Monday, 20 December 2010

Back to Work session

Had the new "Back to Work session" at the job centre, which I had been able to ask to do on a one-to-one basis rather than in a group as is normally the case. The session is based on viewing a standard Powerpoint presentation and discussing my own situation with respect to points raised. It started with the general conditions of being available and actively seeking, no need to remind me on that but appreciated it is standard, and I know there are some that DO need reminding of this!

Generally I think the man empathises with my situation. He did speak of "Flexible Routeways" and the courses I did at college and I explained how I'd already been through these, and they had not helped as much as I'd hoped as it was too much "coach the jobseeker" and not enough "introduce me to employers" and he took my points ok. He appreciated the main point was I would be seen in my best light if employers could take me on their Work Trial scheme.

There was discussion of "new approaches to job seeking" especially discussing the speculative applications situation, with the presentation reminding the point that many jobs are not advertised, suggesting the possibility that people write, phone or visit major employers. Naturally each of these things work better for some people than others, and I explained with my hesitant speech and nervous body language writing obviously works best for me as if I phoned or visited nervously I would leave a lasting bad impression and would blow any chance I might have had if a job arose in the future.

I already made the point of adding speculative applications to make up the tally of 3 applications in a given week. I have seen on internet that Jobcentre advisors are varied in their interpretation of the "3 STEPS a week" rule, especially on MoneySavingExpert where some people were saying their advisors were hard and fast about requiring 3 APPLICATIONS a week, but the debate was as to whether a "step" necessarily meant an "application", but a means of searching ie Jobcentre vacancies, newspapers, asking around; recognising there will not always be that many advertised vacancies in a week. The man I saw admits he knows 3 steps doesn't necessarily mean 3 applications, but the forum threads suggests some advisors misinterpret this. It doesn't hurt to send out letters to make up the tally anyway, one just might land in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Compulsory Christmas party!

A year ago I posted this "Death of the Office Christmas Party" entry when there was a BBC news article on the subject of the current recession meaning companies either were not having Christmas parties or getting staff to pay themselves, adding a few thoughts of my own on how works dos were not my thing when I was employed.

Today I was most appalled to see this thread about a Compulsory Christmas party on MoneySavingExpert! That is just beyond a joke in principal, to add insult to injury, they got snowed in the next day and stay another night in their hotel and now the company are saying they have to pay for that extra night out of their own pockets. Even before factoring in this issue about the snow and extra night, the whole idea of the do being "compulsory" really sucks here.

Here's my picks of the sarcasms:
Post 9 - "If you don't go, you get a disciplinary hearing???"
Post 11 - Final written warning for not wearing a hat out of a Christmas cracker, I should imagine.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Interview rejected

Yesterday's post delivered a rejection letter from the interview unfortunately, however it did have the positive sentence that they would keep my application on file. I e-mailed my contact that came to the interview with me and she has just said that speaking to them herself she has said that while not chosen, the interviewers were both very positive about my application so who knows for the future. Still, must keep applying around some more!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Worst Interview Experiences/Questions?!

"Worst Interview Experiences/Questions?" on MoneySavingExpert.

Post 5 - "Tell me about yourself", answer as far as the poster was concerned is "Well what would you like to know?" - I had a previous post referring to a newspaper article about how this was a particularly bad question for someone with Asperger with needing a bit more of a starting point, ie reference to "career history" for example.

Post 9 - Interviewer picking up his BIC biro and handing it saying "Sell me this pen". Hate the idea of that, especially if it isn't a sales position anyway!

Post 11 - interviews where the interviewer seemed to be on the attack. I've seen a few managers I can imagine being like that!

Post 25 - hates the "where do you see yourself in 5 years time" question just like I do!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Interview today

Just got back from the interview for the application referenced here and felt reasonably positive about it. My contact who had co-ordinated the employment scheme I was on came with me to it and thought I handled it quite well, she had just helped articulate the answers to a few questions I had found a bit more difficult.

Regarding some of the communication aspects, they had said that as the role was new, much of it would be adapted to the person they got in. Allocation of work tasks was still going to be quite subjective to the team.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Interview after applying with disability explanation

Just downloaded an e-mail for an interview for the application referenced here, so they have hopefully read my explanation of how my disability affects the certain things in the person specification yet are still interviewing me.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Latest Benefits reform articles

Some more articles from yesterday and today's Guardian, "reform cannot be a one-size-fits-all policy" and "it's a sin that people fail to take up work".

Comments of note on the first with reference to disabilities:
- There are two distinct reasons for claiming benefits? Not being able to get a job despite looking and not being able to work because of ill health. I'm too ill to leave the house most of the time, simply cutting my benefits isn't magically going to make the chronic condition I've had since I was 14 go away. It's just going to make me sicker and even less likely to be able to work in the future...
- You'd rather have my fitness for work decided by some non-qualified tick-box expert.
- How can someone who has problems with ill health but not so desparately ill as to get the Support part of Employment Support allowance ever going to get a job, especially now with 500,000 jobs and 2 and a half million unemployed. They are going to be constantly on JSA. Empathise a lot with this one, so much at the able end of the Asperger scale I'd never even be considered for Incapacity / ESA, but still not employers' first choice of person.

At the end of the second article was the shadow work and pensions secretary telling BBC Breakfast that the opposition party supported moves to simplify the benefits system, but concerns remained about job availability. He said "If we can have a simpler benefits system that removes disincentives for people to get into work, we will support them. That was a big part of the work we were trying to take forward ourselves when we were in government. Our real concern is this: without work these changes won't work. If you are going to move people from welfare into work, there needs to be jobs for people to take up ... It is important to remember that if you get these changes wrong, you could end up with a higher welfare bill not a lower welfare bill."

