Posts Tagged ‘Job’

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging this week (apologies!) on account of having just started my first day job since moving to the UK. The work falls well within my zone of competence, the people are nice and the commute by bus, if longer than I’m used to, at least allows for a lot of reading. Even so, it’s been something of a shock to the system to actually have to GET UP and engage in all the daily palaver that constitutes being employed. My last Australian position finished in mid-December, which means I’ve been out of work for three months, and even though I spent more of that time moving countries, finding a house and getting settled in than I did writing, I’ve still grown used to the freedom of setting my own routines, working on my own projects and generally acting like the self-employed author I strive to become. Which isn’t to say I’m not coping – I always have in the past. It’s just that it’ll take me a while before I slip back into my old routine of frantically cramming word-work into every odd corner of the day, as opposed to stretching it out at leisure.

Stupid pragmatism.

Also, and apropos of absolutely nothing, I’ve given up drinking for April. So far, I’m succeeding. A few people have asked me if I’m doing it for Lent, to which the answer is a resounding no, as I didn’t even realise Lent was upon us. But I’d noticed (belatedly) that some people had given up grog for February as part of one of those internet-inspired thingies that appears every once in a while, and so I decided to give it a try myself, mainly out of curiosity to see if I actually could. The first couple of days were the most difficult – not because I’m anything even approaching an alcoholic, but exactly because I know I’m not, and therefore had to keep justifying internally why I was depriving myself of something I enjoyed for no particular reason. This was also exacerbated by the fact that the night of 2 April involved a dinner out with many, many friends as part of a philosophy conference paid for by the university, which featured – among other things – copious amounts of free wine. I stuck to water and still had a good time. The next night was another round of conference drinks at the pub. Though tempted, I kept to lemonade. It’s all been much easier since then, even during other outings with friends, which frankly is a relief: I’d been worried that not drinking while other people were would inevitably result in a situation where, past the first hour, everyone else would be drunk and on one wavelength while I trailed behind on another. Instead, it turns out that either my friends don’t drink as much as I thought they did, or else they’re still all awesome and interesting and interpretable to sober people while drinking. Either that, or I’m just crazy enough not to notice or care to the contrary, but still – it’s nice to know that, should the mood take me, I can have a night out without alcohol and still have a good time.

Victory Is Mine!

Posted: June 19, 2009 in Life/Stuff
Tags: , , , ,

My last exam is done.

My visa has been approved.

I’ve been offered a job doing YA fantasy manuscript assessment.

There is free champagne tonight.

Also, free nibbles.

I just had an awesome muffin.

Blueberries were involved.

Do I seem food-obsessed?

My mother is visiting.

I have new pants for the first time in, like, six years.

And they fit.

Plus and also? Life is good.

Recently, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the social ramifications of defamation, censorship¬†and privacy laws in government and industry.¬†While the scenario of a verbally abusive¬†co-worker or boss is undeniably awful, and while nobody should have to¬†put up with¬†insults about their character, religion, race, competency, sexuality and/or personal hygiene, I can’t help but feel that¬†restrictions¬†designed to enforce polite behaviour are¬†increasingly infringing on freedom of speech. Prior to the rise of the internet, I imagine there was a fairly intuitive rule of thumb when it came to bitching about colleagues, viz: don’t write anything down. Trash talk was for the pub and other such¬†friendly gatherings, or at the very least somewhere courteously beyond earshot of the person in question. Email¬†lead to a new¬†caveat:¬†keep it off the company servers. Personal accounts are personal accounts, but you never know when someone might¬†have legitimate cause to flip through your business correspondence. Even in this instance, however, there was still a veil of privacy, in that barring an authorised, dedicated¬†search¬†or deliberate hacking, there was no way for the subject of the conversation to accidentally ‘overhear’ and thereby take offence.

But sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed all that. Now, employees are able to form online groups and discuss the foibles of their jobs en masse or tweet about the demands of annoying co-workers – with troubling consequences. The blogsphere, too, has created workplace turmoil, with some employers sacking staff for mentioning their jobs online. While companies are well within their grounds to worry about the release of actual business information, especially where a preemptory or unauthorised¬†mention of¬†same could¬†cause genuine loss or damage, the¬†notion of bringing a company’s reputation into disrepute simply by admitting to personal foibles and opinions is deeply troubling.¬†Satirising a job is not the same as maligning it, and criticising management should not be a sackable offense. Nonetheless, such things are currently happening.

As a student, I never liked the idea, put about at assemblies and other such spirit-building occasions, that I was moving through life as a ‘representative’ of my school, nor that my behaviour at all times, regardless of whether I wore the uniform, was correlated to some nebulous, anachronistic¬†notion of school pride or reputation.¬†As a grown worker, the sentiment still holds. First and foremost, we should belong to ourselves: all other affiliations, be they professional or academic, are secondary. There’s an ugly paternalism to schools and businesses laying claim to the morality and opinions of their attendees, and this is what rankles: the notion that our individual humanity is permissable only insofar as it doesn’t contradict the party line. It’s a big, messy, multifaceted issue – slandering colleagues is different to releasing confidential data is different to criticising management is different to having a sense of humour is different to daily blogging – but it is, ultimately, the same issue. Namely: how should we act online?

In a perfect world, people¬†wouldn’t insult each other, nor would¬†certain personality¬†types be incompatable. But this is not a perfect world. In an age when instantaneous, public communication has dropped the veil of privacy from personal complaint, we need to grow thicker skins and get used to living with other people’s opinions. Because what’s really throwing us for a loop isn’t the fact that people have opinions or even that they’re different from ours: it’s that, all of a sudden, we know what they are, and feel moved to respond. Companies are kidding themselves if they think that the vast majority of their employees would still work if they didn’t have to. Work is a necessary evil: get over it. Employees are kidding themselves if they think that bitching about co-workers in cyberspace is the same as bitching at the pub. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t type it where they can see it: simple. The law is kidding itself if it proves systematically incapable of distinguishing between serious, ongoing abuse and satire. People make jokes, and every exchange is nuanced: take it into account. Authority figures are kidding themselves if they think their position should put them¬†beyond mockery or scrutiny. As in politics, you will be teased, disliked; your decisions will be questioned. It’s the price of being in power: live with it or step down.

But most importantly, we as a society are kidding ourselves if we think the solution to socio-digital omnipresence is to segregate our personalities. Our jobs and lives are bleeding together exactly because the two should be compatable; because people want to enjoy their work while still retaining the freedom to speak their minds. Communication should be used as a tool for social improvement, not restriction, which means compromise on both sides. And historically speaking, compromise has never involved the building of walls between different groups or ways of life.

Instead, it knocks them down.

I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front lately, mostly because being fired tends to¬†necessitate a¬†different, more productive¬†use of¬†one’s spare time, despite the fact that¬†said time has, for the same reason, undergone a net increase. Apart from the obvious job-hunting chores, I’ve also been doing uni work and editing my novel. The latter activity has been particularly enjoyable. If my writing life were an RPG, I’d have recently levelled up, because my ability to self-correct has suddenly leapt forwards. In the past, frantic editing surges have usually resulted in scrapping the lot and starting again, but while I’m definitely rewriting en masse, it’s with an eye to building up¬†instead of¬†tearing down. Chapters I’ve been content with for months are¬†being systematically fleshed out, tightened up and otherwise made over. The question isn’t why I’ve left it so long: it’s why I can suddenly see the flaws.

