2006 revisited: daughters and job hunt

I wasn’t going to do this, but I’ve woken up early and other people seem to still be writing up their experiences of last year, so why not?

The biggest thing for our family was the decision to take Bridget out of her school and start her in a day-care centre. This was essential for Bridget, who was coming home with fresh bruises every day from banging herself against the classroom walls in frustration, and the school were tremendously helpful in finding the new place for her, which she really likes (see passim). There is a downside – the drive to Tienen and back is a huge time sink for Anne, essentially two hours, or two and a half hours, in the car in the middle of the day. We are hoping that the other day-care place in Tervuren will find a space for her soon, as they can send a bus to pick her up. We are also hoping that the place which has us on their list for weekend respite care will come through with the goods soon; we seem to have been waiting almost a year for news from them.

It has to be said that Bridget is noticeably a lot happier now that she has been released from the stresses of school, although she still prefers to hide in the bath all day when the house is full of family members.

Ursula has just decided to start eating with a spoon. This is a major development, meaning that while of course she will still need to be supervised like any other four-year-old while eating, the intensity of supervision can be relaxed. I remember vividly that Bridget started feeding herself at ten months, and unlike other skills (such as talking) kept it up despite her regression; apparently she is the only child who can manage cutlery at the day-centre, and proudly eats lunch in regal splendour on her own while the other children are fed by the supervisors.

The biggest thing for me personally in 2006 was my ongoing job hunt. Today is the second day in my new job, which so far is going well (difficult, of course, to make an early assessment but as far as I can tell from others’ experience if it’s going to go badly wrong you generally have some warning signals even as early as the first day). This was, however, just one of numerous efforts, which it is probably best to record:

  1. I came into 2006 having had what seemed to me to be a very promising meeting with a leading Brussels lobbying firm in December. However the trail simply ran cold; they never replied to my follow-up emails. Frustrating, but there you go.
  2. In early January I contacted a head-hunter based in Belgium who popped up on my LinkedIn network. He was also awfully positive and said that while it wasn’t a top priority for him, he would call around his corporate contacts some time when he had a free day to see what the market for my skills might be. Again, never heard back from him.
  3. I applied for a rather senior job in NATO in January. Never heard back – suspected I was not experienced enough for it, so no big surprise.
  4. In February I was contacted out of the blue by a corporate head-hunter who wanted a campaigning/advocacy professional with thinktanky experience. No idea how they got hold of me – the other headhunter I’d been in touch with in January denied any connection. This actually progressed as far as a videoconference with me in the headhunters’ Brussels office being interviewed by their man in Amsterdam. But the subject area of the campaign was not one that really turned me on (health related, rather than international politics), and a friend of mine who works in that sector advised me to be wary, as the whole thing depended on (in her words) “significant Big pharma backing”. Once they worked out at the interview that I wasn’t that interested in the topic, we terminated negotiations, amicably enough.
  5. In May a rather nice European Commission job came up which I applied for. Several other people encouraged me to do so, but I heard through the grapevine that in fact the advertisement process was really intended to confirm the incumbent temporary appointee in position. So no big surprise when that didn’t work out, though slightly surprised that they actually did take the time send a rejection letter telling me so. (In October, five months later.)
  6. My new employers, having spent a year and a half getting their funding organised, invited me for interview in September, and offered me the job in October. Yay!
  7. NATO has come up again, with another position which I applied for back in September (before the interview for my current job). It took them until December, but they have in fact called me for a series of interviews later this month. One of the advantages of being the only person in my office for the moment is that I can sneak out without asking anyone’s permission, so I will obviously do so. I hear that the NATO recruitment process is very slow, so am not holding my breath; also it is a bit soon to be moving on from a new job which I am starting to enjoy. But I would like some experience on the inside pissing out (rather than the outside pissing in) and such opportunities are few and far between, so I think I will pursue this to the end; I can always say no, after all, even if they offer it to me.

Anyway, I won’t lose too much sleep about this. It’s difficult to imagine my new job having the lows that I sometimes suffered in the old job (editing reports, dealing with the boss’s foul moods). There will no doubt be different lows, but I don’t see them yet.

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