Comments of note after the second article:
- What work...?
- I agree with the idea in principle there is a flaw that there are people on benefit who want to work (like me) but cannot find work and the support received from the Jobcentre is non-exsistent. Personally if more support was offered people who want to work will find work they want to do instead of be forced into unpaid work which they do not want to do and may no benefit to their personal preference.
- The overwhelming majority of unemployed people are desperate to find work. This crazy and insulting Tory campaign to re-brand the unemployed and disadvantaged as work shy scroungers must be challenged and rejected. Let's start talking about the real issue - where are the jobs going to come from???
- A new Tesco Express opened up in Layton in Blackpool. They advertised 9 vacancies.160 applicants applied for a job. The lucky 9 got a job, the other 151 not only face disappointment at not getting a job, but also face a weekly onslaught of being portrayed as workshy, lazy, lager swilling, daytime TV watchers.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Temp job over but very positive

Well the job finished on Friday as expected, but went really well. The accountant was very sincere in thanking me for my help and the agency said they'd had a positive e-mail from her too. I am in the Jobcentre tomorrow for the rapid reclaim interview.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Spoof website - "The Negative About Asperger Syndrome scheme"

I'd popped onto the MoneySavingExpert forum again and a thread titled "Asperger Syndrome and Disability Discrimination Act" had been bumped up by recent posts although it was started in April, by a writer who had put together a side of A4 to try and express the effects Asperger Syndrome to employers. The post speaks of why interviews are the main barrier to employment and goes on to suggest adjustments that could be made to both recruitment and interview processes and in employment itself. Replies included one suggesting that the passage is "quite overwhelming, in that it feels a bit too 'legal' ", and one advising to bring some advantages first "not being side-tracked by chit-chat but getting 'stuck in'; approach problems in a logical way; bringing honesty to the workplace". One reply is from a poster called 'SavvySue' whose son has AS, the last 'teambuilding day' we had would have either sent him screaming from the building, or he would have sabotaged it completely because he just couldn't do what was being asked. Mind you, I came close both those reactions myself ..." I know from my own time in the public sector (though I hadn't disclosed my condition in that job) I found 'teambuilding days' hard work doing role-play.

Then there is the writer's own website ASEMP.co.uk. This has been written to highlight how most employers unwittingly discriminate against people with AS, but presented as a scheme employers follow to intentionally discriminate against AS, "The Negative About Asperger Syndrome scheme" rewording the text from the official government "Positive about Disabled People" scheme with this spoof symbol.


I wouldn't normally copy long complete texts for copyright reasons, but the link has not always worked and the home page of ASEMP.co.uk has a message about their hosting issues, so on this occasion:
About the scheme
If you have Asperger Syndrome, when applying for jobs avoid employers running the "Negative About Asperger Syndrome" scheme. Most employers currently run the scheme, but none currently display the warning symbol shown above.

Employers running the scheme have made commitments to help people with Asperger Syndrome stay unemployed and actively discriminate against them. They are keen to recognise communication and social difficulties consistent with the condition as reasons to not employ them. Applying for a job with them is a waste of time, once you have been to the interview they will not be interested. This scheme sometimes runs alongside the two ticks positive about disabled people scheme which may lead to confusion.

The five commitments
Employers who run the scheme make five commitments to ensure maximum discrimination against people with Asperger Syndrome during recruitment. These commitments are:

I.To advertise jobs as requiring good to excellent interpersonal, oral communication, and team-work skills. Even if the job itself does not require them.
II.To ask questions relating to social and communication skills in application forms, or use "psychometric" questionnaires.
III.To use interviews as the only means of determining suitability for employment. People with Asperger Syndrome are often disadvantaged in interviews compared with candidates who do not have the condition.
IV.To consider deficits in communication and social interaction justifiable cause to not offer employment, even if the job itself does not require these skills.
V.Whenever an applicant exhibits such deficits, always ignore their job-relevant qualifications, skills and abilities - even if they are better than those of other candidates.
The scheme has been highly effective. Nearly 90% of people with the condition are unemployed (source: Genevieve Edmonds & Luke Beardon (Eds), 2008, Asperger Syndrome & Employment: Adults Speak Out about Asperger Syndrome.)


Humourous and ironic as this may seem, the serious message is that as a jobseeker with Asperger, being constantly bombarded with the requirements stated leads to inevitable frustration at not being given a chance. It ties in with the comment I linked to a couple of weeks ago about "rigid person specifications" someone had posted on the DWP too.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Victory Log Entry - Temp job two days in

I've got well into this temp job these two days, I hadn't dared speak too soon because of that time I said about in Friday's post. The accountant/HR manager I'm helping is indicating she's expecting to need me two weeks, just as the agency had said. I'm using another piece of software I hadn't used before (nice to add strings to the CV bow) to match purchase invoices with goods received notes in order to either approve the invoices for payment or raise queries where there is either no goods received note, or there is but it's incorrect.

It was nice to ring the Jobcentre's signing off line yesterday. Just got to drop some e-mails to key contacts to let them know I'm doing this.

Couldn't forget to label this post as a Victory Log Entry, good to reinforce positive momentum!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Excited but nervous at same time - temping possibility

Earlier in the week I had applied for an accounts role would sound more advanced than my current experience but it was through an agency I hadn't recently dealt with anyway so would be good to e-mail them to be kept in reference to anything more suited.