And flaws there are, ultimately as the result of sloppy writing. It’s a sobering realisation that despite my dedication towards becoming a published author, I’ve still, on some subconscious level, retained the belief that I can do less than my best, and have this be enough. Throughout school, I always coasted and cut corners for a number of reasons – disinterest in the subject, a preference to spend my time on other projects – and while these were usually, if not saintly, then at least¬†defensible reasons,¬†I ultimately did so, or was able to do so, because I was bright enough.¬†Laziness didn’t punish me. Although I cared about being perceived as smart, I wasn’t fiercely competitive:¬†a dip in marks didn’t matter, so long¬†as they were still good marks. Which, looking back, was both a healthy mental attitude on one level, and an active choice not to be challeneged on another. Quite often, my parents would look at my¬†results, sigh affectionately, and say, “Imagine what you could do if you’d put in some effort!”¬†But only now do I understand what they meant.

Since starting the second novel, I’ve improved. Writing characters I’ve already introduced is different to starting anew:¬†there’s an implied¬†confidence to it, with room for more flourishes, in-jokes, insight and¬†general development. It means that when I look back at the¬†story so far, my standards have lifted. But, still, I’d been letting things lie. I’d read the first book so many times that¬†I¬†only saw the cadence of¬†what I’d written, and not the substance. This time around,¬†however, the veil has lifted. It was holding together, yes, but it wasn’t as good as it could be.¬†

And so I’m fixing it, hammer and nail. After completing¬†the first three chapters, I even submitted yesterday to a local publisher, which gave me a tingly, back-on-the-horse kind of feeling.¬†I still need a job, but in the mean time,¬†I’m getting things done.

Who says¬†getting fired can’t be a good thing?

Or at least, some branches of government.

After less than a week of temporary employ, I was today fired from the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions. My sin: unprofessional conduct. How this came about is, in my opinion, faintly ludicrous, but here, for your enjoyment, is the full tale.

Near the end of my holiday, I was contacted by my temp agency about a potential job. They were not sure I would get it, as the position required an inteview and I was, at that exact moment, in a different state; nonetheless, after describing it as a general administrative position and right up my alley, they promised to do their best. The following day, I received a second phone call, informing me that the client, upon reading my CV, had declared me a suitable employee for the next two months. I would start work on Monday at 9 AM, and thus was the matter settled.

In fact, on the day itself, I arrived early. In due course, I was shown around, introduced, taught the rudiments of using an internal database and then, after approximately two hours, given a very large whack of photocopying indeed. For those unfamiliar with corporate or legal-grade photocopying, understand that it is no mere button-press, on-your-merry-way exercise. Instead, you are presented with a folder (or folders) the approximate thickness of two good-sized Bibles and told to go forth and multiply, which activity involves standing beside a very large, very loud machine for upwards of an hour and not doing anything else. In my case, the magic number of copies was 23, with a side-order of exquisitely time-consuming tricky bits. This project consumed the remaining five hours of Monday, all of Tuesday and just over half of Wednesday: roughly seventeen hours spent in a narrow hall beside a photocopier.

In order not to go insane during this time, I listened to my iPod (having first, as a matter of course, asked for and been granted permission to do so), read snatches of a book and toyed with assorted newspaper puzzles (the crossword, sudoku)¬†rescued from beside a nearby recycling bin, none of which impeded the actual copying. Rather, with no other pending work, it made sense: I copied,¬†collated, highlighted and filed as ordered, making the occasional wry remark as¬†passing office-dwellers exclaimed over¬†my large¬†collection of paper and otherwise getting on with it. On finally completing this mammoth task, I was given more photocopying, such that the¬†promised moniker of ‘general administration’ was beginning to sound a bit thin: five large folders, each to be copied five times. That took the rest of Wednesday and most of this – that is to say, Thursday – morning, whereupon, after a brief excursion to a nearby court (20 minutes, tops), I was given another file to copy.

