Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Val's On The Blog (OK that's the lame joke out of my system)

Hello and welcome to my shiny new blog.  A place of creativity, positive thinking, ambition and hope for the future.

Which is why I'm going to start off with a bloomin' good rant.

I'm good, dammit.

Talented, creative, hardworking, likeable, reliable, witty, intelligent, articulate, sympathetic, a quick learner, an all round good egg and the most gobsmackingly beautiful female never to have won Miss World.

Okay, one of the above is a lie.  But all the rest hold true.

So why is it that I haven't had any work for over 12 months?  (I'm not going to count that crummy typing job that expected me to be on call 24 hours a day and have the speed of some sort of Typomatic 3000 robot.)

Cue wibbly-wobbly effect as I take you back to the start of the story...

"Val, you're a good typist, fancy helping me out with a job?"

Back in 1991, those were the fateful words from my friend that started me out on my love affair with desk top publishing on the Apple Mac.  The job happened to be a monthly circular for the local council that my friend had ended up doing as part of his community arts work,  but he wasn't very fond of it and was keen to pass it on.  I liked the smell of his money, managed to perfect the job within a couple of tries and very soon found myself handling the whole account.

I got on brilliantly with my client.  He got me more work from his own team and also passed me on to another department who gave me a welcome couple of months' work every year.

So that's how the 90's passed.  A small but loyal band of clients, keeping me busy enough for my liking and really appreciating what I did.  It wasn't a spectacular career, but I made a reasonable living.  The wolf always kept well away from the door.

I can hold my hands up now and admit I got complacent.  I should have spent more time advertising for new customers, but I didn't.  So when all my word-of-mouth work dried up around the same time I struggled to get anything else because I'd learned all my skills on the job and hadn't got the bit of paper to say I was qualified to do it.

Bills needed to be paid so, when my last client did the dirty on me in quite spectacular fashion, I couldn't afford to carry on and I turned to the good old world of office temping.

Again, I didn't have qualifications for the job, just loads of typing practice, the ability to pick up new skills quickly and a massive dollop of common sense.  Soon I was one of the most in-demand temps in town.  Someone who could turn up, get the hang of what was being asked and get on with it.  For one job, I got hired for a day and ended up staying 15 months.  For another, I was the only temp who didn't quit after a couple of days.

Temping was a nice compromise.  When I wasn't earning the corporate buck, I could stay at home, do arty things and plan to get back into the world I really loved.  Eventually, though, family difficulties meant I had to get something more reliable and I found myself in a permanent part time job with The Government Department That Shall Remain Nameless.

The job itself was fine... when I was allowed to do it.  In the 13 long months I was there, it changed completely, to the point where we were expected to sign new job descriptions.  Life was one long diktat passed down from On High, the staff turnover rate was astronomical and any sign of initiative from an underling like me was stamped on like a bug.

When it got to the point where Those On High told over 20 of us they couldn't guarantee where we were going to be working or what job we'd be doing in a couple of months' time, more than half of us put in our resignations.

I'd always planned to leave at that point, anyway.  I wasn't enjoying the job, I desperately wanted to go back to college and I'd saved up enough money to cushion me a bit through the course.  It was August and I wouldn't get another chance for 12 months so I took the plunge and enrolled at my local college for a HND Graphic Design course.

Going back to full time education was a daunting prospect.  How would I get on with all those youngsters?  I'd come from a workplace where I was considered something of an outsider, the arty one who didn't have a lot in common with anyone else so they didn't exactly bust a gut to find ways to relate to me.

I'm glad to say that, very quickly, I realised going on this course was the best thing I could have ever done.  It was a brilliant group to work with, everyone was really accepting and I wasn't even the only mature student.  I loved all the projects and considered myself to be a pretty good all-rounder.  It was so liberating to get my creative juices flowing properly again!

I'll skim over what I learnt for now as I think that deserves a chapter in itself.  Let's just say that, 2 years later I emerged, armed with a HND in Graphic Design, sharper, more confident, totally clued up, inspired and ready to take on the world.

Meanwhile, over in America...

A bunch of greedy bankers (in both the literal and rhyming slang senses of the word) were busy lending money they couldn't afford to people they knew wouldn't be able to pay it back.

The credit crunch (and which smart alec thought of THAT name?  It doesn't soften the blow if you make it sound like a biscuit) had well and truly taken hold.  Jobs like Graphic Design were now seen as a luxury and it was totally an employer's market.  They could pick and choose who they wanted and the one thing they could insist on was experience.  So how, pray, are you supposed to get that precious 2 years' studio experience if you can't find anyone willing to take on someone straight out of college?

I always had the feeling I was going to find it an ageist industry so I never really set my heart on getting into some swanky top-end design agency.  I now get the feeling I fall between two stools, having done both design and admin.  If I apply for a design job, they could be thinking, "if she was THAT good she wouldn't have had to spend time office temping and going back to college in her 40s."  If I apply for an admin job, they could be thinking, "her heart won't be in it, she'd rather be designing."

The truth is, the one thing I've NEVER lost faith in is my ability as an artist.  I go back to my opening statement.  I'm good, dammit.  I'm not arrogant when I say that, I'm confident.  I know I could walk into any of those jobs and do them brilliantly.  I can say with 100% certainty if only someone would show a little bit of faith in me, they would never regret it.

So whenever I send off an application and never hear back about an interview (because companies are so rude these days - if I've taken time to craft you my best letter, it's the least you could do to mail-merge a standard "thanks but no thanks" rejection to allow me to move on), all I can do is chant out the mantra...'s...



I don't want to be sitting here waiting for someone to embrace me to their corporate bosom.  I want to be DOING something.  I've been self employed before, I'd love to do it again.  The thing is, I've a debt the size of a small African country so it's impossible for me to get a loan or take too many gambles.

So that's why I'm here.  This is me doing something.  This is where I'll be telling you what I'm doing and you, hopefully, will respond with encouragement and suggestions and cold hard cash.

Next time I'll tell you a bit more about what I can do, and in the top left hand corner of this page you'll find details of where you can see and buy some stuff already.  For now, I've taken up enough of your precious time.

Rant over.  Thank you for reading.  Have a nice day.

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