Saturday, 30 December 2017

An employability check ☑

During my search for new employment throughout the last 12 months+ I had applied for many jobs and attended interviews.  Beyond the disappointment of not getting some of the jobs, which turned out to be great as it led me to the job I am in today.  The whole experience was useful as some sort of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) exercise to get a bit more informed about employability.  I have seen how some organisations respond to applications, cover letters, questioning at interviews and even checking out my online presence during an interview!

Applications

I used to be very anal about my applications where I would take the job specification and copy the criteria into a Microsoft Word document.  I would write my responses of evidence and demonstration of experience in some sort of assignment style, which could become lengthy.  This was effective as it got me interviews, but I found it such a slog to do for each job.  But a good thing is that  you save it as a template and rework it for the next job you want to apply for.

However, when applying for non-public sector jobs I found that employers only wanted a cover letter and a CV, which is very common in this sector.  So I produced a very informative cover letter that wasn't too lengthy and described myself and related to the job I was applying for - again this worked well and got me interviews.  However, when I came across some public sector jobs, I found that they were interested in having a cover letter as well as a written application.  Again this is common, but I haven't supplied a cover letter in the past as my application pretty much did that.  I tried the private sector approach to the public sector vacancies and used the cover letter format demonstrating only the best aspects of me to get instant interest.  Yes you would think this would be common sense and was widely known, but as I had been employed at a further education college for just about 7 years, this turned out to be a CPD exercise as I mentioned earlier.

Employers responded well to my short detailed cover letter and from now on I will use this approach.  I liked how I introduced myself, evidenced my qualifications and demonstrated experience whilst relating it to the position.  I even put in hyperlinks to pieces of work I had captured on this blog.  This proved useful for an interview I attended later.  Plus, employers will search on you, so you might as well give them the correct and accurate sites you want them to find.

Interviews

I experienced that most private sector organisations are a lot slower in their recruitment processes.  Which I think is a positive move as many public sector jobs rush to get someone in and don't carefully consider the people they are taking on.  In the private sector I also had a few informal interviews where we got acquainted and had an informal chat about myself and the role, which would then lead onto a full interview.  However, as long-drawn it may seem you do want to know as soon as possible if you have been successful or not.

In some interviews I experienced they didn't tend to prompt me for more information.  When I was younger I definitely remember the interview panel trying to get more information out of me if I was a bit quieter or not meeting any criteria.  It's such a shame because the best candidate will slip through the employer's fingers as they have not go to know the person more.  I'm not saying they have to get to know them well enough to be best buddies but see beyond the administration.  In the long it will save them time and money if that person decides to leave.  If there is an interesting candidate, employers should take the time to prompt them on areas that may spark a memory that they can explain and expand more on.  You could say the candidate should be more prepared but nothing ever goes fully to plan even if you prepare for every question and event of an interview.  You just don't know what will be asked or happen.  Everyone has potential to get the job and it's the interviewers' critical task to ensure they delve into that potential of a candidate, even if it is not instant.  Employers should critically look at the candidate's CV and professional history - as you would normally expect.  Employers should try and tease out more information out of a candidate and know how they arrived at this position.  What are their motivations and intentions for applying for the job?  Why do they want to do this job?  Just ask, that is all it takes.  Employers may be surprised that the best candidate was right in front of them.  When I used to recruit and interview our Digital Learning Design apprentices, I applied my empathetic side and saw them for who they were, why they were here and what they could offer and where they want to be in the future.

I also found that some interviews tend to be treated like a tick box exercise to meet paperwork obligations.  I believe that interviews go well beyond ticking and scoring.  To me it's about looking at a person holistically.  This is where I believe online presence such as professional ePortfolios, blogs etc are really useful.  I was surprised in one interview I had with a private company, when they opened up my blog and LinkedIn profile and asked me questions from the content on there.  These are opportunities for employers to really get to know candidates as a person not just to entertain and dazzle them with what they want to hear.  As part of this interview I was also put on the spot to review one of their new apps and give some developmental suggestions.  I did of course, but at the same time were they just getting quick feedback on their products?

Usually the best person has all the required qualifications and experience, but they may not express themselves as best as they could or be as extrovert as others.  Which doesn't mean they are not right for the job, they just haven't done what might have been expected of them to have said or done in the interview.  Therefore the best person not getting the job due to someone just ticking all the boxes, which may incur more time and costs in replacing later as they were not the right candidate.  Just my narrative from my experiences but always food for thought.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Orca-strating

I'm not sure when my interest and curiosity of animals began, but I do have fond memories of when I was a small kid and used to sit with my natural history books that my parents got me.  I'd sit there for a while flicking through the books and looking at the pictures in detail.  I think it's here where I picked up basic knowledge of animal classifications and the diversity of species we inhabit this world with.  Today I still hear myself regurgitating random animal related facts to friends.  I still have a few of these books from my childhood days, I know this because there is little doodles and stamp marks that I made on them!  As I grew older I learned more about animals through TV and good ol' David Attenborough material.  I even did a couple of courses with the Open University; Darwin and Evolution and Neighbourhood Nature.

