Tag Archives: employment

Work Experience, Part II

At its peak, the Australian Apple Premium Reseller called Next Byte had more than 20 stores nationally, and I spent the tail end of my high school and all of my uni-going years at just one: Next Byte Hobart.

Today, the Apple landscape in Australia is a lot different to what it was over a decade ago. Thanks mostly to the iPhone, Apple is now one of the largest companies in the world. Apple owned-and-operated retail locations compete with general electronics retailers, who now sell Apple products more out of obligation rather than any real profit-chasing exercise. But as any reseller will tell you, slim profits on Apple products means it’s extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to match Apple when it comes to the unparalleled customer experience that Apple Retail locations are able to offer. Any third-party Apple presence is either small enough to fly under the radar, or niche enough to carve out a market of their own. For the rest of us, Apple retail stores in every capital city CBD besides Melbourne, Darwin, and Hobart means out in-person sales and service needs are fulfilled, with any gaps covered by Apple’s online store and mail-in repair programs.

I have plenty of stories from my time at Next Byte. Maybe one day I’ll even write about a few of them, once I’m a little more comfortable the statute of limitations has passed. In the interests of becoming a better storyteller, the one I’m going to tell you today is about the time I did work experience at my place of employment.

All up, I spent about seven years at Next Byte. Mostly on a casual basis, working on weekends and school/Uni holidays where I could. By the end of that seven years I had proven myself in basically every aspect of the business; sales consultant, service technician, stock administrator, executive assistant, and Apple educator.

I was a stand-in in the truest sense of the word, capable of performing basically every role besides, perhaps, running the joint. And not that I didn’t want to, but somehow, there was always someone more senior than me who managed to hang onto that responsibility. Which, being as young as I was, was totally fine by me.

It’s sometime in June, 2007.

I’ve been working at Next Byte on a weekends/school holidays basis for about six months now, and everything is great.

The end of the school year is coming up fast. I need to find somewhere to complete a week’s worth of work experience for the Vocational Educational and Training subject I’m taking, and what better place than my current place of employment? Maybe not in retail though, I’ve already done plenty of that. What about service?

One phone call later and it’s all sorted out, and the service team lead (and business manager) couldn’t be happier — he gets a free week of labour from someone who already knows a few things about the business, a few more things about Macs, and I get to tick a box for one of my subjects. It’s win-win.

Technically, it’s the second time I’ve performed work experience at Next Byte. But while that first time was mostly spent out helping out doing whatever boring mundane completely necessary chores mixed with a little customer service, I didn’t get any hands-on time with some of the tools poking around the insides of Macs.

That changed the second time around, with my second go at work experience involving performing light administrative duties, observing repairs, and even a few very basic repairs of my own — all under the careful observation of an actually certified technician, of course. Still, I had a hard time shaking a certain sense of déjà vu as I’m shown the ropes on a different aspect of the business.

The week passes by uneventfully, and at the end, I get a glowing recommendation from the service manager, extolling my incredible work ethic, ability to quickly learn new things, and willingness to give anything a go with a smile.

I like to think I still have some of those skills.

Rite of passage – All this →

My older son had to go to a meeting at work this morning. He works at a grocery store in town and I assume the all-hands meeting was called to prepare the staff for an especially busy day because of a big sale.

Thing is, my son’s a bag boy.
via Rite of passage – All this.

Dr Drang doesn’t believe his 17-year old son should have gone to a store meeting with little to no relevance to him as a bag boy, but I disagree.

As someone who got their first job at 16, I know what it’s like to go to meetings that have little impact on what you do, day-to-day. I was still a high-school student at that time, and on the weekend, I’d work a few hours at the local Apple reseller.

I’ve been to my fair share of meetings that I probably didn’t, strictly speaking, need to go to, being a filthy casual and working one day a week. But here’s the thing, I always wanted to go because it meant I kept in touch with my colleagues I didn’t see every day, including all the ones I wouldn’t see regularly, due to them not working on the weekend. Going to those meetings kept me in the loop with all that was going on in the business and ensured I was seen as the reliable guy who’d turn up for meetings he wasn’t necessarily needed at.

Sure, I didn’t need to go to those meetings. But I’d like to think I’m a better person — a better employee — because I did.

