Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Navigating the Job Market with 'Geographical Symmetry' and Fate

I'm not superstitious, I don't believe in lucky numbers (mine is 7) nor do I attach any significance to numbers. Don't ask me why I thought 1984 (George Orwell) would be an important year and that something auspicious would happen when I turned 42 (Douglas Adams). And, while I'm fatalistic about things, I don't believe in fate.

But, I do like patterns, especially symmetrical ones if they occur unexpectedly or inexplicably in nature, events or time.

Discounting the time when my wife and I moved 'for good' to the UK in 1987 (we returned to South Africa in 1990), the current migrant-working thing being a recent thing, you could say that I've only worked in 3 UK cities as a 'migrant worker' - Brighton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Nottingham. If you look at the rather fuzzy map, you''ll see that Brighton is right in the south, Newcastle right in the north of England and Nottingham in the middle. I refer to this as 'geographical symmetry'. If my next job were to be in Leeds, my mind could probably accommodate it into some sort of personalised geographical symmetry simply because my mind works that way but, at the moment, Leeds is not a good idea because it would be a 'forced symmetry'.

This doesn't make sense, does it? Well, look at a map of the UK this way: south-north-middle. That's a straight line and since there is no veering off in any other directions (as yet), it's symmetrical. Nottingham (or the East Midlands) has been established as the mid-point. To maintain symmetry, I have to shoot off to somewhere that maintains Nottingham as the centre and results in me travelling more-or-less the same distance as Brighton or Newcastle are from Nottingham. Norwich and Bristol would be ideal destinations. Or that remote bit of Wales that sticks out like a finger into the Irish Sea. The distance to Leeds is probably right but the angle between the arrow from Nottingham to Newcastle and the one to Leeds isn't really big enough.

Bridgwater is not far from Bristol (refer to dotted arrow on the map) - working there would maintain geographical symmetry. Almost perfect. Bristol or Bath would be ideal!

By the way, I've completely ignored the 6 or so weeks spent working in Southampton towards the end of last year as Southampton is too dreadful to keep alive in my memory. But, since it is right down there in the South, the distance is right but the angle, like with Leeds, a bit too tight. See, yet another reason to forget Southampton!

In case you are wondering, no, I'm not stoned or drunk right now. Perfectly sober, actually. This all makes perfect sense to me and I'm sure you can understand what I'm saying even if it doesn't make a blind bit of difference to you.

Anyway, whether you can or can't understand it, I hope that you can understand the quandary I went through when I went for my interview in Newcastle in mid-2001.

I had a very prejudiced idea of Newcastle (depressed/devastated mining and shipping industries; everyone on the dole; etc) so I wasn't keen on going to the interview when I was told about it. Like now, I had been unemployed for a while, so I had to go. When I arrived at the station in Newcastle, I thought that I'd buy a map of the city even though I had a very clear print-out of how to get to where I needed to go - I feel more comfortable with a proper map when I'm meant to be getting around a place that I've not been to before.

This is where the quandary came in:
  • I thought that should I buy a map, that would be showing commitment to the city and that I'd get the job, something I wasn't that keen on.
  • Conversely, I thought that buying the map meant that I was spending money that I didn't really have on a map of a city under the assumption that I'd be working there soon and that the money would have been well-spent, ie this was tempting Fate (something I don't believe in) to ensure that I didn't get the job.

So, depending on how Fate was working that day, buying the map was either going to get me the job or not get me the job. What to do, what to do?

I bought the map. I got the job.

And, within a few weeks, I discovered that Newcastle was an absolutely wonderful place to live and work in. Fate had dealt me the right cards that time.

As you can see, finding where to work can be a very tricky business!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with Newcastle having the highest ratio of smokers in the country is it?

1:14 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

A great city - glad you got to stay around long enough for your expectations to be confounded!

1:39 am  

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