Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I've been asked to take place in a case study about graduates and the impossibility of finding permanent jobs.

I'm being paid £50's worth of vouchers and a bottle of champagne.

Being paid to talk about not being paid?

What a funny old world we live in...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ooh, It's Temp-ting

Did I mention that I'm an intern?

Oh right, you got that.
Well, as an intern, it is par for the course that you make roughly enough to take a zone 1 tube and buy half a sandwich each day.

It is also likely that, like a resting actor, you will find yourself with the odd week or two inbetween internships with nothing to do.

The first few times this occured, I found loads to do. By which I mean I spent more time than necessary watching Loose Women in my pajamas, and realised that I was slowly morphing into a forty-year old housewife.

When it got to the stage where I was actually starting to take on the shape of the sofa, I realised that it was time to move on.

And I started a new, healthy relationship: Temping.

Temping, I have discovered, is a Purgatory-esque land in between a permanent job and an internship.

The obviously benefit is that, shock horror, you're actually being paid. My, was I proud the first time I received the payment receipt - "you mean...I do work, and people give me money? What is this promised land?"

But, as with an internship, you are on that strange periphery where you go in to work every day and yet aren't really relevant to the company. That slightly first-day-of-school feeling when you try to remember all the names of the people you've been introduced to? A common practice in temping. And even worse is when people just assume that you should know everyone off the bat.

"Intern (or, sorry, 'Temp'), could you pass this on to James please?"

"SURE!" [Bright smile.] "And he would be...?"

And even worse is finding your way around. As an intern, it is accepted you are new, and thus you get the perfunctory Office Tour (apart from at the dreaded online mag I interned at, where it took them most of the week before they showed me where the loo was). But, as a Temp, you are suddenly catapulted into a busy environment where no one has the time to hold your hand. Probably because they're too busy requesting cappucinos from the interns...

The best example of this was my recent experience of temping on a reception desk at an advertising agency. I was having a great time doing pretty much what I do interning, i.e. greeting the visitors, answering the phones and playing on the internet. I had been there for nearly a week when the other receptionist had the day off, and I was asked to help with a meeting-room setup.

Sure, great, I can handle this - plonk some biscuits here, chuck some tea bags in there, and voila! I'm a temping mastermind.

Only one problem...I had no idea where the meeting room was. In fact, having been basically confined to the reception desk for most of the week, I barely had any idea where the rest of the office was. Tricky when trying to negotiate a large service trolley and a small office.  Never one to back down easily (unless I'm asked to carry a TV), I set on my own merry way.

It's all about the process of elimination, right?

There were three meeting rooms.

Thank heavens for the Office Manager, who gently steered both me and the trolley in the right direction, or else I probably would have ended up setting the tea pot up in the bathroom.

Ah well, one small blip in a role where I learnt about as much as did in any of my other internships. And in return: the sweet smell of money.

Seriously, try it. It's temp-ting.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Intern: A Definition

in·tern also in·terne (in'tûrn)
Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover that amongst the dictionary definitions for "intern," there is one which reads, "To confine, especially in wartime."
The thing is, there seems to be rather a lot of confusion about what an internship actually is.
Some companies have been led to believe that an intern is some moron brought in to do the dirty work no one else wants to do.
Others seem to think an intern is a rare breed of cleaner who is happy to vaccuum their floors and wipe their arses without being paid for the privilege.
In my experience, an internship entails making one's own life harder in order to make everyone else's lives easier.
And of course, this means getting that tricky, hard-get-item that they can't live without.

Case Study: Coffee and Tea
Oh, the amount of time I have spent talking about hot drinks on this blog. But the fact is, it seems that once you reach a certain level of employment, your brain simply cannot function unless you have *exactly* the hot drink you desire.

In my carpet-vaccuming internship, they had 5 (FIVE!) different types of black tea alone. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm terrible confused, I thought I was working at a production company, not a tea palace in the middle of Rajasthan.

