Archive for December, 2009

From 2009 to 2010

So here we are: New Years Eve, 2009! Well it’s has been a challenging year for me. Though not much more than 2008 was, it has to be said! It started ok with my having survived a round of redundancies, and our taking a holiday to Poland (which I can highly recommend – even in the depths of winter!) Sadly though, by March my hours had been cut to three days a week and things were pretty tough. It’s been challenging financially but I’ve been perversely grateful for it in some ways: Mr J and I had to make our lifestyle a lot leaner and, you know what? Turns out we used to burn a lot of money we really didn’t need to. We’ve learned to entertain ourselves without having to spend £50+ a time to do it, and it’s made us re-evaluate our priorities. Also, while I may not always act like it on the surface, I am eternally grateful for still having my three days a week. It’s three days more than some people have and we’ve just about been able to survive on it.

April was probably the hardest month. We were still coming to terms with our new frugal lifestyle and at the same time my Dad finally got a definite date for the brain surgery he was in need of. Neither my sister or I were living particularly close to my parents at the time and my Mum also had my Grandmother to look after. Thankfully we were all able to take time off work and get through it as a family. We have laughed and cried together and I’ve never felt closer to any of them than I do now – my Dad in particular.

The summer brought my own health issues but thankfully nothing too serious, and by Autumn things were looking up a little with weddings galore to attend! We also managed a “staycation” to Yorkshire thanks to some wonderful family friends, and waved goodbye to some of my best and oldest friends who have gone off travelling around the world. Travelling in your late 20’s / early 30’s is very en vogue with my friends right now, dontcha know!

Never a dull moment, October brought new challenges when I dropped to two days a week work for a while. This was totally crippling for us financially and for a while we weren’t sure how we were going to make the mortgage payments. We re-evaluated our outgoings (again) and managed to shave some more off our monthly expenditure, but thankfully it didn’t last long and I’ve since managed to pick up some freelance bits and pieces too, which will hopefully see us right for a while. Since November things at work have definitely been on the up. My employer has had two good months (though not on the recruitment side, sadly) and things seem to be stabilising slightly. Long may it continue!

@Animal (one of the people I follow on Twitter) asked the other week who was crazy enough to be grateful for 2009. Well I am and I’m not. I’m grateful that everyone I love has lived through the year and, depressing as that may sound, I don’t see it that way – I think it’s something to be pretty grateful for! I’ve also had to grow up a lot and re-evaluate my life and priorities. Some of them surprised me, some of them didn’t. Like it or not though, I’m a better and stronger person for the exercise. Even if I have shed a lot of tears in the process!

I’ve no idea what 2010 has in store for me and I’m not prepared to make any predictions either! What will be, will be! So here’s to the new year and whatever it may hold. Bring it on – I’m as ready as I’ll ever be! 🙂

To keep your brain active over the holidays…

… here’s a little riddle for you! I expect you’ve seen it before – Einstein supposedly wrote it in the late 1800’s. He said that 98% of the world population would not be able to solve it. Well maybe that was true in the 1800’s but these days I think the percentage would be substantially lower! If you use a table to work it out you’ll probably be done in about ten minutes…

I love the Christmas holidays: Nearly two weeks of unadulterated enjoyment! But it’s not good for my brain. So have a go at Einstein’s Riddle and give your brain a bit of a mid-holidays boost! 🙂

  • In a street there are five houses, painted five different colors.
  • In each house lives a person of different nationality.
  • Each homeowner drinks a different kind of beverage, smokes a different brand of cigar and keeps a different type of pet.

The question is: Who owns the fish?

This is what we know…

  1. The British man lives in a red house.
  2. The Swedish man keeps dogs as pets.
  3. The Danish man drinks tea.
  4. The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house.
  5. The owner of the Green house drinks coffee.
  6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
  7. The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  8. The man living in the center house drinks milk.
  9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  10. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  12. The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
  13. The German smokes Prince.
  14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. The Blends smoker lives next to the one who drinks water.

No cheating ok – this is for your own good! 🙂

HELP! What do you do with your blog over Christmas?

So first of all I’d like to take this opportunity to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours! I hope you enjoy the holidays, stay safe, and get to spend lots of time with your family and friends!

I’m still super-new to all this, so this is my first Christmas as a blogger! But I find myself in a bit of a quandary: What are you meant to do with your blog over the holidays?

I’ve broken up from work now until 4th January and, while I’ll no doubt be tweeting my way through the holidays, I imagine my tweets will be about rather more inane things than usual (if that’s at all possible!) and a lot more sporadic. So what’s standard protocol amongst bloggers and what do YOU do?

As far as I can see I have three options:

  1. Leave it alone for a fortnight and begin again as normal in the new year
  2. Post as normal and to my usual schedule
  3. Post some sporadic festive stuff as and when I’m inspired

I don’t even know whether anyone will read my posts over the holidays – after all, it’s a time for family, friends and celebrating.

So what do you think? All ideas are welcome!

Poorly Sick – To Work or Not to Work?

