Saturday, 5 April 2014

My simple 6 interview tips

It's been a crazy few weeks of relentless interviewing following the threat of (and then actual) redundancy. I'm exhausted and not sure if I have the energy to answer the question, 'What are you doing in your current role?' for the umpteenth time. Nevertheless, interviewing is a fact of life. Even having conducted hundreds of interviews myself as an ex-Recruiter, I still feel that entering an unknown building and trying to impress an unknown person is just as daunting to me now as it was at the beginning of my working life.

I am up to the final rounds of interviews so I thought I'd take the opportunity to impart some of what I have learnt about myself and the interview techniques that work for me, in the hope they might help another. It's important to show enthusiasm over desperation. Being a person with a dependent your head says, 'PANIC!' but this must not show on your face.

There are plenty of formal structured ideas of how an interview should be conducted, but I would like to give a friendlier list of Top 6 Tips for getting the job you want:

1) Be the best version of yourself - This sounds fairly obvious, but it's surprising how tempting it is as an interviewee to fall into a trap of thinking, 'What do they want me to be?' Of course you want to show you are suitable, but you must be true to you. If you project a false image you will be discovered in the end, and that will be counter-productive for both parties.

2) Know your CV and tell the truth - There is a fine line here. In the dating world, it's not advisable to try to impress someone by saying you can relate to their interest as an annual competitor in Iron Man, if in all honesty, you're referring to regularly running for the No. 9 bus. This false projection will not doing you any favours in the end. However, there is nothing wrong with amending your CV to align to the job spec and highlight related strengths in specific areas.  If you have experience in something and it's relevant make sure it's on your CV. You must know the dates, companies, job titles, length of time and reasons for leaving each role. Make sure not to give a negative answer like, 'My manager was a bitch.'

3) Arrive 10 minutes early - I was two minutes late for an interview, and because of the rush and the flustering I was worried I'd blown it instead of focussing on my performance. This is not the best first impression you want to give at interview.

4) Get an early night the day before and DO NOT DRINK! - I once turned up to an interview severely hungover, with my collar inside out and no make-up. My hair looked like I'd been caught in the middle of a fight between a fox and a badger. I sat in the interview with waves of nausea rushing over me. I had to ask him to repeat a question because my mind had focussed on more important things, such as whether I was going to keep that Prosecco down, and whether there was a bin in the room within grabbing distance.

5) Interview the interviewer - I find this works wonders. It's recommended that you take a list of questions with you. I say make sure you memorise these questions. There's no need to wait until the end to ask them, if it's an appropriate moment, ask! This isn't prison. You need to make sure you're happy with them as a company and as potential colleagues. It's your life! I had an interviewer ask ME if I had any reservations about him. That's your aim.

6) Smile, make eye contact and show them you want it - This is by far the most important thing you can do. Any hard-faced, bull dog of a VP or Director or CEO will crack a smile in response because it is the human condition to do so. Ultimately, it's people that build businesses. They want to see you have a personality and you are confident in your abilities. My thoughts: "Yes, this is scary as hell, and I am severely intimidated, but I'm going to be happy, enthusiastic and positive about the whole situation, because I may need a sense of humour if I am to be spending the next few years of my life answering to you!" Make sure you drop the interviewer a succinct thank you email afterwards. Mention one key point from the interview such as, 'Your obvious enthusiasm for the company must be a great motivator for your staff'.

So there you have it. Just remember that you might not want the job anyway. If it's the right company for you then there'll be chemistry from both sides. Intuition is a very important aspect of this process. Just think, you're basing a life-changing decision on an hour in a chair. Dig deep, smile wide and make them want you on their team.

Good luck job-seekers! Here's to the next great opportunity.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dating a tall girl

So here I am, online dating again. I'm feeling positive about the whole experience as I now know what I want and I am happy enough in myself to go and get it.

Being a tall woman of 6'1" there have always been perceptions both from others and myself of the acceptable height of a date. Sadly, society believes that the man in a relationship should be taller. This is something that has been bred into us, and a belief I am guilty of myself. I won't go into explicit detail (in case my mother reads this), but of the men I have *ehem* been with, only one has been taller than me.

I have had a strict rule about dating guys taller than me. My brain has been conditioned to discount the shorter men and only find taller men attractive. However, something deep within me has bent this rule on more than one occasion. Despite feeling that perhaps I am doing something wrong I will still fall for shorter guys. As a teen and young adult I was made to feel that shorter guys would be threatened by my height. To be honest, I probably had more of a connection on a personal level with short guys who were just one-nighters! Perhaps there were missed opportunities, but the choices I made have given me the outlook I have today.

I have researched average couple heights and apparently only 4% of women are taller than their men! However, it appears that there are quite a few celebrities who confidently shrug off the 'taboo' of a taller woman and crack on anyway: Tom and Nicole, Tom and Katie, Mick and L'Wren, Ethan and Uma. If it's good enough for them, why not me?