Well, they phoned as there is possibly two weeks temping to help the accountant with a backlog of invoice work and filing. I'm excited but nervous at same time recalling when I "wasn't fast enough and wouldn't cut it" in January 08. I so want to do it and for it to go well, because if it does go well a temp job is better at showing my capability than an interview.

I have just got back from calling into their offices. Hope I get some decent sleep this weekend ready for starting on Monday!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Explanation with relation to a person specification

Well just after I'm posting about that reference to very rigid person specifications, I'm on one of the online boards and e-mailed for this admin and accounts position at a healthcare place. The e-mail from their contact says "explain how you consider you meet the person specification", and it is often said these jobs with very rigid "person specifications" require comprehensive explanations of how I would meet EVERY point, but it is one such classic example of the role combining tasks I would be good at with those that I wouldn't.

The documents they e-mailed cite communication with suppliers, patients, GPs, "providers" and "other external agents". It does sound a lot of responsibility for much more proactive articulate communication than I would have had where I was on the special scheme finished at the beginning of the month.

My contact got back to me with this to go at the end of the letter, "I have been totally open about all the key skills and attributes which I believe I have so I think it is only fair to inform you of those skills which I cannot always rely on. I was diagnosed with a moderate condition of the communication skills disability of Asperger syndrome, so am very aware that my skills in these areas are not the same as others. That said I do have full awareness of this and still feel that I could contribute effectively in 75-85% of the outline job specification if you were able or prepared to make a few adjustments to accommodate me. I hope that you will consider allowing me to attend an interview in order to prove my capability. I realise that it was not essential for me to disclose this information at this stage, but knowing how strong the current competition is in the jobs market I am keen not to waste your valuable time."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

"Don't Write Them Off" - another excellent article

Another good one in the Guardian, from just over a year ago, titled "Don't Write Them Off", once again starts with how only 15% of adults with Aspergers and other autism spectrum conditions are in full-time paid work with the National Autistic Society publishing a survey to tie into launching a campaign titled "Don't Write Me Off".

At the end of the main article are some excellent bullet points about how employers could give autistic people access to work. I don't quote too much for copyright reasons, but particularly identified with:
- Think about your recruitment policy, standard job ads and selection processes are unlikely to encourage someone with autism to apply for posts they may be qualified for, says Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS. "Look at the emphasis you're placing on communication skills, does the role really need those skills?" My findings are that the roles often do in a small part, ie contact with customers and suppliers, though I'd be able to do all other tasks.
- Don't force employees with an ASD to take part in unnecessary team-working processes which add nothing to how well something gets done," says Dr James Richards of Heriot-Watt University. "And don't force such employees into social gatherings or events without full consent." Definitely identify with this one too, with the posts I've made about role-play exercises at training days in my work in the public sector and more recently on Flexible Routeways. The social gatherings are a good point too, I posted about office parties a while back.

The second comment agreed quoting on those same points - I don't know why companies are always listing teamwork when you're going to be working alone, or insisting on open office plans where there's a lot of chatter, and encouraging "team-building" exercises. These things are just annoying to people with certain personalities; what companies really need to understand is that people are not 'one size fits all,' but it is that very diversity which can help the company. Too true!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Unemployment falls - but for how long? And JSA up...

BBC link highlighting that overall unemployment had fallen but those claiming jobseekers allowance had gone up (those not claiming it includes students, people unable to claim because of savings etc). I've said 'for how long' in the title though, "Many economists fear unemployment will rise later in the year when government cuts begin to kick in. A report by accountants PwC predicts that cuts in public sector spending will have the knock-on effect of about 500,000 job losses in the private sector."

Interviewee came across as having “Low Energy”

Forum thread in which an interviewee contacted their recruitment consultant to be told this. The second post has examples of the very things that are difficult for me eg "sell ideas and get people excited" and "coming up with lots of ideas myself", the third, whilst patronising, is also true in terms of what some interviewers have thought of me, where I've even been interviewed that is!

Monday, 11 October 2010

"Increasingly rigid job and person specifications"

Interesting comment on 21st century welfare - chapter 2 "Problems with the current system" on the DWP's own website. Most of the discussion is about "rates of welfare dependency and poverty" and "work incentives being poor", ie part time hours on mininum wage with regard to top up benefits. So much discussion of welfare reform does centre on blaming (a) unemployed people for not being willing to take jobs (b) the complexity of the system preventing the ones who ARE willing from taking many lower paid and/or part time jobs. No mention of the employer's role in this equation! First there have to be the jobs to take though, difficult enough in the current climate, then factor in the willingness of employers to offer them to some people who may not meet the criteria 100%, and I'm not just talking about disability here. This comment ties in with what I've often said about the need to re-educate employers. The writer touches on "Increasingly rigid job and person specifications" and the "human resources driven ‘closed shop’ mentality of employers", I've often wondered that many 'human resources' bods sometimes don't pass applications to the line managers that they might actually be interested in if they were to see them. How many applications / interviewees are turned down having only been interviewed / application seen ONLY by an HR bod and not the manager who would be responsible for them if taken on? Very good post, and standing out in that it focuses on the employer for once.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Victory Log Entry - even though its the end of the job

Yes I'm still calling this a "Victory Log Entry". Yes it is the end of the supported job but it has been such a positive experience. It was unfortunate that the employer isn't in a position to be able to recruit me onto their own payroll, but the director has given me a good reference. I got an extra 4 weeks which were pushed for both by the employer and the training organisation who technically employ me, so that was very positive in itself. Most of all it has been so good to be able to utilise and expand my skills, and above all prove that despite my disability I'm NOT UNEMPLOYABLE (LOL, the double negative that makes a positive), as highlighted by the article I linked back to in August.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

"The people who conduct interviews generally have zero understanding of the job role..."

