Posted in Late Nights

Belated Happy Christmas!

So for my final post of the year, I had planned for something more reflective and interesting, but having gotten ill on Boxing Day and feeling like a zombie since then you’ll need to forgive me.

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and that Christmas was merry and filling. Currently, I’m as festive as I can manage in Batman jammies and awaiting the bells with a ginger tea.

See you all in the new year!

E x

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Posted in rant, work, Writing

I hate writing Covering Letters!

I write a lot. I have nearly two Masters degrees, one in Creative Writing, and yet, I absolutely loathe needing to write Covering Letters for jobs. But, given that I am a writer, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss the relationship between the jobs world and writing.

What is a Covering Letter?

Covering letters are used to set you apart from a slew of uncovered CV’s, it is a chance to sell yourself to the company and attract the employers attention onto all of your shiny skills and qualifications. But despite there being many examples online, everyone handles them differently and they can vary a lot. Essentially, you are explaining why you should be considered for the role, what relevant experience you have that makes you suitable for it, and a sprinkling of X-Factor (not the show) additions. If you are applying for a busy international hotel, can you speak more than one language? This would be a helpful extra. Are you applying to work in a restaurant and already have Food and/or Health and Hygiene certificates? Then add these in here to show how you are prepared for the job.

The Vicious Circle of Experience
The issue affecting so many young people nowadays is the lack of relevant or any experience is preventing them from getting jobs, and thus experience. I suffered this for many years, with only my work-experience from a bookshop when I was 14. Many years later I applied for a job I was made for, but I was short-listed to second place (I didn’t know at the time) and initially was rejected for the position – the interviewer informed me the girl who got the job simply had more retail experience than me.

It’s a waiting game, albeit a painful and often expensive one. I’ve had my share of humiliating jobs where I counted down the minutes until I could move on or they ended. Unfortunately, humiliation seems to have become the norm now. Forcing anyone to work for free in order to receive their benefits is like taking us back to the days of the workhouses. The job centres insist that people do the worse, most labour-intensive, low reward temporary jobs without pay so they can clear them off their own systems for a few weeks, before the people are back still in much the same position. Let’s be real, how much work experience is someone on a four week trial going to get? I know people who have done it, most were just asked to clean shelves and did nothing retail related because there’s no trust from the employers and only suspicion trying to figure out why a person of X age is in this situation. And they still expect you to keep looking for other work.

My advice for those caught in this circle? Just keep trying, but don’t take any shit. If you fall into the 18-24 bracket make a pro-con list of things you could or would like to do and of the things you absolutely won’t do. If you really hate talking on phones (you’ll sort of eventually tolerate it by adulting) but don’t ever feel forced to work in a call centre just because they implore you to, unless the pay outweighs your phone phobia. Don’t refuse work because you want weekends out with the troops; accept that there will be weekends of work and you’ll enjoy weekends off all the more.

If further study is something you’re interested in then go to careers services (Skills Development Scotland, up here) or ask advice from the job centre about your options. Even if you are in receipt of benefits there are still ways to return to education without messing up your finances. Always ask for help if and when you need it. Don’t quieten down and be rushed out the door, everyone deserves a chance to do something they love. Don’t let your past, background or upbringing allow others to determine your future. I’ve had it all. Been there and back a thousand times and didn’t even get a lousy tee-shirt for the effort. Even as recently as last year I had a JC adviser mansplaining applications to me, criticising my CV, my work history, my ability, assuming that my address had any correlation to who I am as a person. Until he glanced further down my CV to see the pretty little MA stamped next to education and suddenly, visibly changed how he spoke to me and dealt with me. Pathetic – no one should be treated less because of a lack of a qualification or letters after their name, neither should anyone be treated more humanely because they do.

I digress. But my point is that job hunting and attempting to find the golden role is not a glamorous nor fun experience. It is made more difficult by a right-wing government targeting the very groups of people the Welfare state was built to protect. The Welfare state being that people unable to work, temporarily or not, would be in receipt of enough money to live off of. Enough money, not cut-to-the-bone and not-backdated-tory-bloodmoney, but enough for people to still feel and be human and a part of society, not forced to the extreme fringes and expected to live on nothing. 

I promise I will dig into these points at another time. For now, I wish everyone luck if you are trying to find work and strength to those already in work.

Let me know if you’ve any other tips on writing covering letters, or if you hate writing them as much as I do.

e x

Posted in life, rant, Writing

Woe is… Yodel.

So this week started off a lot more positively. I had a plan. I did my Italian exam on Monday and crammed the whole semester’s work into a couple of solid study days. It seemed to work. Fingers crossed I’ve nailed it. I wrote a lot for the written half but it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing.

