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

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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 Blogging Challenge, rant

30 day blogging challenge #day 1

(I found this Blogging Challenge over on Pinterest, there’s a watermark at the bottom so credit to whomever it’s due to. These posts will be scheduled, but I’m hoping they’ll help you get to know me a bit better in between ranty posts and study-induced stress.)

Day 1 – Your blog’s name

My blog’s name came from an awkward conversation with someone I cannot stand and hadn’t seen in the better part of a decade. Bear in mind that at this point I was only back from Spain a few months and still had nearly two years left at Uni.

Person: So, you! When are you going to get yourself a real job and stop all this studying?

Me: Excuse me?! I’m still doing my degree, I’ve another two years to go.

Person: *rolls eyes* Pssh. You need to go out there and get yourself a REAL JOB. You can’t be a Perpetual Student™ forever!

Can you even stand it? I was horrified and naturally quite upset. Apparently in the ten years I hadn’t seen this person for, she was still judging me from a distance. Also, considering that I worked as well as studied for most of my time at uni, I’m curious as to whether those jobs were in fact dummy jobs… Did I pay my rent with dummy money?

So I owned it. Owned the judgement and turned it into fuel for my quest to never grow up to be like these types of people.

As my url is different from the blog name, it’s a contraction of my Italian name Elisa Vallone as Evallone. Sometimes I’m Eliza or Elisa or Eva…, sometimes it’s Valentine instead of Vallone – there’s a long list. My Italian name is in fact a pretty direct translation of my English name. Have fun!

e x

Posted in Education, Musings, rant, work, Writing

Blogoversary!

So it’s around a year since evallone.com happened and I’m thrilled with how my little site has developed in that time. Initially pre-domain name it did start as a blog of a recent graduate trying to find decent work in this pre-apocalyptic world, then evolved, backtracked and evolved some more!

Tomorrow marks a year since I got that fresh out of uni job which lasted all of 10 weeks. I am not ashamed to admit it as I’m much happier in my current job of seven and a half months! I never spoke in great detail on here about what happened in the last job, but since I’ve hardly heard from anyone since I left, there’s little problem if I were to speak about it, but that’s for another time.

The current purpose of my blog is to give me a platform to display all my creative tendencies and to rant. I’ve much in the pipeline, but have been fighting with time to get on with actually writing blog posts. I did go on holiday to York a few weeks ago but I’ve had a hell of a time trying to edit and upload the pictures (I shot them all in RAW and it’s been a while…) Alas, they’re coming soon along with the written-at-the-time blog posts. Check out my photography page as I’ll be posting plenty of additional pictures there.

I spent much of yesterday desperately clinging onto reality after a rare night out on Saturday. I’ve questioned my mortality, my age, the unstoppable passing of time, why I peaked at age 3, and my appearance. So today I got up, my food tasted better than in months, I slept better than I have in quite some time (with lots of wild dreams) and have a plan for today and the next wee while. My course starts back in October so that gives me several weeks to work my way through the reading list (as best as I can, cannot afford many of the books) and trying to really embrace the opportunity this course and year will give me. I know all too well from this past year just how fast time goes, so I need to try and enjoy every single minute of it.

I’m rambling now, I know, but I’m abuzz with ideas and the need to just read for a solid amount of time. I just needed this to break the ice a bit, and I promise I should be back to regular updates from now on.

Thanks for this last year of support!

e x

Stupid English

The lack of a plural you in English is very annoying.

And before anyone starts, I know that ‘you’ was the plural and ‘thou’ was singular. But it’s not common practice anymore 😦

Can we invent a new one? Or just start using tu or something?

Posted in Education, Goals, Late Nights, life, Musings, rant, University

Smart and Imperfect

There are many misconceptions about what being smart is. The idea that the grades you earn in school or even university; that they can somehow define your potential, your essence is absurd. You may not have paid attention in school, uninspired and left behind. You may have scraped by and gone on to a University or College into whichever course seemed like a good idea to 17 year old you and you may have graduated/passed with average grades from an average, uninspired performance. You might only have discovered your true passions from a chance encounter well into your 20s or by a passing comment from a teacher on graduation day when it was ‘too late’ to do anything about it.

But what will you be judged by by future employers and puppet masters? Those grades that merely state what you obtained from one day’s exam performance. How well you understood/didn’t understand the course work in a twelve week semester, with a shitty essay that you tried hard on but the teacher was never going to be gentle with her marking.

And doesn’t it seem ridiculous in the end?

