Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Funeployment 7 - Universal Job Match

There are many words I can use to describe the site Universal Job Match ‘helpful’ and ‘useful’ would not be two of them. For those of you reading this who have either been fortunate enough never to have been unemployed or been told to use this site then all you need to know is that the design is sort of like an employment version of Facebook. You enter in your information, education, skills etc and the type of work you are looking for and the site recommends any potential jobs that have been posted there.

In essence this is a very useful tool as notifications are sent anytime relevant work is posted and the layout is clear making it easy to navigate. However, this site can only really be likened to the experience of having an online session with a Job Centre adviser. NB See previous posts for an insight into the kind of experience that is.

After being advised/told to register with the site as a way to optimise my job hunt I felt that there was nothing left to lose and that I may as well sign up. Like I said before, using the site was easy - it took me hardly any time to enter my qualifications, key skills, work experience and the areas that I looking for work in. The problems came once the site started to recommend potential jobs for me, much like with the Job Centre.

Now, I am used to the fact that being a Russian speaker is a fairly unique skill and as such the number of jobs listed on a site like this one are usually minimal. What I hadn't factored in was that old jobs are not removed and still appear in searches. My first try to find a job using Russian rendered several hits however pretty much all of them were from two months back and the application process had closed.

Another thing that I had not considered is that Universal Job Match seems to use generalisations. For Example I searched for jobs using Russian a.k.a a languages job so anything classified as a 'languages job' is then listed in my 'recommended for you' section. Something I discovered when I opened my email the next day to find a whole list of jobs that Universal Jobs Match recommended for me including Hungarian Translator, German Teacher, German Speaking Engineer, and Turkish In House Translator. While all of these jobs are technically within my area of expertise they are not with languages that I speak or even listed on my form. It would seem that Universal Job Match has done the equivalent of going 'Oh Laura speaks Russian, that is a foreign language therefore Laura must speak all foreign languages!' #Fail.

As you may have gathered from reading my previous posts, my expectations of pretty much anything to do with the Job Centre are fairly low, but it does certainly feel that with this site the mark has totally been missed. The idea and potentially for the site is great - tailoring job hunts based on a person's skills, education and experience. However, it is in the actualisation of the idea that it has failed.

Once again, the job hunt continues...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Fun-employment 6 - The Job Centre III

Another week and another trip to the Job Centre. Now since my first and most memorable trip there my subsequent visits have improved, however it was during this trip that one of my worst fears came into fruition. It was suggested I become a spy.

I arrived at this appointment on time and will all the relevant documents I needed. My first problem came when I tried to sign in for my appointment and was told that the person I was due to see was not there. This was then followed by an incriminating and searching look and the question 'why exactly are you here?' Having conquered the dragon at the gate, so to speak, I was in and sat waiting for my session.

This time I saw yet another adviser who began by asking me how my job hunt was going then moved on to ask about my education. It was very much with baited breath that I began to explain about my educational qualifications and waited for the question; 'What's a Masters?' Luckily this time my adviser knew and gave me an impressed look. This was then followed by questions about my work history etc once I had finished telling them my employment history there was a somewhat quizzical expression on my advisers face as they then asked 'so, if you have an MA, speak Russian and have previous work experience, why exactly are you unemployed?' To which I resisted the urge to reply 'well if I knew that then I wouldn't bloody be in here would I?!?!' Remembering that the box releasing my JSA had yet to be ticked I decided that this was very much one occasion where speaking my mind was definitely NOT a good plan.

Once my inquisition was over it was on to my personal favourite section of any trip to the Job Centre - The 'Let's check our database and find jobs for you' section. After looking at the the types of work that I was looking for my adviser got quite excited as there had just been some jobs sent through that morning that fitted with my  profile. Based upon previous trips and previous recommendations my expectations for this sessions' jobs was not exactly high and, as it turns out, I was right not to get my hopes up. 

This sessions recommendations were to apply for a 'writing job' at an Art Gallery (this turned out to have nothing at all to do with writing), a 'languages job' with the Police (the only language needed for said job was English and you didn't get to actively work with any uniformed policemen), and *drum roll please* MI6, which was accompanied by the comment 'so... you speak Russian, have you thought about a job at MI6? They're looking for interpretators, you're one of them you should go for it.'

