My newly-graduated daughter is preparing job applications. When you're young and full of energy, when you've worked hard and got a first-class honours degree (History), when you already show valuable work experience acquired in the school holidays and you still don't get snapped up, it's one of life's many challenges she's to face.
One of five
She was pipped at second interview for two lip-smacking jobs that on paper suited her down to the ground. In one she made it past 130 applicants to arrive on the short list of five. I was mightily impressed. At the palace too. Yes, The Palace. On her first visit she was directed to the wrong gate and had to make a right royal run through the Queen's back corridors to get there on time.
'i' before 'e'
The second near miss was for the National Trust at Cliveden; the most frequented NT property in the whole UK apparently. Her writing sample they liked very much but they didn't like her spelling Cliveden wrong!
Having spent the previous three years in Clifton at Bristol University, it was a mistake easily made under pressure - but 'Clifton' cost her.
On another occasion she turned down a marketing communications job because the photos of the product turned her stomach. Fair enough I suppose, she's not a scientist. You have to draw the line somewhere and hers went right through the centre of a colostomy bag.
Wisdom of hindsight
This episode recalls to mind a treatise on fate. Sometimes in life you have accept things as they are presented. Sometimes this means doing the one thing you're resisting like crazy. Having put up a fervent protest, only to find a particular clump of chewing gum is still sticking to your shoe, then the odds are it has your name on it. Somewhere in the distant future, you'll look back and realise how essential that hated, fated job or task turned out to be.
Since I can't impart these words of wisdom on my daughter because I'm only her mother and what do I know, I'm sharing them with you instead. Thank you!
My first-ever job after University was to work for my father. I absolutely didn't want to sell swimming pools or hot tubs. Nor did I want to start immediately after graduation. I wanted to travel, see the world, spread my wings. He wasn't at all sympathetic - nor impressed with my Anthropology degree from Durham University; I was of no use to anyone with that!
Readers, he had a particularly chauvinistic attitude and thankfully it is not everybody's experience of fatherly love. Anyway his solution was to slot me straight into secretarial college where two afternoons a week, I learned to touch-type on a typewriter; one of those quaint devices with honky-tonk keys. One false letter and you had to tear the whole sheet of paper out and start again.
Fate worse than death
Not only was it my job to type, I had first to decipher the illegible hand-written scrawl of three male directors and churn out their correspondence error-free. Computers had made it onto the scene but they were still comparable to the size of a double-decker bus so not many businesses had room for them. We didn't.
The other excruciating job I had was to front the showroom as sales receptionist. Excruciating because I didn't know a thing about swimming pools. But I knew a lot about the culture and behaviour of primitive peoples and not many of them came into the showroom, not even in Devon. With one eye on the typewriter, both ears on the telephone for in-bound calls, the other eye was free to meet and greet customers shopping for this high-end product after they'd finished at the market. Once I'd got over the initial embarrassment, curiously enough I enjoyed it.
If the esteemed Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, had been around I'm sure he would have counselled me accordingly: "That which stands in the way is the way, Mary."
But I was two thousand years too late for him so I kept on hating the typing. And I hated my father for insisting I had to do it. After a year of this I quit the job but only after I'd inadvertently mastered touch-typing at speed. I moved to London and with my newly-acquired typing skills, bluffed my way into a secretarial job where I worked long hours for three months and saved enough to head out across Africa for six months.
Post-Africa, I got a job for a Mail Order Book Club. My job was to select books for three clubs and to commission copy-writing and design to produce the monthly catalogues. In contrast I loved it. Four years later I volunteered redundancy and moved to Richmond, Surrey and offered my services as a freelancer in Marketing Communications. Now I'm the one writing copy, which means that dreaded touch-typing skill is coming in very handy again. "That which stands in the way is the way, Mary."
More than words
The business grew and within two years my partner resigned his job as a Marketing Director for a Financial Services company and joined me. Not long after it seemed we became a full Direct Marketing Agency with 15 staff and a flotilla of company cars. And now I'm still writing copy but for our Fortune 500 clients - banging out the words fast and furiously and well-paid for it using that fated touch-typing skill.
Oh, and I'm the Sales & Marketing Director for the Agency as well. Where on earth did I cut my teeth for this job? As the sales receptionist in my father's torture chamber! "That which stands in the way is the way, Mary."
Resistance is futile
Me thinks that once you've put up a stout protest and nothing changes then that's enough. It's time to accept that which stands in your way is your way and to drop any resistance to it gracefully. Because years later, when you're as old as me (lol) and get to join up the dots, you'll discover the heinous job or task proved to be a gift horse in the end.
So thank you Dad for your contribution to my writing. And thank you Marcus Aurelius, receiving you loud and clear.
I'd like to mention too I've almost finished my book and publish in 2018. It's around 55,000 words. Each one touch-typed, of course.