Thursday, 31 January 2013

Dealing with weird hobbies

I used to work in a relatively small workplace with what I now realise was a reasonably homogeneous workplace. As long as you could talk about the football you were generally okay – we all came from roughly the same place and the same background. Hell, three of us had history degrees. On one notable afternoon we discussed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We discussed minor character plot points. This was considered normal.

I now work in a significantly bigger workplace which is a bit of a surprise and has a lot of stuff I wasn't quite expecting. I was prepared for the fact there would be people from a wider variety of cultures, and I'm enjoying that. I'm not the only northerner but I'm the only recent one, so I quite enjoyed telling the sales team what the term 'reet' meant. (Translation: “Right” or in context “Alright,” so you might say in response to a query “Nah, I'm reet ta!” which is a sentence that really puzzles my Scottish inlaws.) People bring in food on national festivals, for example, so whilst I am getting fatter I am at least becoming more enlightened. All of that is good.

No, the real surprise is what a wide variety of people I work with and trying to find common ground. I am a fairly quiet geeky sort. I work in a geeky, male-dominated industry so I assumed that I would fit right in with a bit of Star Trek, but this doesn't appear to be the case thus far.

Firstly, I appear to have arrived in the middle of a baby boom. I am mildly childphobic, or at least in term of actually sprogging up myself, so to be constantly surrounded by people who are pregnant/have partners who are pregnant/be just back from maternity/paternity leave is a very bizarre experience. I'm fairly good at expressing interest in other people's kids. My cheery excuse of “I live in a one bedroom flat in Walthamstow!” means that I can put off the 'when are you going to have kids?' question for now, but I do idly wonder how I will deal with the same question in my thirties.

Also, other people's hobbies are really weird. I'm quite good at deflecting football questions, but I have no idea how to discuss one colleague's deep and abiding interest in Rolls Royces. That said, no one appears to share my passion for London restoration architecture – I got very excited about a Wren church near my work and everyone else was baffled.

Also, I would be posting more often but I must confess to being sort of constantly exhausted at the moment. I have lots of fascinating stuff to write about, but finding the time to do so is a little tricky. When you spend all day learning about classic cars (despite your personal inclinations of 'you're a nice guy, but I really don't care, please be quiet') I think the brain shuts down a little. 

Alas, no one in my work practises extreme ironing. I think.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Shock: you deserve to not hate your job

One of the really weird things about my new job is that I don't hate it.

Now, that might sound like boasting, but it's mostly given me so much-needed perspective about my old job, my first real 'graduate' job. I was there for three years, and it's very weird the awful, awful things you start to take as being both normal and entirely acceptable. It wasn't quite full on Stockholm Syndrome, but there was an element of pushing things to the back of my mind and pretending that they were a-okay.

You see – and I speak for a lot of graduates, I think, of the last five years or so – is that we have been made to feel quietly worthless. Not being NEETs, generally speaking being childless, having a public perception (whether true or not) that we have parents to fall back on and not having mortgages, etc, there was a sense that we were constantly at the back of the queue. We're all useless, with our silly degrees and no hard experience, expecting to walk into an amazing job. We should be grateful for any kind of paid employment we should have because we deserve no better.

Which has led to some employers, frankly, taking the piss.

I'm not going to go too far into details, mostly because my old employer is litigation-happy and liable to withhold references, but basically I put up with a long list of crap. I casually mentioned in my newest job that there was CCTV at my old work, which took in our computers and the boss would occasionally watch it on his laptop at home if he was running late. Stunned horror met this statement. I... sort of didn't realise that wasn't normal? There's CCTV in many workplaces, I realise that, but in an office was that strictly necessary?

That's just one example, and a rather specific and non-graduate one at that. The point is that I was willing to put up with everything, despite the fact that I was deeply unhappy and often fantasised about somehow crashing my car in a non-fatal way in order to miss work that day.

Graduates, you will have to put up with some crap in your working lives. My last job had some good things about it, and got me some much-needed office experience, but in the end I was too scared by the economy to move on.

Let's get some things straight: my new job isn't perfect by a long stretch. New people are scary, and these are a lot of new people in a very technical field that I mostly don't understand yet. Some of the work is a bit monotonous. The Tube is still a challenge most day, and the day is a significantly longer one. I don't look good in proper office clothes, either. But I don't wake up unhappy, and I've remembered that actually I am a rather intelligent human being, I have worked hard, and I deserve a job where I can proudly say: “I've earned this.”

Graduates: you will almost certainly have to put up with crappy jobs, but don't stay with them forever because you think you should, because you think you're no better, because you're scared. My new job is not a perfect job, but it's a damn sight better and life feels like a better place.

Most of the above is not particularly enthralling blog material, which is why it's been a few weeks to put together. However, I think I may be getting some more material together soon, and you can always rely on the government to say some face-gnawingly stupid things before too long. So there's something to look forward to.