Thursday, 29 October 2009

The minimum wages of sin

Having now been officially 'retired' for over a year, and looking to fill my waking hours with something other than decorating, I have recently turned my attention to the thought of work. This isn't just a whim, dear reader. Having been fully employed for the last thirty plus years, and now getting to the stage where I have started looking over Mrs. H's shoulder at Dulux colour charts and thinking, 'hmm...Dusted Damson looks nice...', I find that, contrary to my pre-retirement expectations, being 'work-free' is not all it's cracked up to be. I have decided that I need to get some kind of job.

I always fancied a career to do with books and, as if by magic, a number of local library jobs appeared, both full and part time. Undaunted, I applied for one of them, and, wonder of wonders, I was called in for interview. At a local library, three very nice ladies quizzed me for around twenty minutes as to what skills I possessed, whether I was IT literate, whether I was confident handling money, and how I would deal with difficult customers. Now, the police service, although it doesn't take money over the counter in the same way as ASDA, likes to think of itself as having 'customers' (by which it means arrested people, victims of crime, casual callers to the station, etc.), so I had no problem in explaining how I dealt with 'difficult' customers, since I had encountered more of these than the average librarian could shake a stick at. Imagine my surprise when, a week or so later, I was notified that the job had gone to someone else. I was advised that I was 'a very good interviewee', but that I had not demonstrated my skills with sufficient vehemence to justify entrusting the job to me. I felt rather peeved at this. Had I not spent the last thirty years honing my inter-personal skills, organisational abilities and leadership qualities? Had I not dealt with incidents that the average library assistant might only have read about between the covers of a racy detective novel? Was I really not good enough to stamp library books and collect fines? You see, this is what being 'management' for nigh on twenty five years does to you; it gives you an exaggerated sense of your own importance. How could there possibly be a better candidate than me?

A few weeks later, another library job hove into view, and off went my application. Back came the invite to the interview, and this week saw me, hair combed and beard trimmed, in front of the same three ladies. Now, I had learnt from the first interview (you see - another skill!) and spent far more time talking about my all-round qualities that would make me an ideal assistant in the busy world of the public library. The ladies were very kind. They nodded. They smiled. And one of them even said, 'very interesting' after I had regaled them with a police-related example of my ability to multi-task. But, a few hours later, I received the familiar phone call. This time, apparently, I had been pipped by someone with 'a background in retail' - someone who had worked in a pub, it appeared. Perhaps working in a library has more in common with pulling pints and retailing bags of pork scratchings than I had thought.

So, dear reader, what am I to do? Would I be correct in thinking that spending thirty years in a responsible job is not what the modern employer is looking for? Would I have been better to flit, butterfly-like, from job to job? Does my three-decade career simply demonstrate that I am unable to embrace change? Should I get a job as a part-time barman to make myself more attractive? In an employment kind of way, I mean.

This afternoon I was flicking idly though lists of jobs on the internet. A few things struck me about the way these job ads are written. A job isn't just a job, it's 'an exciting opportunity,' or even 'an exceptional opportunity'. And a company isn't just a company, it's an 'exciting and innovative company', or a 'cutting edge organisation'. And what about the ideal candidate? He or she should, it appears, be 'dynamic', 'possess excellent communication skills and the drive, determination and resilience to succeed', or, in one notable instance, have the ability to 'make a good time great.' Now, I may have been unlucky in my choice of shopping venues over the years, but just where are all these dynamic communicators whose sole purpose in life would seem to be to enhance my Retail Experience? I haven't met them yet. Or perhaps I have. The liveliest, most dynamic people on the High Street are the charity muggers who are constantly attempting to separate me from my bank sort code. But maybe they've been sacked from their retail jobs for being just too dynamic; for 'high-five'-ing each other after every sale of family-sized washing powder, or imprisoning elderly customers in clothing stores for hours until they give in and buy a comfy cardigan in taupe. The ones that are left to man the tills look at me with heavy-lidded eyes as the pass my groceries over the scanner, barely acknowledging my presence...except in Morrisons. They're OK in Morrisons. Oh, I almost forgot. The other interesting point about these jobs that are looking for a candidate who is a cross between Lord Sugar and the Messiah? Almost all of them are offering the minimum wage.

