Monthly Archives: January 2018

Ch..ch..ch…changes…..

…turn and face the strange….

It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?

For a good 18 months at least, I have been thinking about work, home, and how I can change things a bit to make my working life a bit more interesting. I’ve looked at other career options – limited, with no formal qualifications in anything and I don’t relish the idea of studying or attending training courses. Not really knowing what my ideal job is makes it difficult.

As you know, if you’ve read my previous posts (presumptuous of me), I had a “review” at work at the beginning of the year which, while positive and comforting, didn’t really change much.

Then, one morning, two weeks ago, before anyone else arrived, my boss “D” (the less misogynistic one) told me he wanted to give me “the heads up” (I’ve never really understood that phrase) that changes were afoot and things would be “getting a bit more exciting” and that there was an “opportunity” for me to do something “different”.

My initial reaction (in my head, the outer one was all smiley and faux-excited) was not to get too excited as I have heard similar things before, albeit less enthusiastically and said less certainly. I was to wait until the other boss came in for us to “have a formal chat”. Luckily, unlike the review, I didn’t have time to stew on the formal nature of the chat. I cracked on with some emails from ratty customers and waited.

Luckily, I wasn’t in for a long wait and pretty soon they were both sitting at my desk and they offered me a promotion. They’re expanding the business, diversifying into another product line (very different) and want to be able to free up D so that he can concentrate on the new stuff. They want me to take over the existing stuff and they are going to employ someone new to take over my current role. They want me to do it and they think I can. They’re happy for me to continue doing a 4-day week. They’re happy for me to still go off to pick the kids up from school. Basically, they will do whatever it takes to enable me to do the job, because they want me to do it.

I haven’t had such a confidence boost since T reached 2 years old and I realised that I was a good enough parent not to have killed him, and that maybe we could have another one. It’s immensely flattering. It’s exciting (it really is, this is not my faux-excited face). And it’s going to be a challenge. I haven’t had a proper challenge (apart from parenting stuff) since I joined the company 7 years ago and went back into the working world. It’s just what I needed to happen and it means I don’t have to have an interview for a new job, get to know new people, realise I was happier where I was.

So, it’s starting to happen and I’ve already taken on some of the new stuff – it’s making by brain hurt a bit, but in a really good way. Good changes, confidence boost and challenges. Love it.

 

 

 

 

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Open Options

Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.

So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.

The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and  started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.

For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.

I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.

Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.

As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.

It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.

 

 

 

Review Relief

The Work Review took place this morning. I was in the office incredibly early thanks to very little school traffic, and I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I don’t know why – I have known D, my boss, since secondary school and we get on really well as employer/employee. He’s a very relaxed person and we have a good laugh. But, there was something about the formality of having a Review that was making me a bit sweaty-palmed. And for someone with perpetually cold hands that’s quite some achievement.

He arrived in the office about half an hour after me and we chatted about Christmas, family, etc.  I made a cuppa; he did some paperwork; I answered some emails. I knew he was due to leave at 10 a.m. for a meeting and I started to wonder if he had forgotten about The Review. But no, with plenty of time to spare, he said “shall we have this review then?” and laughed. I laughed (a tad more hysterically than necessary) and he came and sat down at the desk next to mine. With his notebook. Palms sweating even more, I wondered if I should get my notebook in case I was expected to take notes. I looked across my desk and noticed my screen was still on my Gmail. Gah! not a great impression to give. I managed to flick it on to a work screen and by then I forgot all about getting my notebook.

I didn’t need it. As formal as it felt, and sounded, to start off with – ” we (the other boss was away, thankfully, so this was the Royal “we”) want to talk about your role, make sure everything is going as it should from both our perspectives, talk about how we can measure your performance and then look at new ideas we have for how to expand your role, does that sound OK?” it soon emerged that they are very happy with what I am doing; they think I am hardworking, conscientious; they are happy that I put in the hours; they have lots of ideas for things I can get involved in; and so long as I keep the required performance levels up on the accounts then they are happy. I squeaked out lots of “OK”s and “oh good”s and “thank you”s steeling myself for when it was my turn – what on earth was I going to say? Why was I being such a dribbler? The best part was that the other boss (the grumpy one) had allegedly said a short while ago that he wished they had come across me ten or fifteen years ago when they were first starting the business, as I am a superstar. I don’t think he said superstar, but I like to think that was what he meant.

My turn.

“Er, I’m happy with the work, most of the time. I like the flexibility and I like coming into the office a couple of times a week to break the week up”.

So lame. Think, think.

“I sometimes find some of it a bit mundane”

OK, I didn’t know I was going to go that route but I’ve started so I’ll finish….

“so some new stuff to get involved in would be great”…..

He’s already said that….THINK!

“I know it can’t all be interesting all the time”…..

“…..had lots of jobs so know it can’t all be fun, fun, fun”…..

“…..really like working here”…..”….happy to do anything really”…..

SHUT UP  – NOW!

I stopped. He smiled, “Great, so that’s all good. We’re going to give you a pay-rise starting this month.” I don’t kiss and tell, but suffice to say it’s not enough for us to start eating caviar every night (why would anyone want to?) and it’s probably going be hard to spot it on my payslip, but it’s the thought that counts and I didn’t take the job expecting to earn megabucks.

I have to admit to being on a little bit of a high after that. It was nice to hear nice things – it’s nice to know they know I am conscientious, and that I am capable of doing more. And, of course, that I am a superstar.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Just before the end of term I received an email from school, entitled Year 11 Prom and Yearbook. T started in Year 11 in September. It was December when the email came through. It was asking him to decide before the 17th January whether he wants to attend the Year 11 Prom, which is held towards the end of…….June!