Then my plan was to focus on writing, in part for the upcoming workshop and next impending TMA but also for my own other book projects. But Tuesday night, mum wanted an Argos delivery, it was scheduled to come on Thursday… Then we got the news it would be delivered by Yodel, and my heart sank.

Thursday happened, it was the day o2 had their system crash so there was no tracking for our delivery. Waited all day and nothing arrived, lo and behold, checking the tracking later said that the driver didn’t get us at home and put a note through the door – no surprise, there was no slip at the door. It was all lies.

Tried to get through to a person at Yodel on the phone but only got a robot who rearranged the delivery for the next day. So day 2 of waiting. Eventually the delivery showed up at nearly 6pm but the driver was brand new and confused at the box saying box 2 of 2… when we opened the HUGE box later half of the stuff was completely shattered. Cue the rage.

More phone calls to Argos’s unhelpful line still didn’t register any complaints or get any help apart from the mansplaining and condescension that Argos find it below them to deliver small items hence their use of couriers. Further frustrating conversations on the Argos Helpers Twitter page still resulted in nothing but a slew of random responses from a selection of random names.

So day 3 appeared and I resolved to just head into town to our preferred Argos store, where we did in fact get help from an amazing member of staff at customer services! She spoke with her manager, called the unhelpful line for us and rectified most of the problem by exchanging the broken products for unbroken ones (they are Christmas presents after all).

Unfortunately, the argos twitter people told me that the second parcel got sent back to the depot and will now be delivered on Monday… we’ll see.

Le sigh.

e x

Posted in Education, Uncategorized, University, Writing

Don’t test me!

I’m not great at exams or tests, unless it’s something I absolutely know – but even then there’s a good chance my mind will space out and I’ll get simple things wrong.

I coasted my way through standard grades and even my highers… in all my years, just off what I happened to remember from the classes. I didn’t know how to engage with the information, never mind study or formulate the answers lecturers wanted from me.

When I got to uni, it was mostly all about those essays. My first essay at uni I scored 18/20 in Classics, and the teacher said I saved her soul because my enthusiasm for Classics oozed out of the pages. But then, it set me up with a false hope – when other teachers didn’t appreciate my poetic style and my ability to inform rather than factually analyse the grades dropped and my attempts at essay writing faded year on year.

Then came the exams where you’re expected to remember and regurgitate the coursework verbatim and don’t start me on open-book exams! The crux of all of these is when the tutors don’t explain how to tackle the questions, what to actually do in the exams or they make something up which is the exact opposite of what’s required.

I had classes as well where the essay questions were pre-selected for you, but I could never make heads nor tales of them and in desperate attempt to figure it out, I’d have a whole plan and run full steam ahead. (Even consulting with the course lecturer, hoping I was on the right track but they seemed impervious to my pleas of help) Then the damn things would be returned a few weeks later with a shitty grade (at least comparatively to others – and sometimes just downright shitty) and there’d be no chance of support to improve or understand what the hell they wanted in the first place!!!

The most disgusting and heart-breaking example was my dissertation. The idea struck me in a moment of inspiration in the library while lamenting that I wasn’t studying Italian, nor the Romans and wondering if the Romans ever had any ties to Spain. Ha! Maybe it’s common-ish knowledge nowadays but it was the first time I’d come across the Conquest for Hispania and that it took over 200 years to be conquered. I knew about Carthage, the Punic Wars, and Carthago Novo (now Cartagena in Murcia), but suddenly everything tied together.

My preparation work and presentation scored me a massively high A3 mark, so naturally my expectation was that this would translate into a similar grade.

Eleven months and over ten-thousand words later, despite going to every supervisor meeting possible and repeatedly being told that I had it and was doing fine… I got that plastic bound tome returned to me with not an A grade. The first paragraph of feedback was calling my work stellar, the narrative well-crafted, and that I’d handled the mixture of sources flawlessly, especially for an undergraduate thesis. Alas, what could I do? The supervisor I had was not skilled in European History, never mind Classical Western History and the classics department at uni had been made defunct, not that I could get another lecturer to mark it anyway. I was deeply angry about it for a long time, given how much effort I did put it – so many studyspo posts say that the effort won’t betray the grade, but in real life, it often can do – especially if you’re just not working in the teacher’s realm.

I’m still proud of my dissertation, and plan to rewrite and expand it in the future for MYSELF, because I find the subject endlessly fascinating. Isn’t that what education is? Or should be? About diving head-first into a thrilling new adventure and learning and absorbing all that you can about it… Not about how well you can construct a 2000 word essay or answer eight essay questions in an exam in under 2 hours.

I’m enthusiastic about plenty of stuff, I’m nerdy, brainy and have plenty of smarts, but maybe it doesn’t all translate to a specific grade. It’s a quality of knowledge that maybe can’t be measured but experienced.

Anyone else?

e x

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