This sentence starting the 7th comment on a "Help needed for interview problems" forum thread struck a chord. This poster has hit the nail on the head with the subject of interview performance versus general ability to do the job, precisely what those of us with Asperger face.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

One down, two to go

First reply from three jobs I found last Friday

"Thank you for your interest in our vacancy for Junior Accounts Assistant. I regret to inform you that on this occasion you have not been successful in your application. I wish you success for finding suitable employment in the future."

That was even without mention of my disability in the application, just as I'd been told. Guess its just the numbers game.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Guardian Letters - Living on benefits is in no way 'a lifestyle choice'

A few days after I posted the BBC news link to the chancellor's comments these letter writers in the Guardian have got the right idea.

Key sentences quoted:
- For a person from a very rich and privileged background to call living on benefit in any shape or form a "lifestyle choice" is the most crass and insulting demonstration of patrician insensitivity and ignorance to have crossed the lips of any politician in recent times.
- Government's own figures show that people with mental health problems, disabilities or from minority ethnic groups get sanctioned disproportionately. Now this really concerns me!
- In my own experience as a paid Citizen's Advice Bureau adviser, most people are very keen to find work and realise that apart from the financial benefit, work provides one with better health and self-esteem. It is a complete myth that there is a large sector of the population that choose not to work.
- Where is the understanding that it costs more to live as a disabled person, or that to find employment many will need individually tailored support? VERY TRUE!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The "lifestyle choice to just sit on out-of-work benefits" - cuts announced

Welfare spending to be cut by £4bn, says the chancellor. He has told the BBC that those making a "lifestyle choice to just sit on out-of-work benefits" would be affected. I hope this holds true, I deplore the people on JSA who get us all tarred with the same brush. One point made on TV was speaking of "how ready unemployed people are to take up offered employment" if they have been out of work a while, of course the other overlooked side of the coin is "how ready EMPLOYERS are to offer positions" to those out of work for a while, as there is prejudice against CV gaps etc.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Another blog entry about role-play

Found this blog "Social Dynamics and Asperger's Syndrome" on a link on the ASD forum I sometimes go on. The entry on 4th August strikes a chord, the writer had been to a seminar about one-to-one dating relationships, and there was an element of role play involved. I know the feeling with some of those involved on Flexible Routeways, and I'd linked to a couple of those who wrote about similar on their job search courses.

I've started to follow this blog as there's interesting stuff, I'll have to read it through and perhaps leave some comments, the reader would probably relate to my blog too. It says on the intro he is working, but probably still understands the issues of interviews and requirements for "good communication" in jobs.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"Aspies are far from unemployable" - but fall at the hurdle of the job interview

Found this on the Guardian, which sums up what I went through while out of work, and could well go through again while at the mercy of the open market. That is in remembering that the job I've got now is through a ring-fenced scheme where I had to have a disability and out of work a year to qualify.

"The prospective employer reads the unwillingness to shake hands, difficulty making eye contact and hesitation in speech as coldness or incompetence, and the applicant is rejected." I'm not "unwilling" to shake hands but know I'm not as "firm" at it as its perceived I ideally should be. Fully agree about my hesitant speech though, this is the first time I've seen an article explicity referring to it as "coldness" though I had guessed from my experience of previous supervisors that they did seem to see me as "incompetent" from the tone they spoke to me with, and that when out of work and attending interviews that was again how it could be seen.

This puts another angle on the issue of whether or not to admit my condition on the initial written application, if it is an open covering letter rather than an application form with a disability question. On one hand I'm told "don't say it as you just won't get an interview", on the other it may help to prepare them for my hesitant speech. That said of course there were those interviews I had where I had said it in my letter, still got interviewed, but they hadn't noticed it and still wanted the communication aspects of the jobs so was eliminated anyway.

The comment on the article by a writer called "Darkblade" puts it well: "Most job application forms have a place where you can fill in if you have a disability or similar. Maybe it would be advisable for people with Asperger's syndrome to complete this section. Perhaps they don't want to because they fear stigma and misunderstanding - and think that this will mean they just won't get the interview in the first place. Or, getting to interview stage, there is often a question beforehand about 'special requirements' where, I suppose, it's expected that people might ask about wheelchair access etc, but it might also be appropriate to mention if the candidate has Asperger's syndrome so that it can be taken into account at the interview. I think that in order to encourage people to 'disclose' Asperger's syndrome at application or pre-interview stage, employers definitely need to be educated better about Asperger's syndrome". I've been saying this for ages, courses like Flexible Routeways and New Deal focus so much on "its always the jobseeker that needs coaching" hence putting people through all these role plays about plane crashes and nuclear holocausts, yet it is employer education that is much needed.

