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February 26th, 2003


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08:37 pm - Today got better
Yesterday was pretty much a nothing day. Two incidents which I had thought were dead and buried popped back up to life. One of them dates back to something I mentioned in September which I'd rather not go into again. Suffice to say that I received a letter, looked at it, was disgusted and filed it immediately. Subject closed - for good, I hope. The other might well yet turn out to be good news, but an annoying sort of good news. More about it in a couple of weeks or so, maybe. Went to the games club; attendance somewhere between 60 and 65, but our semi-usual D&D GM didn't show so we had a nice game of Railway Rivals instead. (India map, about two hours - quicker than I had expected.) Posted a few things to LJ which hopefully cheered a few nice people up who deserved to be cheered up, which is something, I guess, but generally a day with not a lot of use and relatively little ornament.

No joy from the recruitment agencies or anything useful like that, but I went into town to purchase a bagful of toiletries to keep me going for the next few months. (New toothbrush time! I bought the silliest-looking one at the second cheapest price range. Toothbrush prices seem to have gone up a lot recently.) As well as noticing just how many of the lots within the Cleveland Centre (Middlesbrough's most central covered mall) were empty - only five or six, but enough for that to start to be a factor - I saw signs for a jobs roadshow on at the town hall. Now I was dressed completely casually, but I popped my head in and grabbed a free programme that they were handing out. It seemed quite interesting, potentially useful and happily it was going to still be in progress for another two and a quarter hours. (10 'til 7.)

So, in a rash fit of exuberance, I dashed home on the bus, shaved, showered, got dressed up in my nicest suit and my favourite tie, grabbed my folder of CVs and got Dad to give me a lift back into town. I felt proactive. I felt confident. I felt like I wanted to sweep a recruiter who I'd never met before off her feet and take her out to dinner. It was quite unlike me most of the time and pleasantly scary.

So, dressed to impress, I plunged into the unknown and went back in. The first stall I went to was that of the Tees Valley Information, Advice and Guidance network (web site under construction... hmm) and spoke to a big hairy guy called Peter Double-Barrelled about my situation. I told him that I needed guidance and direction about getting back into work. I was forthright and told him things that I haven't told most of you folk. (Coming soon. Difficult to write.) He has agreed to fix me up with a careers guidance interview which may well be just the sort of thing I'm looking for. The amusing thing is that I filled in an application form and he said "You'll never believe this, but I live ten doors away from you". And he does! So, as I joked, if this doesn't work out, I know where he lives... :-) I reckon there is maybe a 20% chance that he'll find this some day, but I was amused to discover one of my near-neighbours this way. He seemed like a nice guy and quite concerned.

Next I talked to the people at Working Links who are "designed to get the long-term unemployed back to work, and help them stay there". Effectively I'm long-term unemployed, though technically I'm self-employed, and our ward is just outside the ones which they get most support from helping. (I live close to the edge of the ward, so I may be "close enough" for practical purposes.) Could well be another source of useful, professional-quality advice and guidance.

I also talked to Reed Recruitment, who are between branches in the area, but seemed to be very helpful. Only time will tell whether they prove any better than Adecco or Manpower, but their representatives at the stall gave a good account of themselves. Had a quick word with the Jobcentre Plus people, who were promoting their web site and helpline, the Wise Group who were very pleasant but couldn't assist someone who wasn't in their target area for funding, Radio Cleveland and the Evening Gazette: only jobs for media sales reps going at the moment, which isn't me, but some useful addresses and the reminder of the existence of such things as work shadowing, which might be something to look into. (Always struck me that the media were rather more facilitative than most sectors for creative things like that, but certainly something which bears reminding.)

Two other stalls stood out. One was Middlesbrough Council, who were more into helping employers than would-be employees, but gave information out about where they advertise their jobs. (Effectively, only places I look already, but that's good to know.) I worked for Middlesbrough Council for about a month - they found a placement on the New Deal scheme in the Community Safety section there. It was strange but rather nice: one full-time worker, one office boy doing an apprenticeship and two graduates (counting me) from the New Deal scheme. I only stayed there a month before the MSO started paying for me to work for them full-time, but that's another story.

Unfortunately I never really got a particular sense of closure from my involvement with Community Safety and I rather drifted out of touch with the people there. In fact, I couldn't even remember the full-time worker's name. So I asked the representative at the jobs stand and we kind of worked it out - she mentioned some other familiar people who I definitely remembered working with, but she couldn't remember the full-time worker's name herself. Sadly, it turns out that she died of cancer a year or two ago, probably aged well under fifty. Not only is this very sad, because she was personable and pleasant as well as being a good boss to work for, but it's also annoying in terms of getting a reference. Only the good die young, as they say. Huh.

