I am nothing if not unconventional.
My boys are at a difficult age, starting out from the cosseted world of education and trying to make it in the world of business and employment. School has equipped them with knowledge about many things but not yet how to be The One; the one who stands out from the rest. I am not sure where that will be learnt. I suspect the same place as I learned; in the hard competitive university of life.
I have never really conformed to being a normal person. I struggle to follow the expected norm from childhood and in my life since. I have often felt alone working in a very male orientated world where I slowly erode the pre-conceptions of being a woman to becoming accepted and welcomed. This is probably a hang up from not being able to study mechanical engineering at university when I was in a very antiquated convent school with my limited options of nun, nurse, teacher or if I had to housewife.
Only this week I had to rely on my individuality to win a new contract. Being self-employed and running my own businesses on and off over the years I have been on the receiving end of copious job applications and interviews. Each time I look for that spark of individuality that says this person is different and I can work well with. I hope my boys will realise they need to stand out from the norm and bring that extra something.
My first job interview was not what I expected at all. We were only 16 when my best friend from school was persuaded by her mother to unwillingly apply for a Saturday job at a well-known electrical retailers. She was not happy about it and her mother asked me to accompany her to the interview. If only to calm her down and make sure she got there ok. I was happy to oblige grateful it was not me being pushed to get a job so young.
We sat in the waiting room, her quietly fuming at her mother and me trying to reassure her that it was just a meeting. She got called in and I sat twiddling my fingers waiting, chatting to people who walked by, knowing we had enough money for a hot chocolate but with careful budgeting we could indulge in a cake before catching the bus home. She came out and I stood to leave with her. The interviewer asked me to go in for chat. Reluctant to be involved and really not wanting a job Saturday or otherwise I was adamant I did not want to. My friend encouraged me and the lady suggested I came in and saw it as a learning experience in case I ever needed to attend an interview.
They were right of course it was all about learning and experiences. I went in, chatted amiably telling them all about me and my plans for the future, left my phone number and off we went for the promised drink. By the time I got home I was met by a very bemused mother who told me I had a job starting the following Saturday. Why had I not told her that was I was going; simply because I had not planned to?
Needless to say I did take the job and worked for a couple of years till I went off to nursing college. My friend and I remained close friends. She found a Saturday job in a small textile shop which gave her much needed discounts to feed her dressmaking passion. She left college to work full time in the shop and later moved into the management of the chain of shops developing the career she craved. Her mother did not hold it against me, at least her daughter had gone for the interview and when the right job came along she had that experience to fall back on.
I had not known it then but that was going to be a template for my working life, none of my jobs have I got through formal methods. A night in a London Wine bar meeting a complete stranger is probably not one I would advocate for the youth of today, but I had heard about it word of mouth and I loved the very unconventional secretarial job that followed that interview.
What was particularly unusual about this week was I wasn’t looking for the job but it all seemed to fall into place and I ended up with a new contract. I asked him why me.
“ there were so many applicants, but yours was different, fast and efficient then you pushed me for a trial. Your knowledge and understanding of the subject means that I don’t have to spend time explaining complicated terminology and you already have the equipment”.
To me it is obvious if I don’t understand the work, however lovely, however wonderful the job is, it will not work out.
When the next contract comes up for grabs will I use the same tactics. Not exactly, I have no doubt I will approach it in the same unconventional way, however each contract is individual and the preliminary research could well lead me to a completely different point of commonality for us to work from. Some I might resort to basic knowledge, some I might have to resort to a touch of moral massaging and there will be some that I need to just be capable. How do I impart my individuality and difference to my children? How do I make them realise that being the same is sometimes not enough? They will always be for me but how do I make them one in a million ready for the working world?
So to the business of writing, and again I am delighted to have a photo and caption in this week’s “that’s life” magazine helping me a little towards this years writing school experience.
Memories is out with a beta reader (someone going through looking for continuity, grammar and probably spelling) who I hope is going to use a gentle red pen as she reads and re-writes it. It is such a complicated time line for the story that I need to be sure it works in real time and I am hoping that she will still enjoy the story.
Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats.