Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Job Application Dos and Do Nots

In the past two or three years I’ve had call to be on various different interview panels. I’m on another one now, and I decided to put together a list of “dos and do nots” for writing job applications. Retrospectively my own job applications were poor – though not as poor as some I’ve seen – so maybe this will serve as a reminder to myself in the future.

All of these items are things I’ve seen done – even the more ridiculous ones.

• Correct spelling, punctuation and grammar are not optional. Even little things like “organization” with a z will irritate anal retentive Australians like myself after they’ve read 10 applications before yours.

• If you really feel it necessary to relate a story of where you’ve stuffed up badly (eg gone bankrupt) or found a problem in a place of work, for the love of god please explain what you learned from it, what you did to resolve it, and what successes you had in doing so. An example where you found a problem and did nothing to resolve it makes you look slack, not observant.

• It’s understandable that you’ve written lots of job applications lately, and I approve of recycling where possible, but make sure that it’s not blindingly obvious that you’ve done so. Printing an application for another position with no changes whatsoever, stapling pages for a second application to the back of the first one, using the same sentence in three different places (can we say “cut and paste”?) or leaving half a page of text that has nothing to do with what you’re meant to be addressing because you like it are examples of things not to do.

• Give examples. A one sentence statement saying you can do something isn’t generally very convincing.

• On the other hand, once you’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s best to retire the examples that relate to school projects. Find better ones from when you were working.

• It’s generally best not to mention the time you spent on the witness stand in court – with the possible exception of jobs in the police force.

I am sure there are lots more but I can't think of them right now. Anyone else got any advice?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Nightmare Post Script

As a post script to my previous blog, the fire alarm did actually go off this morning - once again a toast-related incident.

I didn't quite jump out of my skin but it did make me jump. The alarms here don't gradually ramp up over a few seconds - it's just BAM! it's on

And I had two different firemen compliment me independantly on my PA manner, so that part of my dream was true at least! This despite my rather embarrasing and unintentionally funny final announcement of, "The fire brigade have confirmed that the alarm heard was false. However, staff are asked to stay out of the basement for the next few minutes while the smoke clears."

As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew it was a mistake! :P

... Had a WoW friend link a really funny web comic to me today. It's hi-larious - if you get a chance, check it out: Dr McNinja

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why Nerds Are Unpopular, and Me

Mikey put me onto an essay by an American IT businessman and self-professed nerd, Paul Graham, called “Why Nerds Are Unpopular”. It took me a while to find time to read it, partly because I heard him and Cthulu talking about Graham’s statement that schools are basically prisons where we put teenagers till they reach an economically productive age, giving them useless facts and figures to memorise to keep them occupied.

This led me to imagine that the author must be an embittered ex-bully victim who was dwelling on and exaggerating the difficulties of high school beyond all proportion – this despite my intense dislike of my primary school and early to middle high school years.

But today I actually had time to read the essay, and I was really impressed. The prison metaphor works insofar as what you’re talking about is a bunch of people who are kept in one place for long periods of time in relative inactivity, where the authority figures (teachers / prison guards) try not to get too involved in the social hierarchy and let it sort itself out – with results that anyone who was bullied at school can readily recall.

I’ve read a couple of other essays by Paul Graham since this first one, and it has actually shaken me up a bit. I was bullied because I looked different (I had glasses in a school where that was uncommon); my response was to spend more time with books. I distinctly remember spending one lunch time in primary school putting the encyclopedias in alphabetical order rather than going outside. I think this actually turned me into a nerd (maybe later a geek) by default, because what else was I meant to do? The books were a form of escapism, and I could get praise from teachers by doing well to replace the affirmation by my peers that other kids got.

Graham hypothesises that most nerds become that way because they are smarter than the other kids. They tend to be distracted with weightier ideas (more adult ideas) than their peers, and because being popular is a LOT of work, they don’t devote the attention to it that it requires and as a result they flounder. They also realise that the situation they are in is dysfunctional and that schools are holding pens, and it makes them rebel.

I didn’t do that. I tried to conform as best I could with my D table peers (though I was E table material in years seven and eight), though I was never very good at it. I ostracised people who didn’t fit in with that group, like the new kids, and I tried to get good grades because I thought it meant something. If I was distracted by anything, it was by elaborate day-dreams, and the development of my emotional maturity was actually slower than that of my peers (I think), presumably because I had less exposure to them. It’s also why I am largely an introvert now.

I gather that Paul Graham is an ambitious person, and that’s not a quality I’ve ever had either. While they are quite interesting to read (and make me wish I could be a teenager again with all of my adult knowledge), those essays of his that I’ve read now make me feel like I wasted an awful lot of time at school and that maybe I wasn’t even the archetypal nerd that, till now, I thought I was.

Or maybe I am just suffering from a temporary case of inferiority complex, in which case I should get over it shortly. Certainly I am quite envious of this man and his essays – they are well thought out and well written, and show a capacity for critical thinking far in excess of my own.

Check them out and let me know what you think. The index of his essays is here. The other article I was particularly impressed with is here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ocean Views

Ocean View

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was on leave last week. M and I went to the coast for three nights. We took our dogs with us - we found a place that allowed us to have pets, which was cool. And it was quite nice too - looked like a recently constructed house.

The beach in the picture is a place my family used to go when I was a kid. Turns out it's one of very few beaches in the area that allows dogs, so we took them there.

I love the beach - the smell as you come over the sand dunes and the ocean air hits you is awesome. And I love the sound of the waves. Not a real big swimmer though - got thoroughly dumped once when I was a teenager and inhaled half the Pacific.

Seems Tasha, our older dog, is the same. She ran up to the water - she loves water normally - and was checking it out when she saw a wave coming in and did the bolt. Hahaha! :)


I had the most extraordinarily vivid nightmare on Sunday night.

To put it in context, it was my last night of a week's leave before returning to work, and in the last week I was at work we had a toast-related fire alarm that smoked out one of the floors pretty badly (he really burned the toast quite well).

In my dream, I was in my work building - only it was a mix of my current and previous places of work, as happens sometimes in dreams - and there was smoke on the floor that I was on. I ran down to the foyer to operate the fire panel (I am one of the boss-type fire wardens).

Very quickly things spun out of control. My PA manner was excellent (of course!), but the fire was madly out of control. Four of the floors were quickly engulfed in a raging inferno - I could tell because the lights went out on the panel (it doesn't work that way; another bit of artistic licence on the part of my subconscious) - and though I thought most of the people had evacuated I couldn't be sure. The fire brigade didn't show up and when I called I spent ages on hold - and then there was a very condescending person who turned up and told me that they were all off on a training day and weren't available. I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her.

In the meantime, outside it had grown very dark and a sullen orange colour, like the colour of the sky as it was during the Canberra firestorm in January 03. Very creepy.

The warden intercom phone rang and it was a guy I know from work, on the floor below the one where the fire started. He started to talk to me about inanities and I yelled at him to get out, but I knew somehow that the stairwells were impassable and it was futile. I told him, "There might be some smoke". What was I meant to say?

Then as things got worse the phone rung again, and I heard the sounds of a roar and an explosion that sounded like a gunshot, and a woman screaming. It was very Silent Hill-esque.

That was when I woke up.

I figure the dream was general anxiety about returning to work and the shiteload of stuff I had waiting for me, but it's really stuck with me. Yesterday when I saw the guy who made that first phone call, I felt the overwhelming desire to be nice, though, and every time I hear a door shut in the vicinity of the fire doors on our floor I twitch.

I hope the alarms don't go off for the next few days or I will jump out of my skin.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?