Thursday, July 31, 2008

Almost August #3

Ok, so more news on the job front from Jon...

Manpower is opening a new branch in Swindon and is considering me for being the Branch Manager! Swindon is about 40 minutes by car and the job comes with a company car, so wow! I should be meeting the higher-up/decision maker next Wednesday or Thursday and the people I have met thus far are all quite confident he'll like me and they think this is the best role for me (in their minds better than the regional sales manager role which is also still "in the works"). The branch manager job has excellent training, support and the ability to find/bulid my own team. The branch role is a better path to upper management as well, so they say. The RSM role would put me more at the mercy of a different set of factors, limit my other internal options a bit and would have some very aggressive targets to hit. The branch position would be more empowering, have more room for creativity and is equally interesting to me; it will have targets as well but new branches take time to build so wouldn't be quite as "sink or swim." I haven't seen much about the comp structure but they seem to think the roles can be about even- depending on the region and, obviously, the results. Plus, it'd be less time travelling, working, etc. and focusing on 1 market instead of a whole region and a dozen or more offices (could get hard to keep track of who's who:). It's still sinking in but this is a job I could definitely see myself doing, and doing well. They are also looking at me for an onsite role with Microsoft in Reading but that is moving slowly due to so many folks on holiday.

Haybrook IT is looking at me for a recruiter role running a full desk. They're about 8 miles from our current home and set out in the country on 2000 acre campus. They're one of the biggest IT firms in the UK and seem to have a solid reputation and a pretty cool building/layout. I interview in-person there on Tuesday of the coming week. The salary would be lower than the others but is very competitive on commissions. And I would have to have a car- on my own dime. This option came out of nowhere (through a recruiter) but could be an ok option. It's basically at the bottom right now.

The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology interview 1 is happening a week from tomorrow (Friday). It's a contract and a government agency/charter. It has moved quite slowly but it looks pretty promising as well. It's close to home, would be meaningful helping folks get back to work- after having kids, etc. and the money is pretty good. Long-term it is a bit dodgy as the contract is under a year but they said there's a chance it will renew... This job was #1 until the Manpower stuff came and took the top spot. Still, could re-take #1...

We'll see, great to have some promising options.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Almost August #2

Well, I just heard from Manpower and they're considering me for a position internally as a regional sales manager. No joke- regional sales manager! It is the answer to a lot of our problems/questions/objectives and would be a highly visible and challenging role. I'm excited about it. Finally the job search has me with 2 good, do-able options! Yessss! Time will tell. The person I'd report to is named Simon and he's the director of key accounts, so hopefully we hit it off..... They need people in a few different locations and 1-2 would work so we shall see... fingers crossed!!!

Almost August

Hello all! It's been a couple of weeks so I figured an update is past-due. We're doing well and settling in more and more. We still love our TV and our new sofa far surpasses the junky futon that was left here for us. We also bought a king sized bed (what we would call a queen they call a king) and moved around the furniture in all 3 bedrooms and much prefer the new layout. We've been getting better sleep on the new bed and got a great deal on it as well so we're both quite pleased. :)

Robin is going to NC for just over a week Aug 1-10 for Jennifer and Kevin's wedding and she'll also be doing some work while she is there. Her mom will also be visiting so Robin will get to visit with her and our little terrier buddy, Jack, is coming, too. :) Our 2nd wedding anniversary is a week from today (the 5th); how time flies! Robin also has her birthday coming up on the 13th, so though we'll miss being together for our anniversary, she will be back in the UK for her b-day. She got one present from me early- a Radley handbag, which is pink and features a little terrier as the mascot... So, suffice it to say she's quite keen on it. :)

