Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Thank God it's Monday

I have been self-employed for over a decade, and as such, I often have Fridays (or any other day of the week) off. But still, there’s something about a Friday afternoon that makes me feel freer and more relaxed, and I look forward to the weekend.

I give myself extra leeway on weekends – I can lie around reading or watching TV or movies when I feel guilty for doing that during the week, I sleep in without feeling lazy, and there’s the extra treat that my husband brings me a cup of tea in bed most Saturdays and Sundays. If we’re ever going to have pancakes or waffles for brunch, it happens on a weekend.

Mondays though, don’t bother me now. I like them – they’re the day I can get back into a routine, exercise, go places free of crowds. And it’s even better today, because the kids are finally back at school. The malls and non-CBD cafes and movie theatres and beaches will revert to their usual, non-crowded spaces – tranquil, even.

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As most of my readers know, Mali is not my real name. When I began blogging, I found that most of the blogs I was reading, and the bloggers who were reading me, used a pseudonym. I felt that I was in good company. There is a certain protection to anonymity that enables you to be honest – sometimes to a fault, perhaps, but usually I find this honesty has worked well for me.  (Honesty about me, that is, my flaws and issues, rather than honesty about others.)

Now though, I’m much more open about this blog. I publicise posts on Facebook, and know that many of my family and friends read it. A friend jokes that she doesn’t need to call or text to find out what I’ve been up to, she just checks the blog.

But I feel constrained here too, for precisely that reason. I’m job-hunting. I have been looking for work – directorships, contracting, consulting or full-time – since we returned from our overseas self-described sabbatical (though I did take about six months out earlier this year). It isn’t easy looking for jobs at my age. Assumptions are made, especially (don’t ask me why) about women my age, despite the fact that any organisation would be lucky to have me. Assumptions too, are made about people who have had time out, as my husband and I have had. Yet as a result of that and some other changes in my life, I feel refreshed, healthier, and more capable than I have for a number of years. I figure I have at least another 10-15 years (economy-dependent) of working left in me, so commitment isn’t an issue. Assumptions are also made about people who haven’t worked full-time, people who have dabbled in a number of areas, as I have. Over the last twelve years I’ve been a consultant, a trainer, a writer, a company director and the Chair of a Board, and a volunteer. All of these activities have given me valuable experience that mean I am more capable and valuable than I was when I was working full-time. Yet recruiters or potential employers may look at this with suspicion. I wonder about their lack of imagination, their own limited life experiences, that prevent them from seeing this. What is it about being older, more experienced and responsible and skilful, that is so negative to recruiters, so threatening to future employers?

I know that recruiters now may well look on-line for information on job candidates. Other than international travels, I don’t think I live a very exciting life. No-one is going to find any salacious photographs of me on-line, or get access to my FB pages (where sadly there are still no salacious photographs of me) to see how inappropriate I can be. But if they are determined, they may be able to find their way here, where I share opinions on a number of subjects. And another site where I am (or want to be) even more honest. Knowing this, I’m quite careful about what I say.  Maybe that shows discretion. Maybe it shows that there’s really nothing that controversial about me. Or maybe it means I can’t show you the real Mali (though you get about 90% of her).

So should I be so careful?

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Normal programming

I’ve been self-employed, working from home, for over ten years now. (I’m closer to unemployed than self-employed since our long trip to Europe last year, but I’m working on that!)

Since I left work full-time, I’ve stuck to routines, and little rules:

  • I don’t sleep in during the week, unless I’m sick, no matter how much I want to.
  • I don’t read books during the day. (Very rarely, anyway).
  • I go to the gym first thing in the morning.
  • I don’t drink until after 5 pm (except on a Friday), even if the wine cellar is calling to me earlier.
  • I keep a weekend, allowing myself special treats during the weekend (watching a programme during the day, reading, sleeping, etc) that I don’t indulge in during the week.
  • I try to achieve something every day.
  • I go to bed at a semi-reasonable time during the week.

But since we’ve got home from Europe, with my husband at home too, it has been harder to stick to this routine. Every day feels like the weekend. And of course, we have had the Christmas and New Year break, which in New Zealand extends for several weeks beyond 1 January as our summer break.

