Looking for work in the UK – Part 1

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I have been out of work since January 2013. I don’t claim to be unique as I am aware that there are countless millions of people of all ages across the world today who are in the same position. Luckily I was able to pick up four weeks since January with one company of which more later and a couple of weeks with another company but as for anything permanent or long term I have not been successful in securing.

As soon as I was out of work in January my days consisted of up dating my cv, getting in touch with recruitment consultants, making direct applications to companies with vacancies, networking through social media and making cold call approaches to companies that I had targetted as ones I would like to work for. Why do these companies who match candidates to jobs now call themselves ‘recruitment consultants’?. It was not so long ago they were ’employment agencies. And now, the title that is creeping into the business contains the word ‘talent’. They are ”talent acquisition consultants’, ‘talent retention consultants’; almost crossing into show business.

During this early period of being out of work I arranged to have some business cards printed up that I could put through letter boxes of offices and factories when I went past them while driving around. I spent one hour putting these cards through every single door on an industrial estate near my parents on a Sunday afternoon. The next day I was working away at my desk when my mobile phone rang. It was not a recruitment consultant as they normally show on the screen as ‘Private Number’. I naswered the phone.

‘Good morning, Alan Russell speaking. How can I help you?’

A gruff voice on the end asked ‘You Alan Russell the book-keeper who put a card through our letta box over the weekend?’.

‘Yes, that’s right. How can I help you? Do you need any book-keeping done?’

‘Naw mate. It’s just that someone smacked into one of our company cars over the weekend and….I wondered if it was you and you left your card for us to get in touch. Ya know what I mean mate?’

My mental image of this character was of a person in a really cheap shiney suit with trousers just a bit too short revealing white socks.

‘No it wasn’t me.’

‘Ya sure mate…..I mean if it was you, you would let us know wouldn’t ya.’

‘No, it was not me’.

‘Ah well, I’ll give you my number in case…..’

I hung up.

Later I had another phone call asking the same questions but it was the post man who delivers to the office where the gruff voice had called from earlier in the day. The man who rang me earlier was now trying to blame the postman for damaging the car over the weekend and why he gave him my number I just cannot work out. Having sent out over 100 of these business cards this was in fact the only response I have had but I’ll keep trying.

I did develop the routine, which I have continued, of sending out weekly emails to all of the recruitment consultants updating them with my availability and attaching a new cv in case there is a new skill I want to highlight. I do this from a checklist and I put the date next to the individual’s name that I have sent these updates to. What often happens is that I will receive a phone call from a ‘consultant’ asking about how my job hunt is going. When they do this their voice carries a tone that almost declares that they have a position they would like to discuss with you. They have this tone every time. And then, they just say that they are checking my status. Quite often it will be one of the individuals that I have only just sent an email to and if they are one of many in an office I will often find out that none of them have even bothered to put the new cv on the database.

There is one ‘consultant’ who blatantly used to ring me up with that tone and ask how the job hunt was going and then explain that he was researching the market to find out what it was like. I suggested we swap places for a few weeks and then he would really find out from a prime source what the market was like. I made an agreement with him that in future he would only ever contact me when he had a role he could put me forward for. I haven’t heard from him for weeks.

Eventually all my leg work paid off and I went for an interview arranged by a ‘consultant’. The client was in desperate need of someone like me and they could offer me work for between ten to twelve weeks. I went for the interview on a Friday morning and was offered the position there and then. My brief was to take a handover from the present incumbent over a two week period after which they were going to leave for a holiday and then go and work somewhere else. I was to learn as much as I could, run the finance department and then handover to a person who was going to be the permanent finance manager. The two week handover went OK. My predecessor would not have been someone to play poker with as they did not have any expression of joy or happiness. In the Uk we say of someone like that that ‘they have a face like a slapped ass’.

On their last day there was a small presentation, which I had put some money into and I helped make the teas and coffess for everyone to enjoy with the cake they had brought in. I even soffered my database of contacts in the recruitment consultancy business if they did not have a job to come back from holiday but this was refused as they clearly said they did have a job when they came back.

I spent the next two weeks getting my feet under the table and feeling comfortable with the team and the work. Then on what would have been the second Monday, the consultant who placed me phoned to tell me……the company had decided to rehire my predecessor for two reasons. One,that it made good sense for someone with more experience of the company than me to do the handover to the next person. I can just about live with that. Two, as the predecessor did not have a job to return to after holiday they felt they had an obligation to them. Therefore I would be finishing at the end of that week. Just three weeks into a ten week assignment. The consultant told me this in the morning but it was not until late that afternoon that the director who had decided to take me on actually came in to see me. He had seen me several times in the corridor and the car park and could easily have pulled me to one side and given me a decent headsup but no.

The next day another consultant rang me to ask what my availability was. I told them how soon I was finishing and they knew already. They had spoken to my predecessor the day of my interview about their own availability and been told not to look for any work for them as they were coming straight back to their old job after their holiday.

What got to me even more when I was talking to the director when I told him I had turned down one role in favour of this one his response was ‘Well, that’s the risk you take when you choose to do interim work…….isn’t it?’.

So hear endeth the first part of a record of my hunt for work in the UK. As I said earlier, I know that my situation is not unique so I mustn’t dwell on it and move swiftly on to the next episode in this saga.


About alangrenville

I live in southern Britain near the fabulous New Forest. While studying for a BSc in International Studies I have developed a strong belief in 'NIBAW' or 'nothing is black and white'. Hence my favourite saying "Too often we...enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought" (John F Kennedy).
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