Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Ticks

At this time of economic gloom and woe, I am almost embarrassed to report I have landed another job interview.

I am confident that I deserve this interview as I wrote (well, typed, thanks to the accessible glory that is an online application) next to every disability-linked question and every 'if you are shortlisted for interview'-linked question that I was NOT requesting an interview under the Two Ticks scheme* and did NOT want to be shortlisted on the basis of my disability.

My only concern is taking the time off from my existing job to attend the interview, as it's on a day when we tend to be both busy and understaffed at the best of times. I'll have a word with my manager today. I suspect I'll end up stashing jeans and trainers at work the day before, so that I can go in straight from interview and change out of my suit there.

I realise this is really quite a smug position to be in.

*The Two Ticks Scheme

This is a scheme that quite a few large employers sign up to, recognisable by a symbol of two ticks encircled by the tagline "positive about disabled people". The part of it that is relevant here is a pledge that if a disabled candidate has shown on their application that they meet the minimum stated requirements for a job, that candidate gets an automatic interview. This helps, because a lot of disabled people wouldn't make the first cut due to things like:

- one or more long periods of unemployment
- previous employment mostly in an entirely different field
- an unusual pattern of education
- employer prejudices

... the idea being that once a person is in an interview setting, they can better explain and show how they are the right person for the job, how their nonstandard CV is proof of their ability to adapt to situations and overcome obstacles, how they are pleasant and competent individuals who will be an asset rather than a burden to the existing team, and so on. Or indeed not, as the case may be. Either way, the person gets interview practice, hopefully some interview feedback so that they have an idea where they should improve things, and a greater chance of getting a job when their CV might otherwise have gone straight into the bin.

Which is all great, but there's a flipside. Going to an interview takes up time, energy, and money, three things that your average disabled job applicant is not rolling in. You have to get your suit cleaned and your shirt ironed, you have to research the company, practise some answers for likely questions, arrange for a lift or pay for the taxis there and back, you have to deal with spending the 24 hours beforehand feeling utterly queasy with nerves.

If you already work, then it's even worse. You have to have that uncomfortable little discussion with your boss that (s)he might be about to get asked for a reference. You have to worry about whether the knowledge that you applied for another job is going to adversely affect you when it comes to managerial decisions about promotions or redundancies or pay cuts. You have to book time off work, and if that's not possible and the interviewers can't offer a different day, you have to start weighing up abandoning the interview vs throwing a sickie...

All of which might very well be worth it, if there's a genuine chance of getting a decent job at the end of it.

Unfortunately for a Two Ticks candidate, a job will (and must, and should) always go to the person most competent to do that job. If you meet the minimum criteria and turn up for a Two Ticks interview, and five other people (disabled or otherwise) are being interviewed who meet and exceed the maximum criteria, well, you're never going to get that job.

Also unfortunately, nepotism is alive and well and probably always will be. I have seen a couple of jobs where the position was publicly advertised (because it's a requirement of the company policy), the disabled candidates were interviewed (because it's a requirement of the Two Ticks scheme), and then everybody had to try and not look surprised when the position went to, at best, an internal candidate, and at worst, the repugnant offspring of the managing director.

In such situations, the Two Ticks candidate has NO chance of getting the job. All (s)he gets is a lot of expense and hassle and a smidgen of interview experience. Which is fine if interview experience is what you want... but personally, I'd rather only attend interviews where I know I have a reasonable chance of being the one who gets the job.

Edited for grammar 22:27 12/02/09

Monday, February 02, 2009

On being a bear with a sore head

"And the angel cloth├ęd all in white opened the Iron Book, and a fifth rider appeared in a chariot of burning ice, and there was a snapping of laws and a breaking of bonds and the multitude cried "Oh God, we're in trouble now!"
Book Of Om, Prophecies of Tobrun: Chapter 2, verse 7.
From the first edition (since rescinded).*

Oh yes, I am not the bunny who is happy today. I've grouched in the morning and I've grouched in the evening and I daresay I'll grouch at suppertime too for good measure. I am grouchy to the left and grouchy to the right and grouchy everywhere in between. Fear my grouchiness.