And seriously, hands up anyone who can tell the difference between Lady Grey and Earl Grey. Unless you're one of their descendents, there is no need to have both.

This was bad enough, but they also had an actual cappucino maker for the One Person in the office who required a cappucino. Funnily enough, this was the same guy who needed his carpet vaccuumed. Now, maybe I haven't been in a high-pressured enough job, but I just can't understand how it can be so vital to have a fancy coffee made in the office - I would have been better off getting a job at Costa, at least they would have paid me.

Don't get me wrong, I like a fancy coffee as much as the next person. I feel a certain relish going in to Starbucks and conjuring the words "I'll have a Tall, Skinny Latte with Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup to have in but in a Take Away Cup." But the world won't end without it. So stop being so damn picky. Asshole.

Same goes for the ridiculous woman in my first ever work experience placement who would insist on getting her coffee from Flat White. Now, it was the workie's job to go on a coffee run about twice a day. Fine, she says through gritted teeth. Everyone would ask for a coffee from Pret, conveniently located next door, apart from Bitchy McBitch Face (as I shall christen her), who would demand that the intern would schlep into the middle of Soho to get a solitary cup of coffee, which, by the time it was brought back to the office, would probably be cold anyway. Fair enough, get one yourself in your own time, but don't abuse your position by being a massive fuss pot, or next time I shall replace the coffee beans with dirt. Ha.

Case Study 2: Lunches
Ok, obviously people have a right to have what they want for lunch. When they're getting it themselves. It is distinctly Not Ok to request a specific lunch from a specific place, when you know that the itern is already going in a completely different direction to get someone else's lunch. I once spent an hour picking up a can of tuna in one direction, and a panini from the other. Seriously, hasn't anyone ever heard of a Ham and Cheese sandwich?

On this subject, I would like to end this post's rant with a little story about the ridiculous needs of exec producers.

Again, this was at the vaccuum-cappucino hell hole. I was about to go on the first lunch run of the day. I was waiting for another producer to get off a phone call so I could take her lunch order. As I was waiting, the Exec Producer's frantic Assistant ran down the stairs. He was out of breath, his eyes darted wildly about. He reached out his shaking hand and proffered me money.

"Can you get [Insert Exec Name] a bar of chocolate, a chicken salad from M&S and a packet of cigarettes?"

I dutifully accepted the money, and went on my way to M&S with all the lunch orders. 10 minutes later, half way to M&S, I received a call on my mobile,

"Where are you??"

It was the assistant.

"I'm on my way to M&S, why?"

"What about the cigarettes??"

"I was getting them on the lunch run."

"No, no, the cigarettes are urgent. She needs them now. Never mind, I'll get them myself." Dial tone.

Really? Cigarettes? Urgent? Obviously not urgent enough that she would consider, oh, I don't know, going out and buying them herself?

Perish the thought.

I wouldn't be surprised if arse-wiping soon became a regular requirement of internships.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

THAT side is for WALKING

You know when you’re an Official London Workie when thoughts of the Tube begin to fill your waking moments.

You know you’ve truly made it when you use the “walking” side of the escalators.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the cultural divide of the tube escalators. On the “resting” side are:

1. Tourists, with their rucksacks placed inconveniently between their feet – or even worse, on a separate step – so that the straps spill out and potentially trip those of us with better places to go.

2. The leisurely shoppers, perhaps with a coat casually strung over their arm, nonchalantly dreaming of what they’re going to have for lunch

3. The old, infirm and young. Read: nuisances.

On the “Other” side; the “Proper” side; are the rest of us. Those of us who are determined to step on other's toes to secure their space on the tube platform. And woe-betide anyone who tries to blur the boundaries.

I’ve started conducting an internal dialogue in my head with the IDIOTS who decide to stand in the walking aisle, which goes roughly something like this:

“THAT side is for WALKING, you moron. Do you realise that you have created a stampede of traffic behind you, and that you, yes YOU, are personally responsible for London-wide delays on the Underground, and more importantly me being late for the next episode of Glee. Move it, lumpy.”

