Work: Jobseeking Archives

May 8, 2007

Bizarre testing experience

Racing heart, hyperventilation and the screaming heebie-jeebies - and that was just the practice run!

The hunt for temporary employment is on. On Calvin Bexfield's advice, I applied with a temp agency serving the call center industry. The original plan was to get into phone support for the revenue service, because despite my limited expertise in tax matters, I get asked about them all the time (similar to me and computers, really. People see me, they conclude that I must be some sort of computer nerd and ask me questions which usually turn out to be above my actual skill level. Sometimes, I manage to be helpful anyway). That didn't work out, because the revenue has strict rules about who gets to peek into their database, and people with their own companies (as defined at least in part by having their own VAT number) aren't allowed to do so. Can't fault them for drawing a line, I guess, but it was a bit of a bummer for me that they've drawn it there. I'm not even registered at a chamber of commerce...

Still, the agency needs people, hard, so they've contacted me twice about other opportunities, quizzing me about my past experiences and my ability to do cross-selling. They also practiced some cross-selling on me by bringing up the possibility of doing outbound telemarketing, which I flatly refused. I do have some pride left. And they sent me a link to a test to fill in.

The test is interesting. It consists of three parts: a Dutch language proficiency test, which I don't think was problematic*); a speed and accuracy test, which I didn't get around to doing, and a timed skills test, which was the reason I didn't get around to doing the speed and accuracy test.

The skills test consists of exercises in which you have to read a piece of test and then enter data extracted from it into a web form, as if someone is telling you his travel plans over the phone and you have to replicate them in a web based travel planner to tell them when to leave. Before the actual test, you get two opportunities to do a practice run, so you at least know the drill in advance. I did the first, got a twitchy mouse, hit a TAB key causing me to get knocked out of the window, and just about failed to finish in time. I did the second and finished that in time... but at the end, my heart was racing, I was hyperventilating, my hands were shaking and I needed to get away from the screen for a little while. Once I'd recovered, I fired off an email telling the agency I was calling the whole thing off.

To be clear about this, what I experienced wasn't normal test stress. I've done exams. I've done IQ tests (under time pressure) as part of the application process for other jobs. I've done job interviews, performance reviews, all the regular stress fests that come with getting and keeping jobs. I've worked to deadline, I've worked past deadline. I've taught classes full of unruly children. I know how the body normally primes itself for pressure and this wasn't it. I've never had stress symptoms physically incapacitate me.

Calvin tells me that the actual work he does is pretty much at the other extreme from this - that it's dull and that his biggest problem is not falling asleep. Let's hope the next agency I try has some more representative tests, then, because I can't cope with this one.

Has anyone else reading this had this experience? How do I prevent it from happening again?

*)Though, to be honest, it was more difficult than I expected. I am becoming like those geezers my own generation used to mock, who'd had their primary education before 1952 and still spelled common words according to the official spelling rules of the day. Since I left University, there have been not one, but two official spelling reforms, the latter of which was so controversial that an organisation was founded to promote an alternate spelling manual. This has eroded my confidence in my own Dutch spelling prowess, which used to be formidable, but probably isn't anymore.

July 16, 2007

Translation job-hunting linklog

Today, I'm looking for vacancies in the translation and editing fields. To help me remember what I've been checking out, I'll be keeping a log of sites I've visited and what I've done with the information I've found.

I'll be doing this more often, I hope. Last week, I finally did what I've been telling myself and others I'd be doing for a year or so, and signed up with the Centrum voor Werk en Inkomen and applied for income support. One condition for getting income support is that you actively look for work, meaning that on average, you send at least one job application per week. I don't find this all that onerous and fully intend to send more than that. I rather like the idea of earning money, I have plans for my life that I can't pay for with just a handout for the government, and I've even, over the past year, made my peace with working for a boss again. I've been a struggling sole proprietor for over six years, and while I haven't exactly been a starving artist, I've had to give up quite a lot to be able to do that. I'm a bit fed up with that, so it's time for a change. Assimilation into the System, here I come, and I for one welcome any corporate overlords willing to exploit me for financial profit.

But to keep myself on the ball, it's probably a good idea for me to not just report to the relevant bureaucratic institutions whenever they want me to, but to report to the readership of the webcomic and weblog as well. Just so that, should I find myself slacking, there's an audience of several hundred people willing to kick my ass. Have I ever told you people I like it when people kick my ass? Maybe I should look for a position as a professional submissive.
Also, my memory isn't all that good, so it's a good idea for me to write down both what I intend to do and what I've actually done (I actually have difficulty separating the two, which explains a lot about me) as the intention occurs or the action takes place, respectively.

