Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 21, 2014

Post-interview crash

Filed under: news of the day,workin for the man — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 3:28 pm

Yesterday I went to my first job interview in six years. At least I think that’s what it was.

Following up on the idea that I should eschew money, free time and a healthy back and knees free of crippling muscular pain, I talked yesterday to a pimping agency that places apprentices with relevent companies (builders and tradies, in the case of my preferred vocation).

To say that it’s been a while since I did an interview for a private sector job is a bit of an understatement. It’s been at least twenty years, and that’s far enough back that specific details of how I got previous jobs are hazy, if not wholly reconstructed from lost data. The thing is, I can’t remember the process being so…chatty.

The employer – let’s call her M because it’s her initial – is the sole ACT agent for a company headquartered in Sydney. So, I dunno, maybe she doesn’t get to talk to many people face to face (or at least not many people who are not 17 years old and looking for a sparky’s ticket).

But, man, that was some chat. The state of the ACT economy, the state of the public service, the state of the local trades industry, Canberra’s variable weather (equipment-meltingly hot except when it’s brain-freezingly cold), the complexities of work health and safety laws versus the rude simplicity of not getting killed on the job, the dizzying array of TAFE courses available… On occasions it strayed close to the business of becoming an employee [1] but mostly it just seemed to be an exercise in me impressing upon her that I was serious about wanting to be a (very) mature-age chippie.

M did her best to put me off the whole idea. The hours will be long. The pay will be minimal. The work will be back-breaking and exhausting. For the first six to twelve months I will be a burden and a liability for the foreman and everyone around me, all of whom will likely be fifteen to twenty years younger than me.

I’ll admit that the hours are going to be the biggest obstruction. It will be hard to coordinate doing my part to help with the kids if I have to be on-site at seven in the morning and won’t finish my work day until after school finishes. And I’ll probably lose most of my Saturdays. And, and, and…

In the end I’m not sure if I’m put off or not. If it were just me, I think I could stomach the financial hit. I know I could grunt out the physical stress, once I got past the body horror of being confronted with the fact that I no longer have the strength and stamina of an eighteen (even the structurally unprepossessing eighteen year old that I used to be).

M was not one to close the door without opening a dim and possibly dangerous secret passage though. She suggested some other options I hadn’t considered that move me towards my goal, more in line with my prior experience and less bodily demanding. I’m not sure if they’re really what I want to do – the hands-on part of carpentry is the aspect of my plans that has the most appeal – but she’s given me a lot to think about.

As we shook hands and thanked each other for our time, I did wonder whether I was under serious consideration or not. I know that I didn’t come away with that familiar, dreaded sensation of having botched the interview and made a laughing stock of myself. On the other hand, I didn’t walk out contemplating an offer either. I didn’t expect to. I didn’t know what to expect.

It was fun though. It looks as though the years have smoothed off some of the spiky bits I’ve always experienced with job interviews. And by ‘spiky bits’ I mean of course ‘utter, shaking terror’. I reckon I might be willing to do it again.

What I will do next is still an academic question. Until my current employer decides whether it wants me or not (or at least until my employer gets around to telling me what it wants) I won’t consider taking another job. But it sure would be nice to have something lined up just in case.

The search continues…

[1] One such moment was when M quietly mentioned the salary range for first-year apprentices, which is roughly one-half of what I get paid at the moment. That’s actually a bit better than I was expecting, but of course it also comes with a forty hour week and regular somewhat-mandatory overtime.

January 13, 2014

Contemplating my mid-life crisis options

Filed under: fitter/happier,news of the day,the renovated life — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 3:45 pm

At the moment my state of employment remains risibly unresolved, despite the several months that have passed since the government decision that changed everything [1]. I don’t have a lot to do, which has given me a lot of time to think about what I might want to do instead.

Number one on the list is, of course, to become a full-time writer. The major flaw in that plan is that I still have not only mortgage on my own house, but also a would-be-crippling debt on a range of investment properties. Gotta have at least some money trickling in. Regular readers will understand why I might not be ready to bet my family’s wellbeing going all-in on artistic productivity that more closely resembles a leaking tap.

So, given that my desire to continue in the public service has begun to wane of late, I’ve started thinking about what else I might like to do with myself. The thing that I keep coming back to is construction work.

I am thinking about starting an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Yes, I am completely serious. Somehow, the thought of four years on minimum wage, labouring in baking heat or murderous cold, hold a greater attraction than running down the clock to retirement in an office. It’s an urge that’s been coming on for a while now.

I’ve got to be honest, it would be a means to an end rather than an ambition in itself. I am certain I could find a great deal of joy and satisfaction in working as part of a team to build something tangible, to deal with crises and solve problems. (That’s where most of the joy in my administrative career has come from, after all). But at some point the dream is to be able to work for myself, with Fiona, as a builder/renovator, taking old things and making them new, or even building houses from scratch. It’s taken most of my life to learn to appreciate how satisfying and fulfilling is can be to make something new that will (hopefully) outlive you.

(It’s possible that having kids has helped with this revelation.)

The other reason that working outdoors has so much appeal at the moment is that it gets me away from a keyboard. Decades of sitting at a workstation all day have rubbed a bit of the gloss off the idea of further sitting at a computer writing fiction for half the night. But I know that if I’m separated from my writing tools for any significant length of time I start to get twitchy. Spending much of the day not being able to write is likely to make me very hungry indeed to get down everything I’ve been mulling over.

Finally, moving about a lot and lugging great big slabs of lumber ought to be great for toning my rock-hard delts and abs and…um, other muscles. Right, ladies? [2]

At the moment I’m not in a position to make any formal decisions, but I’m doing the research, making appropriate contacts and getting registered with the right organisations. From what I can tell, the slow economy is going to be the main impediment to me finding a place. Group training programs are being cut to the bone and nobody seems to be hiring.

On the other hand, when they do hire, older applicants (see also: white and male, if I were to guess) tend to be favourably considered because they are less likely to turn up late or drunk or just drop out mysteriously. That seems to be a thing among straight-out-of-school apprentices. Being financially stable and relatively fit and healthy seems to be an advantage from what i hear.

I’m at the stage where none of this might happen. Industry jobs are scarce, I may be offered a compelling position by my current employer that is not the wall of gloom and misery I seem to be in line for, or I may not be offered sufficient enticement to quit the service.

On the other hand, another week or two like the last couple, and that might not matter. Pass me a hammer and step back, please.


[1] Specifics elided because I am at least technically still a government employee, although it doesn’t seem like it most days. I intend to remain aloof and professionally distant with regards to the subject right up to the moment that I no longer have to.

[2] The supposed health benefits will presumably expire the first time I contract pneumonia working for a week in late autumn sleet getting the room on a half-finished frame so the boss doesn’t forfeit a completion bonus…

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