Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I have, it would appear, remained lyrically challenged over the past month. I put this down to being consumed by the sensation that I’m actually, properly working again – you know, like, in a real-life office, instead of my makeshift kitchen bureau.

Unfortunately, yesterday it dawned on me that the solution to my career hiatus remains, of course, a temporary one – a thought that brought with it a cold, November wave of fresh depression. Urgh.

I proceeded to embark on a very strenuous sobbing session, which was made somewhat comical as it occurred whilst I simultaneously attempted to make a fish soup. At times I couldn’t tell if the damp sensation on my face was soup spray flying up from my hand blender or streams of tears.

Anyway, I wisely decided it was time to take solace in the television, and flicked onto these amazing images of bright blue and red sea dragons – think Dior versions of seahorses. Turns out I was watching BBC1’s Life, and this particular episode was all about fish.

I was particularly impressed by the clown fish – it's the males who look after all the eggs until they are born and if they don’t do a good enough job the female will tell them to hop it and find a better option. Clown fish are on to something there.

But the star of these ocean creatures, in my opinion, was the humble mudskipper. They have a remarkable Pixar-like appearance and at fist glance simply lollop about, chilling in slimy mud all day. But these unassuming creatures basically toil every hour god sends to eat, copulate and out-smart predators. They create these intricate underground tunnels, which every day get flooded and filled with sludgy mud, so the process of clearing them is never ending. Then they lay all their eggs in these chambers, which eventually will run out of oxygen, so they travel from one end of a tunnel to the other gasping in air and depositing it in the egg chamber. Day in day out. And they don’t complain, they just get on with the job. OK I don’t know this for sure, but it’s unlikely.

It was bizarrely inspiring – made all the more so (bizarre, that is) by the aforementioned fish soup I somehow managed to finish cooking and eat during the programme.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hired! Sort of.

I know, I know, it’s been ages again and I’m sorry. But I’ve been very busy attempting to seem like I know a thing about style (i.e. disguising Primark/charity shop/ boarding-on-antique-they-are-so-old purchases as high-end fashion), learning to wear my hair in a very high chignon and desperately trying to not get caught eating cake or chocolate in the presence of eternal dieters. Women’s magazines are exhausting places to be sometimes. The pressure to wear augmented shoulders and bejewelled ballet flats was immense, I can tell you.

Anyway, that stint over, I have decided that the only way to get myself back into this godforsaken game of life is to employ myself. So I have and am now officially my own boss! I’ll spend three days a week in an office and two working from my own kitchen, and will be endeavouring to write a huge variety of articles on subjects ranging from dairy farms and legends of rural churches to the latest hire at a really obscure law firm in Uzbekistan. No, really.

But fret not! Under no circumstances does this mean the end of Employ-a-Bull, goodness no, what blasphemy! It will keep going just as long as this impious recession is around plaguing our lives, and who knows, maybe even beyond. Because recession or not, maximising skills, considering different options and learning new talents in order to further our careers will always be relevant – and that’s pretty much where this blog finds it heart.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just have to go and give myself a health and safety briefing and not tell myself off for checking Facebook during office hours.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Blogging it about a bit

Below is a link to a little something I knocked up for a bloomin' great blog-style website called The London Word. Apologies in advance for always ranting about employment. Must try to diversify.

Click on me please!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Virtually my new BFF

I have a new love in my life. No, no, it’s not a man, it isn’t even a new pair of shoes, it’s a games console.

Now, if two weeks ago you’d said to me, “Rachel, I can see into the future and yours heavily features a certain computer game”, I’d have laughed you right outta town. I don’t do computer games. Then the Wii came into my life. Now I do.

I’ve blogged in the past about the loneliness of working from home, and how a lack of commuting risks serious pound gainage if you’re not careful. The Wii solves both these problems, and is oh so much more.

To be clear, I’m talking in the main about the Wii Fit.

Honestly, it’s like having a new BFF. Whenever I turn it on it converses with me quite spontaneously and even encourages me to take breaks every 20 minutes, for which I am grateful.

It is brutally truthful with me – again, another quality of a true friend. The other day it told me I had put on two pounds since the last time we met, and it made me think about the possible reasons for my weight gain. This came as quite a shock and was perhaps a step too far in our relatively green relationship, but regardless I chose “drinking too much”, and repented my actions.

It also has a built-in sense of humour. After a brief few days of non-interaction between us, it pretended to have forgotten my name – the kidder!

And it gives you credit where its due. I am currently the reigning champion of Hula Hoop and Super Hula Hoop, and for this my Mii gets to wear a crown!

