I needed a job.
This was probably one of the most absolutely daunting things I had to face in the aftermath of E leaving. It also stung a bit because, from her LinkedIn profile (the kids were regular stalkers), it looked like P had just found a brand new job of her own – in the same industry, doing the same kind of job, as E.
I suppose I could have sat there and let E continue to support us financially until he pushed me legally, but he’d told me he’d had a pay cut and I knew money would be tight, and now he’d moved out I knew he’d have another set of living expenses to find. I was too practical and too proud to let him continue to support me 100%.
Before all this had happened, my original plan had been to spend a few years building up my freelance writing and editing work, so that I could resume my career on my own terms.
In the years BC (Before Children), I’d had a fairly demanding job as a Communication Consultant for an Actuarial Firm. I’d also worked as an in-house PR Officer and as a Project Co-ordinator for an agency that specialised in employee communications. Then, as a Consultant, I’d managed a portfolio of clients and their budgets, hosted meetings, advised clients on communication strategy and worked with graphic designers and printers to produce booklets, leaflets and magazines as well as writing, editing and proofreading communication materials. I’d worked for big blue-chip companies on huge employee benefit communication campaigns and I’d worked for tiny companies with next to no budget, but a legal requirement to let their employees know how their pension fund was invested. The hours could be brilliant – if things were quiet we could all sneak off to the pub at lunchtime and not come back, but they could also be manic – when things were busy. I’d quite often still be working at 10pm and taking home things to work on at the weekend.
But that was nearly twenty years ago. Since Oldest Daughter had arrived, not only had I only done bits and peices of work, on a part-time basis (and those were all proofreading/writing/editing based), but things in my industry had moved on – printed communication, which was previously a huge part of my work, was now only a tiny part of a suite of communication possibilities, which now also included the whole new world of online communications. I was out of date. I hadn’t worked in communications for years. The market in which I’d worked was now flooded with younger, more flexible and far more experienced people than me.
On top of that, I was still restricted by E’s lack of availability regarding childcare. Not for me a man who, when he left, stayed relatively close to his home and his kids. E had moved forty miles away. At least when he’d been at home, working stupid hours, he could come home early for parents evenings, and in theory (not that he was ever asked) he could look after the kids if they (or I) were ill. Now that he’d gone, even more than before, I had absolutely no back up re care for the kids.
All of this meant that any job I got would have to be local. Also, as I had no car (E had said nothing to me, but he’d clearly decided to keep our car for himself in London) it had to be reachable by bus or foot. I also needed a job that was flexible enough to allow me to take time off for the kids if they were ill. As any jobs in my old field, even junior ones, would probably mean a commute to London, this also meant that I probably couldn’t resume my career, at least not for a few more years.
I decided to keep my freelance work going (I could still do this at weekends and in the evenings and try and build it up to full time over the next few years) and I registered with every online and local agency I could find.
The first thing I discovered is that ‘Admin’ is a weasel word and means many things to many people (or in fact means nothing to anyone). Among the jobs I got sent details for, all under the heading ‘admin’, were Care Home Manager, Scientist, Van Driver and (this one was so bizarre I was tempted to apply for it, just because…) Technical Team Leader – Fabrication / Fenestration (on the plus side at I learned what fenestration was and a day isn’t wasted if you’ve learned something…) Some of the jobs I was being sent were so bizarre and totally un-admin related that I actually checked to make sure that Pissed Post-Break-Up Me wasn’t applying for jobs after a few chardonnays.
Ever the optimist, I sent out my CV and spent hours every day applying for work. Bizarrely, the really junior jobs, the ones I could do with my eyes closed, seemed to demand the most detailed application forms. For example, a job which was best described as ‘office junior, must know alphabet’ demanded pages of information about what qualifications and experience I had that made me suitable for the job, what I could bring to the job and how I would approach the job. I’m a writer by trade, but even I found it hard to come up with more than a couple of paragraphs – how many ways can you say ‘I’m literate, I wash regularly, I promise I won’t be an arse, please oh please employ me’?
After just a few days I got wise to the term ‘enthusiastic’ in a person spec. Enthusiastic roughly translated as “we need someone who has never had a job to compare this to (because this job is shit), who is prepared to put up with crap wages and being bored shitless just to get something on their CV “.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t expecting to walk into a job as a Company Director, in fact I knew I’d be lucky to get a job that was very junior, relatively undemanding and not very well paid, but I just wasn’t prepared to be ‘enthusiastic’ about it. I was 47 and I was willing to consider almost any job, but I was far too old to be enthusiastic.
After a few weeks I finally got an actual interview. It was only for a part-time pensions administrator role, but I think I was more nervous about that interview than I had been about any of the big client presentations or meetings I’d had to attend in any of my jobs BC.
This in turn raised a new concern – I had no office clothes. I had lived in jeans/baggy tops/boots for the last 18 years, and the only non-Mum-clothes I had were probably not appropriate (I may have looked a tad over-dressed turning up up in a black velvet sequinned evening dress and heels). Not once, during my mad few weeks of Amazon purchases had it crossed my mind to buy clothes. There was a frantic scramble to buy something appropriate for an interview (another delivery – the DPD Man was beginning to think I fancied him) and I was all set.