When applying for jobs I think one is always very focused on the idea that oneself is going be examined, explored, put on trial (depending how you view job interviews!) rather than remembering the important fact that it is a chance to form opinions about the interviewer and company as well.
I recently went for an interview for a receptionist/ PA type of job in which my first impression was a highly unusual building. It was so unusual that it was hard to tell in the reception area if it had been a church converted into office space or office space that had been designed to look like a church. An interesting working environment helps if you are going to sit in it day in day out I supposed.
On meeting my interviewer I was surprised to find that it was not the woman that had communicated with me via email, but another lady and that there were currently no conference rooms available. I was led into a shady sofa area just next to the canteen. It was approaching lunch time and the comforting crashing sounds of food being made and people being served could be heard.
The interview started well and there were no particularly surprising questions and I was yet to slip up or create any awkward silences. She apologized and seemed embarrassed that she had to ask what I thought my strengths and weaknesses were. I found this is a little strange as I would have imagined it was a fairly common question to hear at interviews, especially for fairly straight forward jobs.
It was the next question that surprised me as she sat holding her question paper firmly like it might be an essential document for bureaucratic survival.
"So why is it that you would like to work for money now rather than not for money?"
Shocked, I let the question hang in the air, mixing with the aroma of the canteen. I had mentioned that I had recently started charity work but I don’t see how this would give the average person the impression I always preferred to work for free.
As best I could, calmly I explained that I had skills to offer and skills I wanted to build on, and that I felt I had a right to be paid for a days work.
I realize that these crib sheets of questions are to guarantee uniformity, especially at a time where one job can have a large amount of applicants being interviewed, but I wondered, could this question be on there? Or more worryingly, if it wasn’t, had she come up with it?
Apart from this the interview had gone well I thought and I felt I couldn’t really have given anymore effort.
Several days later I received an email thanking me for my application and good CV but informing me I had not been successful. As fellow job hunters will know, this is fairly normal when not being in receipt of the job offered.
The next line was slightly more unorthodox.
"On that subject, if you know anyone that you think might be interested in our role, please ask them to send me their CV"
Oddly, I don’t think I do know anyone who is interested.
Always remember, an interview is two ways, even if it’s not always explicitly so.
As soon as I descended the steps of the plane, I could tell I was somewhere that was unlike anywhere I had ever been before. The first thing I noticed was the scent in the air. It was similar to the scent of summer usually experienced in England, that sweetness of seasonal flowers; but at the same time it was completely alien to me. It appeared to bypass the usual stench of machinery and fuel that you usually come to expect from a busy airport. Although it was January, the sun was warm and almost auburn in colour, like a lazy august evening. The quality of the light was perplexing, the sky was clear but the light had a softness to it, which reminded me of the effect of a high watt light bulb against a coloured lampshade.
In a daze I followed my father and sister towards the airport building, enjoying the sensation of the evening sun on my back. After a lengthy process of baggage reclaiming that involved a enthusiastic middle aged man attempting to help us lift and steer our luggage for a small fee we once again entered the balmy air and approached the nearest taxi. As we sped away from the airport I was filled with the electric excitement of the unknown. The radio played mysterious songs in a foreign language as I stared at the dusty expanse ahead of us dotted with exotic plants.
I noticed the road widen into several lanes as we got closer to the city. We were approaching rush hour it seemed and hundreds of vehicles ahead where slowing down to a crawl, accompanied by a cacophony of car horns of various pitches. Some cars and vans were filled with a huge amount of people and on further inspection I realised that one of these dusty, slightly dented vehicles was a local bus service, brimming with passengers. Nearby car passengers began to wink and wave as we passed by at a steady speed. The traffic was beginning to clear a little but this did not seem to curb the endless honking. Travelling at this steady speed, there was so much to take in around me. As I looked to my right, I saw endless sandy coloured buildings stretching into the skyline. Although the general shape was present and windows had begun to be made, many of them lacked roofs. In some cases washing hanging precariously high and make-shift fabric roofs suggested that the buildings were being inhabited despite their incompletion.
As we queued to turn onto a main road I noticed that not only vehicles had got caught up in the congestion. To my left was a small cart, filled to the brim with various vegetables, a large pile of carrots sat proudly on top. Pulling the cart was a brown donkey with bright eyes and extremely soft looking fur. It appeared indifferent to the noise level surrounding it and was waiting patiently. Its owner sat idle leaning back, enjoying the sun as he waited for the traffic to clear.
As we turned onto a straight and apparently endlessly stretching main road I was startled by the bright lights of large clothes shops, and what appeared to be clubs not yet open for the evening. Hundreds of taxis drove erratically hurtling past each other in dozens of near misses, bumpers often touching almost affectionately. It appeared there were several types of taxi. One recurring type were black in colour with white markings, a large proportion of them had several dents and I estimated were several decades old. I surveyed our own slightly younger model gratefully.