What more could you possibly want from a daytime companion?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Back to school

Ok, no more excuses. The schools have gone back, green batches of freshers are about to embark on a year of testing their livers to the limit, and WHSmith’s has slashed 50% off its stationary prices. All the signs are there; we’re in September.
As a consequence, I must accept that my summer recess has come to an end. Such is the reason behind my blogging hiatus – well, that and an abundant dollop of anxiety caused by a serious state of employment limbo (what else?), but there’ll be time to go into that later.
For now, how about some News in Briefs chronicling my first week of term.

Seeing Red
There are plenty of people who would kill to be in my position, I know. A month’s placement with the features team on Red magazine is nothing to be sniffed at. But Oh. My. God. I am so over sorting post and photocopying. It’s my first day, so I know I’ll have to bide my time before I get to do any of the juicier stuff, but let me ask you this. Is it wrong that I want to stick a big fat sign to my head that reads I’M 27, HAVE HAD SEVERAL FULL-TIME JOBS AND AM A GOOD WRITER! Is it?

A lifeline
Waaahoooo! The day the workie got a by-line in a national newspaper! How often do people get to say that? I must say this brightened up the daily cuttings task no end. Because on page 22 of the Daily Mail was none other than the article I’d written on, well, on urine actually! To be more precise, it’s about a website called RunPee, that can conveniently tell you exactly when the best moments are in a movie to go to the loo. Genius. The piece was published as part of a regular slot called Lifelines. Apt. But I only discovered just how much the following day.

An aptly timed rejection
This morning brought a call I had been dreading for approximately three weeks. The terrifying rejection from a job I honestly, dangerously, believed was mine. I was shaking terrifically when I took the call – is this the end of my frugal months of job hunting? I knew instantly from the tone of voice on the other end that it was not. But instead of collapsing in uncontrollable despair, I was actually ok. This came as such a shock to me, that it made me feel even better about the whole situation, to the point where I decided I had something to celebrate and spent the evening drinking fizzy wine with a good friend. Why? It may seem like nonsense to so many of you who have been telling me this for the past few months, but I simply realised that the situation I find myself in has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a crap journalist. On the contrary; it’s because of our crap economy. So I made a decision. I’m going to carry on. I’m going to manage this situation the best I can and one day, maybe next month, maybe next year, I’ll be back in the job I really want. Until then, look out nationals – here I come!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Desperate times call for creative measures

One thing I’m loving about this recession, (and there isn't a lot) is that it’s really bringing out the imagination in people. Sure, jobs are scarce and competition for them is ruthless, so making yourself stand out of the crowd has possibly never been more important.

Say hello to Peter Barlow. An unemployed, disillusioned accountant and my new favourite person of the week. (Never thought I’d see the day!)

With the help of a big white sign and his best business suit, this guy stood on London Bridge during rush hour every day for a week, asking city workers for a job .


For one thing, this proves that accountants have personalities. But, and lets be serious here for a second, it is also very courageous and inspiring.

He did as we jobless all do and applied for countless jobs (150 in total, or so says the Standard) through the regular, monotonous channels. When that proved fruitless, he took matters into his own number-crunching hands and advertised himself in a way that even M&C Saatchi would envy. He was successful too, going home with a pocket full of business cards and, here’s hoping, a renewed spirit.

It’s certainly given me food for thought. I mean, if this triggers an uprising against the damned covering letter, I’m there with bells on! Credit to you, Peter, and good luck.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Box-set repercussions

I am forever berating myself for not getting enough done in a day. It was bad enough when I had a regular structure and real-life objectives immortalised in my monthly appraisals. These days I generally force myself to get up – no one’s going to fire me if I don’t – and make an improbably long ‘To Do’ list in order to assure self that I’m putting every last second of my abundant free time to good use. Never works. Never end up ticking everything off said list and consequently feel perpetually angered for not working quicker. And I fear I have discovered the root cause of this problem: The Complete Seven Series of the West Wing.

I became a West Wing aficionado late in life – only last December did I begin to flirt with the idea of US politics after the boy bought the entire seven series on DVD – but oh my, I’m four and a half series in and am wholly converted.

President Bartlett and his loyal team of fast-talking, implausibly efficient and oh so beautiful advisors (Rob Lowe is almost indecently attractive) are my heroes. I want to be able to argue my case with the deputy chief of staff, citing a ridiculous amount of legal and political knowledge purely from memory; I want to read an amendment paper and digest the entire thing in two minutes before advising the President on foreign policy; and I want to speak really, really fast using complicated words while walking down White House corridors, and I want to do all this before I have eaten breakfast.

And herein lies the predicament. Every day I am subconsciously trying to emulate these characters. These FICTIONAL characters who deliver their lines to a FICTIONAL President and were created for a FICTIONAL US drama series about the White House and, importantly, get A LOT done in a single day.