Today is the first day that the country really “gets back to work.” Even the husband has started talking about job hunting, and I’ve felt inspired to get some work done. And so when I read on Facebook that a few hours ago, a friend had been relaxing on her Sunday morning in the US, I felt envious, commenting that of course here it was Monday.  I didn’t even register that it is a public holiday in our city today. Clearly, my routine is completely out of whack.  What day is it? Who cares!

Hopefully, tomorrow, normal programming will resume. I plan on heading off to the gym first thing.

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We are not independently wealthy. A Lotto win continues to elude us, instead going to people who seem needy. We haven’t made career decisions that have seen us stay in the same company for 25 years, coming out of it with either a generous redundancy package or a healthy retirement plan. Companies or organisations with those are few and far between these days in New Zealand. Of course, there was always the government. We live and work worked in a government town, but neither of us have government pensions. I haven’t worked for the government since 1996. I suspect if I had stayed there, I’d have either gone mad, or committed a serious, violent offence. The husband didn’t have the option to stay in the government either. Restructuring and privatisation of his industry meant that he has moved around and had an interesting career, but one which hasn’t offered long term stability. I quit my directorship (once I resigned as Chair, I really was only getting coffee money) to go overseas this year, and consulting work has dried up. So here we are. – two well-travelled unemployed folks.

We’ve been home a month now. We’re procrastinating a bit on the job hunt, both of us as bad as each other. I found something that didn’t appall me, so I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. He is still procrastinating. There’s not that much about. I figure we have till after Christmas before it starts to get urgent. Maybe by the New Year we’ll actually feel like working again?  I live in hope.

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As a consultant, I’ve designed and taught several courses about marketing, in particular, about marketing your services. After all, there’s not much more personal in sales than selling yourself, your thoughts and abilities and personality and style. It’s not easy. You may be a brilliant consultant because you understand your clients, they trust you, you develop insight, and you tailor your approach to each individual client and their specific needs. You may be a brilliant consultant because you are an expert at what you do – leading your city, country, or even the world. But unless you’re able to

a) explain your value in terms your client understands and values, or

b) actually put yourself out there in front of potential clients, put yourself out to be seen (and yes, judged), then you won’t get the work.

I’m terrible at the above.   Well, no, let me qualify that. I am skilled at knowing how to do it, and I can teach it really well (those who can’t teach, huh?).  But when it comes to doing it for myself, for my own business, point b) gets me every time. Call it fear, call it a lack of self-belief, call me shy, or call me a coward. I wish I was better at self-promotion, at acknowledging what I’m good at (and I’m very good at that), and at convincing others.  I wish I was braver.

So yes, I know I should practice what I preach.  And you should too.  Or you’ll be stuck at home, writing blog posts.

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Years ago, I quit my job and became self-employed.  I was fed up with misogynist stereotypes and political game-playing.  I wanted to work for myself, explore my interests, learn what I was good at.  Apparently, I’m good at (for?) everything and nothing.  Disillusionment –it runs on a ten year cycle.

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The worst part of self-employment – well, apart from the boss, the pay, the lack of sick pay, and in fact the un-employment – is doing my own tax. And so, even when I put it off to the last minute (which is tomorrow), I still procrastinate.

Things I am doing or have already done today or still could do if I get really desperate, instead of doing my tax, include:

  1. Writing a blog post about procrastinating doing my tax
  2. Cleaning my desk, filing, and generally tidying my very untidy office
  3. Message a friend I haven’t seen for over 30 friends
  4. Ensure I am up to date on Facebook, because that can’t wait!
  5. Check my frequent flyer points totals in case they’ve grown overnight
  6. Email my travel agent
  7. Write an overdue letter to a friend who likes receiving real letters in the mail
  8. Join a new recipe site and go through a bunch of recipes and save them in my Cookbook
  9. Watch the pilot of Missing online
  10. Play Solitaire
  11. Write some more blog posts about the value of social networking
  12. Write some other stuff
  13. Check I’m up to date with blog reading
  14. Finish the daily Sudoku in the newspaper
  15. Read the newspaper
  16. Copy photos onto a disk for a friend
  17. Make another friend a birthday card
  18. Continue puzzling over the dilemma of where in the world I should celebrate my birthday
  19. Plan dinner
  20. Make dinner

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