All quiet on the Western Front

Military clichés are everywhere.

Six months and no posts. Been too busy, too confused.

Could have written about the incredible blatant racism I have witnessed in Milton Keynes.
Could have written about job searching.
Could have written about working for the NHS during lockdown and going in to work every day.
The paranoia of people seeing my NHS id. This misleading and terror created by the media.
Reflections on how easy it was to implement a global lockdown.
Reflections on what happens when the leadership does not follow its own instructions and gets away with it.
Reflections on the relevance of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince as a guide book in 2020.
Could have written about getting work with the Cabinet Office.
Could have written about my reflections on my two degrees.
Could have written about the silence of the 75th anniversary of the Japan nuclear bombings and the celebration of war for VJ Day.
Could have written about how my plans have been on hold for six months.
Could have written about how some employers have been superb during lockdown and others have been utter and absolute spineless and evil bastards.
Could have written about the falsehoods around online activity being high CO2 consuming activities. I had promised the SGR I would.
Every day there has been something to write about, and my ToDo list does say, every day, “Post something on the blog”. But time, where does it all go?

It is hard to be an unemployed jobseeker and be positive and creative to wrote blog posts. Then, when doing a new job, one is tired and busy.

It is hard to change the world when changing one’s own. It is hard to write when busy doing. I shall try again, from today, now I feel a little more settled in my new role.

You know, bite the bullet.

Poor government support for careers

Does the government provide poor careers support because civil servants have jobs for life and politicians have no work experience?

When I started my career change it was early 2012.  At that time the government careers service was NextStep.  That was changed to the National Careers Service.  So I created an account on there in April 2012 and used that instead.

Over time it became an excellent resource for hundreds of different jobs.  It had all sorts of facilities for self assessment.  I made a lot of use of it.  It came with a Lifelong Learning Account.  It allowed one to:

  • update and store your CV, skills health check, action plans, and course searches to help you as you progress through your learning and working life
  • access your qualification details from your Personal Learning Record and track what financial contributions have been made towards your learning
  • manage the information you have gathered to help you make the right choices
  • build a personal profile and receive information more tailored to your needs and situation

I made full use of the Skills Health Check Tools and Action Plans and uploaded CVs.

But it has all changed, presumably to fit into the gov.uk web sitre structure, which does not suit it at all.  There used to be loads of job market analysis for the roles but that has gone.

It now seems no more useful than the useless ‘careers advice’ we got at school: “What do you want to do?  Oh, we don’t have that on the list.  How about train driver, policeman, typist or nurse?  We have those.”  And the information and advice they provide on searching for jobs and filling in forms could be put on a couple of sides of A4.

So it seems the Lifelong Learning Account and National Careers Service have survived for less time than it has been taking me to change career.  I started my research before it opened, have done an undergrad degree and not yet completed my postgrad degree and the Account and Service have gone.

What a shame.  And waste of taxpayers’ money them constructing it all in the first place for it to be switched off again before people have finished with it.

Fortunately, the Lancaster University Careers Service is superb and has provided me with huge amounts of advice, information and support so I’m OK.  But that does not help the millions of people out there who must be coping with leaving education, being laid off,  wanting career change or just being unemployed and wanting to explore their options.

The Lancaster Award; I’ve submitted my application

Lancaster University runs an award scheme that runs alongside, but separately from, the degree programmes.  It is all about ensuring graduates have skills for the workplace and skills for finding work.  According to the number of activities one does, one can apply for a Bronze, Silver or Gold award.  I have submitted my application today, the day of the deadline.

This is the description of the Award for using on CVs and cover letters:

The Lancaster Award is a non-compulsory, assessed employability award that recognizes individual achievements and endorses the development of key employability skills developed through extracurricular activities.  It is evidence of motivation and commitment to personal development.

The level of Lancaster Award granted goes on ones degree transcript. The idea is that it helps with employability.

Terribly excited – first relevant job application

I am terribly excited.  I have been able to apply for my first paid peace sector role.  It is as an Operations Manager for the Peace Pledge Union.  It uses my training, is in exactly the sort of organisation I want to work for and totally conforms to what I want to do.

My ambition in 2012 when I started was to work in war prevention.  Supporting those who are campaigning to promote the idea that war is not the answer, that there are alternatives, matches my experience and skills.

Now I just need to hope I get an interview…

I have completed my undergraduate degree

Today I sat the exam for the final module of my undergraduate degree.  So that is the first step complete in my career change.

Because of how the degree marking works, if I get 70% or more in this exam (not terribly likely), I get a 2:1 for the degree and get to do a Master’s Degree, otherwise a 2:2 and I’ll need to re-think my plans.

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂

A quick reflection on where I’m at so far, and generic advice to others

In 2012 I decided to change career from large scale IT project management to war prevention.  I have made progress in doing so.

  • I’ve nearly finished my ‘Peace Studies’ Open Degree.  In the next few months I’ll be putting in applications for doing a Peace Studies Masters Degree starting in 2018.
  • I’ve a few years experience at volunteering in the sector, giving me work experience to talk about.  I also have and have had director-level voluntary posts in the sector, giving me kudos and credibility.
  • I read everything I can so can hold meaningful conversations with interested people about peace work.  I think I can just about cover a stand at a conference or exhibition on my own (having just done so under tuition and supervision of an expert) although I need more practice.
  • I am working for an employer who advertises roles I would like.

That is in accordance with the plan I had in 2012.  I have not done everything in the plan as some has not worked out – I was too optimistic about being able to change the world quickly.  But I am getting there.

My ‘how to change career’ plan came from books I read about 5 years ago, and the generic advice boils down to this:

You need three things: relevant qualifications (to get your CV through the tick-box checklist); work experience (nobody wants to give training or risk taking on someone who may be unable to do the job); to know the culture (so you can get through the interview).

To get these three things:

1. Volunteer for anything in the same sector or doing the same kind of work. This gives you knowledge of the culture and starts your people networking. Volunteering is way to get work experience.
2. Make sure your study is appropriate for what you want to do. I am doing an Open Degree because the OU doesn’t do a Peace Studies degree. Check the careers information on government and academic resources for what qualifications are expected and decide if you need anything else. Sometimes free courses through MOOCs can be a good enough substitute
depending on what you want to do.
3. Read everything you can about your desired role / sector. Wikipedia, text books, online articles, journals, e-journals, blogs. Get to know how things are done, what is the jargon, who are the big names.

Also, networking is essential these days.  See who is doing the job you want on LinkedIn and try to join the same groups as them to see what is being discussed and what is important. Also, try to make connections with them.

Getting a job doing what you do now in an organisation which also does the job you want, and then moving sideways, can be much easier than trying to get the job you want straight away.

I would also suggest self-advertising.  Blog about what you are doing and how you are getting on. Create a web site about it. Have business cards describing you in your new role. Give them out and tell people what you are doing: strangers like to help and offer advice and there can be gems in that free advice.

That is what I have been doing, so I do follow my own advice.  🙂

Challenges as a student – employment

I have been silently turned down for a job I am currently doing to support my studies.

I was the major breadwinner but to support me in my studies my wife stopped being self-employed and took stable permanent work so I could reduce my time spent at work.  For a while I was a full-time unemployed student but I took a part-time, fixed-term Admin Assistant job six months ago to help a little with the bills (and to meet other people and not go stir-crazy).  I have never worked at this level before and I am enjoying it immensely.  Not being solely responsible for delivering a £20m project nor driving the output of a dispersed 20 member multi-disciplinary team nor having to work 60 to 100 hours per week is quite a delight, as is being able to talk to peers about problems without them using the information to stab you in the back to further their careers.

As it is fixed-term I have been applying for similar roles in case I do not get an extension.  I had an interview a couple of weeks back and I’ve been waiting to hear, they said they would know in a couple of days.  So I checked the jobs site through which I applied and it says:

Which is unfortunate.  I am enjoying doing the same job at the moment and the role I have applied for is fixed-term anyway.

I did explain I am enjoying working at this level and that I intend to do so for another two years until I have my degree.

Hey ho.  I always thought “over-qualified” was a euphemism for “Too old” or “Face doesn’t fit” anyway.  But they could have emailed me to tell me I hadn’t got it instead of leaving me hanging on.

And at least I can spell ‘believe’ correctly.