I didn’t manage too well in high school. I performed fairly well for most subjects in standard grade and intermediates for fifth year, but in sixth year I was suffocated, desperate to escape the petty associations of high school while my life was falling apart outside of school. Did it matter to the teachers? Nope. It bothered them more that I wasn’t walking around with a smile plastered to my face. They saw my average grades for the prelims and accused me of sabotaging my future by not working ‘to my potential’. They blanked me when and if I tried to explain how I felt. They shamed me for wanting to go to a Further Education College after school instead of University. I was told I would never achieve anything in my life if I didn’t go straight to uni.

Ahem.

So I’ve attended a lot of colleges, I’ve been to Uni in several capacities, including abroad, and while I am not a perfect student or have ever had PERFECT GRADES. I’m still smart.

I’m smart because I’m passionate. Most people have things that interest them, and we’ve all had to study and learn things that bored or frustrated us, but I can talk endlessly for hours, days even, on the things that truly spark me. Is that stuff quantifiable? No. Sure, you can give me an Italian grammar test, or tell me that my ability to speak Spanish is shite, but does that take away my abilities to manage or enjoy these languages? NOPE. If my Spanish is so awful, how then did I manage to survive living in Spain for a year in a town that refused to speak English? I still got my coffee and tomato toast every morning and managed to argue with the cashiers in Mercadona that my Post Office Travel Money card is mine and linked to my passport but doesn’t have my name printed on it because it just bloody doesn’t.

I did the PLIDA exam at B2 in Granada, and I passed 3 of the 4 elements with flying colours to the surprise of my lecturer, but then because of a random, sudden change in the format of the speaking exam I was TWO points shy of passing the oral segment and thus failed the whole exam. Inside it destroyed me. I had worked relentlessly for weeks, to the point I was sick with the stress… and for a part of an exam that lasted about twenty minutes, they basically told me I wasn’t good enough. My Italian wasn’t good enough. My effort wasn’t good enough. Had they heard the whole half an hour I spent speaking in Italian to my speaking partner before the exam? No. Did they know that I had made friends with an Italian in Granada and I asked the others in my Italian class to speak with me in Italian and not Spanish because it was suddenly like someone had turned down the static on a fuzzy radio. It took me a long time to get over the pain of the set back, but then I finished my year abroad with 88% in the C1 Italian language class which took into account my whole ability, for the whole term… and my passion.

I lost a lot of my interest in Spanish because of uni. Because every piece of Spanish work came back covered in red pen and bad marks. Because my oral work was criticised because of nerves or a lack of confidence… and in the end a lack of fucks given. But I got through it, I have that damn degree, and slowly over the last year I’ve allowed myself to remember the good points about it. Every extra Hispanohablante is one more person pissing off Trump. I enjoy Spanish music, I love my Italian singers who also perform and release their stuff in Spanish. I love my original passion for languages, once I realised I could… I couldn’t stop at just one or two, it’s still my goal to dabble in as many languages as possible. I’ve even told a few people that the Netflix show One Day at a Time is helping me enjoy Spanish again… because it’s about the thrill, the education for enjoyment’s sake and not about using the fucking subjunctive perfectly! (I seriously don’t think anyone can!) Plus, Despacito 😉

Another whole pathetic example is my undergraduate dissertation. Now to point out, I was trying to hard to still care about Hispanic Studies at all and so I started researching things I was already interested (Ancient History/Italy) in to see if I could tie it all together. Thus it became about the Roman Conquest of Hispania which by the way took 200 years to happen. Who knew?! It’s a thrilling part of history that not many are fully aware of. Sure, most people have heard about Hannibal crossing the Alps, but do they know why? Or that it was during the second of three Punic Wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire??? I’ve probably lost you now but this thrills me. Gives me actual goosebumps. I daydream about what would have happened if Carthage had won.

The whole project was about 11 months of work, research, planning, and writing because it could only be a measly 10,000 words. So I had to be as economical as possible. Ultimately I handed in something I was immensely proud of, worked ridiculously hard at, missed shifts at work, turned my day into night, didn’t see my flatmates properly for weeks, and despite all the passion and inspiration, what happened? I got a shit mark. Not a D but still, after everything… And the feedback? Well the first paragraph could go on my gravestone and make you think I was a saint, but then the negativity came. Nothing about my actual work was faulted. It was all about what the tutor thought should have been put in (but I’d filled the whole word count), a few stupid comments about using ‘this’ alone, and other daft things that would have taken the research in a whole other direction. Pathetic. Considering two factors; the tutor had NO knowledge of Ancient Roman History, nor the narrative I was following; and had no idea that Carthage had a base in Hispania which was one of the precipitating factors of the damn Punic Wars and the whole freaking conquest! -_- Also while describing Scipio’s week-long surround-and-starve tactics on northern natives, my writing was apparently ‘too dramatic’.

But!