That did put a bit of a crimp on things, but the last stall I tried, very much as a long shot, was that of the North-East Chamber of Commerce. (Er, this North East Chamber of Commerce, not this one in PA or this one in MD.) They were there mostly to speak to the employers, but I was wondering if they could help me find people who might want web sites. It was getting close to closing time at 7 o'clock and they were starting to put their stall away so in a classic jobs-fair closing stunt I helped them do so and also to carry some things to their car. (An old trick - hopefully it gets them to think of you as helpful and so makes them more keen to help you.) The fact that I also knew someone who dated their President's daughter made me better-disposed towards trying something a bit more network-y with them; unfortunately, said President is now an ex-President and only one of the two of them recognised said ex-President's name, so I don't think it's an instant "in". Nevertheless, it's a name to try to phone tomorrow, to remind them that I am a helpful person and to see if they can help. In practice, I doubt they can, but it's worth a go.

The most interesting thing that they said was that I should consider moving south where more of the web work is (I did mention the best example of someone rather better-qualified than me and based in London here) but supposedly the hot place at the moment is Reading. Reading! I always thought of it as a desperately dull place with not much to commend it other than its location between Oxford and London, but apparently that's where there's zero unemployment right now and lots of jobs going spare. (There's also the Isle of Man, supposedly, but that has the downsides of requiring non-trivial work permits and of being a bugger to get to.) Accordingly I'd like to tap the brains of those in Reading and close to see whether you get the buzz that Reading is the hot place at the moment, or whether it's a false lead. Any help or local knowledge you can provide here would be much appreciated. :-) (For the confused, it's pronounced as in "Otis Redding" rather than to rhyme with "breeding".)

So I walked home, reasonably satisfied and more optimistic than I had been for a while. A very pleasant surprise - I wouldn't have expected to be in this situation 24 hours ago, heck, even 4 hours ago. (If you had told me about it, I probably would have cried off going.) Nice to know that these things can come out of the blue; yes, I have offered thanks to the non-denominational God I agnostically worship. Admittedly the day's initiatives are all still little steps on the long route and I can't help feeling that I'm really playing at finding a job rather than getting down to it and submitting ten good applications a week, but definitely I have a clearer idea of things to try and the next steps to take. Down to me to get on with them rather than sitting here and posting things to LJ, I guess. Your proactive support in this regard would be very much appreciated, folks. :-)

Oh, I saw an absolutely fantastic cliché goth as I was walking home - the hair, the clothes, the make-up, the spikes, the works. If you had taken a photo and stuck it on a playing card then you would have the Ace Of Goths right there. If any of you know the card game Gother Than Thou then this androgynous being was gother than that. That cheered me up too.
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
Current Music: nothing - in a rush to get this all down before I forget!

(19 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:picklepuss
Date:February 26th, 2003 12:59 pm (UTC)
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When I moved to Chicago I had no job, I just generally laid about and lived off the wife. I really played at getting a job; I checked Monster and HotJobs every couple of days, that's about it. When I actually started making some sort of concerted effort, all I did was look through the classifieds and circle ones I wouldn't mind. Then it was another week before I started sending out resumes. I did my absolute best to not have to actually call anyone, ever. At job fairs I'd walk around and never actually go up to anyone because I was too nervous. The only reason I have this job is because I applied for a phone-answering job and they saw engineer on my resume. So trust me when I say you are actually putting forth good quality effort at finding something. And you are unbelievably optimistic, where as I just complained about how the economy was crap and no one was hiring.

You're a better man than I, good sir.
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From:hermorrine
Date:February 26th, 2003 04:17 pm (UTC)

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You're in Chicago? Me too!
[User Picture]
From:picklepuss
Date:February 27th, 2003 07:04 am (UTC)

Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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This brings the total of Chicago fandommers up to what, 4? If I'd known you were in Chicago-land I would've said something sooner. It's nice to make you acquaintance.
[User Picture]
From:hermorrine
Date:February 27th, 2003 08:19 am (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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Well, you know 2 more than I do, then. I thought I was all alone in Chicago. Which is silly considering how big this area is.

But yes, born and raised here, although I escaped to California for a few years and just came back last fall. I live down in Bolingbrook, which was famous for having the first indoor wave pool in the country way back when... it's now a hockey rink.

Nice to meet you, too!
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 27th, 2003 11:53 am (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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I take it that you folks know about HP4GU-GreatLakes? Admittedly I had to check that Chicago counts as part of the "Great Lakes" area, but I'd have thought/hoped that it would be a rich vein of nice peeps. Bet you'll find all sorts of fandom folk in Chicago soon!
[User Picture]
From:hermorrine
Date:February 27th, 2003 12:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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Of course I do, but thanks. >:D< I went to the Great Lakes meet last summer in Chicago, which is where I met queerasjohn. But in truth, that list has mostly people in OTHER states, not the Chicago area. Which still seems odd to me, but oh well.
[User Picture]
From:picklepuss
Date:February 27th, 2003 02:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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I grew up downstate around Champaign. Moved to Arlington Heights (work in Des Plaines) with the girlfriend last year.

