What Will Be, Will Be…

I’ve recently learnt that in this life things truly do happen for a reason…you may not know immediately know what that reason is, you may never know but you must trust that it’s there.

My late 2013/early 2014 was horrific – my world fell apart. In all honesty if it wasn’t for a kind, calm, wonderful volunteer at the Samaritans I probably wouldn’t be writing this now. The only thing I had as a constant in my life was my work – my colleagues were amazing, they guided me, they held me, they gave me confidence when I had none and then BOOM! My world changed again…but for the better.

A terrible thing happened but that lead to the most extraordinary set of events that leave me where I am today. I am in the best place personally & professionally that I have ever been.

So, the below quote could not be more accurate and is now my mantra. I now make my choices and trust that whatever happens – good or bad, is what is meant to happen so I just let it go and move on ❤️

CVs

I see lots of people giving lots of advice on CVs…What to have on there and what not to have, CV cardinal sins etc and whilst they are generally helpful they all pretty much say the same thing. I think my own personal view is slightly different – here goes…

CVs do matter so you should put as much effort into it as you can. If you are not a person who is good with a computer or spelling then get someone who is to help you! 

The order of the information on the CV (to me) doesn’t really matter. Whether qualifications come at the end or the start or whether information is in reverse chronological or in paragraphs about core skills/attributes or greatest achievements. The main point to note is that the information you think is pertinent to that role, the information that you want to communicate is on there and is clear to read and/or extract. Over the last few years I have seen CVs in every shape, size and format – some conformed wonderfully to my OCD tendencies ie Nice font, all the same size, applicant not gone rogue with commas and apostrophes but then again others were very different!! Some candidates used lots of text and we’re VERY wordy, some used bullet points to present information in succinct bite size chunks. I’ve seen tables, I’ve seen CVs covered with numbers and percentages and CVs that came with photographs attached…I’ve seen them in all manner fonts and text sizes and lord knows what else but guess what?? These people all got jobs! I was viewing these CVs as the candidate had been successful in securing a position. Ok, maybe not the one with the photograph on (I believe that was a speculative CV) but yeah, most of them got a job. (Just want to point out here that I’m not saying don’t add a photograph – in some areas of employment I can imagine this is standard).

I mean of course there are things that you must have on your CV – Contact details are a biggie!! (I have seen them with out of date addresses and phone numbers on) And there are things you definitely shouldn’t do with your CV like tell massive porkers but isn’t that common sense?!?! I mean you will get found out & you more than likely will lose your job over said porker so why risk it?
Anyway, I think the point I’m trying to make is that we all know that a CV is a reflection of ourselves (whether it be over 2, 3 or 4 pages!) and we are all different so why should our CVs be the same?? If you have found a way to make your CV stand out from the crowds then I say go for it…!!  😀

Oh yeah and just whilst we’re on the subject of getting your CV to stand out……Heres a little trick I picked up from my step-dad. If you are loading your completed, all singing, all dancing CV onto an online recruitment site ie CV Library, Indeed, Monster etc then in small font at the bottom of the last page, make the text colour white so it can’t be seen and then add as many key words that you didn’t manage to work into your CV as possible – that way when anyone who is trawling that site using key words or phrases will pick your CV up much easier! Your welcome 😉

Learning after the Army…

So in my 14 years in the Army I don’t think I ever did any kind of learning that wasn’t either a). Enforced or b). Mandatory. I didn’t do anything to better myself; I was sat stale and stagnant all that time. The reason? Well because I didn’t have to and nobody told to if I’m being honest! So, when it came to leaving the Forces (virtually qualification-less) and I had enrolled onto the CIPD Human Resources Practices course with Development Processes Group I was really quite worried. I’d paid a lot of money to do a course that spanned a significant period of time and I wasn’t even sure if I was capable of completing it…..Suddenly doubt crept in – Would I be able to do it? Was I intelligent enough? Did I still have the capacity to learn and retain information after all those years of being in the learning wilderness?

There was only one way to find out!

