Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Damn Right Frustrating

Job Applications: 15
Interviews: 1(!!!)
Pitches: 4
Commissions: 0

Well, well, well. After months of fruitless job applications and crippling bouts of self-pity, I have finally landed an interview. Huzzah! But before I fill you in on the details I have a few more tales of whimsy to tell. Actually, I'm not entirely sure what 'whimsy' is, but it probably doesn't have anything to do with the events that follow...


Like all the great stories of our generation, it began in a chaotic bedroom in north London. Fuelled by Monster, Mountain Dew Energy and the depressing realisation that I should sign on the dole, I had spent the morning firing off applications for every vaguely writing-related role I could find. Then in the afternoon, after the obligatory trip to Costcutter to clear my head and stock up on Space Raiders, I sat at my laptop, opened my e-mail and found this:

From: An editor at a large music magazine
Subject: URGENT: Fancy going to Ibiza tomorrow night?

Hi I need someone to go to Ibiza tomorrow night and see X Big Name DJ and X up-and-coming DJ/producer play, do a quick interview with them and then quickly turn around 300 words on each.
hit me back quick if you want to do it!
The guy at the magazine.

The e-mail had been sent at 15:15. It was now 15:16, so there was hope. I hit the reply button and briefly pondered what my response should be. By 15:17 I had decided on 'yes, yes and yes!', which I excitedly sent. Then, I waited...

...and waited...

7 second later and the tension was too much. I figured that the logical solution would be to continually press 'refresh' in the hope of somehow teasing a positive response from the editor through the electro-psychic medium of e-mail. Bizarrely, it didn't work. If anything, it just made it more frustrating. But I couldn't stop. I just kept on refreshing the page again and again for 15 minutes; surely enough time to develop an RSI in my index finger.

Then, the inevitable happened. The editor replied with the bad news. I had been pipped to the post by a matter of seconds.

Balls, balls, balls. Big hairy ones.

I tried not to think about it, but letting things go isn't exactly one of my strong points. I began irrationally berating myself for taking too long to reply. If only I'd typed just one 'yes' instead of three! I could've been winging off to the White Isle the next day instead of sitting in my bedroom losing at virtual chess to a 6 year old Japanese boy.

It wasn't all bad though. I had a trip to the Job Centre to look forward to.


I had been dreading this day, but I knew it would come. There's only so long you can survive on the remaining dregs of a student loan before you have to leave your pride at the door and dip your hands into the pockets of the honest working people of the UK.

I had been on the dole before, back in 2004 when I was living in Nottingham. Although I had only signed on for a month, the experience was enough to put me off ever visiting a job centre again.

The day I signed on I was greeted by the cliche yet inevitable sight of men in trackies drinking Special Brew outside the entrance to the building. It wasn't much better inside, either. You could smell the apathy (or was it stale beer and smack?) reeking from the pores of most of the people in there. But as depressing as it was, it was enough to give me the motivational kick up the backside that eventually led to a very exciting job as a filing clerk for which I received the princely wage of 10k.

Fortunately, things appear to have moved on since then, if Palmers Green Job Centre Plus is anything to go by. The interior of the building is just two massive open-plan offices, rather than a holding pen for criminals like the Nottingham one had been. I suspect that the relative plushness of the building is a by-product of this seemingly-endless recession. If there's any public sector industry deserving of government funding at the moment, it's the Job Centre.

After a rude and disinterested woman made me sign a few forms I sat down on a comfortable leather sofa and awaited my interview. I twiddled my thumbs for a bit, desperately trying not to think about the trip to Ibiza that never was.

A couple of minutes later a wirey guy sat down on the sofa opposite and began staring intently at me. I couldn't be certain that he was actually looking at me as my eyesight is a bit dodgy these days (well, I am 25...) and he was a good 10 metres away, but I was fairly sure that he was fishing for an eye-joust.

My first instinct was to stare back in some pathetic attempt at demonstrating my masculine dominance. I managed to keep it going for about 30 seconds before the awkwardness became too much. Short of darting my eyes from left to right like an anxious squirrel, the only option was a book, so I dipped into my bag and began re-reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation despite only finishing it the day before. That showed him!

The interview itself was pretty uneventful. All I had to do was jump through a few hoops (metaphorical ones, fortunately), sign another stack of forms and pretend to be interested in the terrible jobs the interviewer suggested and I was officially registered :)

The Job

So, yes... this interview. I can't go into too much detail about what the job is due to the completely irrational fear that my prospective employer will find this blog and decide that they don't want such a cynical person working for them. But it involves creating TV network transmission schedules, writing enticing spiel to get people to watch the programmes and doing a few other administrative and vaguely creative tasks. It's not exactly a dream role, but it would at least give me a foot in the door of the media industry and the opportunity to mix with wacky Shoreditchian Nathan Barley types :)

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