So here goes, below the cut:

Continue reading "Translation job-hunting linklog" »

The running group as a network

At the end of the training this evening, one runner asked me if I had any vacation plans. I said "No, I'm broke" and told her about the work I'd been doing and the plans I had for a career change. When I mentioned translation, another runner butted in and suggested I applied with [company from the list I posted earlier]. I said I had been to their website and that I knew they were looking for both freelancers and staff translators. I asked her if she worked there. She said she worked for [company I had actually applied with in May last year], so I asked her if she was the one who'd stolen my vacancy.

She answered that the vacancy had gone to a candidate with eight years' consecutive experience. That was interesting - I hadn't got around to calling that company again and asking why they hadn't hired me, even though I knew I really ought to have. There was no way I could have beaten that candidate.

I asked her how the test translations were judged - specifically whether field-specific language use wasn't weighted rather more heavily in the judging process than companies claim it is. She answered that it was factored in in the case of freelancers, but not so much with staff translators.

While the end of a running training, when you're all sweaty and light in the head and gasping for breath, probably isn't the best time to evaluate information like that, I did come away with the impression that I need to work on my IT-related vocabulary. So my plan to do as many test translations as I can is a good one, but I also need to do some real work in the field. I think I should do some localisation work for an open-source software project, just to develop my skills in the real world. Preferably it should be open-source software that I use, because I'm more likely to already have domain-specific vocabulary for it. I'll look for a project.

It's interesting how much you can find out about people in your sports club. I know there's a fair number of nurses in my group, some sports instructors, one very well-traveled marketer in tailored suits, and when I'm face to face with several others, I could probably remember, or perhaps even guess, what industries they're in. And it's not like I spend a lot of time socialising with them after the training - perhaps I should.

Also, many people find it very interesting to be talking to an illustrator or cartoonist. Despite the fact that the VOIC alone has over a hundred members, it's very much considered a rare, even unique, profession to be in. Mentioning it has been a good ice-breaker in many places including my running club. One reason to hang on to the title for a little longer - at least until I've settled down in whatever my new career will turn out to be.

July 25, 2007

Quick life updates

- The two best-match vacancies I wanted to apply for evaporated on closer inspection. One had expired in June, one was run through an intermediary who was under strict instruction not to pass on resumes from people who didn't have a University diploma in English/Dutch Translation. I might still send an open application to the first firm though.

- Lifestyle-wise, I'm still moving towards more of a normal worker's schedule. I'm working on my habitual procrastination. I found out that not having music on over breakfast gives me more of a desire to get out of the house - today, I managed to cut half an hour's worth of dawdling that way. Dawdling in the morning is my biggest time sink - all the other distractions during the day are minor compared to that.

- I'm also looking more closely at my own assumptions on how I go through the day. I've always thought of myself as "not a morning person" but this only really holds true for my writing and drawing. Anything else, from dentist appointments to swimming to photoshop work on my art can and should be scheduled early in the day. I think. Maybe. Possibly.

- I did a bit of teaching work today. Fun. Well-payed too, and the contact who got me this gig may be able to get me more.

- I still haven't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I really should get started on it as the spoiler policies in the various Livejournal communities are more laxly enforced by the day. Even the HMS_STFU community on Journalfen, which is run with an iron fist and sarcasm, had a partial spoiler above the cut in one post.

- After today's training, I think I may be able to run a half-marathon in not-embarrassing time and without arriving at the finish limping and puking. I'll see how my bad knee feels tomorrow and then, if it's not killing me, start looking for a suitable event in September or October to train towards.

August 4, 2007

Taking some time off from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan

I'm taking the rest of the month of August off from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. Three reasons:

  1. While the quality of the last month's updates was all right, I was finding it harder and harder to make them even at the reduced schedule. I wasn't having as much fun with it and I was getting more than a bit fed up with the work. I need to recharge those batteries.
  2. Statistics for the website show that it's getting hit hard by the summer doldrums. If I'm going to take a break, it might as well be now.
  3. Most importantly, I can no longer afford to go on spending so much time on the comic. My hunt for paying work is finally picking up steam but I really need to work full-time on it until I'm employed and earning a wage. A good one, as I've been sliding into debt over the past few months. I'm working on it, but the compulsion to create comics has been a big distraction. Time out is necessary.