June! A whole six months away. Six months is a long time when you’re fifteen. I asked him when the email arrived and his answer was “er, no thanks, why would I want to go to Prom?!” How do I know that he won’t change his mind in a month, 3 months, 6 months from now? We have to pay a £25 deposit, which is non-refundable. Do I risk writing off £25 if he still decides it’s a no? A lot can change in six months – he may have a girlfriend by then and she may be a tad annoyed if he’s not put his name down for prom. He may become a total party animal that wants to go and strut his stuff (OK that won’t happen – he is the offspring of two perennial wallflowers). I’ve asked him if any of his mates are going to pay the deposit (something I hate doing, as it really bats against the “I don’t care what your friends are allowed to do” mantra that I have used over the years when he insisted that Insert Name Here had been bought a new phone or had been allowed to go to London for the day alone at the age of 13) he mutters that they don’t talk about stuff like that. Sometimes, and only sometimes, girls are easier in this regard. I’m pretty sure when A is in Year 11 it will be ALL she and her friends will talk about for the whole six months after the email arrives.

I’ve stopped asking, but the email is still in my inbox. I can’t file it away under ‘School – T’ until the date has passed and the decision is made – either by default because we haven’t done anything about it, or because by some miracle he has a conversation about it with his mates and he decides one way or another. (I hate emails sitting in my inbox; it’s so untidy.) I really want him to make the right decision. If he decides that he is going to go to college and not Sixth Form it may be the last school event with his friends that he has made over the years. If he doesn’t go will he spend the entire evening wishing he had? He’s not really one for FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I am probably hugely overthinking this (Who? Me? Never.) But it seems like a big deal. I have seen photos from previous years – girls all lined up in their pretty dresses, hair and make up all done especially for the occasion; the boys in new suits looking uncomfortable (apart from one, there’s always one) – that’s the other thing, if he goes to college he won’t need a suit apart from for Prom; but they all look excited and happy and their exams are all finished and they are going to PARTY.

Decisions, decisions. I think I might just pay the £25. Then I can file the email, stop thinking about it and IF he changes his mind then I can say “well, good job I paid it then” and I will be a HERO. Again.

 

Review

It’s human nature to reflect back and look forward when one year ends and another starts. Ditching resolutions was one of the the best things I ever did (along with ditching the scales and ditching Facebook) but I still like to take stock and this new year was no exception. 2017 wasn’t too bad on the whole. Unlike 2016, there were no sad losses of loved ones; no broken bones; no upheaval of starting secondary school – nothing to throw off the general equilibrium of life. It was all pretty plain sailing and we made some happy memories and had some lovely times. Of course, there were rows, down times, frustrations and upsets but nothing major in the grand scheme of things. A Good Year.

As we start 2018, I am feeling almost calm and – dare I say? – positive. Last year I took up a photo challenge and this year it is being done again and I am fully on board. It ties in so well with the “no resolutions, no mad diets and no crazy exercise regimes” philosophy and I loved it last year. It’s under the hashtag #SavouringJanuary2018 on Instagram – you get a different word each day, which you interpret as you see fit and post a photo if possible. Not every day if you don’t want to but, by using the hastag, other people can follow your posts and you can see theirs. It makes me think about January in a different way and it’s a great way to start the year. It’s not a brag-fest, not showing off how wonderful your life is, just taking a simple word like “Still” and thinking about a relevance in your day and taking a picture to represent it. Simple but really effective.

That’s not the reason why I am feeling calm and positive. I don’t know why I am feeling this way, I just am. For now. The pessimist in me is muttering that it won’t last. Let’s ignore her, she’s a pain in the arse. I think that taking things easy this Christmas has helped. We normally have family here both days (as we did this year) and then also end up travelling up to the midlands a couple of times in the space of the week. This year we did that early and the rest of the time we have been at home, pottering about, not doing much. Not trying to fill every spare minute DOING SOMETHING. The kids still have another day before they go back to school; I am working from home and K is home early. It’s all still quite chilled (that word again). Mealtimes are still whenever, whatever; no-one needs to be anywhere by a certain time; there are no deadlines. The calm, positive feeling may change when school starts again on Thursday. Watch this space.

Not only am I thinking about my world at home – my real world, the only thing that really matters – but on Thursday I have a Job Review. My boss emailed me before Christmas suggesting it may be a good idea to have one as we haven’t had one for a while (more like never before), just to talk about my role and the good and the bad from both perspectives. I’m not sure how I feel about it. In Creature of Habit I talked about feeling a bit tied to my desk and wanting to make a shift in the way I work. I can’t deny that I find my job a bit tedious at times, that I wish for something to happen to shake things up. But I don’t know how to get this across, or even if I should, at a Job Review. Does a boss ever really want to hear that their employee is feeling a bit stagnant? Especially when it’s in a company of 5 people where there’s not much opportunity to diversify or try something new. I don’t know what to expect or what is expected of me. Of course, I have had plenty of Annual Reviews over the years, and have been on both sides of the table. I’ve helped K fill out his appraisal forms, to ensure he gets the tone right (and sometimes his spellings – he’s terrible at spelling. Mental maths – almost genius, but spelling, uh-ah) and I was never scared to put myself forward for more responsibility. But, this is different somehow. I will let you know how it goes.

Looking into 2018, we have things to look forward to. There are, of course, things to ponder* on: T sitting his GCSE’s; the extension; the Nan situation. There will be obstacles. There will be upsets. There may be be sad times. But if I can keep calm, stay positive, worry about the big things (and only the big things), keep laughing, then it will be OK. Here’s to a New Year.

*notice I said “ponder” and not “worry”. I’ve spent too long worrying about stuff that often didn’t happen or when it did it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Let’s try and have less of that.