My first pet was a typical Syrian hamster - which I am still very fond of and have to fight of the odd urge to get one!  But this became somewhat of an obsession when my friend and I started to breed our own hamsters in our early teens.  This led to me getting a garden shed where I got a few more hamsters.  I started with three, two females and a male and chose different colour variations and types.  Breeding wasn't all that difficult, but you did have to know when and how.  I can still remember the 'in season' signs! 😂 I kept some babies for breeding purposes, but then sold the rest to the pet shop - nice little money earner it was.  I eventually ended up getting some guinea pigs, a rabbit, fancy mice, Russian hamsters, chinchillas and degus.

Because of my interest and connections with animals and spirituality, I was keen to know what my spirit animal was.  However, I pretty much knew what it was all along, but I guess I was seeking 'official' confirmation.  Since as a kid looking through my natural history books, I have always been drawn to orcas.  Not really sure why, but they are so striking and fascinating to me and had an instant connection with them.  I used to draw them in my notepads and colouring books in various shapes and forms.  I can still do the basic doodle today!  I also had many figurines of them, you know the ones from Early Learning Centre.  For my birthdays and Christmases I always got some sort of ocean based gift, may it be a jigsaw, t-shirt, duvet or stationery set etc.

I bought a couple of spirit animal books and they taught me ways to call upon my spirit animal.  I purchased a few books, some were shamanism (which is something I still need to learn more about) and the others were Steven Farmer's 'Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides Cards ' and accompanying 'Animal Spirit Guides'.  I used the spirit cards for further guidance and inspiration on issues or feelings I may be experiencing.  You don't have to be spiritual to use them, but having an open mind is recommended.  Ultimately, they're a positive way of seeing and dealing with a problem.

After much reading and getting to know the various creatures on the animal spirit cards, I asked for my spirit animal to show itself to me.  This could appear in many forms, but obviously not right in front of me - because that's just stupid. 🙄 A few hours had past - saw or had no signs.  A couple of days - nothing.  But over the space of a week, I saw orcas on TV in various nature programmes and the Free Willy movie, all of which was confirmation for me as I weren't actively looking for these programmes, they were just on when flicking.  Plus, before this I hadn't seen any orcas on TV or through social media so that was enough to me for proof.  I even saw orca in my mobile phone as a system app!  To my surprise, I realised in my spirit animal cards pack that there were two whale cards.  There's only meant to be one of each animal, so to me the extra whale one was another piece of confirmation.  Due to all of this enthusiasm and excitement around this, I wanted to get myself an orca necklace.  When I purchased it online, the company was called Dan's jewellers.  I also bought myself a nice figurine orca that sits proudly above my fireplace.  After these snippets of confirmation and the experiences from when I was a child, I just knew orcas were my spirit animal.

In the Summer of 2014 I finished a book I had bought a while ago ''The Beauty in the Beast" by High Warwick.  Inspired by his story of getting his tattoo of his favourite animal, I decided to get one of mine.  For my 29th birthday in August 2015 I got my first tattoo on the bottom of my left leg to represent my spirit animal - an orca!  I just wanted to honour it on me as it's clearly a being I am interested and connected with.  I've a few more ideas for more tattoos in the future to represent other interests and connections.

My love for orcas have since been amplified by the documentary/movie Blackfish (2013) that resulted in some brief activist participation.  One year as a Christmas I was gifted with a Whale and Dolphin Conservation sponsored orca in my name, Fife.  This spurred me into wanting to do more with charity and generally for other whales, dolphins and the ocean itself.  I want to get more involved in raising awareness about whales and the wider ocean, but I need to accomplish some other things first before I start this up.  I do contribute to friends fundraising activities and sign petitions online, but it's not enough really.  Maybe I could channel my passions to be some sort of orca activist?  However, I am limited to ocean stuff as I live in mainland and can't always go to the coast. ☹ I've yet to see orcas in the wild, in fact I am overdue a second trip to Iceland to see them up there.  You can see them around the UK, but it's usually around northern Scotland and John o' Groats area.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A L I E Nenthusiast

Due to my excitement of Alien: Covenant being released earlier this year, I've been asked a lot why do I like the Alien movies so much?  My friends and family have always been bewildered why I am so enthusiastic about these movies.  Yes this does include Prometheus as its part of the story which I really enjoy!

I wasn't even thought of when the original Alien came out, but I was about to be born when Aliens hit the theatres.  I remember when I was a young kid watching the first Alien movie.  My brother had his school friends over for the night and they decided to watch this.  I remember being interested in it but was scared to watch it too.  They put it on and we all watched it while we were in bed.  From finishing the movie I was playing it over and over in my mind.  I didn't sleep a wink that night, I woke up in cold sweats and remember watching the video player clock flashing in the darkness, watching every hour go past.  I was traumatised!  😱 Well, I can't have been traumatised that much as I ended up getting pretty much of all the toy alien figures.  In my adult years the collection has since expanded to the more professional ones.  I went on to watch the sequels with caution, only to be told that Aliens was even more horrific.  But it somehow increased my curiosity and appetite for the movies.