The first workshop I remember being especially nervous as I arrived at the Oulton Hall equipped with brand new pencil case, laptop and other sparkly new learning paraphernalia. I wasn’t nervous about meeting new people as I’d done that my whole career but worried that I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea about what was being taught, scared that it would all go over my head…So, as it turned out the first session was a bit heavy as we were introduced to the HR Profession Map and such and I honestly walked out of that room at the end of the day with my brain feeling like it had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson!! I was just so relieved to be going home…

However, as the months went on and the workshops started flying by and more to the point the assignments were ‘meeting all criteria’ I started to look forward to them more and more. Id got it, it all clicked, my brain was back in absorbing mode and we were loving it. The thirst for information became more and more and the more I applied what I’d learnt at work the more I wanted to know…the learning became like a drug to me and I briefly wondered why I had not done some kind of development sooner? I was in this wonderful bubble. I had an amazing facilitator that was experienced, kind and supportive and I was surrounded by likeminded professionals all on the same journey.

Before I knew it we were at workshop 9 (the last workshop) and it was time to celebrate our success. We had made it and although there was still some work to be done it was a day of mixed emotions. I was so happy to be finally finishing the course as I’d dreamt of Sunday morning lay ins and lazy days instead of 4-5hrs slogging it out in front of the computer whilst the rest of the world perused the morning papers and drank slow coffees BUT I was also so sad that I wasn’t going to be meeting up with these great people who had now become firm friends and I wasn’t going to be doing any more learning.

Anyway, I submitted my final assignment and received the email I had long been waiting for – I had passed!! I was so pleased and have probably never been more proud of myself.

But with the course passed and having some time to reflect, looking back now with my attitude to learning the way it is I literally feel as though I have wasted the last 14 years of my life. I wish that I had done something different to vegging out in the block on a night watching rubbish TV or going out drinking when I was bored and enrolled in something at the Army Education Centre or at a nearby college. I wish I had used my time more productively, given myself better opportunities than I did. I mean the Forces predominantly supports its soldiers’ learning and it is all there for you – they even pay for it for goodness sakes! But as they say, you live and learn and I have certainly learnt my lesson – Never again will I allow myself to get into that rut, of that I am sure.

So what now for me and my continuous professional development?

Well, I’m already investigating and pricing up courses to work towards a Degree in Human Resources and I literally can’t wait but first….there’s the small matter of having a baby!! Yes, our baby is due on 3rd Jan and we are just thrilled about it but back to the matter at hand….Other than sharing an experience I just hope that this blog post might inspire one person who may be feeling some self-doubt or worry about learning that you can do it and all the hard work is worthwhile. Just go for it, stick your head above the educational parapet – you just might like it!

http://www.cipd.co.uk
http://www.dpgplc.co.uk

Interview as an internal candidate…

So the time has come when my 12 month fixed term contract is almost at an end (just over 3 weeks to go to be precise) and I essentially need to be looking for another job.

Now I know that you might be thinking that I have left it too late and potentially I have but I just don’t feel the same level of anxiety about maybe being jobless that I did when I left the Army. Rightly or wrongly I am quietly confident in my own knowledge, experience and ability to believe that I will get a job when I start applying.

 In the mean time the position that I have been employed in for the last 12 months has now been added to the Company headcount but to ensure fair process the job had to be advertised, hence I have essentially had to apply for my own job! So ok, it’s not exactly the same role – there are new responsibilities added into the mix but the bulk of the role is what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. So, like any other applicant I filled out the application form, revamped my CV and submitted them to my current manager. The deadline passed and thankfully I was invited to an interview.

 Interview day came and strangely I found that I was more nervous than I was for the initial interview. The interview panel consisted of my current team leader, my current supervisor and an employee from Corporate recruiting who I have sat opposite for the last year – all people I know not only professionally but personally and socially. I decided to play it as professionally as I could given that I knew everyone on the panel as friends not only as colleagues. I did the same amount of prep, wrote notes, took all my certificates etc exactly as I did the first time. The interview started a bit tentatively for myself but as I noticed my voice wobble after question number one I kind of just told myself to ‘get a grip’ and that ‘I knew these people and not to panic!’ One of the biggest difficulties I faced came when answering their questions – I knew that my Team Leader and Supervisor know what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months because they have been there doing it with me but you HAVE to act as if they don’t and tell them all the necessary details as if they are total strangers. There was also the reluctance to ‘blow my own trumpet’ about things I’d done to my current Managers for fear of sounding arrogant….but I blew it anyway!! After a few questions I felt myself (and them) relax and the interview began to flow. It lasted an hour and half and I felt relieved when it was over.

