropes. As much as I know these goals outweigh their counterparts, it’s not exactly fun to go through periods of unemployment, however brief, or to be in a job you enjoy but where the boss can’t tell you how long your role will continue. Right at this very moment I have a secure and depressing offer to consider over an interesting and unsure opportunity. I have a tendency towards the sensible, but I think I must for my sanity go the other way!

Personal Space
If you’re a long time listener, first time caller, you’ll have heard me lament the lack of personal space in London before. This is something that I just can’t get used to, as much as I thought I might. I can accept not getting a sorry for a mild shoulder bump in a crowded space, and am borderline on not offering up the apology myself, it it’s clearly not required. I’ve even noted some Kiwi friends’ over-sorry-ing, which somehow becomes as annoying as the unintended shove if it’s just plain unnecessary. What I can’t stand is when someone invades my personal bubble when there’s miles of space about. When they touch me not by virtue of being pressed to me by the unsympathetic crowd, but when they just hover and echo about me on an empty platform. When they cross my path on a pavement and cut me off to the point of having to stand still to let them by, and there’s no-one about either of us. LD will attest that the only resolution to this bubble-infiltration and lack of basic graces is to mutter, too-loud for politeness, not enough for arrest… PHILISTINE!

Boredom
I promised I would have a whinge again since I’ve been mightily too positive lately (shout out to Eliza, who requested the diatribes keep a-coming!). But I must say, to keep my detractors at bay, that of course one very important factor that I’ve given up since coming to London is boredom. I don’t know how it would feel if I was still at home and had never left. I don’t know how it would feel if I went home right now. And I don’t know how it will feel when I’m turfed outa the country in approx. 15 months (I’ve just added a count-down on the blog for extra morbidity).

But I do know, that no matter how much I whinge and whine, I choose to be here, and I do so for a reason: for the opportunities, for the excitement, for the history, for the life lessons, for the difference in surroundings and people, and perhaps most obviously and most surprisingly at once, for the difference in me.

Please do share: what have you given up for Lent, or, what have you given up for London?

 

 

 

 

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.

How to make friends with 12 million strangers

In July 2012 I had just moved to the other side of the world, ended my exciting travels, and moved into a hellhole with a landlord from the deepest abyss of Tartarus. My flatmate-friend (JJ) was working mental hours, my travel companion and constant sidekick of the last two years (KJM aka SF) was suddenly separated from me, and everyone else had a damn job to go to.

I knew that I would have a period of borderline-depression when the sails set on Croatia, we said ‘terviseks’ to Estonia, and saluted goodbye to the bobbing mullets of Russia. With July came the long-denied fear of the dreaded job hunt. It’s a torturous situation to have all the time in the world to do things, in a city just brimming with such ‘things’ to do, but be tied to your computer and tied by your ever-diminishing bank balance.

It’s also extremely isolating.

I was lucky to move here at around the same time as many of my best buds, and join a few already here. So I had a network of support already, plenty of advice and directions and invitations, and the comfort of hanging out with walking talking pieces of home. But again, they all had jobs, except for KJM (aka SF), who seemed allergic to the concept.

This made me think about how it is that people make friends. For much of our early lives, play buddies are forced on us by simple geography – the child next door, the kid at the desk beside yours, your mum’s best friend’s brat. My childhood geography was rather chaotic, making it difficult to retain school chums, and forcing a lot of ‘kids mum looks after’ into my social group.

After leaving the confines of school I was overjoyed to have the choice of my friends unrestricted by classrooms and extra-curricular activities. But of course, I still made them in the usual way. Some came from work, some from courses, others flatmates, and then the friends and flatmates and classmates of all of these people.

Having been in Wellington for a few years, I was seeing the diminishing of the social circle as people moved away, changed jobs, found new flats, and I was looking forward to its expansion in London. But… I was shut down in several quarters. On the home front, I was first in a flat with only myself and an already-friend, who was always at work. Thereafter I moved to a new place with lovely people, but no lounge and a tiny kitchen – thus no hub, no meeting place, no hanging out, and therefore a stunted social life. On the work front, I got a job working with a total of 3.5 other people, most of which were, to put it delicately (big brother is watching), not people I would be likely to hang out with if I weren’t being paid to do so.

This got me thinking about how you make friends when you’re past study age and work or home are not an option. I’m always telling my mother she needs a hobby to meet new people, but then I’m not really up for (nor can afford) rock-climbing or sculpting or book club. Actually, scratch that, if anyone wants to start a book club I’m keen. The problem is that this would most likely involve people I already know, and (not that it matters… ahem) all women.

I’m a generally sociable and friendly person, but this is seen as an oddity in London. Today at the supermarket (worst supermarket ever, Morrisons), a girl behind me commented to her friends ‘why is this taking so bloody long?’ and I answered ‘coz this is the worst freaking supermarket ever’ (obvious comment, no? Not particularly threatening?). My reward, naturally, was silence and a stare reserved only for the asylum-bound. Sorry, I forget, don’t talk to others.

But even if I weren’t surrounded by social phobics, I’m not particularly good at turning a casual aside to a stranger into a friendship. I’ll certainly chat to people in a hostel, or at an event or exhibit, or when forced into some awkward shared experience, but I’m not likely to say ‘hey, you think that [thing] was [a thing] too, we should probably be pals now.’

But I have been convinced that it can happen. One fateful night in July, JJ dragged me to a pub quiz near hellhole and the (now fairly serious) relationship with The Bear began. This affair commenced, however, with a creepy old man. ‘Michael’ regaled us gals with tales of his friendship with Mick Jagger and the night that Madonna accidentally knocked on his door, mistaking it for that of her friend, his neighbour (bearing in mind this guy lives near Old Kent Road, famous for being equal-cheapest on the Monopoly board). The fear steadily rose, and when our new pal popped outside for a smoko our eyes darted about for an escape route that didn’t deprive us of a tipple and trivia.

And that’s how we met TB and SS. This stranger couple kindly let us pretend to be their friends to shelter from the madman. Unluckily for us all, he came and joined us again regardless, and proceeded to shush us at every question, offer ludicrous answers (‘how do you measure wind-speed?’ ‘WINDOMETER!’), and refer to JJ as an ‘irritant’ (which is obviously now her nickname forevermore).

Luckily for us, mad old man was only seen twice more – once when he turned up the next week to claim his portion of the bottle of wine we won (justified of course by his zero correct answers), but declined to stay because we were ‘very rude creatures’; and then one dark drizzly evening where with a shriek we spied him spying through the misty windows, hands cupped around crazed eyes, lurker beams on full.

Also luckily for us, our new buds came back every week, and so did we. We added our friend LD and occasional guest stars from NZ, and they added their friend/cousin/flatmate/landlord (man of many titles AM) and a new dominion of geekery was established when our friendship transcended the bounds of the bar.

This, I think, is the mark of when an acquaintance has turned into a friend – when the relationship leaves its natural confines. If you met at a bar/friend’s house/class/work/etc. you have to take it elsewhere. It’s an awkward moment when you ask someone you don’t want to sleep with if they’d like to come round to your place or go out to brunch or see a show, but after that leap of faith the connection is no longer restricted to its initial construction.

My faith is now restored that it’s possible to make proper, long-term friendships with wonderful people even if flats and work and existing friends don’t yield new candidates. But I’m still rather stumped about how to go about it again. How do you get a new person’s number, and then what do you text them? What do you do together that first time?

… How do you chat up a new friend?