In my humble opinion there’s nothing worse than being ill. Other than feeling rubbish it’s a total imposition on your life – suddenly you can’t think straight; you have no energy; and spend you most of your time either asleep or wishing you were asleep. I am not a good ill person – I mostly think I’m dying (even if it’s just a cold) and feel incredibly sorry for myself! A little like man flu, but worse… This is how I feel at the moment. This is my second (count ‘em!) cold in a month and I’m sooo fed up! 😦

But I’m not here to moan (well ok, maybe I’m here to moan a little!) – I’m here to debate the issue every poorly person faces: Should I go into work when I’m sick? Absenteeism versus presenteeism, if you will. It’s always such a difficult call! UK employees take nearly 7 days off sick a year, on average, but obviously that incorporates everyone from those signed off on long term sickness absence to those who never take a day off.

No-one wants to be the one in the office who’s “sick again” though! We’ve all been there – we want to go in so we can get our work done; so our colleagues won’t think we’re skiving; so we can get paid (well, if you’re self-employed or only get SSP). But let’s be realistic – when your colleagues come in sick, you hate it right? And there are several good reasons for this:

  • They’re potentially contagious and are oozing germs!
  • They’re in a bad mood and don’t want to talk to anyone.
  • They’re too tired and ill to concentrate on anything properly.
  • You know they’ll end up being ill for ages because they’re not getting any rest.

But it’s easier said than done – circumstances don’t always make it easy for you to stay home and recuperate, and business owners (especially of SMEs) can be as guilty as anyone when it comes to this, even though they know it can potentially cost them more money and that they risk infecting their staff. Particularly in small businesses, every employee is key and nine times out of ten there is no-one else to cover the workload. No, the world won’t come to an end if you don’t go in, but when you’re already feeling awful (and, if you’re me, a bit over-emotional too) then the prospect of returning to an even greater workload is totally overwhelming.

So you have three options really:

  1. You go in and martyr on
  2. You stay home and get well
  3. You work from home

Working from home can be an excellent compromise. With the advent of broadband, remote logins, company mobiles and so on, working from home has never been easier. You can keep on top of your emails, delegate tasks to colleagues AND get some rest at the same time. All whilst keeping your germs to yourself!

Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me though because it turns out I’m a total hypocrite. I hate when other people come into work sick, but here I am coughing my guts up and with a nose red from too much blowing, and you know what? I’m going in to work tomorrow…

That Facebook Thing

Now I love Facebook; there’s not many days I don’t log on. Facebook is my life in pictures; it’s silly, inane comments that only my friends and family get; it’s me at my rawest: No facade, no show, just me. If you’re my Facebook friend and I’m having a bad day, then you’ll probably hear about it in rather passionate prose… But you know what; I don’t have very many Facebook friends! I won’t befriend anyone I haven’t met, anyone I don’t like, or anyone I think there’s even a remote chance I might work with. And anyone I do befriend gets immediately labelled with one of three privacy levels. It’s not that there’s anything remotely dodgy on there – maybe the odd drunken SingStar photo, or a choice expletive, but nothing condemning. My Mum and Dad are both on there after all! But I don’t want every man and his dog seeing pictures of my life, friends and family! That’s private stuff!

I appreciate that some people use Facebook for recruitment and business. Some with success too… but for me, Facebook is the personal social media tool of choice. LinkedIn is for business; Twitter is for a mix of business, personal branding and pleasure; and Facebook is purely personal. I don’t mind being advertised to on there but pretty please, with cherries and cream, don’t ask me to be your friend if you’re not actually my friend!

I’m totally intrigued about how other people use Facebook though. So many people I know have hundreds of ‘friends’! To what end? And if you use it for business and pleasure then how do you keep the two separate? Do you have separate accounts, a raft of different privacy settings, or do you just keep it clean and not overly personal?

Please share your experiences; I would love to hear them!

Social Media: From Online to Offline

I have been busy, busy, busy this week! Now I’m back working 5 days a week it’s a real change of pace. It’s actually a bit alarming how quickly you get used to enjoying a 4 day weekend… [Note to self: Challenge for the new year is to get Mr J into a top notch job so that I can laze around more and he can keep me in the manner to which I’ve always wanted to become accustomed!] So anyway, my social media play time has fallen by the wayside somewhat and I’ve really missed it. But actually not quite so much as I thought I would, because so many of the people I talk to on social media are now people I talk to in ‘real life’ too!

In the last seven days I’ve spoken to @LisaScales, @AndyHeadworth and @AlanWhitford on the phone and to @RadicalRecruit on Skype. I’ve had dinner with @MervynDinnen and @LaraNewman, and tomorrow I’m meeting @ClareWildman for after work drinkies. Who needs social media, eh?! Not one of these relationships would be in effect without social media. Well, without Twitter, to be precise!