Do I need a reality check?

But surely if I’m going to be influenced by any work ethic it should be that of senior White House staff? I mean, is there really anything wrong with imagining that one day I’ll be addressing a room of journalists on the President’s re-election campaign, before influencing a very important decision on international relations with the Middle East? Nah.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

What to take away from interviews

A job interview is a very stressful experience. It requires a lot of preparation and, if at the end of it you are not offered the position, often results in that empty, desolate feeling of disappointment, not to mention an empty wallet thanks to the train fare you’ll never get back.

People harp on about them “all being good experience”. Well cheers, but my interview experience bank is pretty full to bursting right now, it’s my monitory bank that could benefit from a serious credit injection.

Something I prefer to take from interviews (in addition to the obligatory “what could I have done better” crap) is the amusing anecdotes, which for some reason seem to stick in my mind.

For example, I recently had the good fortune to be interviewed by the most demeaning character I have ever come across. It was a very relaxing experience, as half a minute in I decided there was no way in hell I was going to end up working for the man, and he came out with some pretty corking lines.

An excerpt of dialogue from minute four:

“So, what’s this Global Competition Review then? You weren’t there very long, what was that an internship?”

He was referring to the longest period of employment on my CV, so that was quite heartening.

He went on to describe his publication as “utterly global” – I’m glad I now know things can be semi-global – and then accused me of lying on my CV because I couldn’t fire off 10 QuarkXpress keyboard shortcuts. So that was pleasant.

I’ve tripped up on occasion too, of course. I was once giving a critique of a very serious business newspaper to the editor and publisher, and told them that several sections resembled the terms and conditions of a competition, they were so small and boring, and that they should really consider introducing some colour onto the features pages to lift the words off the page. They laughed. I thought, ‘oh marvellous, at least I’ve made them laugh,’ until mid de-brief, I pretty much realised they were laughing at, and not with, me.

Far and away the best one-liner I’ve come across in an interview though has to be this:

“Country Companion? That sounds like a 70s style porno for countryside dwellers.”

It is in fact a very safe round up of book reviews, readers letters and countryside news regularly published in Country Living magazine. Brilliant.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Is no news really always good news?

Urgh, waiting. I don't like waiting. It's a tedious, tragically necessary pursuit one is forced into practicing at all too-frequent junctures in life. Waiting for the kettle to boil, for example, waiting for exam results, waiting to hear post-interview if you’ve been hired for a job you really want.

Often, in reference to the latter, friends delight in reassuring me that, ‘no news is good news’, to which I shrug and reluctantly agree is probably true. However, in true SATC style, it got me to thinking…

When is no news really not good news?

No news is not good news when a post-first date text message does not receive a response within 24 hours.

No news is never good news for relatives of those involved in any kind of crash/natural disaster/general emergency situation, no sir.

No news is also not good news in a hostage situation, but let’s move away from such gloomy examples.

No news is the worst news ever for a 24-hour news channel.

No news probably isn’t the best news for newspapers either, but as long as Jordan and Kerry Katona are still alive and debauched, they’ll at least be able to fill a few column inches.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

How to have a giggle and be a bit naughty at a wedding

I love weddings. Free booze, free food, everyone's happy (well, after the speeches are over) and you get to admire a lot of nice shoes. Such occasions do, however, invariably include a certain amount of hanging around, waiting for the bride to appear after being papped for the millionth time or metamorphosing into "Evening Bride", waiting for the speeches to be over, etc.

Anyway, it is at these junctures that you can indulge in what I like to refer to as 'fake careering'. The clue is in the name.

This is an especially fun pursuit if you hate your job (or indeed, wish you had one). Some people might call it lying. I prefer to think of it as creative research and an excellent tool of self-amusement.

To illustrate: More often than not, the seating plan will reveal you have been placed between two complete strangers, and it is very unlikely your paths will cross ever again. The champers is flowing and before you know it you're a make-up artist to the cast of Madame Butterfly at London's Coliseum theatre.

This is exactly what happened to me last Saturday at a friend's wedding where I knew precisely 1% of the other guests.

But I didn't stay a make-up artist all night - mais non! During the course of the evening I was a midwife, a set designer and a bonsai tree surgeon. Granted, the latter was at the height of inebriation, and whether the guy I was harping on to believed me, I doubt it, but at least it was a tad more interesting than answering “I’m unemployed” to the “so what do you do?” opening gambit, which inevitably sparks furious chatter about the severity of the recession. And honestly, who wants to talk about that at a wedding?

Weddings are meant to be dreamy occasions, so I reckon using them for a bit of personal escapism is allowed.

NB: Practice caution if it is a small gathering, or if you know over 6% of the other guests.