I found out last night that 'Peanut Butter Guy' (the man I've been chatting to online) is 5'11". We get on amazingly, we have a lot in common, he's very intelligent, good looking, lovely arms (they are), he loves animals, he is an incredible photographer, and yet two little inches made me stop and reconsider my efforts of getting to know him! It is such a shame that such a superficial thing would get in the way, and I am angry at myself for wanting to conform to societal beliefs that could result in a forcefield to my happiness. I am angry at myself, because when I jokingly (worryingly) asked him if he ever wore heels, rather than the response I was expecting: 'Shall we just call it a day?' instead, he sent me a photo of himself when he was younger in drag and said 'Funny you should ask....' He doesn't care how tall I am, so what am I worried about?

I think what us tall girls want is to not have to be the joker and 'one of the guys' just because you're the same height (or taller). We want to feel feminine just as much as the next girl and we need guys to not feel threatened or emasculated, and for them to feel secure enough in themselves to embrace our height. Upon meeting guys in a bar (for example) we regularly get the line, 'You're tall', to which my response is usually 'Too tall for you' or 'You're short/fat/bald/(insert other offensive comment). This puts an end to the conversation immediately. Wouldn't it be great if someone were not to mention the obvious at all? Maybe think outside the box (or stand on it) and say, 'Hey, you seem like a nice person. Can I buy you a drink?' Because, lets be honest, you wouldn't approach a girl you were seriously attracted to and expect a positive response from an opening line like, 'Your boobs are massive.' The only thing you would expect from a comment like that, is a slap.

dating a tall girl
Leggy in the middle

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Adjö to the Swede

As of a couple of weeks ago it is the end of the 'Age of the Swede'. He'll be heading back to Sweden soon and it's the strangest break-up I've ever had. There were no angry words, no tears and no regrets. Last year was probably the most exciting and adventure-filled years of my life. I certainly don't deny that a lot of those times were because of him or his influence. This is just one of the great times at the wedding in the South of France:

It would be great if all breakups could be like that. But I am starting to wonder if I'm a bit of a commitment-phobic. I start to get uneasy when I have too many things happening at in my life at the same time, and I try to change the only thing I have a direct influence over. However, the fact of the matter is that the Swede did not make life easier when life got challenging. Surely you would expect that support from your standard 'partnership' to some degree?

I've read up on my Chinese Horoscope for this year. It says I should expect career prosperity and love for 2014. So I'm being made redundant and I've joined Tinder. I'm hope this prediction will turn into more of a self-fulfilling prophecy as I venture out on the next steps of my career to something better and start dating again. I've already been chatting to someone brainy, creative, tall and good looking who I shall hereby refer to as 'Peanut Butter Guy'.

With the promise of new horizons, I promise to blog more often. But for now, it's on with my Open University assignment which is due in on the 17th March, and the planning of my son's 4th birthday party on Sunday. I barely have time to think!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Growth, change and exciting news!

My little boy can barely see his 'Wilbur' from a standing position, let alone grab it and point it in a sensible direction whilst peeing. He's at the age where he refuses to use the toilet sitting down and would much prefer to approach it like a grown-up man. Of course he has the best intentions, but as I discovered at the weekend his aim needs substantial coaching. I mistakenly stood next to him and his pee shot up vertically like a geezer and straight onto my chin. Obviously, I have no experience with this as I don't have the equipment (apart from using a 'She-Wee' once at Glastonbury Festival). What I do know is that currently his 'ending' resembles a wet dog stepping out of a pond when it shakes vigorously and drenches everything in sight. So we're working on the finish and the placement of only one hand: "I don't think you need to support it with both hands just yet darling." I thought having pee in my face would stop now that he's out of nappies but alas, it isn't so.

I'll be visiting primary schools ready for next September over the next couple of months. It seems to have come along all too fast and I miss the little chubby baby-cheeks he used to have. I do think he'll be more than ready for school and is already writing his own name, recognising letters and numbers, starting to tell the time and is 'brilliant at maths' (his nursery's words). I look forward to sending him off to the next chapter and watching him grow and thrive and absorb knowledge.


My baby boy will soon be going to school AND I will be going back too! I feel elated, excited and enthusiastic. I also feel borderline insane.

My life for the next 6 months!
As if I didn't have enough on my plate I've finally taken the plunge and I will be starting a part-time degree in Business Studies on the 5th October (subject to approval of funding)! Whilst my little one is in bed by 7.30pm most nights and is settled into a routine I can use the time I have in the evenings to do something constructive by gaining a few letters after my name. I'm hoping this degree will open doors and increase my earning potential. This in turn will give me a chance to afford to take my son abroad, pay for various lessons, activities and hobbies and even buy our own house one day.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I don't have enough excitement in my life already. I've had an amazing summer which involved being taken to the South of France by The Swede, I performed at Glastonbury festival as part of an Earth-protecting choir, I went to a Ferrari owners' picnic and I took my son to Cornwall and Devon to visit family. I want to go further and do more fun things so I'll have to work even harder.