One comment writer called "Muggedbyreality" does seem to hold firm their belief that people with AS are unemployable and makes a sarcastic comment about whether they are going to be told to employ someone with AS in sales. Another called "ThermoStat" stands up to Muggedbyreality asking "What do you suggest? That Aspies are left unemployed and in receipt of benefits for their entire life. Is that sustainable?" Muggedbyreality replies "Of course not. But private companies are not charities - why should they be expected to redefine the way they work or take people who aren't suited for the job? The author is asking for what are essentially either sinecures in HR or a complete change to the way HR works." It's not about asking for a complete change to the way HR works but more subtle redefinition of some manpower in a team should not be too much to ask in a reasonably sized employer.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Reality TV jobfinding shows

The Guardian have another good blog entry here about the recent spate of "Reality TV" jobfinding shows, following "Who Knows Best". I watched this myself, where a young lad with a criminal record presenting him as much of an obstacle as my Aspergers is in job search. He was given one-to-one help from the director of the country's largest training company, who introduced him to her contacts, but this is not what usually happens on training programmes as shown by other blog posts I've linked to before, and as witness the "My main gripe..." paragraph in the article.

I'm not alone in the blogosphere in commenting that one of the worst aspects of many of these programmes is that they are treating unemployed people as "entertainment". The comment from writers called 'wishface' (11 August 2010 10:53AM) and
'ishouldbewriting' (11 August 2010 11:35AM) are good.

Monday, 9 August 2010

"Incapacity" for alcoholics and drug abusers

It annoyed me to see this on the headlines of one of our national tabloids yesterday. These alcoholics and drug abusers are able to get themselves classed as "incapable of work" for their SELF-INFLICTED habits and therefore aren't obliged to actively seek work. With this on the front pages of tabloids its no wonder some people tar everyone on benefits with the same brush.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Government 'turning their back on the unemployed'

Another link on "24Dash", that is too true. The plans to axe the Future Jobs Fund struck a chord, because that scheme is so like that which I am on, and no doubt gave many people a much needed chance, it similarly funded waged jobs in the public sector and "social enterprises" like where I am. The ministers constantly make tough talk towards claimants yet as highlighted by the now shadow minister, £1.2 billion was actually being cut from support for the unemployed, and the new planned Work Programme would not be in place for at least another 12 months. With other cuts in the public sector they are going to have to pay out even more jobseekers allowance anyway.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Acknowledgment of "best efforts to find work" in housing reform article

Found this link on "24Dash", a social housing and public sector news website, where there is an article about the government's recent budget plans to cut Housing Benefit by 10% for people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for 12 months.

So many reporters are biased to the "lazy scroungers" attitude to people in this position, it made a decent change to see at the end of the article, the National Housing Federation's chief executive saying: "Cutting Housing Benefit could have a catastrophic impact on the lives of thousands of people who – despite their best efforts – have failed to find work after 12 months." I've been there myself and fear being there again when this scheme I'm on finishes, it's that "being an employer's first choice of person".

Monday, 14 June 2010

"Stress Epidemic" in economic climate

Two more I've found reading HR Magazine, this on the possibility of a stress epidemic, combined with the recent introduction of "fit notes" where doctors can state that staff 'may be fit for work taking account of the following advice'. Something to think about especially with having Asperger, if cutting manpower means people with Asperger are either (a) the ones cut because they aren't favoured for having lesser communication skills, or (b) where they are kept on but given more stressful communication tasks.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Victory Log Entry - Outlook HTML e-mail

Well here's a Victory Log Entry for an achievement at work today. As I'd said in the post about "Goals" in May, this is one thing from there I do like to remind myself of major achievements. My significant achievement of today was a formatted HTML e-mail in Outlook 2007 with text and pictures. The guv had asked me to start this yesterday, but when viewed in a browser the pictures moved as the window was resized, when they should have stayed still with scrollbars for the user to move. I looked online for stuff about formatting HTML e-mail after finding nothing in Outlook's own help to resolve this.

Significant was finding this blog on Campaign Monitor about Outlook 2007 using an engine from Word rather than Internet Explorer to render HTML emails, dropping "position" commands which was described as completely breaking any CSS based layouts meaning the need to use tables. Well it sounded like a backward step in web design terms but at least it had told me what to try, I'd used tables in Word was familiar with specifying sizes of whole tables, rows, columns; and merging and splitting cells. It took a bit of trial and error but when seen and tested the guv was impressed, as it now worked both on my own Internet Explorer and his Mac Firefox browsers.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

More on the World Cup - "banter can create tensions"

Interesting article in HR Magazine, following on from my post last week. The last paragraphs are making a similar point to that which I made, that not everyone is interested, and employers who make arrangements to the football fans, should at least make arrangements to benefit everyone, including those who aren't fans.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Article on new work and pensions secretary

The new work and pensions secretary is speaking of ensuring benefit claimants are not made worse off by working. One of the loopholes I particularly identified was a single person with a mortgage would lose their help with that, because the Support for Mortgage Interest allowance is an addition to Jobseekers and cuts out when working more than 16 hours per week, whilst the counterpart Housing Benefit for people renting is paid seperately by local councils and can be applied for regardless of hours per week worked. It is ironic that I could work 15 hours and still get the mortgage allowance, but do that 16th hour and I'd lose it and be worse off. If they address that loophole good for them!

His opponent has, however, picked up on their plans to cut £6.2bn in spending this year, including cutting one of the highest-quality programmes, the Future Jobs Fund. That struck a chord as it works similarly to what I'm on now, where the government is the employer and pays people a wage, like the third party charitable training provider is doing for me, taking the risk from the host organisation where I actually work.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Yet another blog on the dreaded scenario role-plays on jobsearch programmes

Just had to comment on this "New Ordeal" blog I've found and started following. Lo and behold the writer had to do that same dreaded scenario exercise about the plane crash deciding who got to go in the life raft. I'll credit the provider who put me through it, they did at least give an explanation about the supposed point of it even though I still found it somewhat patronising and altogether useless, this blog post said "No explanation about the point of this".