Of course, if, as is the plan, I'm employed by the end of the three-week period, it's quite possible that I'll need more time off as I settle into my new schedule, and in any case I will have less time to write and draw. So further reductions in the schedule are very likely.

Over the next three weeks, starting on Tuesday, August 7, I'll be running the White House in Orbit story "Marauders of Mars" from 2001, on a daily schedule, on this website. The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story "Feral" will continue to update on the Modern Tales mirror on a weekly schedule as planned, until I run out of material. If I end up staying away for longer than three weeks, I've got one or two plans lined up that will at least keep the ROCR flame burning through my leave of absense; one of these plans is already in operation and I've noticed that some people have spotted it.

If, on the other hand, my jobhunt fails, I'll probably have at least some new material ready at the end of the three-week period. I can't guarantee how much it'll be, but there'll be some.

August 7, 2007

Jobhunt update

I've just had a very promising job interview with a local software localisation company. There's a good chance they'll give me a job, but they won't know for sure until two weeks from now, because they want me to do a specific kind of project that they're still trying to acquire.

Good news, then. But now I'm sort of wondering what to do with those two weeks. The welfare office will want me to keep applying for jobs at a steady pace but I can't really see the point. Unless I call a temp agency to do some menial job that's immediately available for one or two weeks. I think I'll try that.

Interview-wise, I need to watch my body language. At some point, while discussing my employment prior to 2001, I found myself sagging a bit. A bad posture isn't necessarily a problem; if it's how you sit and walk all the time it becomes a kind of gestural background noise. That's how it would have been for me ten years ago, but these days, I think I move differently. A friend who visited me the other day after I hadn't seen him for several years actually remarked on the changes in my posture and attitude. I seem to have straightened myself out, whether through increased exercise or through my six years working for myself. Could be either. So against that background of my generally looking alert, alive and straight-up, my demeanour when that part of my history was mentioned was a bit of a giveaway that I didn't enjoy talking about that part. I don't think it hurt me that much, but I certainly noticed it. Then again, maybe being fairly transparent in job interviews is a good thing. Anyone who looks at my rather checquered CV is going to want to know which of my former activities I liked or disliked, anyway.

Even if I don't get the job, the interview has allowed me to catch up and learn about the localisation business, so it should allow me to do better in the next interview. Though there are only so many software localisation firms to go around.

Next time, I'll probably under-dress a little compared to what I wore to this interview. It's a fairly informal culture, judging from the two interviews I've done with localisation firms. On the other hand, this may just be a Groningen thing. I don't know.

August 23, 2007

Psychological effects of jobhunting

I was supposed to take a test this morning at ten, to qualify for a job that I have applied for and have been interviewed for. Sort of a final hurdle sort of thing. It's a good job, and it's rather important for me to give getting it my best shot. So I've been nervous and I caught a touch of that test anxiety I wrote about earlier. It's not as bad as that time, but I have been feeling it.

At nine-thirty, the company called to tell me they hadn't got the testing materials yet, and to to reschedule the test to tomorrow at the same time. At one stroke, that build-up of anxiety and anticipation was flattened, canceled, deflated.

The rest of the day has passed in an odd sort of rush. I know I've done useful things. But I'll be damned if I can remember most of them. Judging from my studio output, I must have cleaned up and inked character art for one page of Feral, then penciled another one. After that - and this I do know - I had a break and went to the pool below the studio, swimming 30 laps, or 1500 meters. I think the reason this is still fairly clear in my mind is that I had delayed my daily swim a bit compared to most days, and because I had intended to do 40 laps, but decided to quit after 30 because my breathing wasn't quite right. I'm always very aware of problems with my breathing due to living with asthma for 30 years.

After that, I finished a second guest comic for CameoComic, a quicky I'd penciled and inked at Erik Wielaart's place on Wednesday evening while the anxiety was already rising. I scanned it, cleaned up the scan, added panel borders and did digital lettering. Once that was sent off to Cameocomic writer Hogan, I went back to drawing and inked the character art for the Feral page I'd penciled earlier (in case you're wondering, I'll fill in the backgrounds on both pages later). Then I went to the bookstore and then home for dinner.

So, in short, I can reconstruct the period between 9:30 AM and 20:00 PM. But I can't remember most of it properly. Presumably I'd been building myself up to be able to hyperfocus during the three hours that test would have taken. Had the test taken place, I would have spent those three hours doing the work and instantly forgetting what I'd done, simply because the brain would have been too busy with the work itself to keep a record. Instead, some of that carried over to the rest of the day, so I breezed through all my activities except the one - the swimming - in which my focus was temporarily broken.

