Last Wednesday's Evening Gazette jobs supplement mentioned there would be a jobs fair focused around Christmas jobs at Middlesbrough Town Hall today. Inspired by how proactive I became after the last jobs fair back in April, even though the activity there didn't result in anything, I went to town today and had a look. Not great. There were lots of sales jobs and that was really about it. Probably what I should've expected going in, but it was uncomfortable as a reminder of how unappealing sales jobs inherently are. I can't ever see them not being unappealing, either.
I talked to the Working Links people who were tremendously helpful for a week or two in April and then stopped talking to me, the Job Search Direct people who might theoretically push a few open-to-the-public vacancies my way, but who in practice only seem to be set up for trades jobs which have identifiable, standard titles, and another recruitment agency who (at the time) promised that they would refer me upstairs to the Special Recruitment Agency for people with degrees and who never got in touch with me again.
However, this other recruitment agency, upon discovering my Internet experience, pointed me to a call centre company on the other side of the hall who were taking on part of the local call centre operations for Freeserve, which is probably the largest British ISP. Garlands are looking to take on people to answer technical support calls for Freeserve, so I went and had a look at what they had to offer.
Frankly, there was - and is - a certain sort of prejudice in my mind. Much as I find the thought of sales jobs inherently extremely unattractive, I also find the thought of call centre jobs inherently extremely unattractive. I say this with all due respect to some people who I know and like very much who do very similar jobs and who do them very well. The whole concept of me not liking considerable classes of jobs sets up some very awkward questions for me about what I do want to do, how much I want to work, how much I would be prepared to work at a job which wasn't really what I wanted to do, what (if anything) I do want to do, whether I can justify how little I want to do, whether I can justify not doing much and so on.
My current situation is that I'm doing 250 hours of work for the MSO. I did 115 of it on-site at the MSO event, which was great in some ways and lousy in others. The rest of the time is spent on web work done from home, which too is decent in some ways and lousy in others. I have been paid for 200 of those 250 hours to date (that is, four out of five monthly payments, paid in advance) and have so far worked for something like 185 of them. There's the whole part of compulsion and responsibility in jobs and in, well, anything that I really hate having to deal with. Yet I know that this is fundamental and something that I cannot live without having to face, in many respects, though I hate facing it and having to face it. And, yes, this probably means I need to get help, which I've known for a long time, and even though I know I know how to go about finding out how to get started, there's part of me which doesn't want to do it.
That's all rushing ahead and going from the very specific to the very general in one great blobby lump, though. Back to this afternoon.
I went to the office as directed, asked a few questions about the job, filled in most of an application form (doing the old "see attached CV" thing to save time) and sat a test. I scored 20/20 on numeracy, 19/20 on spelling (I know I changed my mind on the numbers of "c"s and "m"s in accommodate, which has long been a recognised blind spot of mine, but I'm not sure what I changed them from and to - if it turns out that the mistake was elsewhere than I shall be most peeved) and 18/20 on literacy (a "punctuate this excerpt" test - though, as well you know, I have my own opinions on the uses of dashes, commas and semi-colons and don't care too much if they differ from those of everyone else). Then I sat an interview about my possible suitability for the position or not.
The position has some fixed and demanding parameters; you are required to attend between 2:30pm and 11pm (doing 7½ hours of work, taking one half-hour break and two quarter-hour breaks) five days out of seven, with those five days being assigned to you without any flexibility in the matter. They could be weekend days, without attracting any bonus. They could be bank holidays, without attracting any bonus. (Christmas probably would do, though.) You get 28 days off per year, but this includes bank holidays. (Does this work out as your statutory minimum four weeks plus eight bank holidays? Evidently so.) No pension provision. Possible career progression is determined by the call centre management company, not the ISP, so technical skills may not be taken into account. Six months' probation. The rate is £5.13 per hour, which (when you multiply it by 37½ hours per week and 52 weeks per year) works out at £10,003 per annum. OK, minimum wage is £4.20 (going up to £4.50 on October 1st), but this is really not much above that for a pretty unfriendly set of terms and conditions.
In the interview, I'm sure I convinced the interviewer, the titular Amanda Laverick, not to offer me the job. Maybe because I wasn't sure about wanting it in the first place, I deliberately erred on the brutally honest side rather than the selling-myself side, making classic mistakes like saying that my biggest achievement to date came ten years ago and it's all been downhill since then, that my biggest weakness was that I'm really not a people person, that I already had plans for my evenings and would be seeking to switch roster assignments if they wouldn't let me take the nights off I wanted to and that I thought I was probably depressed. (Extra screw-up marks for not admitting this depression straight away when they asked me about any possible medical problems and only going back and admitting to it later.) All pretty much how I feel, all the sorts of things that the interviewer and I both know are instant excuses to reject.
I'm pretty convinced that there isn't going to be an offer made on this occasion because there was another interview going on at the next table at the same time. It started after mine, finished before mine, and the interviewer was very clear about offering a start date and asking to bring bank details. Accordingly, I think we can be very clear about what happens at a successful interview, what happens at an unsuccessful interview and the difference between the two. Happily, rejection is much easier to take when you have a really good idea of what the reasons must be and don't mind the reasons being what they are.
Yet parts of the interview went really well; I was able to demonstrate the technical support aspects of my job to date to an extent which (and I might be doing the interviewer a tremendous disservice here) were easily adequate for what was required. I guess if I can treat the interview as being good practice for something I really want to do then it counts as taking something from the experience. Yet I can't be sure that I didn't make some terrible interview cock-up that I don't know about somewhere along the line and that it was just the interview cocks-up that I do know about which stopped me from getting the job.
Should Amanda Laverick ever search the Internet for her own name and find this, which I think is just a matter of time, I say "hello" and "thank you" and "no hard feelings" and "sorry for wasting your time in the first place" and "you have a very similar face to hermorrine" and "maybe some day you'll find the right position for me, but we both knew that that was not it".
A bit later I'll have to go down and talk to the parents about this and they will start asking awkward questions like "why don't, or didn't, you want the job?" and "if they offer you the job, will you take it?" and "if you turn down the job, what are you going to do instead?" and "can you really afford to turn down jobs?" and "what jobs are you looking for?" and so on. Once again, I don't like the answers I have to these questions and I don't like thinking about them too deeply, simply because I don't like the answers I come up with - and I've been thinking about these questions for years and the answers haven't changed very much. Unfortunately the answers, such as they are at the moment, aren't really conducive with "getting along in the world" and all its societal implications, and I don't know how to change the answers to ones which are.
So... all things considered, not good.