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

38% plan to miss work for World Cup

Just found this article online about people planning to miss work for the World Cup:
"An estimated 38% of full-time workers aged 18 to 45 are planning to be out of the office to cheer their team, the YouGov survey found. A total of 2,463 people were asked what they were likely to do to watch a particular match. While 5% said they would take a sickie, 18% said they would go to the pub with friends or colleagues and 23% said they would take the day or half-day off. Respondents were allowed to give more than one answer. The survey found 5% would be prepared to miss or reschedule their first day in a new job to watch a key game on television, 28% would reschedule a planned business lunch and 17% would defer a meeting with their boss. Almost half of respondents (48%) said being allowed to watch the key games would be the biggest booster to morale."

The sickie bit struck hardest, how many of those dishonest enough to do that are the ones who get jobs ahead of me because they appear better communicators? I don't do football, I can appreciate the point about it being a morale booster for those who do. However at the same time in one of the jobs I did have I used to get criticised for not playing with the lads who did, or watching matches together because it meant I "didn't fit in", and resented that criticism because ultimately football isn't everyone's interest and to be criticised in work appraisals for not fitting in because of it is plain wrong. Playing or watching football wasn't part of my job description, there just happened to be a lot there into it at the time and I wasn't one of them.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Reminder why SCHOOLS could be a particularly bad place for those with AS to work

This ranks as one particularly sad story, a teacher in Mansfield was sentenced to a community order having pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm without intent on a boy, but being cleared of attempting to kill him. The incident had been a variation on the "happy slapping" theme (attacking people and filming it on mobile phones) so often in the news, hence this related article on the case prompting a mobile crackdown call, I haven't heard any more on that since though.

My point to posting this in my AS job issues blog is that I had long had reservations about working in schools, which were brought to the fore when the guy doing Flexible Routeways had seen a data entry job at one school in my town and suggested I applied. When I started this blog I had stated that I had worked "in a public sector organisation" as it was still very shortly after I'd first left, it's now long enough since I'd left that I might as well say it was the local further education college with mainly 16-18s. I often got a few snide comments from passing teenagers and I guess this largely boils down to my nervous body language, if I was getting that from 16-18s, then no doubt it would be even worse with 13-16s, and I expressed that reservation to the guy at the time. He accepted my comments though I couldn't help wondering if he still saw me as "making excuses" or secretly wanting to ask me if I was "man or mouse" in being unable to show authority.

This incident hitting the headlines seemed vindicate me in justifying my relucatance about schools as a place to work. One point that really struck out in one of the articles was that "He was signed off sick (with depression and stress) for nearly five months and given counselling sessions by a therapist who told him he was too 'peaceful and passive' and needed to be better at letting his anger out." He had seemed to feel better and returned to work but shortly afterwards this incident happened. I know I'm similarly at the passive end of the "aggressive - assertive - passive" thing that is often referred to at coaching sessions, and people find it too easy to preach at me to learn assertiveness, as if I haven't tried to be more so but to no avail.

This is an extreme of a truly tragic case but you often hear about pupil-on-staff assaults and worse still that staff sometimes get blamed until proven otherwise. Pupils with a grudge could even set staff up by alleging "improper relationships" etc, which would get the staff done for abuse of a position of trust. Even come such time as the member of staff is cleared the stigma that they were at any point accused remains and their careers are already damaged. I'm conscious that I find it difficult enough to get jobs as it is, were I to get a job with a school, but then an incident were to occur, it could become even more difficult than ever before to persuade anyone else to take me on. The incident could have happened to admin staff just as easily as teachers, I see generic references to "pupil on staff" assaults! Worse still that the member of staff is often suspended on "disciplinary" pending investigation of whether they were in any way at fault themselves, if I pushed an attacking pupil away in self defence that push could be seen as an assault itself.

Friday, 21 May 2010

"Group Interview" at well known fast food chain

Link here from someone posting about having a group interview at the best known fast food chain. It is common for some people to say "anyone on benefits should go for jobs at this chain".

I was told when I did that "Flexible Routeways" many group interviews use the dreadful role plays about the plane crash or nuclear bunker scenarios, that was why we'd been given the exercises, doubt I'd get the jobs with that type of group interview.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

"Goals" coaching course - day one

Started with a round of introductions of all five of us in the room, plus the speaker and another member of staff sitting in "participant" situ as she hadn't seen the course before. We each had to give our names, how long we had been in contact with the provider, what we had done as work before our current situations, our job goals, how long it would be before we were "work ready." Well in my case I explained that I was work ready, apart from needing a position where I wouldn't have to have contact with customers and suppliers, when so many employers wanted me to have this and would choose someone else instead of me.

There was then discussion of how "success" is portrayed in the media. Two sides of the coin discussed, most of us saying typical celebrities were "overrated" but one participant was more positive about them saying she thought they had "set their goals, communicated and achieved them well." I still err on thinking they are overrated but can see what she means, looking at how many of them (especially professional footballers) get in the news for the wrong reasons, are those really their goals?

We were then asked to say what success was to each of us personally in terms of our own job goals, I said a job making good use of my skills but in the background, putting that above money, for which I said enough to be comfortable but where I would have a work-life balance and not work excessive overtime to earn loads of bonusses, my life outside work is important to me.