The job front has been pretty crazy for me but seems to be pointing in the right direction now. London is off the radar; the jobs pay better and it would be a great experience to work there but the commutes are just too long given the somewhat unpredictable buses and the fact that it takes 35-40 minutes or so to get to the train station. Once we live closer to it commuting to London would be doable; in the interim it is the Oxford area and Reading has some good leads. Reading is only 1 train-stop away and more of a technical city than Oxford seems to be. The trains are predictable, fast and, though a bit pricey, better than dealing with the cost of gas (about 10 bucks a gallon at the moment). etc. Plus there is the price of insurance- the quotes I got for just me on an older car with modest coverage were over 4x what we were paying in the US for full coverage on 2 newer cars and 2 drivers... then there is the cost of the car, maintenance, etc. Enough about that, I do have an interview a week from Friday for a job I really like (on paper anyway) working with women who have been out of the workforce back into the workforce in science, engineering and technology jobs. It is a contract with the UK Resource Center for Women ( which sits on-site at a local college and would be an interesting combination to complement my skills, education, motivations... and they said it could extend long-term, pending good results and funding... Either way it would be good pay, meaningful, close to home and get me some UK-experience. Many companies here are hesitant with me as I have no UK experience. I am also working with Manpower as of late last week as they are fairly sure they can find me something quite good. We had a great 4+ hour panel interview and they work with Microsoft-UK, Hewlett-Packard-UK and basically any other big-name-IT company which has a presence here (Manpower is essentally the largest US recruitment firm and has been around over 60 years). So, between those leads and a few other loose-ends something should stick soon. Prayers, patience and persistence seem to be paying off. Ooh, alliteration- I am still Presbyterian! :)

Speaking of church, we still attend at the Holy Trinity church where CS Lewis is buried. It is small, obviously Church of England, and the people are nice. We have yet to hear the head fellow preach but look forward to that. He's been out much of the summer so maybe as Fall approaches we'll see more of him.

Ok, I think that about covers it. We miss our little buddies and look forward to Jack and Felix's arrival in late August. And, of course, we miss you all, too!!!



Sunday, July 13, 2008

London calling!

"No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

I think Samuel Johnson has got to be right about that. We spent a fantastic day in my favorite city yesterday, and I don't think I could ever be tired of that place. I've been there quite a few times now, and there is always something new (or old, for that matter) and exciting to see. We made it to a few museums I've always wanted to visit- Victoria & Albert (my favorite was the display of fashion and trends throughout the ages!), the Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!), and the Science Museum (space!). Then, after I drooled for awhile at the Radley handbag shop, we ate at a place in Chinatown called the Tokyo Diner (no, that's not a typo). We always seem to eat in Chinatown when we're in London, because the food tends to be more reasonably priced and have more normal (aka American-sized) portions. Tokyo Diner was no different, so definitely worth a second trip.

After dinner, we had a nice walk along the South Bank, taking in the sights and trying not to look suspicious as we walked by MI6. My inner historian is always a little overwhelmed when I think about all the Kings, Queens, prisoners, and poets who have traveled along the Thames (for very different reasons!) throughout history. I could go on, but at the risk of sounding even dorkier I will spare you. Does it sound like we have covered a lot of ground in one day? That's because Jon is a real expert at navigating London, which works out well for me because I have no sense of direction. He has the tube all figured out, which is no small feat.

The real highlight of the evening was going to Camden Town (where Amy Winehouse hangs) to see Heypenny, which happens to be the band of Jon's fellow Chattanoogan Kevin Bevil. They put on a great show- very cool, original music and all high-energy performers. I wish they had been able to play longer! I think Kevin was pretty surprised to see some fellow Americans in the crowd! We were really impressed by how they won over their British audience- it was a good sized crowd, and everyone was dancing and singing along. It was a late night, as we had to take a bus from Camden to Notting Hill (because apparently the tube stops running at 12:20 am) to catch our bus back to Oxford. We finally made it back home at about 3:30, having had to walk from the Headington bus stop home since the Oxford city buses were not running at that hour. It was a fun day/night, but we are paying for it this morning! At least we have all day today to recover. It's safe to say we are tired from London (but not of it).

Another important development in our lives is that we have a new bed! It's "King" sized (which translates to Queen sized in American) and it is fabulous. We found it on the DailyInfo, which is Oxford's version of Craigslist, and Jon went to pick it up on Friday. We've been wanting a new bed for awhile, since we're used to having the extra space (it is hard to downsize to a double bed, let me tell you) and we kept waking up in the middle of the night with elbows in our faces. We also got a new loveseat this week, replacing the horrible futon, so life is good!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jon's job search and our potential vechicle acquisition continued...

Ok, so I have offer 1 in hand, which is nice to have, to be wanted. However, I'm not exactly excited about many aspects of the job and the offer is not what I would call impressive. So, we left it that I'd sleep on it but 99.9% sure I will say thanks but no thanks tomorrow. Even if the offer had been better I still had some strong reservations about it and was pretty sure a "no" was going to be my response.