Lost in thought I had not noticed us stop. On the opposite side of the road, was a large white gleaming building where we would be staying, that stood out amongst the surrounding buildings. I suddenly realised I would have to cross the endless expanse of road in front of me to reach my destination. Cars were moving at an alarming speed, weaving in and out frantically, as there were no lanes to speak of. After five minutes of slightly impatient observing it was clear there was never going to be a clear gap in the traffic. It was time to take a leap of faith. Stepping out firmly into the traffic I signalled for the cars to stop as I briskly made me way across, my heart pounding as I watched vehicles slowing down just in time to prevent themselves ploughing into me. An hour later as I stood looking over the balcony at the top of the hotel, the cars appeared like harmless lines of lights. In the distance I could see the pyramids illuminated. I was in Cairo, and I had never felt more alive.
It seems as the weather continues to be depressingly chilly and people all over Britain curl up on their sofas (probably accompanied by a cup of tea and remnants of the left over Christmas chocolate) Channel 4 and ITV have provided classic January fitness fodder for us to digest. For some of us this could be a difficult task as the issue is all the more personal after a mince pie overdose or two.
Firstly on Tuesdays on Channel 4 at 8pm we have “Fat Fighter’s” and aptly named programme which deals with the jobs of four differing styles of fitness trainers at a London gym as they work tirelessly against big and bulging clients, dealing with not only the physical side of things but emotional and dietary also. This fab foursome are all equally terrifying, including a beefy body builder called Matt who is referred to as a “pillar” for his gigantic hulk like proportions. Rest assured though, he is a gentle giant, and could be seen in this episode weeping about the beauty of transforming someone’s mental strength through fitness. If that’s not scary enough there is Dalia a lady who is fitness’s answer to a dominatrix, literally whipping her clients in to shape. As a former international high jumper she is not afraid of discipline and uses her powers very effectively in the gym.
Although at first glance it fits the standard format of a fitness transformation programme there is a little more going on behind the scenes. Each week instructors from inside and out of the gym come forward to compete for a much coveted position as leader of a new fitness class on the gyms schedule. Everything from a stiletto work out, to losing your spare tyre with a tyre can be witnessed. It offers an interesting insight into the world of personal trainers, and offers tips for the viewer to take up at home if you can manage to move from the sofa.
If it’s been a really indulgent Christmas and you want to feel a little better about your physical procrastination, there is yet another series of “The Biggest Loser” on ITV, Tuesday nights at 9pm. This programme follows teams of morbidly obese people as they battle against each other to lose the most weight each week. The person with the lowest percentage of weigh loss is sent home each week. There seems something a little cruel about the format though as one witnesses tearful tubbies placed in rooms full of party food, desperately grappling with calorie calculations and I particularly enjoyed the insensitive use of the song “Skinny Love” as the groups headed apprehensively to the scale last week. Full of tearful tribulations and terrifying challenges, you’ll feel like you are getting a work out just watching.
Tune in next Tuesday for a double helping of fat and fitness programs.
Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.
The other day as I was collecting my post, I realised what use people might finally have found for Nick Clegg as I was faced with his plain, anguished face staring up at me from a “No AV” leaflet. The leaflet stated that a vote for AV was a vote for Nick Clegg and therefore a vote for broken promises. I suppose their logic was Clegg would be enough to put people of most things right now. The logic however is slightly flawed, I mean yes Clegg has let a of people down with regards to the tuition fees saga, but this time, Clegg isnt making the decision, we are. Whether you want AV or you would prefer to stick with what we have (first past the post) you can march into a polling station on the 5th of May, and theres nothing Nick Clegg can do to ruin that.
However, the anti-AV supporters had some interesting ideas about why we should not change the current system. From not having a fixed opinion before, I now feel compelled to vote AV based on the stupidity displayed in the leaflet. During election times, politicians are known to sometimes treat the general public like idiots, but these leaflets were a whole different ballpark. The first display of ridiculousness I noticed was the picture of a race taking place, with a caption implying that if you vote AV the competator that is pictured about to come third, will in fact be made the winner. This is clearly just wrong. Under the AV system, when votes are first counted, if there is a clear winner (50% or more of the votes) then they will be elected. Since when have elections been anything like 100m races? I’m now stuck with the visual image of Gordon, David and Nick in 80’s running gear desperately grappling for first place.
Another favourite argument of the “No AV” campaign is that a vote for AV is a vote for the BNP. Scaremongering at its best you could say. Many people have been quick to point out that the BNP are actually against AV, so whats all that about you might ask. It has also been noted that the large price tag that “No AV” have been attaching to the changing of the voting system has almost been plucked out of the air, and probably bares no resemblence to the actual cost.
I think the real problem though is that many people don’t care enough to form an opinion on the matter and the “No AV” campaign have decided people will be stupid enough to believe any information they are given on the matter. This is only going to make people angry and confused ( at bit like Nick Clegg probably feels every day when he talks to David Cameron about his role in government).
My favourite bit of trickery on the leaflet is the subconscious mind game that they play with you on the front page. In a small purple circle it indicates to the reader that this campaign has not been paid for by your taxes. Of course it hasnt! This information is irrelevant. It’s only there to plant the idea in your head that the “Yes AV” leaflet might have been.