The reason for the Grouch is the Pain and the reason for the Pain is the Cold and the Snow. I don't do well with cold and snow. Every muscle is tightened, every joint is throbbing with white-hot pain. Dealing with the pain makes me exhausted and being exhausted makes it more difficult to deal with the pain. Always and in everything this sodding pain as a consistent acid-laced thread and I have had ENOUGH.

During the course of today I have had far too many immediate and disproportionate mental responses to the tiniest of transgressions. Generally it has involved a fervent wish for something extremely uncomfortable to be shoved in a distinctly unpleasant orifice belonging to whichever unfortunate mortal has been foolish enough to cross my path.

I think any minute now I may cross that line between 'being a bit prickly' and 'being a bit of a prick'. So I'm typing up this blogpost to try and avoid doing that in public or to someone who doesn't deserve it.

Thank you for your patience.

* as detailed in Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

If I was a writer, I would say I have writer's block.

I'm not sure what the blogger's equivalent might be. Suggestions in the comments. I have all sorts of ideas and then I open up notepad and all I can manage is one or two horrifically-formed sentences which I would be embarrassed to put my name to. To which I would be embarrassed to put my name. You see? So I'm afraid for now we'll just have to settle for this rambling hotch-potch of miscellaneous Thoughts.

My cold got better, I managed with just one day off work when it was at its worst and there was a fever to go with it which I think is fair enough.

Steve and I have done lots of Interesting Stuff and I have gone "ooh, I will enjoy blogging about this" and then tried to write a post and not got anywhere. So for now you'll just have to have the bare bones and add your own detail:

National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham.

Steve and I went with one of Steve's friends. They took lots of photos, you can see Steve's photos here. It was both soothing and interesting watching the various inhabitants of the tanks swimming about. The HUGE turtle was especially serene, and much more graceful than you would expect of something weighing more than two adult men. Accessibility was great, it's a step-free environment and I only saw one staircase, for which there was a small lift equivalent within a few metres. However wheelies should be aware it's a lot of slopes - the building has a surprisingly small 'footprint' but is multi-storey - so pushing assistance is recommended.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

As a lifelong Roald Dahl fan, I have wanted to go to this since it first opened. Encouragingly, Steve and I spotted it in the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain so off we went. It was everything we hoped for. The Archive has all sorts of original material, from first drafts of books to letters from his publisher, from the telegrams sent to his parents to congratulate them on the birth of their son, to the regular letters home that he wrote throughout his life. The museum has some of these items on display in museum cases, with the items changed every three months to preserve them from light damage. That's quite exciting for a fan, to see the actual items themselves. But the heart of the museum is its child-friendliness and hands-on-ness. One particularly thrilling piece was the reconstruction of his writing-shed, complete with a filing cabinet of which one drawer was open - and in the drawer were letters from the publisher and annotated drafts and whatnot, looking for all the world like the real thing (they are printouts of the scans of the originals).

I can't be positive enough about the museum, and it's not just the fan in me talking. Look at the website. The accessibility isn't a joke, either - not only can a wheelchair get everywhere easily, but there are also plenty of seats, carers/PAs can get in free, and other adjustments (such as audio transcripts) are available. The only, only hitch is that due to the historic nature of Great Missenden High Street, there's no immediately nearby parking facilities - it's several minutes' walk, which could cause difficulty for wobbly walkers.

Add in a sprinkling of bowling, knitting, meals with friends, a visit to the park, and some shopping, and I haven't been bored. I just haven't been blogging, is all.

The job advert for my PA was in the paper last week, and there's just under three weeks for all the many millions of hopeful candidates to get their applications submitted. Finding the right person is going to be a delicate balancing act. For instance:

- I must get on well enough with them to be able to trust them with my safety and relax in their company. However at the same time, they're not being paid to be my friend, and the relationship must stay on a professional footing.

- They must be able to accept that I'm the one in charge who decides what we are doing and when and how we are doing it just like any other employer/employee dynamic. However they have to be confident enough to take control of a situation when I'm suddenly slumped up and barely conscious.

You see what I mean? And how does one find out this sort of thing in an interview? I think I may have done better to advertise for "henchman required, to enable disabled evil genius to take over the world. Experience with lasers an advantage," at least then I'd know I was getting the right sort of people applying for the job.

Suggestions for posts welcome, anything to get me writing properly again.