Still in Research Phase

Is the job hunt working?

I seem to be finding people to network with and jobs to apply for, and I'm even being invited to interviews. However nobody has offered me employment yet! Maybe I shouldn't be impatient – I'm only 27 days into unemployment. (May be I should have a counter in this blog – but that's the problem: I want it to be counting DOWN not UP!)

I do feel that I am still in the Research Phase: learning from the experiences that I have as I meet people to discuss work. This is shaping my ideas of what work I want to do, and I continue to consider self-employed options too.

I feel that words of St John of the Cross are helpful, as I sail into uncharted waters. (Yes, this blog is supposed to have a nautical theme.)

More on St John of the Cross

I wrestled with reading Dark Night of the Soul in January. A few days ago my tutor on the Spiritual Direction Course gave me an extract which seems really helpful, and hooks in to the uncertainty of my job hunt.

You must go by a way in which you are not.

To come to the pleasure you have not
You must go by a way that you will probably enjoy not

To come to the knowledge that you have not
You must go by a way that you know not

To come to the possession that you have not
You must go by a way in which you possess not

To come to be what you are not
You must go by a way in which you are not.

(John of the Cross)

“Do no harm”

The other day I turned on the radio while I was driving, and found myself listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4. It was about Florence Nightingale's work on hospital design in the 19th Century.

Her first principle was that hospitals “should do the sick no harm.”

That's a good lesson to remember, and particularly important for organisations seeking to provide some kind of care for people. Today some people are worried about going into hospitals in Britain because they may catch a “superbug” (such as MRSA); and the government has just published statistics on death rates in hospitals. Organisations are encouraged to do risk assessment, but that is not the same.

When starting some new venture I tend, in a visionary kind of way, to think of all the good that I want to come out of it. Maybe I should spend more time thinking about how to avoid doing people harm at the same time!

Does it work?

In the church we tend not to ask the question: “Does it work?” Perhaps this is because we imagine that then we should need to have measurable goals: opposed to a preference just to enjoy one another's company, or to do the things that we have always done.

So I was surprised when I read this morning's Bible reading (for the festival of St Mark, from Ephesians ch4 vv7-16 – Revised Standard Version).

The author compares the church to a human body, and writes that “when each part is working properly” the church will build itself up in love. The idea, from earlier in the passage,  is that God has placed his gifts, or grace, inside us so that we may do this useful work of building up God's people. So hand in hand Christians need to expect to make a difference, and trust that God has given the ability to do so.

Are we working properly?

The lost art of Marketing

Conversations that I have been having in connection with my search for work have reminded me of my interest, and skill, in strategic marketing.

Marketing is defined as matching the resources of the organisation with the needs (or “wants”) of the customer. This is what I had practised in my industrial career, and the question of how to match organisational resources and customer needs is foundational to business strategy.

What puzzles me is that in the charitable sector marketing seems to be used in a much-diminished way: not referring to business strategy but to particular communication activities such as “marketing campaigns” (which the industrialist would probably call advertising, or publicity, or mail-shots).

I think, sadly, that such misuse of the word marketing contributes – in some not-for-profit organisations – to a real lack of strategic thinking about how to match creatively the resources of the organisation, which include its supporters, with the needs of its beneficiaries.

Dead Horses

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

However, in many places more advanced strategies are often employed, for example:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Visiting other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.

10 Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And of course…

13. Promoting the dead horse to a senior management position.

(Courtesy of Ian Smith – where does he get these from!?)

The bicycles still work

We've had several weeks or extraordinary hot sunny weather for April, including the week of dinghy sailing after Easter.

Today we continued to enjoy it by going for our first family cycle ride of the year – enjoying the Wiltshire countryside for two hours and checking that our bikes are in good order.

This afternoon I attempted to put new felt on the roof of the garden shed, as the previous roofing was a wreck. I think it will keep the water out, but I won't describe myself as an expert at the first attempt!

Mixing God with Money

This helpful book gives practical financial guidance, relevant to all, as well as insights into particular issues in African Culture. For example Dennis encourages a work ethic (saying that disposable income and money for leisure follow hard work and that Africans can be surprised to discover how hard people in the West work for the money that they earn) and talks of the problems of debt, bribery, and hyperinflation.

Particular things that I found challenging or encouraging were:

The need to pray and to see purchases as a gift from God, not just calculate how many months wages are needed to afford them. This encourages me to put into practice afresh a long-held belief that we should not focus on employment as a source of money, but see wages as a gift from God that happens to be channelled in that way.

Money is seen as something that can take us over, and in that sense is personal rather than morally neutral. So we need to guard against greed and hoarding, and pray and wait when considering purchases.

Dennis defines success, in non-monetary terms, as knowledge of God for this is what we should boast of. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Philippians 3:7-8.)

In an appendix by Ruth Knutson she talks of how we should be “consumed with God's purposes” and not fall for the deception that we need a better job or bigger salary, or be more attractive or intelligent, to be fulfilled – for we are already “complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:9-10).

Dennis is currently Africa Director of the Church Mission Society.

CMS Farewell

Today I returned to CMS for the day to attend a collective farewell, in Waterloo, for those leaving Mission Movement in the current reorganisation.

I've never been to a Turkish restaurant before, but enjoyed lunch at Tas Restaurant on The Cut, followed by tea and cake for a wider group at Partnership House.

It was different to meet with former colleagues, when all except me are still employees. However the positive side of this was that I felt that I was meeting not with colleagues but with friends – and that speaks well for the future.

CMS may have weaknesses, but if working relationships are founded on friendship (mutual care) then that is a strength. After all, it is a Christian Mission Society, and Jesus chose to relate to those close to him as friends.