A post on jobs, self-employment and business, in 3 parts.
“Hey, how are you? What have you been up to? Are you working now? Have you moved back here?”
All questions I have been skirting around like a well-oiled politico for the last few months. Since landing back in the UK in May from almost a year abroad, I have been trying to gainfully employ myself. So, what have I ACTUALLY literally been doing? This is a question it has been mighty hard to answer for friends and family, and beyond possible when talking to anyone without a fairly indepth knowledge about me in general. Often, I have been less than clear, and meeting new people I have been unavoidably opaque.
But after a few months of miscellaneous activities, and aside from 2 weddings, 4 birthdays, and 2 funerals, here’s what I have been doing, and why.
Half-hearted attempt at Option 1 – Get a job
The first thing I tried was searching for employment. Trying to get a financial services job at the moment is challenging in itself. Coupled with my refusal to work a) for peanuts, b) with dummies, and the snobbery evident amongst recruitment agents against anyone who has been out of work for more than a couple of months, the process was almost unbearable. Regardless of activities partaken in, charitable efforts, or even actual employment, (things normally applauded in any workplace, social group or obituary) mention of being abroad for anything longer than a holiday is met with the expression of someone who has just tasted sour milk.
Networking and promotion: This time round, I knew finding a job would be harder than before, so I needed to help myself stand out from the crowd. I emphasised my maths and IT skills, showed my very real interest in the industry with all the extra reading and studying I had done, and started to learn how to program with SQL and VBA. I applied to lots of jobs, used LinkedIn and all the job websites I knew of, got in touch with recruitment agents I already knew, asked friends for more contacts to sound out, sent speculative CV’s and spent money travelling to London for the most cursory of meetings.
Recruitment agents: I am a proud individual. I have a lot of confidence in my ability, and a lot of ambition. My goal is to find something meaningful I can do in the medium term if not the rest of my life, work with people I can respect, and leverage my range of talents as much as possible. The goal of a recruitment agent is to place x candidates by friday, earn enough commission to cover their credit card, and they have the attention span of a dog on LSD to boot.
I see; someone with lots of interests, a habit of pursuing them, enthusiasm for life, the skills to work in a variety of jobs, and a broad education. They see; someone with a choppy CV, average qualifications, can’t be easily summarised in a sentence, let alone labelled in 3 words.
WE ARE NOT GOING TO GET ALONG. That’s fine. I don’t really want a job, which is why I didn’t have the patience to deal with their weak knowledge of the position I applied for, and inability to understand my previous job role. I’m not too disgruntled that I effectively wasted my time because, happily, the agent and their firm will not earn the 25% of my annual wage they would have, despite their only talents being nodding, smiling, and using a telephone. You vultures.
I’m sure there are a handful of recruitment agents out there who are good at their jobs, I have met one or two, but there is a massive majority of cowboys. Unfortunately the recruitment game is just a glorified sales exercise. Earning cash makes you king, so why take time to really find out about candidates and work hard on their behalf, when it is simpler to cherry pick candidates that are easy to sell. The massive surplus of candidates for each job makes this even easier at the moment.
Job applications: In the past, I have come to the decision not to apply for jobs advertised through recruitment agents, and to look carefully at other aspects of how employers ask you to apply for a job. I prefer employers who have taken time to think about what they are asking you to do, and want to vet applicants for their job themselves. Everyone applying for a job has a CV/Resume, so if an employer creates a form that asks you to enter every single detail from your CV manually and the format doesn’t even allow for copy-pasting lines of information one at a time, it reflects badly on the company. Do you want to work for an organisation choked by red-tape and rule followers? In the current climate, someone looking for a job will apply to tens of positions, so the basics of an application form should be straight-forward. Similarly, should you attend their overnight assessment centre at the other end of the country if they have 5 different weekends, each with 30 candidates, for only 5 jobs?
Colleagues: Besides, working in an office job is frustrating. I was once told, on a training course provided by my firm, “You can’t choose who you work with”. It was a very depressing thought, because it was so cold, hard and true. What I did understand though, was that the speaker should actually have said ‘You can’t choose who you work with, if you choose to work for someone else’. After a year of employment with that company, I chose not to work with them, which felt great. It wasn’t my last job, but even since before I finished university, I knew I wanted to work for myself.
Work-Life balance: Getting a job was just something I considered as a way to pay the bills while I worked on starting a business. But for the last few years I have been voicing my opinion that if I worked even 40 hours a week on my own business, I must be able to do better for myself than the wage I was being paid. Forget all the fringe benefits, such as the satisfaction of being your own boss, working where you would prefer to work, and (a big one for me) not having to work with people who act-like-buffoons/your-preferred-bugbear. I could be well paid working in financial services, but that is the only box a job would tick for me.
I know that a few months, or maybe a year or two down the line, I would be cursing under my breath at every opportunity. I hate the sedentary effect of sitting at a desk all day and staring at a computer screen, and not knowing who I could end up spending most of my waking hours with until I’m stuck with them. No, I decided to reject the safety net of a job, leave myself with more time and less distractions, and to take a more direct approach to things.
Location, location, location: Another thing I really value, is being able to choose my surroundings. I strongly dislike city life, without the ease of escaping back to nature and getting outdoors to keep in shape.
More to come in Part 2; Self-employment – what, how, and where, etc. Different ways to be self-employed.
And in Part 3; Start a business – which business, why, and why not.