While the final part of the statement was lovely to hear the rest of it produced two reactions in me; the first was a series of flashbacks to my sessions at another Job Centre where each week it was recommended that I apply to GCHQ, and two a confusion by the word 'interpretators'. Was this some new buzz word that was a contraction of 'translator' and 'interpreter'? Or was this merely a bastardisation of the English language. As it turns out it was the later.

After being rather unhelpfully advised on the next stages of my career path I was set two tasks for the next week; to follow the Job Centre on Twitter, not the hilarious spoof one but the actual one, and two to use the Universal Job Match site to find jobs. An experience that in itself merits its own post.

The job search continues...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

WRF rasies money for iOrphan

Russian and CIS charity iOrphan will be celebrating a £600 contribution to their cause following a Westminster Russia Forum fundraising dinner earlier this month.

The group’s ‘Old New Year’ Dinner was timed to coincide with the Russian Orthodox New Year which falls on 14th January, and featured Human Rights spokesman and former Ambassador Craig Murray as guest speaker at the sell-out event in SamarQand Restaurant, London.  Profits from ticket sales and a raffle totalling £600 went directly to iOrphan.

The charity provides basic necessities and shelter to orphans and homeless children living in the former Soviet Bloc countries whilst also encouraging them to gain skills and become self-supporting functional members of society. The money raised on the evening will go to supporting the good work being done by volunteers at three orphanages in Kostroma, a historic town around 200 miles East of Moscow.

Richard Peers, of iOprhan UK said:

“Despite the increasing efforts of the Russian government to help find families for the children living in orphanages, most of the children are in desperate need of the love and attention, and no matter how hard the orphanage staffs try there simply are not enough of them, not enough money, and frankly, not enough hours in the day to support their needs.  That’s where we come in–we help, we don’t solve.  We work with local Russians to give kids some of the opportunities they need in the meantime.”

Richard Royal, Chairman of Westminster Russia Forum added:

“It was a fantastic evening with great food, company and speeches. But most importantly we helped to raise money for this very important charity. It may only be a drop in the ocean at the moment but if what we have gained from just one event can help in some way, we’re very proud of that.”

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Funemployment 5 - The Council Office

When being unemployed it is not just the Job Centre and the Department of Work and Pensions that you get to visit.  If you would like to receive housing benefit or council tax benefit, so you can continue to pay your rent and council tax, you also get the chance to visit your local Council Offices.

In my case the Council Offices involve a nice 40 minute bus ride or 20 minute train trip in an area of London I rarely set foot in. After trying to sort out the changes to my council tax paying status by phone I was told that I would need to come to the offices in person with documentation to prove that I am in fact unemployed. This is fair enough, otherwise anyone could phone up trying to scam them out of free money.

Previously I had had to deal with the council, had had to wait for over 2 hours in order to spend 5 minutes with a lady who gave me a stack of papers to fill in and tell me to come back later. The second time I had again had to wait nearly 2 hours to spend 5 minutes with another lady who took my papers and documents and nearly died of shock at the fact that I had managed to gather original copies of all documents needed AND had filled in the form correctly. This lady had then rather loudly declared that I was 'the most organised person she'd ever met'. Something I thought a little over dramatic but then I remembered that she worked for the council so this was in fact mostly probably true.

Thus it was with much trepidation that I departed for the council offices complete with water, snacks and my copy of Great Expectations. If I was going to have to wait then I may at least try to enjoy it.

When I arrived there were four people in front of me queueing to get to reception, drawing breath and mentally preparing myself for the wait, I joined the queue. After a few minutes I was explaining my situation to the receptionist and was handed the number 44 and was instructed to go to the waiting area. Now 44 seemed like a fairly low number as usually I am handed a number like 238 or 500 so I was mildly worried that they were so busy that they had gone through the numbers and had gone back to the start. Luckily, however, this was not the cast.

Picking up my stuff I wandered over to the waiting area and checked the 'next to be called board' which stated that number 40 was next to be seen. Glancing down at my number I realised that there were actually only 3 people in front of me. I had been prepared to spend a good hour or so of one-on-one time with Charles Dickens and potentially spend the night in the place. This was without a doubt a much better experience than normal where I am number 238 and number 30 is being taken.

