Saturday, 11 July 2015

Starting Over

My last post was about bad decisions and indecision, finding out that a dream job was in fact no such thing. That was really hard for me to come to terms with, a lot of which was to do with the fact I still thought I'd be good at the job itself and would still have an absolute ball of a time doing it. I had gone into training with the company who have an international reputation as one of the best tour operators for young people, a reputation for a training scheme that was tough but turned out some of the best tour managers in the industry. So to get onto that training scheme and be told I was lying about my dyslexia, being made to feel ashamed of the fact I have a disability and can't do some things, such as write quickly and legibly on a moving coach while sitting next to a rugby player, was so disheartening. If this is what the self-proclaimed best were like, maybe I'd been totally wrong and this industry was not for me.

I left and didn't have a job to go to, cue existential crisis. I'd spent almost a year deciding to train to be a trip manager, the trainers constantly told us how lucky we were to be there, how marvellous the job would be if we could just show we were good enough. I didn't complete training, therefore I wasn't good enough to be counted amoungst the top. My knowledge, my personality, my skillset, my determination. All of them were found wanting, apparently. 

The turning point was realising that being the self-proclaimed best means nothing. Being the best means nothing if you get there by savaging people. I didn't want to work for a company that thought it's training managers telling girls they dressed like sluts was appropriate, I didn't want to work for a company were we were told we had to participate in dangerous and illegal activities. I'd had been totally taken in by the cool kid at the party, the one who smokes and drinks and offers you advice- like telling you how much prettier you'd be if you lost a stone then shows you how to make yourself throw up. I'd wanted so desperately for them to like me I'd allowed their opinion of me to over shadow my own self esteem. So I set to work looking for a new job, one with a company I wanted to invest my time and energy with.

Around the time I was giving up on my determination to only apply for "proper jobs" and fill in that Primark application, I was forwarded an email from a friend who worked as a tour guide for a company I'd heard of but didn't for an instance think I could have worked for. This company cater exclusively to the over 50s and offer high end holidays, certainly none of the student budget friendly options with camping and bed bug ridden hostels which I'd prepared myself for previously.

The advert was for an administrative position on a cruise ship, river cruising on the Rhine for a month while the regular administrator was on holiday. I jumped on it. Even if it was only for a month, it would be experience and it would be a paid work for a month- where I didn't have to impose on my parents. I sent my CV in and got a phone call almost instantly checking that I understood the commitment, I'd be living on the ship, surrounded by passengers and unable to escape. 

Yes, that's all fine. 

I was left on tenterhooks for three days while they waited to see if anybody already on the books wanted the job. No one else came forward so I had a telephone interview and was sent a background check form to fill in and contract to sign.

Within the week I was flying out to Cologne to meet the ship and no real idea of what I'd find when I got there. That was almost a month ago now and I've got the hang of it enough that I think I can add blogging back into the juggling act. 

Joy xx

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

When An Amazing Opportunity Isn't

Last year I was offered the job of my dreams, one that let me travel, meet new people constantly, avoid spending time in an office, talk face to face rather than through computer screens and keyboards. And get paid!

I interviewed for a trainee position with a number of firms and then was overwhelemed by the fact I got to pick and choose which one to go with.

I chose the best. I picked the company that had been around the longest, had the highest turnover, ran the largest number of operations, the noisiest social media presence and had the most to offer in terms of career development and promotion.

I picked the wrong company.

In the first week of training there were some alarm bells ringing, but I shut them out, I knew that the training was designed tough and meant to weed people out, the fact that we were told early on "these are the people who are important, they won't talk to you or acknowledge you but you need to introduce yourselves" seemed like a bullshit test but we jumped through the hoop. We were given instrustruction on how to "safely" perform an illegal action while working, I approached the trainers and the management to express my discomfort about that and was basically told to get over it. I then asked for something in writing from the company saying I must do it and was told they couldn't open themselves up to the risk of liability by putting anything in writing.

We were given very little information beforehand about what training would entail and even once it had started they kept us out of the loop to see what happened. We had to gather information at every place we could concivably bring customers and this was a really easy way for the trainers to keep us in our place and enforce the idea that we knew nothing and were never going to be good enough. At one service station stop a trainee was sent backto count the number of cubicles in the toilets. This was allegedly to make us think like the trip managers we needed to become but again, utter bullshit. I'm talking about a massive company who've been doing this for decades, the only toilet stops they make are preplanned ones at preselected services that are big enough to cope with large coach groups.

You're probably wondering by now why I didn't walk away in that first week or so?

The first week of training took place in a tiny little hard to reach town in Austria. We were kept busy, working from 8am until 6pm in a classroom setting, and lucky if we got to sleep by 1am. We were also constantly told how lucky we were to be there, how many people wished they could be in our shoes and how many people didn't make the cut to get on the training scheme. It got inside your head, being told once you got through training it would be a fantastic family you were joining made you want to be accepted. They kept telling us how like a family the company was and how close everyone was once you were really a part of the company.

My working theory was that actually by the time you were through training, ten weeks of sleep deprivation and being told you weren't good enouh everyday that we'd just all have Stolkholme Syndrome.

There was a lot of writing that needed to be done, talks that needed to be written out and administrative work. I'm dyslexic, I'd disclosed that on my application and talked there about how overcoming my slow handwriting by getting approved to use computeres in exams gave me the opportunity to achieve the results that reflected my ability not my handwriting speed. The lead trainer told me my handwriting was unacceptably scruffy and that I needed to write faster, I said that was physically impossible and was told to do it anyway. I asked if I could use my tablet to make notes electronically which would have been faster and dealt with the issue of legibility, absolutely not in fact he didn't even think it was appropriate I suggested such a thing. I was called a liar and told I was "the type of person who makes up any excuse not to do work", I was made to feel ashamed of having a disability and treated like I was a spoilt princess who wanted special treatment when I asked about it being taken into consideration.

I was asked to leave the training shortly after that conversation. My  first feeling was one of overwheleming relief. I could leave and never have to look at the bullies trainers again. Then the panic set in, I was in a town about an hour outside Rome, Italy and was informed over breakfast that I wouldn't be getting on the coach today, that I could stay at the campsite we were in that night but then I had to be gone. I didn't have enough money to cover a last minute flight back to the UK from Italy at Easter Weekend and I didn't know what I'd do when I was home.

My parents booked me a ticket and I bartered with a taxi driver to get to the airport, then I basically just slept for a week.

Things have picked up since then, but I thought the down swing deserved it's own post and this is quite long enough anyway...

Joy xxx

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