I once actually saw a pair of Japanese tourists taking pictures of one another at the foot of the escalators. Reeeally? In rush hour? Are trying to incure my wrath? (Note: my wrath is a powerful and much feared force. Just ask the last warden who tried to give me a parking ticket.)
Minor satisfaction is to be had when said unaware moron is yanked into position by a friend standing on the correct side. If they are a moron and a loner, only an inside-lane-overtake will suffice. But make sure you get a slight elbow barge in there to prove your point. Go on, you show them who's boss.

Once you’ve bypassed the escalator-loungers, two factors really prove your Tube-worth:

Platform Position and Exit Point.

Platform Position is only really applicable to split-branches such as the Northern Line or District/Central/Hammersmith overlaps, but when it is, It. Is. Gold.

The casual tube-goer mooches along the platform, and if a train for the wrong branch comes along first, they merely hang back in submission. Fools.

But not me. Oh-ho. Not me. I am a stallion.

Ladies and gentlemen, you want to get a tube seat in rush hour? Then I'm you're girl.
Join the back of the queue for people cramming themselves onto Morden via Bank, even if it's the wrong branch. Stop in front of the doors, ignoring the looks of befuddlement from people inside the carriage. You are now in perfect position for where the doors line up when the correct train comes along. The train always (or at least to my knowledge) stops in the same place.

Aha! See, a Cambridge degree is worth something...

Now you merely wait and give a smug smile to all those standing in the wrong place. (“You think that’s where the doors’ll open, do you? Aw, that's sweet, isn't it? New to London…?”).

The only glitch in this process is that my mother has ingrained in me an irrational fear that there are psychos residing on the tube platform who are going to push me into the path of an oncoming train, so I have to stand backwards, bringing down the cool factor somewhat.

Exit Point (or E.P, as it is known in Army Training Facilities) is more of a matter of knowing which exit applies to which area of the world, and is definite proof of the amount of time you have spent working in London.

The number of occasions I have got off at a multi-exit station and seen “Exit (North),” “Exit (East).”

I'm sorry, what? I barely know my left from my right, let alone which way North is. And darn it, just on the day I left my pocket compass in the barn, along with my tracker bars and emergency flares...

And so I feel that victory is truly mine when I realise that I have successfully worked out which exit correlates to which part of the street, and, after a few day’s unsuccessful trials, manage to get out at exactly the place I need to be.

If only someone where actually paying me to go out of these exits, everything would be just hunky-dory…

Monday, 12 April 2010

This Is Just To Say

I have spat
in the tea
which you asked me
to make

and which
you were probably
by now

Forgive me
it was delightful
so hot
and so tempting

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I have spent rather a long time on the Guardian Jobs website. And when I say "rather a long time," I mean time enough to move down the list of career choice until I realise I've started seriously considering roles which involve clincal trials and dog walking.

But what I have noticed, and what, all the more, has rather baffled me, is that above all other positions, what comes up again and again are adverts for recruiters.

Now what I don't get is

What are they recruiting for?

How do we need that many recruiters?
Do they know there are no jobs?

Or is the world slowly being taken over by recruitment agencies? Will we suddenly be over run by recruiters recruiting recruiters recruiting recruiters and so forth until eternity?

Or is it actually a communist plot to rid the world of all forms of employment, so that we all just end up recruiting one another, until there's no one left?
Take today's Graduate section, for example. There are 336 jobs listed, of which 202 mentioned the word "recruitment." No joke, I actually did a word search.

I'm sorry, but that is just ridonculous.

I have these visions of a recruitment office slowly become more and more crowded with employees until they start bursting out of the windows.

Imagine Lemmings, but replace the sea with an office. You get the picture.
And do you think they just sit there twiddling their thumbs on a monday morning going, "well now what?" "Um, hire more recruiters?"