— permalink to this post

What kind of job do I want?

office block

In my continuing quest to find some kind of full time employment, something that won’t make me want to commit seppuku at the end of every working day, I ask myself the following question: what kind of job do I want?

The fact that I have no answer kind of explains why I’m in this predicament in the first place. I’m honestly not sure what kind of job I want, and the issue is further compounded by the fact that a job that looks good on paper might turn out to be the most soul-sucking drudgery in real life that I’ll end up hating it, myself, and everyone else in close proximity.

In other words, I guess you could say the job hunting is going well.

A few months ago, the internet exploded over the controversy a Penny Arcade job posting generated, but for the life of me, I don’t really understand why.

You can read the full position description over at LinkedIn, but I’ll quote the best part:

We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT for us here that need help configuring a firewall for a dev kit, etc. Sorry, I know that’s the WORST, but it’s absolutely part of the gig.

They’re not sugar-coating it. They need one person to do the jobs of four people (and do them well), and you know what? They’ll probably find someone, being Penny Arcade and all.

Here’s the part I don’t get, though: most of the Internet Rage™ was centred around how the individual that filled this position, the one who did all these jobs, would quickly burnout. Some called it “exploitation“, others still “insultingly horrible“, but I don’t see it.

Call it naivety about employment and the work/life balance, but I don’t see how it could. Sure the job would be (extremely) demanding, and sure, you might even work hard for little pay, but surely if you were applying for the job in the first place, you would have already made a conscious choice to do all of the above, at some time or another?

The reality is that unless your name is Marco Arment, you’re going to start somewhere in a job just like this. It might not be somewhere as (depending on who you ask) glamorous as Penny Arcade, and you may be doing slightly different things, but chances are, you’ll start out in a job that gives you little to no recognition for all the hard work you do that isn’t explicitly in your job description.

The way I see it, there’s two ways of approaching employment. You can treat your job like a 9-to-5, by clocking in, doing your job, and clocking out. That might pay the bills and put food on the table, but I doubt you’ll feel fulfilled by the work you do. Or, you could find a job you actually enjoy, actually put some effort into it, and at the end of the day, you’ll feel like you’re making a difference, even if you didn’t or don’t change the world.

Sure, you could settle for less. Ask anyone who has experienced “startup culture”, though, and you’ll realise that people working at startups don’t treat their jobs like any other 9-to-5. If they did, they’d probably find their startup crashing into the ground pretty quickly. Do you really think employees of startups, or those who are self-employed have a work/life balance? By the same token, do you think they enjoy the work they do?

Of course not, and of course they do. They wouldn’t be doing it, otherwise.

I’m not really sure what I’m looking for in a job. Something I enjoy would be great, but beyond that, I really have no idea. I’m waiting for the right opportunity to come up, but since I’m not really looking, the chances of that happening are pretty slim.

I was talking to a friend who basically told me the same thing, that there’s no such thing as “the perfect job”. In the end, I think that any job I end up with I’ll be equal parts mundane and unexciting as it will be fun and fulfilling. The key will be finding that balance.

Additional wisdom dispensed by my friend included the suggestion that I find anything just to get my foot in the door in order to get some experience behind me, which honestly isn’t a bad suggestion. The only problem with that is, what if I end up hating it and end up leaving six months to a year later? The question then becomes: did I just find out what kind of job I don’t want? Or did I just waste a bunch of time? I mean, if I’m going to waste time, I might as well do it in a way that I enjoy; by raising my ranked match-making rating in DotA 2, which currently sits at just below 2400. I’m not getting paid to play DotA, obviously, but it’s fun. Most of the time, anyway.

I guess the reason I care so much about this stuff is that I currently have a few regularly paying jobs, and fitting them all in the same 24-hour period leaves me with little time for anything else. I can handle a few of them and still have a lot of time to myself, but it’s a combination of all of them that leaves me with very little free time.

I could quit a few, but why? It’s only hectic sometimes, and provided I turn down a few extra shifts during the weekdays I’ll more or less get to keep my sanity and still have ample time to play some DotA.

Which is all a guy could ask for, really.



Comic via Doghouse Diaries.