These are exciting times ahead with lots of development for both my son and I. He will learn to pee straight and I'll learn to think straight. Come on World, we're ready for you!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

He got down on one knee...

Granted, he was on one knee because the clumsy fool (that I am) managed to drop the scone I was holding jam-side-down onto the floor. So, he sprung down off his seat to get it for me. But whilst he knelt there with the ruby jewel of raspberry jam glistening at me I couldn't help but smile at the romantics of it all. That moment quickly faded when I realised I would have to decide what would be the correct scone etiquette: Do I scrape and reapply the jam or just ditch the scone altogether? Hey, I'm a single mum and I never know where my next meal is coming from! I scraped.

Lego man spanner helmetThis is a very significant month. It is the 1st Anniversary of my blog, and it is also the anniversary of when I first found 'The Swede' whilst trawling through randoms on an internet dating website. We've had a fantastic time over the last few months and I think he's starting to realise that he might actually be a little bit into me. For the first time he spent the whole weekend with both my son and I a couple of weeks ago. This was a massive show of trust on my part. I thought he would be overwhelmed by my son's insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm. I expected him to turn on his heels and sprint out of my life forever. However, he did well to humour him, and they found a common interest with Lego.

I like that I only see The Swede a few times a month. He gives me the space I need to stay on top of my life as a single mum. I need time to regroup and to get my house in order. Then the time I have with him is very much a small escape from reality so that I can be a better parent for my little boy.

Last month my boy turned 3 years old. I can no longer call him 'baby' (he doesn't like it), and he's been sleeping through the night for the last month without pull-ups and staying dry. I feel like I've entered into a comfortable place. We have our routine and I'm pleased with his progression. His personality is growing and he makes me laugh daily. Tonight's random line was, "Mummy, houses are built on 'some ment'."

Boy with red balloon
Happiness: A balloon and a fistful of cake.
It's been a year of lows, highs, juggling, upset and uncertainty. One of the recent highs was a trip down to Devon with my son a few weeks ago for my Great Aunt and Uncle's Ruby Wedding Anniversary. It was a great weekend that was a well-needed little holiday. My sister drunkenly stumbled into a neighbouring house and gave the owner a shock. My little cousin (just entering puberty) asked another cousin (in her 30s) if she'd like to sit on his knee during the photos. Finally, Nan talked obliviously during the speeches, and I had the same conversations repeatedly with my dear uncle with dementia who was (bless him) as equally enthusiastic about my answers to his questions each time I gave them. The lovely thing about family is that you will never truly be alone and there will always be someone there to inadvertently make you laugh. My son's input in the laughter department hit it's peak when he had an unfortunate dirty accident just as I'd got in the shower and squirted the soap in my hand.

I think I've done well to survive the first year as a single parent. It's now been more like 18 months, officially. I've managed to provide the basic needs for my child without allowing him to come to harm and without loosing my mind. I've come out of the other end feeling centred, happy, thinner, focussed and confident that I can do this.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Get out of my space!

Last Saturday morning I spent most of my time scratching purple and orange Playdoh out of my son's cream bedroom carpet. I cursed myself for leaving it within his reach, and smugly found a spot for the container on top of his wardrobe.  Later in the afternoon I discovered he'd also found the coloured chalks, and so I witnessed 'Multicoloured Carpet - Part 2'. Will I ever learn? He's suddenly hit the age where he is surprisingly resourceful, and he can open packets and boxes that he couldn't before. I should really quench his insatiable curiosity in the hope that it will help him go further in his adult life, but there is a time and a place. My flat is kiddiproof (or so I thought). It may be time to revisit things within his reach and not underestimate his new found opposable thumb skills. I think a regular review of potential hazards in broken toys, his reach and what fastenings/bottle tops he can open is very important. Failing that, I could just glue everything sharp, dangerous and messy to the ceiling and be done with it.

Lego man with shopping trolly

We got out of the house for a bit on the weekend and did a much-needed shop at the supermarket. Whilst having lunch at the in-store cafe he bolted off twice before I could get his wrist strap/reign on him. One all-knowing stranger felt the need to say, "You need a leash for that one." Thanks for your input. I know I have a mischievousness monkey for a child, but thank you for announcing it.