I have had a couple of other interviews and those are awaiting feedback. I interviewed yesterday for a first round and I am interested in though the commute is a bit long. The town is called Milton Keynes and it actually feels like a US city in how it is laid-out. It was developed pretty recently and they used US-style model for it. I also applied for a bunch of really good stuff yesterday and today and hope that those (and my previous applications for similar jobs) come back to me tangibly soon. It seems recruitment here is much more heavily focused on sales than I am (or want to be) and the role more closely suited to my experience is HR Advisor and/or In-House recriuter. Both are apparently very sought after and the competition is fierce, so hopefully some company somewhere will like what they see in me and give me a shot. Oh, and I applied to Microsoft UK today, a former client when I worked at Volt. Microsoft has an HR Consultant/Advisor role in Reading which is pretty doable. For you IT nerds, I left the fact that I know and use Linux and Mac in my resume, so I'm not a total sell-out!

As for the car, we've done a bit more shopping and are still on the fence a bit about the level of car to get. If it is for work and everyday driving something decent-good but if it is just for errands, some sightseeing and very limited mileage something a bit less-nice would work fine. We shall see if any of these jobs get serious. I am trying to apply to positions which I can get to easily on the bus/train as it's both green environmentally and will help us save some green on gas. It's about 11 bucks a gallon today and not expected to go down anytime soon.

Keep your fingers crossed for us and maybe say a little prayer? :)


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jon's job search and our potential vechicle acquisition

Well, I must say this has been an interesting job search thus far. I began by applying for positions in late April and May but those have yet to really go anywhere- they were mostly in publishing sales and other sales roles. I have been getting a fair amount of calls and interviews for jobs in recruitment consultancy (staffing/headhunting). I have one company who is possibly making an offer in the next day or two though it seems they want to hire an experienced person and pay just a tad over an entry-level salary. We'll see if they make an offer, what it is, and even then I'm not 100% on it being the right fit (long story but it is about a 40 minute drive each way by car and I'm just not excited about it). I also have a first face-to-face with an agency in Milton Keynes tomorow though that commute would be even longer than the other company (just over an hour each way by car). I have even gotten a few calls about London jobs, which pay much, much better, though that would be an even more terrible commute. It is hard to evaluate what is "fair" for salary packages here. We definitely see the cost of living differences so want to adjust for that but certainly don't want to overshoot expectations either. It is freeing to have so much flexibility though I do look forward to focusing more and having a job to fill my time! We have heard this is not the booming time of year for hiring (many the graduates have been getting jobs over the last months) though there does seem to be some activity. Once I am working that will also help us know what side of town we want to settle-in long-term.

And on the topic of commuting.... We do not yet have a car, though we are starting to see the strong case for having one- we could take personal trips across the countryside and run errands much more easily and not having a car is limiting my job search pretty tangibly. Plus we can pick folks up at the airport when they visit- Ahem Ahem... :) Taking the buses is ok getting around town but using them to commute between towns would add a large chunk of time on both ends of the day that could be cut in half (or greater) with a car. So, instead of 1:00-1:40 each way I would be looking at 30-45 each way. Still not an ideal commute, especially with gas over $10 gallon, but much better and would not have to schedule my life around the buses (they are often late though I must say they are very clean and easy to figure out the lines, etc.- plus free WiFi on-board and they have plugs in the walls to charge devices!).

It has been good to get some traction/interviews already though I feel like I am sort of going down the wrong path. Most of my interviews thus far have come from recruiters who have called me about my online profile. I have been applying for "better fits" but those have yet to turn into anything though I will be following-up on a couple of those early this week. I do plan to hone my job search almost exclusively to Oxford instead of including the more outlying towns; there are a couple of other towns that are easily commutable as well. I have not yet seen a lot of great jobs here, more of a univeristy-town than a booming technical area but there have to be a few companies I have yet to find. I am pretty sure we're going to get a car whether my job requires it or not- probably something older just so we can get around. We have identified a few later 90s and early 00s BMW and Audis that have caught our eye. They are actually cheaper than Japanese cars and everybody says not to buy an English car. There seem to be a lot of Peugot and Renault as well but am not excited about those. We could always look for Saabs and be the envy of Uncle Dave. :)

It is a bit rainy and cool here today. It has been pretty warm (some days even hot) and dry lately so this seems to be more of a taste of what we anticipated. I think that about sums it up for now. Cheers, mates!