Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mind the Gap

I haven’t been in a very blogging kind of place recently.  My job’s ending, which seems to involve wall-to-wall conflicting deadlines. 
Added to that the summer holidays has the magical effect of both dropping my productivity down to zero and ensuring the house remains a cesspit (sometimes quite literally, as we are existing in the purgatory of potty training). 
This leaves my evenings pretty much taken up with job applications and interview prep.  This generally takes about 5 times as long as I anticipate.

It's fair to say the whole job application bit is not going exceedingly well.  The market is as dry as can be, absolutely nothing is being advertised part-time, and consequently my applications are an art in subterfuge.  Nevertheless, I have somehow spun a spreadsheet out of this activity.  So far I have applied for 6 jobs - and I am really not being choosy, some of these are so far outside my comfort zone; others are not even remotely feasible.  So far I’ve had 2 interviews, which I shall record now lest I forget just how inept I can be.

INTERVIEW 1: in a redbrick university, it’s a really interesting geography/built environment research project, obviously much too trendy for me to be applying for.  I really, REALLY like the sound of the project, so have devoted, I don’t know, possibly a week’s work (organised between the hours of 10pm-3am for maximum lucidity) preparing for it.  Having not done the whole suit thing for a good 15 years, I commandeer my long-suffering mum into a John Lewis jaunt, during which I discover that I have unnaturally long arms.  Always good for morale.  My new Jigsaw suit is very lovely, and I would have been all set but for the fact that (a) the day of the interview is the hottest day since records of the universe began, and (b) I have an unavoidable meeting in London only hours before, which necessitates a 2 hour journey across & beyond London in (obvs) totally non-air conditioned tubes/trains.  At this point, it would be no exaggeration to say that I have never been so hot and generally non-composed in my life.

No matter, as I have thought ahead and packed a change of top.  What I hadn’t banked on was it being made of the most absorbent material in the world, which they should maybe think about patenting for nappies.  Or alternatively some kind of impressive engineering activity.  So I have to rethink this strategy & return to the original sweaty top.  To top things off (did you see what I did there?), in transit I have somehow managed to lose my letter of invitation, so have no idea where to go, & have to go with my gut feeling about a building on a map which I vaguely remember.  Luckily taxi drivers seem fairly used to this kind of vagueness, & together with the help of a receptionist/detective, I manage to arrive on time.  What could go wrong now??  The project managers, pretty much exactly as I imagined, were trendy geographers about ten years younger than me, and I’m willing to wager unencumbered by career breaks and childcare/fieldwork quandaries.  No matter, the interview goes ok-ish (as luck would have it they are sat some distance away from me), until they ask a question about time commitments.  & I stupidly raise the part-time issue.  Cue faces dropping by a mile, polite conclusion to interview, mention of amazing candidates they’ve seen, etc.

INTERVIEW 2: in an Oxford college.  The ludicrously nice HR lady has already provided me with a detailed run-down of the interview panel, who I am guessing will probably not be trendy geographers, including a pretty reasonably quota of landed gentry.  Still, I expect they will be pretty bloody impressed with my polytechnic degree, which they probably don’t see that many of in their line of work.  I am quite jaunty on the journey, what with it being a few weeks into the school holidays; an interview practically counts as leisure activity.

I have never been to an Oxford college before and I was pretty gob-smacked.  I mean I’ve watched Brideshead Revisited and all, but I seriously wasn’t expecting how utterly beautiful and romantic the whole set up would be, even to a dyed-in-the-wool leftie.  The porters were possibly the more cheerful people I’ve met all year, the panel were utterly charming, and it just generally appeared to be marvellous for everyone’s mental health.  The interview itself was in an observatory, you couldn’t make up quite how far this is from my architectural norm.  I babbled randomly, having relatively little idea of whether what I was saying was pushing anyone’s buttons, but feeling like a couple of reasonable points was made amid the dirge.  Then they asked me what I made of a recent policy paper on social care.  Well, obviously reading the Guardian once a week – if that – doesn’t really provide me with the grounding for the kind of intelligent topical conversation that universities might reasonably expect a post-doc to engage in.  There isn’t really much scope for coming back from that level of ineptitude.  They didn’t even bring up the issue of working hours.  It is indeed as shame, as who wouldn’t want to work in what I essentially imagine to be the setting of my favourite book, The Secret History?  I just have to keep reminding myself of the commute & can of childcare worms, not to mention the ridiculously low salary.

I’m only partly glad that I don’t have a third interview to report here, because I am not yet mentally strong enough to imagine the horror of how I will sabotage it.  Funnily enough, this kind of thing didn’t used to happen before I had children and fried my brain.


As I say, I haven’t been much a blogging kind of place recently.  I’ve found all manner of fruitless ways to fill up my time.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! Sounds dispiriting, but I admire and take my hat off to you. I'll wager you managed to finish several sentences during those interviews, which is more than I (and plenty of other mums I know) can manage these days. Courage, courage....I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get there in the end.

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