30 December 2007

A Comedy of Errors

Adventures in Job-seeking

My search for fairly humble employment in Scotland took six weeks, but not before a few misadventures.

The principal mishap was when I went for a group "supply" (i.e. substitute) pupil support worker interview in West Lothian, to the west of Edinburgh. Given that my knowledge of the regional geography is terrible, I probably should have taken more care than simply relying on online mapping and trip planning websites.

It seemed simple enough. My bus dropped me off at the predetermined point, and I was armed with a printed map showing that I was less than a kilometre from the interview location. Alas, the roads had no pavements/sidewalks, so I was forced to take to pedestrian paths that took me behind rows of identical houses. Since it was only 7:30AM it was still quite dark. Lacking my familiar directional indicators - mosques and the sun - I wandered into a vast expanse of shopping centres and parking lots asking locals for Owen Square, which they had never heard of.

Eventually I called the interview hosts and discovered that I had somehow come quite close to the building. I beat a direct path to it, and only turned up about 15 minutes late, although covered in mud after abandoning the walking paths. An upside to my tardiness was that I got to stay on a few minutes after the group interview concluded, which afforded me the opportunity to ask naive questions about the education system and terms of employment in front of a smaller audience.

The following week I had interviews closer to home, and did the necessary research and staking out to prevent a late arrival. That morning as I moved to button my suit trousers, I discovered that the dry cleaner had melted off the button. Luckily I had another ill-fitting tailored suit (the jacket is snug, the trousers more of a zoot suit style) from Ghana to wear, so I managed. It turns out that some buttons are not meant for dry-cleaning, although the dry cleaner did agree to replace the button. I will have to warn Inusa about the buttons...

My other difficulty with interviews here is that they often turn into talks about my life in The Gambia. It is not always easy for me to frame these experiences in a manner that highlights my credentials, and employers then don't grasp how my work in Peace Corps will help me at a school in Edinburgh. Of course, people here have no idea what Peace Corps is; in the U.S., at least there is some familiarity with the program. I am doing better at this, though, and at one primary school I managed to link my achievements and challenges in The Gambia to the work I will do for them next year.

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