After only having time to read half a chapter of Great Expectations I was seen, signed the relevant forms, submitted the documents and was heading home. In this instance it would seem that the Council Offices were actually superior in service to the Job Centre. Yes, really! I am surprised as you!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Funemployment 4 - The Job Centre II

The new year broke and I was still firmly in 'Funemployment', which meant one thing - another trip to the Job Centre. It was with much trepidation that I awoke on the morning of said visit. Based on my experiences from the previous time I had entered there my expectations were not high.
The visit did not get off to a great start as I managed to arrive late. I was told 11:40 by the 'adviser', but it turned out that when I checked the form I was in fact meant to be there at 11:10. The time I realised this - 11:20. Luckily as I entered the Job Centre, no one seemed to notice. Not sure if was a blessing or a sign of incompetentence.
My experiences this time were much improved on last time, I saw a different person (the previous one was leaning against a filing cabinet, deeply engaged in conversation with a colleague discussing how they had each spent New Years Eve) who actually turned out to be both helpful and encouraging. I was informed that I was on the right track, looked at the booklet I have to fill in each week then went 'Wow! That's a lot of job applications! You really do want to work don't you?!'. The look of genuine shock on their face implied that this seemed to be a rare occasion.
Despite being told that I would need to attend on a weekly basis due to a lack of free appointments I would have to return in 2 weeks. I am hoping that the next person I see will be just as helpful, however, based on the previous experience it may be that I have been lulled into a false sense of security. Only my next trip will tell.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Russian Radio

To try to make it a bit more exciting as I apply for jobs I decided that it might be good to listen to Russian radio. My hope was that if I listen to the radio in Russian I will improve my listening skills, learn some new vocab and maybe find some new music that I like.
I started out with a Popular Music station called Evropa Plus. The presenters were easy to understand and spoke at a good speed unfortunately most of the music they played was in English or was terrible. My personal favourite was a song that contained the lyrics; 'Boy you got a PHD, I got a Masters in Boy-ology'. Clearly a new station was required, one that would induce feelings of rage in me by the terrible quality of the music.
After posting my dismay at the 'quality' of this music I directed to a much better station called 'Nashe Radio' that only played Russian music and had a mix of some songs I knew and some I didn't. While listening I discovered this beautiful song by a group called Pelageia. The song is a traditional folk one called 'Oi, da ne vecher' (Oh, on this evening) about dream the singer has about a raven black horse and visions of being beheaded. The clip and words are below;




Ой, то не вечер, то не вечер,
Мне малым-мало спалось,
Мне малым-мало спалось,
Ох, да во сне привиделось...


Мне во сне привиделось,
Будто конь мой вороной
Разыгрался, расплясался,
Разрезвился подо мной.


Налетели ветры злые
Со восточной стороны.
Ой, да сорвали чёрну шапку
С моей буйной головы.


А есаул догадлив был —
Он сумел сон мой разгадать.
"Ох, пропадёт, — он говорил,
Твоя буйна голова."


Ой, то не вечер, то не вечер,
Мне малым-мало спалось,
Мне малым-мало спалось,
Ох, да во сне привиделось...


Ох, да во сне привиделось...
Ох, да во сне привиделось...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

As 2012 has drawn to a close it is the time to reflect on everything that happened in the past year; things I accomplished, things to improve upon, and things to continue doing in the new year.

To summarise 2012 has been the year that I; completed my MA Hons in Russian from UCL, became Events Manager for Westminster Russia Forum, continued as Editor of Voices (Voices of the 7 Billion), travelled to Madrid with Hannah Bysouth, Paris with Andrew Scott-Taggart and Brussels with London CF, met the Russian Ambassador, moved in with Dorte Kjelgaard and Jane Byrne, and began interning for Collection Red. I think that it is fair to say that 2012 has been a pretty amazing year and if 2013 is as good as 2012 then I will be very happy.

Reflecting on 2012 has also helped me to create my 2013 resolutions. Apart from the standard drink less, give money to charity, be nice to others (even if they vote Labour ;) ) etc etc I will;

1. Get a new job relating to my skills e.g. Russian speaking (and not as a love bride, nanny or gangster)
2. Try to become a publisher author (even if it is just a letter to the Editor in the Telegraph)
3. Exercise at least once a week (and running for the bus will not count towards this)
4. Not skip meals. (When busy I am really bad at skipping meals this will not happen in 2013, I hope)
5. Aim to read 50/100 Top 100 books. (I have read basically everything Russian now to move on to English, American, French literature).

So there we go my 5 aims for 2013. I would also like to take this chance to wish you a very Happy New Year! And for any Russian speaking readers С Новым Годом! Желаю вам успех, счасте, денги и любовь в 2013!