I guess that anxiety, if kept at precisely the right level, is good for something. I did get some really nice inks done on those two pages and was generally more productive and less inclined to procrastinate than I usually would have been.

Well, I must have been. I can't really remember it, see.

August 24, 2007

Testing progress report, because I know everyone will be asking

The test at the localisation company went reasonably well, though I didn't finish the work and will have to wrap it up on Monday afternoon. Then my hopefully-future-boss and I will evaluate and I'll hear about it soon.

Quick points:

- The anxiety faded quickly once I had a good idea of what to do and was settled into my workspace. Good.
- I had forgotten how interesting the work was. Translating really is an intellectually stimulating activity, even in those cases where you end up doing a dozen increasingly more complex takes only to find that the first one, the three-chord one, was the best all along. That happens a lot.
- The work environment itself was distraction-free, though that had to do with few of the staff being there. That will change. In any case, I felt like I could focus and get on with it there, a feeling that's been missing from my life for some time.
- I had to dig through a large amount of reference and guidance material before I could get my teeth into the actual translation. I didn't know yet which bits were relevant so I studied it all quite carefully. That slowed me down and was probably the reason I didn't get the work finished. It was important for me to read it all, but for the most part I won't have to read it again so the second part of the test should go faster.
- My working speed may become an issue and I need to be able to guarantee to them that I'll speed up soon-ish. On the other hand, I'm already quite far into the application process and they do need more people, based on what the boss told me. So I can get away with slow speed, for now, because in the initial stages, it will be better for them to have me around than to have to look for someone else while being short one brain.
- Even if I don't get the job, and even if the reason for that is that the quality of my work is not up to their standards, I should go on looking for translation work. It's just too much fun. I'll just have to shape up and learn, possibly by taking on any assignment I can.

Roll on Monday.

August 28, 2007


I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that starting on Monday, I will be working full-time at Globaltextware, a software localisation company in Groningen. What this means is that I'll be resolving my financial problems, and, even better, I will be resolving them doing intellectually stimulating work, within my degree, in a work environment that I've tested thoroughly over the past week, and with no commute whatsoever. It's the best job offer I could possibly get.

The bad news is the same news. The job is full-time, so there will be very, very little time left for cartooning. If I want to go on running on a regular basis as well, and maybe seeing some of my friends some time - you know, this thing people call having a life - I will have a few weekday evenings when I'm not too tired, plus the weekends except when I'm taking part in a running event. I'll be very lucky to produce one update a week.

I'm at peace with that, mostly, though it makes for a wrenching and scary change in my life. I've got some plans for dealing with that, though, which will allow me to keep my connection to the webcomics world, or at least those part of it that I still like, alive. Here's what I think I'll be doing.

White House in Orbit: I will extend the moratorium on posting new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan material on my main site, by another three weeks. During that time, I will post two more White House in Orbit stories: "In Space, No One Can Hear You Groan", and "Target: The Emperor", from 2001 and 2003, respectively. These will run daily, taking us into the end of September, which will be my trial period at the new job.

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan: The "Invasion" storyline will be moved to the crossovers section of the archives and left unfinished for the time being. Occasional updates may show up on the Webcomicsnation mirror, but don't hold your breath. "Feral" will continue to be published on Modern Tales at a rate of one update a week - except this week and the next when there'll be two updates. When I start posting ROCR updates on the main site again, what I post will be the new "Feral" pages, which will appear on the main site at a rate of three a week until caught up with the Modern Tales publication. Confused? Yeah, me too. I can just about keep up with the different schedules. Meanwhile, the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan re-run on the webcomics site Drunk Duck will continue at its old pace of one update a day, with material queued up until the end of May, 2008.

Lives of X!Gloop: Two years ago, I posted some of my earliest comics, a surreal series called The Lives of X!Gloop on my site. These are now being rerun on Drunk Duck as well, also at a pace of one update a day until I run out. I just might scan and process the unpublished pages from that series as well - that's the sort of job I can do when I'm knackered out from a day's work.

I'll post a summary of the above as a front page announcement tomorrow, so don't worry if you can't keep track of everything.

About Work: Jobseeking

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Waffle in the Work: Jobseeking category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Work: Courtly Manners discussion is the previous category.

Work: Teaching is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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