I’m still passionate about all my interests and hope to expand on my dissertation (because I can) and without the fear of some lecturer and their red pen trying to tell me I’m not good enough.

And please, dear readers, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t measure up. That your smarts and abilities aren’t good enough because you don’t have a degree certificate or some other numbered sticker that is meant to tell the world which box you fit into for the rest of your life. Before I started uni, I had people who were astounded (and told me to my face) that I could form an intelligent opinion about something I literally can’t remember now… the difference was that we were the same age but she was attending uni and I was only a lowly college student. HA!

If anything, attending FE colleges helped me develop myself and my life skills more than university ever did. I had more fun nights out at college, had more fun mucking about the photography studio, and spent more time learning about languages, again, than I did at uni. Uni is like a treadmill set on a ridiculously fast pace, and the goal is just to hang on, eventually you stop trying to run at that speed and you find your own way of clinging on for dear life, until someone calls the race to an end and you graduate with whichever number they’ve deigned to put on that yellow piece of paper.

Remember you are more than that bit of paper.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Bring passion, bring willpower, and forget the fuck about ever being perfect.

e x

Posted in Books, Education, Goals, Health, life, Musings, rant, Shonda Rhimes, University, work, Writing

Confession: I’m a terrible decision maker

I really am. I am either two ways about something: I love making plans to do something then fret and spend time wondering how I can get out of it; or, I loathe making plans and end up making a stupid choice in the end because I was too indecisive and shouldn’t be allowed to make rash decisions.

Story of my life.

I hate to admit it, but I will. I loved starting uni, and the beginning of each term when I could go full on Rory Gilmore and have a ‘legitimate’ excuse for spending £40 on stationary (not that I don’t already have a house teeming with unused pens and notepads). However, as the term progressed and either my insomnia or hypersomnia got the better of me, I found it harder and harder to stick to my class schedule. In my final year I was between 6-8 hours of classes a week AND I STILL MANAGED TO SKIP TWO OF EACH over a 12 week semester of course. Now I know looking back I wonder why I couldn’t just have forced myself to go, I probably did lose some marks here and there for non-attendance but the thrill I got from turning over in bed and going back to sleep was ridiculous. Then I remember the tiredness. It’s not an excuse, but the overwhelming, mind-numbing, soul-draining tiredness that made me fall asleep sitting up at various desks and start to dream while believing that I was still awake, is still such a problem for me that it’s now hard to imagine taking full time classes, constant homework, a part time job, and tutoring as well. I’m actually quite proud then of how I did survive it.

It does bother me, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it now, and it’s why I am the Coffee Queen. And when I go into super sleep mode at night and have wild and fantastical dreams it soothes the creative side of me and gives me such a boost that no caffeinated product on earth has yet managed to achieve. As such, it is mostly an issue on my days off from work, I’ve not been working a lot of hours the last few weeks so realistically I should be managing to get plenty of work done given that I’ve had plenty of off time. NOPE.

I set my alarm early, so I can get up and carpe diem but when it goes off, I have no idea what planet I’m on and flip my phone onto snooze and this routine can last for a couple of hours…. YES, A COUPLE OF HOURS! So that when I do finally remember I had a reason for getting up early, I’m groggy, my eyes are stinging with broken sleep, my head hurts and I feel blah. Plus it’s hours past the time I wanted to get up and I shuffle about like a zombie, caffeine having no effect on me at all.

It becomes a vicious circle, tired and sleepy –> lethargic –> the desire to crawl back into bed –> no creative energy to write or work/no urge to start –> feeling guilty that another day has passed with nothing done when this is my DREAM, DAMMIT!

I know this was something I mentioned in my goals list that I wanted to work on for this year but I’m trying to create a kind of Cheat Sheet of inspiration, things that no matter how tired or blah I am I’ll be sparked into action by reading them. Something that definitely helped recently was reading Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes, that I spoke briefly about in the last post, I just finished it last night and it has had such a profound effect on me. I know I need to start living more YES and hiding away less. Blogging has helped a lot as well. I’ve had blogs before but then really lacked the focus of what I was trying to do with them or I was too nervous about certain people reading certain things, whereas now, I cleaned up my facebook so everyone still there can read or not read my posts but I have nothing to hide. I changed how I approach blog posts, not just travel, languages, writing, but everything all of me, all that is me. I can’t split myself off the way others can, no one interest really takes the lead over the others, they are all important to me and in different ways, at different times.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to say this blogging exercise has got my creative juices flowing again, I think it’s more the venti caramel coffee soya frappuccino next to me that’s done the trick. I’ll implore you once again to read Shonda Rhimes book (99p on kindle) and I’ll get back to writing my script that I’ve been procrastinating on for too long.

Luego

e x