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.