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but social media is really only the beginning. So far I’ve met at least 24 people from my personal Twittersphere, and frankly I need to work harder to increase that number because it’s a bit lame all things considered! Seriously though, there’s only so much you can convey in 140 characters or with the written word and if you truly want your relationships to flourish then you need to take it offline, into the real world and onto the next level. Yes, social media is a fantastic start and, sadly, I may never get to meet a lot of my favourite Tweeps in person due to geographic barriers, so in that respect is still an amazing tool, but even so… There are plenty of people we can and should meet. There are people in all our networks who we’ve never met but who live within a stones throw.

Now obviously you have to be a bit cautious about meeting anyone from off the internet. Though the prospect of being ‘groomed’ at 20-, 30-, 40-something is actually marginally flattering, personal safety comes first! But we’re all adults and we can all use our common sense. There are local tweetups and events happening all the time and this can be a perfect setting for a first meeting, not to mention providing the opportunity to meet a whole host of other people you might not have connected with otherwise!

@LaraNewman was the first person I’d met on Twitter who I met offline. We went ice skating together and had a lovely afternoon! Mr J thought she was probably an axe murderer or, failing that, some sort of swinger who was touting for new recruits. Of course, she was neither of those things (I suspect he was slightly disappointed about the latter!) but we met in a public place and Mr J demanded I leave a report with him listing everything I knew about her, just in case I never returned home. To be honest, I’ve never (yet!) had any doubts about my meetings with people on Twitter. Most people reveal a whole host of information about themselves on both Twitter and LinkedIn and are known by at least one other person in my network, so short of it being a very large and organised axe murdering ring, the odds are good that they’re not a psychopath. I’d be far more reticent to meet anyone who wasn’t pre-vetted though and you do have to use your common sense.

Meeting someone in person can really only benefit a relationship. These are people you regularly talk to anyway and who you already know you have something in common with. So have a flick through some of your favourite social media contacts and see who you can meet for a coffee in person! So long as you’re sensible, the absolute worst that can happen is that you have a miserable hour and have nothing much to say to one another, so you’ve really nothing to lose!

Google Wave CVs?

My personal description of Google Wave: A bit like Facebook messaging in that you can follow the conversation from the top down and embed photos, videos and links. The difference is that it’s in real-time and you can also attach documents, gadgets, maps and so on. You can also add and remove people from the wave as it goes along, make it public or private, and people can contribute and edit as they see fit.

Clearly it’s a lot more advanced than that, but you get the idea! If you’re not on Wave* or don’t know much about it and would like the official spiel then you can find it here.

So anyway, I’ve been lucky enough to score an invite thanks to @MikeOwcarz and have been messing about with it for about a month now. So far I’ve found it all a bit overrated: I can totally see the collaborative benefits, but for me personally it serves no real purpose at this moment in time. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve really used it for anything more than instant messaging until the other day when I thought I’d have a look at some of the public waves. This was inspired by a tweet by @andyheadworth explaining the joys of public searches. To do a public search, type “with:public” and your search term in the Google Wave search bar and see what comes up. I, for one, hadn’t even realised that public waves existed so I had a rather excited half hour seeing what I could find!

Well in all honestly there wasn’t an awful lot of public waves that I could be bothered to follow (lets be fair though; this is a new tool still in Preview stage), but I did see a rather inspired use of a wave as a CV. I’m not going to try and link to it because a) I don’t know if it’s possible, b) anyone without Wave won’t be able to see it and c) well, there isn’t a c) but everyone knows a good argument should have at least three points to it. Anyway, it’s called “CV: Scott Bradley” for those who want to search and have a look. It’s not amazing, but it did get me thinking about how well Wave could be used as a tool in this respect.

I think dear old Scott has used his wave quite nicely on the whole. He’s attached his CV, written a nice little paragraph about his situation and has embedded a location map. The bit I don’t understand is that he’s then also copied and pasted his CV into the body of the wave which surely defeats the object, but there you go! Scott got me thinking though; this could be a great tool for job seekers when (if?) it goes more mainstream. Depending on your career, you could make a whole online portfolio with video, work samples and links to your websites and/or social media pages. People could provide feedback, ask questions and get in touch quickly and easily. I appreciate you can probably do this on a website with a bit of IT know-how, but this is a very useable and accessible format for those not in the know and, as one of Google’s little gems, it will surely be beautifully searchable!

Now I’m not overly technically minded so it’s possible I’m being totally obtuse here. Perhaps putting your details on a public wave opens you up to all sorts of ID or intelligence theft, or maybe it opens you up to abusive remarks and other such horrors, but it’s a nice idea and I take my hat off to Scott for being one of the first people (that I can find, anyway) to use it in such a creative way.

Public CVs and portfolios might not be for every person or profession but it did make me think about where the future of CVs could be headed.

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Note: If you want to make one of your waves public then you need to include public@a.googlewave.com as a participant. This is easier said than done because when you type in the email address Wave tells you there’s no account for this email address. Instead, you have to go to ‘Manage Contacts’ and add a new contact from there. ‘Public’ will then appear in your contacts and you can add it from there.

* I still have a couple of spare Google Wave invites so, if you haven’t been able to get one yet, talk to me on Twitter and I’ll happily oblige on a first come, first served basis.


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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