Needless to say, I was not thrilled; but copy I did. Idly,¬†while the pages printed, I wrote¬†out two poems from memory onto pieces of paper – one anonymously attributed, one by e. e. cummings – and pinned them beside the machine, reasoning that, as I was spending a lot of time in¬†its general vicinity,¬†some friendly words might be nice. Job done, I returned to my desk, typed a letter (or rather, typed less than ten words into an existing document template), printed it¬†and sat, waiting for my boss to return from wherever it was she’d gone. When she did return, it was with a smile and the news that, coincidentally, the head of HR wanted to see me. This was the¬†man who’d welcomed and inducted me¬†in on Monday. Off I went.

Inside his office, I sat down. Stern-faced, the head of HR lost no time in informing me that my supervisor was not happy with my performance and unprofessional behaviour. I had, he said, been chilling out to my iPod, clearly not focused on photocopying. During this time, I had also dared to put my feet up on the bench, a charge I did not deny, although able to see how this, at least, might have caused some contention. Furthermore, I had made disparaging remarks about photocopying, which caused me to blink a bit, given that:

(a) so had several other employees, usually in sympathy to my workload; and

(b) this is a psychologically healthy reaction to photocopying, especially if one is also laughing at the same time. (I was.)

He then drew two pieces of¬†paper from a¬†nearby pile and pushed them, with deliberate slowness, across¬†the desk: the poems I’d put up.

‘Are you,’ he asked, ‘responsible for these?’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘ I wrote them up, yes, but I didn’t write them.’

‘You were seen,’ he said gravely – if somewhat redundantly, as I had just admitted¬†as much¬†– ‘putting these up.’

This¬†behaviour, I was told, was unprofessional. My disdain for the position and the work it entailed were such that I was to be let go, immediately, before the end of the day, as they – being, one assumes, the HR manager and his immediate fellows – would much rather pay somone who was happy to be there, and incidentally,¬†I needn’t come back to his office again. The actual quality and timeliness of my work was not discussed; pointedly so.

All of which gave the distinct impression that, from my CV, the head of HR had been expecting rather a different sort of person: pencil-skirted and sleek, perhaps, with an eye to bureaucratic formality, and not the sort of person to wear a leather jacket or ThinkGeek shirt.

‘Fair enough,’ I said.

Following this frank exchange of views (and trying, admittedly, very hard not to grin, and sometimes succeeding) I went back upstairs to locate my now-ex-boss. Smiling prettily, she agreed to sign my timesheet, laughed over our joint inability to add up my hours correctly, and in all aspects behaved as though she had not just dobbed me in for a dressing-down and firing. She said it had been a pleasure working with me, but this I found hard to believe, given her stern disapproval of my behaviour as recently expressed elsewhere.

In the doorway to her office, I stopped, hand on the frame, and looked her in the eye. I am quite able to endure being dressed-down for possessing corporate eccentricities, because the absurdity of it makes me grin inwardly; but I do not appreciate the jovial pretense that such has not happened Рor rather, the smiling assertion of the velvet glove that the iron hand is nothing to do with them. It is for this reason that, rather than walking straight out, I smiled in turn and related the following (truthful) anecdote, which I will approximate here:

When my father was fresh out of school Рand this is a while ago, because my father is in his seventies Рhe took a job at a bank, as was done back then. In his spare time, he wrote odd limmericks on some of the bank notepads. Nothing rude; just poems. Passing the time. And one day, the bank manager Рyou can imagine, a large, older, balding man, run to fat Рcalled him into his office, demanding to know why my father was writing obscenities on bank property. And standing there, my father decided Рnot out loud, but in the privacy of his thoughts Рthat anyone who would call a limmerick obscene simply for being a limmerick was a humourless person not worth working for. And very soon after, he quit, and found happiness elsewhere.

I finished by saying that I, apparently, was following in his footsteps, except for the bit about choosing to leave. My now-ex-boss smiled her same, pretty smile, except perhaps it was a bit tigher this time, and said ‘Really?’ in what, under different circumstances,¬†might have passed for a genuinely¬†curious tone of voice.

‘Really,’ I said.

And then, without further ado, I went back to my desk, packed up my bag, put on my coat and left.

And that, as they say, was that.