So how did I go from being terrified to loving these movies?!  In this post I try to uncover why I am such a huge fan of the movies and what really interests me about them.  This is not a review of the movies (which could be good for a later post) but underpinning reasons of what engages me in them.

Science

Firstly I like sci-fi movies.  I like how they bring in science, whether it is true or not.  They can take you to the past, future and new/unfamiliar places - often dystopian.  I find sci-fi movies interesting because of the possibilities they bring and the issues that could happen.  It's a good mixture of both depending on the movie of course.  I like movies that emphasise on experiments and biological factors, especially with creatures, perhaps that's why I love Jurassic Park/World a lot and Deep Blue Sea too.

Discovery of something new and unknown

In terms of the movies, there is always something new they discover, it could be a creature or pathogen or even something simple as behaviour. But it is all to do with some kind of alien life they find. One of my life goals is to discover something new in the natural world. And I achieved a small bit of this from our trip to Scotland in October. 😉 Maybe something on this scale in the natural world is a bit too large, but if I could discover a new creature on plant of some sort, that would fulfil this little life goal.

Evolution

Whilst it's a very brief form of evolution, each xenopmorph evolves in its appearance and behaviour and I like that it represents real life evolution, although this is a lot quicker and obvious. You go from the egg, facehugger, chestburster to the xenomorph. But there is the wider cycle from the hammerpede, trilobite and deacon in Prometheus and then the neomorphs in Alien: Covenant.

Creature feature

I've always been a big fan of creature feature movies; movies with animals or some kind of beasts in.  I love to see animals of some kind dominate the big screen.  It's like nature claiming back its right to exist.  Even though in these type of movies it makes you not want them to exist.  I just find creature features generally more interesting, depending on the movie and the direction it takes.  But you could say they are all the same tone, as in they escalate very quickly, go on a rampage of some sort and then get killed or disappear.  But that said, to me they are enjoyable and I love animals. 👍

Insect-like structure

I find the insect world interesting, especially how ants for example are ruled by one individual; the queen. It was a good move to bring in the Alien Queen into the Alien franchise. It added more depth to the xenomorphs world by showing expanded function of their behaviour and how they collectively work together in some sort of way. The designs of the xenomorphs mouths by "H.R." Giger resemble very much like a dragonfly larva's mandibles.

Lead female

I'm very keen on lead female roles and I find them very inspiring.  Probably because of the empowerment that comes from the history and movement of feminism.  Sigourney Weaver played an important part in being the female lead and subsequent Alien movies, and has since inspired other movies to put women at the forefront.  It's just refreshing to see women lead rather than being led by men or gangs of men.  Eventually, we had the introduction of the Alien Queen.  Again highly female; produces eggs, has an ovipositor and even has high-heel like feet!  Excellent multitasker having six arms, I'd imagine!

Encourages critical thinking

These movies introduce large concepts like creationism and conflicts with religion.  But the stories in general allow you to think and ponder at them afterwards.  The first mystery I was pondering was who was the humanoid figure in the chair on the derelict spacecraft, often referred to as the Space Jockey or now engineer.  The movies leave you with a few open ends and many questions that you want answering or theories that you think it may go in subsequent movies.  They just get your imagination flowing of who is that, why were they there, how did they get there, what happens when they are in a new environment etc.  I applaud that not all answers are spoon fed to you like many other movies, it's good to allow your imagination to fill in the gaps and create the 'what ifs'.

You learn something every time you watch it

In my case you do.  I find that every time I watch any Alien movies, I seem to learn something new, see something new or again think really deep about the story.  Perhaps because there is a large amount of depth and imagination enabled in each scene, and your concentration is on a focal point, but then on a few more watches you take notice of what is going on at the same time.

Horror

I'm a massive fan of horror movies, well the ones that are not cheesy! Freddy Krueger I am pointing at you. I like to be on the edge of my seat in anticipation, only to fall off it by jumping. Good, well-structured and memorable stories that play on your mind for days after watching are excellent, even if it does last for years after!

New or not well-known actors

Alien movies are good at introducing new or not well-known actors and actresses to the screen.  The casting crew do a good job of bringing fresh faces in and not just going for 'hot-at-the-moment' people.  Again it's refreshing to have unfamiliar faces in the movies rather than having mega Hollywood stars take over the movies with their expensive egos.

To round off, here's a beautiful piece of artwork that Gary's Brother Darren drew before we went to see Alien: Covenant earlier this year. Darren gave me this piece of artwork as personalised coasters for my birthday this year too.

A post shared by Darren Purdy (@darren_art) on
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CC-BY Daniel Scott. Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.