 I still haven’t had the outcome of the interview so can’t say it went fantastically, the interview could’ve gone terribly for all I know but I didn’t get that vibe…even if I haven’t got the job I know that I did my best and I just wasn’t the right person for the job.

 Another part of the situation that was bizarre and another first for me was that the only other applicant / interviewee for the position was my best friend in my team and we both knew each other were applying from the off. It wasn’t like in the Army where they keep everything a secret from you and you have to keep it from each other – we had complete transparency. It was initially a bit awkward between us but we’re both grown ups (just about!) and after a little chat one lunch time about it all was normal with us again…The fact that each of us genuinely wanted the other to do well was probably the main reason for that.

 All in all it was quite a unique experience that I’m glad I’ve gone through.

The differences when times get tough!

So my first full year out of the Army started terribly…

 My relationship of 5 years broke down when my Fiancé decided to leave me. I was devastated. If this wasn’t heartbreaking enough that I had lost my partner in life there was now the added pressure that I had also lost my financial partner too and I was one person on a mediocre wage with a lot of financial commitments. Life was suddenly very uncertain…

 There was no option of moving back into the block to cut my outgoings, I had a mortgage which I had to pay or I was going to lose my home. I had a large car that I couldn’t afford to run on my own and had various other outgoings that had to be paid. After the initial shock had passed and I simply had to get a grip of myself and my life! So I sat down and went over my finances with a fine tooth comb – something I thought I had done already to the n’th degree when I had left the Army. However, it’s amazing what you can cut down on when there is no alternative. I found a new mortgage deal, sold my big car and downsized to something more affordable, I changed my energy supplier, cancelled some non-essentials like my gym membership & changed where I shopped. In the space of a few weeks I had gone from not being able to afford my home and everything that came with it to my finances being fully in order with a little to spare for me. Easily the scariest and most sobering few weeks of my life…

 Another thing that I noticed about the breakdown of my relationship was that there was also no endless amount of people around me that were willing to support me and help me drowned my sorrows. Every break up I’ve had in the Military, the people who you live with rally round you for a bit and drag you out partying for a few weeks until you’re back on your feet or deeply immersed in some ridiculous rebound relationship!! I was on my own. Another thing was, with previous break ups whilst in the Army you kind of get a bit of leeway with stuff – people know you inside out, they know you intimately so they know you’re not at your best so cut you a bit of slack if you’re a hungover or a bit grumpy or not at the top of your game professionally. I didn’t want to run this gauntlet on Civvy St though as losing my job would only make things worse so stayed well off the booze and stayed relatively focused and was as professional as I could be given the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, the people who I work with were fantastically supportive and my boss was amazing but when you leave your place of work to go home on a night, you are on your own – left with only your thoughts and as I stated in another post for someone who has suffered with mental health issues in the past or for anyone who is hurting that is not a good thing.

 So, in lieu of my Military colleagues around me on a night I decided I needed to do something to get me out of the house…something to keep me occupied on an evening. I chose to rejoin my old ladies football team and went training at the local 3G all weather pitch. The first training session was going so well. I was happy, laughing and joking with friends and then I fell over and heard the mother of all cracks from my shoulder. A first responder, an ambulance ride, a long wait in A&E, copious amounts of morphine later I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 fully separated acromioclavicular joint – In short I had smashed my shoulder to smithereens! I was told to expect to be off work for approx 6 weeks and then to possibly expect surgery after that! Another set of worries…Was I entitled to Company sick pay? If so how long was my sick pay entitlement? How do I apply for SSP if it my company sick pay runs out before I can get back to work? In the Forces you are so used to being paid unconditionally for however long you are off that but again this is very different on Civvy Street. I had never felt so much pressure to heal, there was no way I could live on the SSP! In the end it turned out I had a good period of company sick pay so when I returned to work after 5 weeks I hadn’t lost out financially, it was such a relief to get back to work, a real weight lifted from my mind.

 Now you may think that I am complaining about the last 4 months of my life – I’m not. In fact, it’s probably exactly the opposite…The last 4 months have shown me that being as heavily reliant on the Military machine as I was, wasnt a good thing. It has shown me that I am more than capable of sorting out my life even when going through the worst possible time and that with a bit of grit and determination and with the RIGHT support from family and friends you can literally get through anything. It has shown me that I have an inner strength that I never knew I had. It has also taught me that being fit and healthy is paramount and that I need to look after myself a little bit better…so unfortunately for Middleton Park Ladies FC, Im hanging up my boots in search of a less physical non-contact sport!