It's Friday tomorrow. On Fridays I go morris dancing. They don't expect me to be dynamic. Just good with a stick...

17 comments:

punk in writing said...

Ah... the crazy world of applying for a job. Nothing seems to make any sort of rational sense.

My sister is a librarian, shall I ask her to give you some pointers?

Eliza said...

Brilliant post, it seems everyone has to be dynamic and excellent communicator, no matter what. I've noticed that too. Good luck with the job hunting.

Oh My Goddess said...

No way.

chris hale said...

Punky - Hi! Yes please. And thank you!

Eliza - I'm dynamic...or at least I would be if I could get round to it. Thanks for your good wishes.

OMG - Hmm...I think I'm supposed to say, 'yes way!' aren't I?

Pearl said...

Oh, no worries. They just want everything while giving as little as possible.

"Dynamic". I'm not sure what that entails. Frankly, in the majority of positions I would think that "dynamic" might actually be a distraction from the actual work. I mean, who the hell's going do the filing? Not the dynamic one, that's for sure.

Pearl

chris hale said...

Hi Pearl; thanks for dropping by.

I'd hate to be surrounded by 'dynamic' people. They'd all be bouncing off the walls. Then I'd have to do the filing...

Val said...

maybe the library is not for you? or maybe they thought you were over qualified and would show everyone else up. Whatever, good things await for sure - its a matter of time and something much more enjoyable and appropriate will arise now that you have the intention.
in themeantime why not write a novel in 30 days? there is that website NaNoWriMo - maybe you can google it? its a contest. see what you think? good luck

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

Hard though it may be to imagine, perhaps you came over as too much of a disciplinarian? Knowing how to handle awkward customers isn't the same as suspectng everyone of trying to nick the books! Besides, you're worth much more than £5.80 an hour!

Brian Miller said...

ack! just send thm here thy will see how dynamic you are. smiles. all about the packaging these days...congrats on the OMG award!

Beth said...

But have you heard the "your over qualified and we'd be doing you a disservice..." line? That one always ticks me off.

Irene Grumman said...

I enjoyed your rant very much.

There are other book-related possibilities. Do you need a salary? Volunteering or even starting your own enterprise might be a better use of your abilities.

chris hale said...

Val - In my head I'm a great librarian, uncovering long-hidden dusty manuscripts and unlocking literary...oh, what the heck, I'd be stanping books! NaNoWriMo sounds like fun...I'll take a look.

Derrick - If I became a 'strict disciplinarian' I could probably earm a whole lot more than minimum wage, but Mrs. H. might have something to say!

Brian - If it's all about the packaging, I think my brown paper's a bit soggy and my string has frayed!

Beth - Me too! What's wrong with a less demanding job after thirty years on the front line?

Irene - Some good advice; thank you. I'm looking at doing some volunteer stuff and would dearly love to be self-employed. Professional blogger/ranter would do nicely!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

They probably think you'd get bored quickly.

Become self-employed - although because of the recession it's not a good time (on planet Earth) if you need to make money immediately, if you don't have that need, you can build your business now and reap the financial rewards later.

And you wouldn't be looking at 'dusty damson' paint samples!

Madame DeFarge said...

How could you work in a library? Do you have long hair that can tumble down at inopportune moments as you remove your glasses?

chris hale said...

Raph - Fortunately, I don't need instant money, but I do need something to keep me active and involved - hence the morris dancing. Do you have a similar tradition on your world? I have a hankering to be a writer...maybe one day!

MDF - In a word - yes. I have luscious long hair that is constantly tumbling into my eyes whilst I'm wallpapering. It's a nasty case of Late Onset Rebellion, and goes nicely with the earring and the tattoo!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Blimey. I've got all this to come yet. Sigh. Thankfully I am the least qualified man on the planet. Even my DNA is labelled 'semi-human'.

chris hale said...

Stevyn - Did I hear right? Least qualified? I'd say you're being a little modest, you Renaissance Man, you!