As we returned to the car I noticed a shiny black BMW pulling into the Parent and Toddler space next to me. I noticed there was no child seat in the back of the car, and I felt the need to point this out to the driver who looked old enough to know better. He said, "Excuse me? This is my child", as his 15 year old 'child' with facial fuzz opened the passenger door. Embarrassed, and thinking he must be disabled I apologised profusely, and then the 'kid' jumped out of the car and off into the supermarket! I stood their speechless (a rare occurrence, I'm told). He is obviously someone who is deluded to think you get the privilege of a larger space just because you have a 'child'. It's frustrating because it's difficult to find a parent and toddler space. I felt bad for the genuine parents with toddlers/babies who were queuing for the space. Surely the point is that in order to get a baby out and back into a car - strapped in safely - you need to open the door fully? A teenager can manage on his own.

A couple of the supermarkets issue a £50 fine for the misuse of toddler spaces (although I'm not sure how strictly they can enforce these penalties anyway). It equally frustrates me when a family park in a toddler space and only one of the adults get out to nip into the shop, leaving the children in the car with the other parent. Or, when there is a child seat in the car....but it's empty. I also could've done with parking in a parent and child space in my third trimester as I tried to squeeze my enormous bump through a tiny crack in the door, because technically, I did have a child. However, I didn't because these spaces rely on good manners and common sense. Unfortunately there are the inconsiderate few who are either a buckle short of a five-point harness or just down right selfish.

Friday, 1 February 2013

What are the toughest challenges faced by a single mum?

This is a lot of pressure on just one person to make the right decisions.  Is he eating right? Is he getting enough 'fresh air'? Do I have enough cash to cover the next pair of shoes? We are so worried by recommendations on various parent websites and retailers that bargain shoes for children are so wrong. I see the state of my feet when I’ve crammed them into a pair of bargain specials for a (rare) night out. I agree, he should have well fitting shoes because his feet are still growing. As parents we have fears about them having the best of everything so they can be the best. My fear is that if I don’t buy good shoes his feet will be mangled, and he’ll have some sort of limp in his teenage years which will cause him to be bullied at school thus damaging his mental state. He’ll never have the confidence to fulfil his dreams, and end up living with his mum as an adult because he can’t bear to leave the house and get a job. Knowing which path to take with even the smallest of choices could potentially be directly or indirectly detrimental to him in the long term.

You can plan and save but if you were already paying out for debt before you were single (most of us do, let’s face it) then you’ll surely be stretched if you’re supporting a child on your own. If you want to be working and advance your career for the long term benefit of your child’s future then childcare is a necessity. The biggest payout is the nursery fees. Luckily, I get a bit of a tax break in childcare vouchers. This means you don’t pay tax on a small portion of your earnings and it's paid directly to the carer rather than into your bank account. Of course there are snippets of help with tax credits etc. which are certainly not to be sniffed at, but even those are cut every year. As the cost of living increases, so the tax relief goes down making the gap feel like the Grand Canyon. I sometimes wonder if the easy way out would be to stop work and start hollering at the local council to give me a house to live in. However, I would like to set a different example for my son, and encourage him to aim high. If he wants to get somewhere he should put on his good shoes and start walking.

Which Nursery/School?
When they hit three years old your children are entitled to a small amount of funding for a nursery place. This gets them prepared for the school environment. What I am quickly finding is that nurseries ramp up their fees so that it’s actually MORE expensive than sending him to a childminder. Although the termly funded fees are about the same you’ll have to pay an inflated rate for them to be cared for in the holidays. There are also a number of nurseries and childcare environments to choose from. How do you know which will be best? The truth is, you can't. You have to go with your gut and hope it works out.

I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I'm sure my colleagues have started to wonder if I suffer from narcolepsy. For parents in general, exhaustion is one of the biggest killers of their personality. It sucks the life out of you. It takes your enthusiasm, your drive, your dreams and your libido and rips them away from you like candy from a baby - so to speak. My son’s nearly three and only now is he starting to stay in his own bed at night. He still gets up at about 3am for a cuddle sometimes, and if he doesn’t my body clock wakes me up anyway to lie there expectantly waiting for my bedroom door to slowly open. Letting him in my bed was a tough habit for me to break too because it’s nice having him there to cuddle up to.

Love life – Or lack thereof
I am actually one of the fortunate single mums who has one or two weekends a month off from my parental duties. These are the times I can date. And these times only. It is slightly limited, but I neither have the time, nor the energy for any extracurricular activities during my normal week. Internet dating was made for folk like us.

The Brave Face
Your job is busy and long, your funds are low, you have minimal time for yourself or your hobbies, you’re under pressure to be an exemplary model of a human being. You’re judged by people in the street about how you handle a tantrum, you barely have time for toilet breaks so you learn to hold it, you try to avoid conflict with men folk, bosses and neurotic family members. So when you’re close to falling off the edge a little boy expects you to be happy, on the ball and 'chipper'. In your head you count to five, your smile goes up; you spring into Mum-mode and eagerly help practise counting to 20.

Mum and son