I was bluffing and actually hoping you would know 2 more. Where in the world is everybody? There's what, half a dozen universities up here? Ah well, at least we're not alone anymore.

[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 27th, 2003 02:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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I might start calling this house Arlington Heights. Damn good name.
[User Picture]
From:picklepuss
Date:February 28th, 2003 10:55 am (UTC)

Re: Des Plaines - Historic Home of John Wayne Gacy

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If I'd known you lived on an Arlington, I would have brought it up sooner.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 27th, 2003 09:48 am (UTC)

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Well... it's been a good hour or two on each of two days, but in some ways this has been pretty much the best it has been since graduation in the summer of '97. Yes, pretty much five years of not much except for the few jobs that I have more or less been able to luck into.

It's all about lucking into things, but I suspect that's how it is for everyone, to a certain extent.

If and only if I can keep this up for longer than a few hours then it'll be good. Still not really that serious yet. *sigh*
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From:ericklendl
Date:February 26th, 2003 01:43 pm (UTC)

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Can't offer any direct assistance, beyond sending generalised positive vibes and making the tangential observation thatOracle's UK presence is based in Reading, and that it's therefore easy to imagine that many decent IT businesses will have wound up in the general area. The caveat, of course, is that accommodation may be correspondingly expensive.

Other than that, very pleased to hear that you've found a head of steam - now you've got it, run with it! :-)
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From:hermorrine
Date:February 26th, 2003 04:19 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* I was out of work for 7 months, so believe me, I sympathize. I'd gotten fired from my last job, and that REALLY makes you feel worthless and less than eager to join the workforce again. Add to that the downturn in the whole tech area and it sucked. But I finally got lucky - and I'm sure you will, too. *supportive hugs*
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From:ringbark
Date:February 26th, 2003 09:48 pm (UTC)
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1. (6/1983-1/1984) Graduated in June, started first job in January.
2. (12/1998-7/1999) Redundant in December, found work immediately but in another part of country, commuted up and down the country week by week for 18 months before reunited with family for more than weekends.
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From:leiabelle
Date:February 26th, 2003 10:36 pm (UTC)

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Wahey! Thunderous applause for taking the initiative in a big way. :D Sounds like you really grabbed an opportunity and ran with it. Good on you! Hope you see successful results, and soon!

*gratuitous hugs*
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From:dancingrain
Date:February 27th, 2003 02:21 am (UTC)
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*waves and sends hugs and positive vibes.*
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:February 27th, 2003 05:59 am (UTC)
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Reading. Zero unemployment, yes, but also high housing costs. (But some lovely commutable countryside to live in too.) M'dad worked for Oracle, nice company to work for, lots of jobs. Do recommend it, but don't advise planning on living in Reading itself.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 27th, 2003 09:56 am (UTC)
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Thanks - I particularly appreciate your thoughts as someone (presumably in the area?) who doesn't normally check in. Someone else in the area suggests that reasonably nice 1-bedroomed flats would be likely to be c. GBP 550-600 per month, 2-bed would be c. GBP 700. Does this sound about right to you? Does sound like a lot, especially when you consider the standard advice is something like "a third of your salary on rent". Multiplying this up, you need to be making about GBP 21,000 pa after tax to have your own one-bed place there, which is probably five good years away for me.

I'm definitely a big town or city person and also don't drive, so I would respectfully be passing on the countryside life.
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:February 27th, 2003 10:02 am (UTC)
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I'm in Oxford, but I know a lot of people (apart from my dad, who no longer works at Oracle but does still go into Reading) who commute there, and a number of people who live there. The friends who rent there pay slightly more than the prices you've quoted (Oxford prices are about comparable to Reading prices for rent, but Reading can be higher when buying), but it depends where you end up, I suppose.

The not driving bit does alter the potential housing situation, yes! I dunno, I guess I'm biased against living there because of the costs my friends (and cousin) report, but shared houses/flats are always cheaper (and are not so studenty in Reading), and Reading IS a decent place for gigs, access to London, and more importantly jobs.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 27th, 2003 11:59 am (UTC)

*would like to borrow Ian's "Mr Grumpy" icon*

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Egads. Those prices were distinctly higher than I was hoping - I thought that Oxford was freakily high, not representative of that neck of the woods at large. Aren't rent prices meant to be coming down dramatically due to massive oversupply of buy-to-let, or something? Looks like I'll be sharing for a while and that I guess I'll have to try to find some nice people to share with.

The other place I've always thought about, in passing, is Milton Keynes. Perhaps if the gov't does build another couple of hundred thousand houses in that neck of the woods then prices might drop to the point where people can afford them (again, it's going to be the jobs driving the people, not vice versa) and it'll turn into a place with a city-ish enough feel for me. I've been there a couple of times and thought it had the potential to eventually be quite nice once they finished building it.

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