It's really nice that they have such a "more the merry" attitude, but perhaps they aught to start broadening their horizons, non?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cover Letters (Part 2)

Ah, cover letters. The necessary accoutrement to your CV which proves you are the best possible person for the job, and that the recipient may possibly be smote by God if they don’t hire you.
Or a mindless wad of cack in which you employ stock phrases such as “transferable skills” and “time management” and then press the “send-to-all” button.
There seems to be a sliding scale of cover letters, ranging from the standardised “dear-employers-I’m-sending-this-to-everyone-but-please-give-me-a-job-anyway” to the so gushing “I just love this company and I’ve wanted to work here since I was three so please oh please give me a job I’ll do anything.”
FACT: The former makes you look sterile and devoid of personality. The latter just makes you look mental.

FACT NUMBER TWO: The elephant in the room is that everyone *knows* that you’ve written to a thousand other companies. You're initiated the first part of the game in which everyone makes believe that they are the number one company you are applying to, and that you can't even contemplate working anywhere else.

I was at an interview yesterday and mentioned that I was interning at another company. They asked how I’d managed to get it.

“Um, because I spent about 5 consecutive hours on Tuesday working through a list of companies, of which you were one?”

Of course I didn’t say that, I laughed nonchalantly and waved away the question with “Oh, I just emailed them and they happened to have a last minute opening…” Breezy. I'm being breezy.

So, how do you tread the fine line between facelessness and wack-job when writing a cover letter? Your friendly Intern is here to tell you now.

DISCLAIMER: Long periods of cover letter writing may result in the following: the shakes, mild schizophrenia, periods of doubt or depression, typing fingers (similar to tennis elbow), bleeding eyes from scaring at the computer screen, increased thirst, mood swings, the voice in your head starting to talk like a cover letter (i.e. like it has been tattoed with inverted commas)...

Or may that’s just me…


Idiot. Not a great start when writing a letter pertaining to your interest in the company. You can’t be that interested, now can you? There’s no silent g in Price Waterhouse Cooper.

2. Make sure that the right cover letter is sent to the right company.

No joke. I have actually accidentally copy and pasted a cover letter to two companies and forgotten to change the names. Shit. “Ah ha ha, of course, when I sent a message to “Red Communications” addressed to “Dear Blue Communications,” it was because I was thinking of how much better Red is than Blue. Ah ha ha ha. Mmm…job?”

3. Don't forget to ATTACH YOUR CV
Again, an mistake. You get all excited about the cover. You finish with the flourish of "please find my CV attached." You press the send button. Hm, something seemed to be missing...Oh CRAP.
Don't. Do. it.
4. No-one wants to hear your life story.

Succinctness is the key. They don’t give a shit about where you went on your Gap Year, or what you ate for breakfast. They just want to see that you’re not a moron, and gather a basic understanding of why your email address has inconveniently turned up in their inbox and wasted valuable time when they could be checking Facebook. Short, sharp and snappy, please.

5. But at the same time, make it personal.

Ok, so I know I vetoed your life story, but you want to give a cursory few lines in reference to the particular company you’re emailing, even if you’ve just read the website and seen something vaguely interesting. Flattery gets you places, as long as you’re not over-saccharine. Think Grace Kelly, not Shirley Temple. And for God’s sake, DON’T PUT KISSES. These people aren't your friends. And they never will be now.

And finally:

6. Create a template

The fact is, it takes a fucking long time to write thousands of cover letters. It is incredibly boring and time consuming to write a brand new cover letter for each and every company you email. Create a Word document with the basic boring information you can’t be bothered to type out: “I graduated from the Monkey School of Communication in 1920 with a BA in Pig Latin. Since graduating, I have been de-worming orphans in Somalia, working in a sweat shop and eating cheese. I am scared of people and better working alone in the cupboard in my room, hate computers and speak conversational binary code.” You get the gist. See previous post. Now you can simply copy and paste these bits and add the personal shit they want to hear, which should cut down your time by, oh, at least an hour.