There was then the discussion of self esteem with the initials IALAC
I
Am
Loveable (/Likeable)
And
Capable
does the person feel "loveable / likeable" from their relationships with family and friends going well, and "capable" in doing day to day activities? I often feel vulnerable in this respect. From the book "Self esteem is the belief that you can handle whatever life dishes up", well listening to this is all very well but I don't always feel able to handle whatever life dishes up. There was a page to write about the things that raise and lower self esteem, mine's raised by an achievement of a task, enjoyment of time with friends or a specific activity, and praise and thanks. It is particularly lowered by criticism, people around me in a bad mood, disruption of routine and excessive pressure and expectation.

There was then a "personal success sheet" with the suggestion to divide our lives into thirds or similar and write 3 achievements.
First third 0-18
(1) Passed O and A level exams
(2) Rode bike
(3) Learned simple computing with my 1980s Spectrum
Second third 18-28
(1) Leaving home for university
(2) Relocations for jobs in the IT field
(3) Establishing a new social life with a particular local club in a national network
Final third 28-38
(1) Bought house
(2) Establishing social life at the dance nights for a favourite soul music genre
(3) Studied accounting courses and temporary jobs in this field
There was also the suggestion to start a "victory log", this blog is of course an ideal place for that, this is one suggestion I really do like, to write down particular successes in this journal when they happen.

What I wasn't so keen on was the "mirror exercise" a few pages further on. "Look into your eyes in the mirror for two minutes and pat yourself on the back": I'm sceptical as no amount of doing this would, for instance, would have made the contact with suppliers in the job in January 08 any better, or improved the flow of opportunities while I was unemployed. This is the whole "coaching" thing, and I'm still sceptical!

Monday, 17 May 2010

"Goals" - a coaching course this week

Still so far so good with the job.

I'm out of it for Wednesday and Thursday this week though for "Goals". In my first week I was given the leaflet headlined "Do You Know What You're Looking For - Read This Leaflet and You Could Change Your Life". Clearly it is a course of "coaching", after Flexible Routeways and its role play exercises I'm always sceptical of "coaching". In this leaflet it says "most training programmes focus on skills, not attitude, which is almost always the thing that stops people from achieving their full potential," so I'm going to be "coached" to have a more positive attitude, "to gain more confidence", "to overcome barriers, setbacks, fears and anxieties".

The woman from the service provider thinks I'll enjoy this and I hadn't the heart to say I'm sceptical, but I am. Clearly in the employment I had in January 08 I had trouble with working with suppliers, and when applying to jobs after that I explained in my honesty that I wasn't well suited to contact with suppliers. This seems to me that I'll be "coached" (preached at in other words) "Tell yourself you can overcome that", but was I not already trying to do just that by persisting with the employment in question? I did not protest about being asked to take those calls until matters came to a head with the aggressive, confontational general manager of the company, precisely because I was trying to have a positive attitude and "tell myself I can" do it, but clearly I reached a breaking point.

No amount of courses like this would change this, for me to have success in a job on the open market the contact with suppliers still has to be removed from my role, that is the employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments to a disabled employee's role.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Work for Your Benefit: Work Placement or Job?

"Work for Your Benefit: Work Placement or Job?" an interesting article on "flexible-new-deal.co.uk" - of particular interest is the comment by Kyron, 12/5/10 5:33, "it is very likely that a high proportion of those forced on to workfare will be disabled and other disadvantaged people, who will be more likely than non-disabled people to reach the end of the flexible New Deal without having obtained a job." My own experience showed how long I could go on actively applying to the open job market yet not be anyone's first choice of person for such a long time.

Friday, 23 April 2010

"Unemployment hits 2.5m"

While I'm glad to have started working myself on this scheme I still spare that thought for those who haven't been so lucky. I'm just doing my weekly jobsearch session and opened JobsToday with this link to an article in the Yorkshire Post. There was mention of how Public sector employment rose between September and December but in the ongoing election campaign the current opposition, whilst ahead in the polls, threaten to "jump from the frying pan of recession into the fire of slashed public services and public investment." The said Public sector employment rise may well be reversed just like that!

Friday, 2 April 2010

So far, so good ....

End of fourth week with a bank holiday Friday, so far so good. No time to add much to the blog these days ....

Monday, 22 March 2010

Service provider staff setting an example

So I'm now going into my third week of the new job. As it is 6 months on a scheme through and employed by a service provider, not a permanent job, on one day a week (currently Mondays) I go to the provider's local office to do job search on internet.

Well there's me doing my job search while the receptionist behind me is ringing local pubs on the work phone asking who is showing a particular football match. Turns out she and a new boyfriend are both fans of one of the teams playing so it will be a hot date in a pub showing the match! Even went on the internet too, what an example to set those people job searching.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The first week over

So I've had my first 4-day week at work. I've been helping with spreadsheeting stuff the director usually has to look up on the internet each time, he hopes to get me started on the book-keeping side next month. Only phone work is just to get names and numbers for him to ring people back when he's out, on another call or in meetings, he realises it wouldn't be my skill to have additional responsibility and would want to deal with calls himself anyway.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Nothing like a bit of good news to start a Friday

I got the job from the interview and start next Tuesday. I'm excited and nervous at the same time but it's good news like I haven't seen for ages.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Flexible New Deal latest

Next meeting on this, this time with the partner organisation where the training and job search actually takes place. The interviewer has said he has possibilities of people he may be able to send my CV for some part-time work experience, assuming that I wasn't successful on Friday.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Today's interview