The fashionable thing to do after you graduate, I’m told, is to get a job and start paying off your HECS fees. Either that, or go back for more education, either in the form of an Honours/Masters degree or a PhD in the field of your choice.

But apparently I must have missed that particular memo (or more likely, fallen asleep during that particular lecture), because thus far, I’m still as unemployed as I was when I started my degree.

Part of the problem lies in the fact I’m still very unsure about what kind of job I want, and is compounded by the fact that a Computing degree doesn’t necessarily mean I should get a degree doing something with computers, although in this day and age that’s more or less inevitable. I’m fairly sure I don’t want a full-time “programming” job, as I’ve never really liked programming. I’m not really interested in graphic design, 3D modelling, or web development, even though a large part of my degree was doing web stuff.

I remember when I was getting close to graduation the first or second time, and a colleague was asking me about what kind of job I was going to end up with after I graduated. I replied with not a little melancholy that I’d probably end up doing websites for clients, which would lead to my eventual suicide due to how depressing that life would be. I don’t really know what it is, by web development has never really appealed to me. I can get by hacking my own WordPress theme and fiddling with the occasional bit of PHP, but building websites for others is an unimaginable level of hell.

It should have been the precursor to my post on time a month or so ago, but I didn’t get around to writing a thing on the kind of job I want. Like the vast majority of people, I could probably just get some 9-5 job doing some horrible drudgery, only to come home and have a few hours to myself before going back for more the following day, but that’s no way to live. A better alternative would be to find something I find interesting, something stimulating, something that won’t leave me wanting to kill myself when 5:30 rolls around. The reality is, I probably wouldn’t mind a typical 9-5 job, it would just have to be something I enjoyed doing. Which is kind of why my current situation works pretty well, which leads on nicely to the next part.

The eagle-eyed among you would have noted my use of the word colleague earlier, a strange term to use when one is unemployed. But maybe for my particular situation, unemployed isn’t exactly the right term. I have and have had a job since 2007, just one that isn’t full time. I mostly work on the weekend, with a few days during the week here and there. The current arrangement I have works pretty well, actually. I get plenty of time to myself to do whatever I want — sleep until noon, get up, play some DotA 2, eat, play some more DotA — and because my daily expenses are pretty low, I can even save a little money on the side.

Did I tell you about that time I applied for money from the government to assist my Uni studies, but because I had been at Uni for too long, they wanted me to start proving I was looking for work? And that entailed a mandatory visit to an employment agency to help me get started, which felt really wrong? Not because looking for work is something I detest, but because that visit to the employment agency felt like I was using resources would could have been better used helping the less able and less fortunate to find work. My Centerlink payments stopped soon after that, because I felt like there were people that were more deserving of the government’s assistance than I. No, this isn’t some kind of high-horse that I’m sitting on, just a recognition of the fact that as far things go, I’m pretty lucky. And besides, I found my current job on my own when I was still in high school, so I didn’t really need the help of an employment agency to find work1.

And what about that time I was almost suckered into a pyramid scheme? Now that’s a truly enthralling tale for another time.

With very little idea of what kind of job I want, you could say the job hunt is proceeding as expected.

That’s not to say I haven’t been looking for a suitable full-time job. There was even a job I applied for, way back in July. Unlike other jobs, I kind of wanted this one: I thought I was a pretty strong candidate as it suited my previous experience to a T, the pay was great, and it would have meant moving out of my parents’ house and becoming independent. But even though I thought I was a pretty good candidate, HR apparently didn’t think so. My interpretation of the feedback I received essentially boiled down to “HR is more concerned with protecting themselves and their managers than finding the best candidate for the job” — that may be reading between the lines slightly, but that one job application made me so angry about the entire process that I haven’t bothered looking for or applying for anything else since.

Perhaps I wanted that job more than I let myself think I did, but either way, I’m enjoying being semi-unemployed. The right job will come along eventually, and until then, there’s plenty of other heroes to get good at in DotA.

  1. Not to mention, their offices had a really off-putting vibe to them, too. Not like creepy or anything, but I was a little weirded out by how they measured their job performance as the number of people they had gotten employed. That’s important, for sure, but how does job happiness factor into the grand scheme of things? It made me wonder about whether they actually cared about getting people in jobs or whether they just worried about lumping sacks of flesh with other sacks of flesh.