 So on reflection I initially thought that 2014 wasnt going to be the year for me but now I’m back on my feet financially, officially loved up with an amazing man, almost healed after my accident and now job searching for my perfect role as a stronger, happier & more accomplished person I think its the exact opposite – watch out world cos Lucy is coming to get you!!

10 Things I’ve Learnt…

  1. Most civilians are hardworking, professional and conscientious.
  2. Whoever told me they aren’t are both deluded and a liar!
  3. I actually enjoy the commute – it gives me time to switch from work mode to home mode.
  4. Having less money doesn’t mean you have a rubbish life, it just means you appreciate things more.
  5. Driving within the speed limits is more fuel economic and will save you money in the long run.
  6. The gym is enjoyable when someone isn’t screaming in your face telling you how rubbish you are.
  7. It’s ok to be professionally ambitious.
  8. Real Managers don’t encourage you to go out and get drunk on a week night – its not acceptable.
  9. It takes ages to get a Doctor’s appointment.
  10. It’s amazing to go to bed and wake up with your most precious loved one every day.

Job Interview – Part 2 (The Interview)

The day came of my interview and I had prepped myself to the n’th degree, I was ready!  And to be honest, I was more excited than nervous or worried.  I wanted to show the Company just how good I could be and showcase my skills in the best possible way. 

I set off in good time, I didn’t need to recce my route as I already knew where the interview was being held, (I would’ve done a dry run if I hadn’t been sure of the location).  I arrived at the Company about 20 minutes early and parked up, this gave me chance to read through the interview notes I had made before heading off to the reception to book in. 

I arrived at the Reception and gave the ladies on the desk the biggest smile and warmest hello whilst booking in, these people are often in good positions with Managers and MDs etc so it can’t harm to charm the socks off them.  The intern who came to pick me up to take me to my interviewers got the same treatment. 

After climbing a mammoth amount of stairs (thank god for the sensible shoes!) I arrived at the interview room and with my interview panel…that’s right, an interview panel of 3 people.  They all were Managers of various seniority and after the handshakes and introductions we sat down and got down to business.  I offered them my newest CV, they declined and I took out my notebook and pen to jot things down should I become flustered. 

Each Manager asked me different types of questions.  First set of questions were generic ie Tell me a bit about yourself? Tell me why you left your last job? Then the second set were Competence based questions ie. Tell me about a time you worked in a team? Tell me about a time when you checked your own work? And lastly were the more personal questions ie Why should we employ you? Why do you want to work for us?  Rather than try and baffle them with intricate wording and my wide vocabulary I just spoke to them, in my normal tone using normal English.  One of the questions they did ask was ‘What is my biggest weakness?’  Be as honest as you can without ruling yourself out of the job.  I said that my lack of experience with the Time Management System they use was mine, however, I informed them that I had researched Time Management Systems as part of my Preparation and understood the mechanics of it, therefore turning a negative into a positive.  I managed to get in all the pertinent points that I’d researched into the interview and I knew I would be memorable because of them.  My questions about professional development and the Redundancies went down well too. 

The interview flowed well with no awkward pauses and there were even times when we were laughing together.  When I walked out of the room at the end of the interview I knew it had gone well, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think ‘I’ve got it’ but I knew that I had given myself a really good chance of getting the job.  I was content with the way it had gone and couldn’t think of anything I would change given the chance, if I didn’t get it there was simply a better candidate.  They had informed me they would let me know by the end of the next day if I had been successful. 

As soon as I got home I rang the recruiter to let them know how I thought it had gone and then the wait began, that was probably more of a nervy time than the interview itself to be honest. 

The next day came and I was checking my phone every 5 minutes wondering why the hell they hadn’t phoned me, had I missed their call, had the signal dropped out and it had gone straight to answer phone?  Then the call came about 3pm, I felt sick with anticipation….I made some polite chit chat with the Recruitment Consultant and then he continued to tell me that the Company had been extremely impressed with me at the interview and wanted to offer me the position.

I’d got the job – I was so pleased that all the hard work had paid off, the hours of preparation, slogging away in front of the computer. 

PS  I start on Wednesday!!  🙂