Was encouraged having viewed the setup of the 'social enterprise', which runs training for people with learning difficulties, where I might be able to undertake this employment scheme. The director interviewing me seemed impressed with the experience of my CV, and did appreciate what I'm up against on the more conventional open market. Hope to hear in a week's time.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mixed feeling on meeting today

Today's meeting - I'm cautiously optimistic. This place I've got an interview on Friday 26th could be promising, I saw "good" communication skills on the job spec and the woman did say how I'd be working on my own at times and covering the phone for the director when he isn't there, but it wouldn't be a case of it constantly ringing. She agrees I'm "reasonable" anyway and acknowledges my nervous hestitancy, also adding that callers are aware of the nature of the social enterprise as part of what they do is operating a training centre for people with learning difficulties worse than what I have, and customers are aware that sometimes it is them that may answer the phone. Well, getting the interview is a big step in itself and I've not had one for a while.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Flexible New Deal meeting

Felt this went well, the interviewer appreciated my experience and accounts of that specific obstacle that I have. She got me to do this online questionnaire on a computer about my work experience and issues, then let me have some time to search online until they were ready to talk to me. I felt I got my capability across, and she appreciated the issue of unwilling employers.

Most of the activity takes place at a partner office and I'm due to see this partner in a couple of weeks. That did seem another "pillar to post", I was hoping that having been to the place I went today, I'd know where I stood with regular attendance there.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Meetings in the pipeline

It's all happening right now. Monday 15th I'm finally seeing one of the local Flexible New Deal providers for an introductory interview. I know I've linked to a lot of other blogs on here with uncomplementary experience of New Deal, and no doubt the new "Flexible" programme too, but I intend to approach this positively with the people there, being honest about my barriers to work, but positive about my overall capability and experience to date.

Also had another e-mail from the woman doing the employment scheme for one meeting at the local office on Tuesday 16th, to discuss further the potential suitability of a position that has come up at a small 'social enterprise' setup, with an interview two weeks today!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

"Thank you for your honesty ..."

A company recently forwarded their detailed job descriptions after I'd written in response to their advert. I was honest in concluding that both positions had elements of computer work that I could do very well, but also customer contact elements that I would not be suited to referring them back to where I had noted having a communication skills disability on the original letter.

Well they've just sent an e-mail back "Thank you for your honesty in making us aware of your communication skills disability, we will retain your information and contact you should a suitable opening arise that meets your skills."

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

wheels back into motion?

One hopeful surprise today, phone call from the woman I'd met in November at the service provider who do the scheme of paid placements for disabled people in the voluntary sector. Some new possible roles are coming up and she needed an e-mail copy of my CV (only had it on paper before) so she can forward it to the prospective employers quickly. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow Joke: Can’t get to work?

A good article on Jobsite from an employment lawyer on the subject of being unable to get into work in the recent snow conditions. I am glad to see this lawyer including "the general accepted guidance is that whether you are paid or not, you should not put yourself in danger by travelling in dangerous conditions." See the comments for some examples of very unreasonable employers.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

'Working from home' in snow?

This article on Reuters news is about a record number of new members yesterday morning on an "extra-marital" dating site, mainly from areas worst hit by this week's extreme weather. It is thought that these wives and husbands found this to be a time when, with the bad weather they were technically able to "work from home", they could join the site away from the eyes of their work colleagues and partners.

For me this begged the same question as last month's post "Present a professional personal brand" about if I'd have been pipped at the post at interview by folks that did this. Were they using their WORK provided laptops for instance? Connecting to the internet under their work accounts? The list goes on ....

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Poor choice among today's jobsearch - plus encouraging article

A few extracts from the descriptions found in today's jobsearch:
- You will need to have good communicative skills as you will be dealing directly with customer enquires.
- You must have Sage payroll experience and excellent communication skills. You will be wholly responsible for Sage payroll. You will obtain quotes from suppliers, order parts, chase up delivery and check items on arrival. You will be checking goods out, invoicing, undertaking customer follow up and credit control
- Applicants must be able to deal competently with face to face and telephone enquiries from professional organisations and individual members of the public.
- You will be a team player with the ability to work on your own initiative. You will be confident and possess the ability to be able to communicate at all levels. The ideal candidate must have previous experience in a Facilities Management, customer focused or a project management role and will be proficient in Microsoft office.


I'm rolling out a couple of plausible speculative applications, in the absence of any better matches I really need to get them out to keep things flowing for the jobcentre.

I was encouraged to read an article on the Jobcentre website (unfortunately can't link to it any more following a restructure of the site) where a disabled person with short term memory issues was given a chance through a Work Trial, as I've so tried to get employers to give me. There are employers who will do this, one has to be on my radar soon surely.

Referee leaving - their job is in local paper

Just when I didn't think my plight could get much worse as an unwanted employee, I've just got the local paper and seen one of my referee's jobs advertised, she's obviously leaving. The longer I'm without a job this is exactly what happens, people who would give references do move on, I'd hoped of course that I'd have had a job before now anyway, and have a more up to date reference with.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Another blog sharing my opinion on the dreaded role-play exercises

It's nearly a full year since I made this post about the dreadful role playing exercises of nuclear bunkers and plane crashes I was subjected to on "Flexible Routeways". Funnily I found a post on this blog "Intensive Activity" (Ipswich Unemployed Action) that these things do seem to be used at many of these providers, but with the common consensus that it doesn't really help us find jobs!