For the purposes of full disclosure, the title of this post is meant in a tongue-in-cheek way. So if there are any potential employers reading this whilst doing research on me—please keep that in mind!
Two weeks ago I got a rather unexpected shock. I interviewed for a full-time teaching position at my place of employment. I was interviewed, against external candidates, and in a subject I hadn’t any experience of teaching in. I didn’t get offered the position, but it was all good experience. My eye was on the prize of the permanent position working in the department I’d been in for the past year, teaching the type of students I had taught for the past year, and really enjoying teaching I might add.
They declined to call me for interview. I was also told that a position being lined up specifically for me was not going ahead. And I watched as my name got taken off next year’s timetable. My fixed term contract has expired, so I am now out of work, which was something I hadn’t really expected. In this economy, maybe I should, but I hadn’t been looking for a new position, and when you work in education losing your job at the start of the summer truly sucks, as you now have to spend a long time without money since any new position won’t start until after the summer break.
But I digress. I have no intention of going into the where’s and why-for’s of what happened. The above paragraphs are simply a rather roundabout way of saying that I’ve done a lot of writing for the past week or so, and none of it has been the type I like to do. Instead, I’ve been doing the rounds of filling in application forms, completing personal statements, answering person specifications, and generally wondering how to show “interpersonal skills and verbal communication” on a written form, and querying whether you can legally make “a good sense of humour” a requirement of a role.
And more than this, I’ve tried to figure out how not to get bored with saying the same things, over and over again. Because honestly, answers to job applications don’t change very much. If you’ve got a great example of how you demonstrated initiative and teamwork, whilst being proactive in a forward facing environment of differentiated equality, then you’ll use that badboy in every place that asks for it.
Doesn’t mean you get any less sick of it, nor that you can write it once and copy and paste—you need to tailor your answers to specific quirks and differences in each position. The last time I was unemployed (February 2010 to January 2011 if you’re interested, and I never want to repeat that experience) I was able to crank the applications out in double-time. I guess that practice does make perfect, which suggests that I’m either very rusty or I’m being extra careful with these applications, as at the moment it takes me the better part of a day to complete one application.
Being a bit of a dick (and if you know me you probably will agree with that) the temptation to be sarcastic is overwhelming. It alleviates the boredom, though I fear one day I’ll accidentally send my first draft person specification to a potential employer. A requirement of “displays numeracy and literacy skills to NVQ Level 2 or equivalent” may well be satisfied by a response of “two law degrees and a publishing company mofos!”, but it isn’t exactly going to get you an interview.
Still, the repetitive nature of job applications (which all seek the same information) calls for certain level of creative writing to keep them fresh. And whilst you shouldn’t lie, you can certainly put the best spin on your career to date. The best example I’ve ever seen of this was my father-in-law, who crafted a wonderful CV for his wife that was incredibly impressive, completely true, and spoke of her 15 years of administrative and budgetary responsibilities, multi-tasking and teamwork skills and catering and event management experience. Thus he transformed a housewife into a powerhouse of relevant industry experience. And probably had a blast while doing it.
So not strictly lying. But definitely for fun and profit (aka, getting a job). So take heed writers who still have non-writing dayjobs, and who may need new dayjobs. Let’s use the talents we have to make our CVs stand out from the pack, to go beyond the mere humdrum of the routine applications. We can create whole new worlds with our words, we can certainly craft whole new relevant experiences, all whilst staying within the boundaries of the truth. Truth presented with a veneer of fiction to make it interesting. We could even call it a transferable skill.
Now, can we discuss salary and benefits?