Only four more to go!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Cover Letters (Part 1)

Delete As Applicable

Dear Insert Casual First Name Here  of Person I Badgered On Phone For Email Address / Human Resources Person at The Company I Google Searched

I graduated recently / far longer ago than I would like from Impressive High Tier University / (that I’m inserting here so that you’ll at least read the rest of my email) and am interested in hearing about your graduate opportunities and work placements / still don’t have a job but hope that I’ll get a reply if I at least mention working unpaid.

Since graduating, I have been gaining experience in the film, theatre and advertising industries / making tea throughout London, and now feel ready to take up the challenges of a more permanent position / can’t look my un-employed self in the face any longer.

My work experience has taught me invaluable time management skills / how to use my alarm, and I have built up a wealth of administration abilities / spent the last six months welded to the photocopier; skills which I feel would be beneficial to a position within your company / any idiot could do. I am comfortable using Word and Excel / not a retard, and have excellent written and oral communication skills / can spell and string a sentence together.

I feel I would be suited to a position within your company because I really value the ethos you uphold / you’re the last one on my list. I admired your work on (insert name of project) / Found the name of something I had vaguely heard of on your website and feel I could talk about it in an interview, and would value the opportunity to work for such a successful company / am running out of companies to email.

Please find my CV attached / don’t delete this email, and I look forward to hearing from you soon / will be checking my email / blackberry / Itouch every 5 minutes for the next 7 days.

All the best,


Extra! Extra!

What job involves sitting on your tuchus most of the day apart from the occasional walk back-and-forth, includes free meals and pays you 90 quid to boot?

That’s right people, I’ve become an Extra.

And when you read the specs you think, “Hey, why don’t I do this everyday?”

10 hours of doing nothing seems waaaay longer than that:

5:30 am: Wake up. Put clothes on inside out. Correct.

5:40 am: One word: Coffee.

6:30 am: Arrive on set. Shudder at smell of fried breakfast. Coffee.

7:30 am: Find inner peace. Get bored. Remember to take up knitting.

8:30 am: Get driven to “location” conveniently next to a MacDonald’s, which shall be our holding bay.

8:45 am: Extras are given a stash of money to do with what they wish. Porridge anyone?

9:00 am: Begin talking to other extras, including a batty old polish lady sporting a leopard print hat.

9:15 am: Conversation wanes. Coffee.

10:30 am: Strike up conversation with Australian runner. Gives me his hand-warmer. Score.

11:00 am:

12:00 pm: First requirement of the job: Walk across the street.

12:05 pm: Reset.

12:10 pm: Walk across the street.

12:15 – 1:00 pm: Lather, rinse, repeat.

1:00 pm: Return to set for lunch.

1:30 pm: Lunch technically finished. No requirements. Mmm...sleep?

2:00 pm: Now where was that book...

3:00 pm: Sigh. Find phone. Check for wireless signal. Hmph.

4:00 pm: Get driven to a different location. Stand by roadside waiting for cue.

4:45 pm: False alarm. Return to set.

5:00 pm: Tea time.

5:30 pm: A mention we may be done for the day. Sit eagerly waiting by window.

6:30 pm: Free at last! And with overtime to prove it. Now, if only the extras agency didn’t take £70 out of your first fee...

Ah yes, so not exactly 90 quid this time round, but at least this time it was tea-drinking, rather than tea-making, that was at the forefront of my agenda.

Sigh...I’m practically a lady of leisure...
Ladies and gentlemen,

Please excuse the recent hiatus of blog posts - I have been in San Diego, where The Boy has been doing research for his dissertation.

Things I have learned from my trip:

1. There is nothing to do in San Diego
2. You can definitely eat too much Mexican food
3. Sun burn is a bitch.

New post soon!
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