Jack's Blog

Jack’s decided to make himself employable – but is his dad’s engineering firm the best place to do it?

Now I'm in the workplace, even though I am basically the copy boy at Dad's office, I am going to get more organised about these blogs. I am going to work my way through the eight skills that guarantee you a job in a systematic manner. Because I've noticed that people in businesses like that. Then I will escape and lie flat on my back on a Thai beach with a beer in my hand for six months.

(Give me a break: after Thailand I'm going to uni, and that's like making a solo assault on my own personal debt mountain. The expedition of a lifetime, because it'll take a lifetime to get over it.)

So here goes. Employability skills: task 2 – 'Working on your own initiative'.

I crashed and burned on the last task (communication) because I sent an email round to the whole office asking if anyone wanted to play football and got absolutely hammered by management.

They clamped down on casual email use through the whole firm, which means everyone hates me, and they took my internal email access away. I've been like Aung San Suu Kyi (world politics reference there, readers) before they let her out.

So I thought, how can I a) get everyone to like me again and b) get a bit of a chat on – it does your head in photocopying all day. I also thought, what would old Aung San have wanted? Her own secret chatroom, that's what. Although why she didn't just log on to Facebook, I don't know. Not using her initiative, I thought. So I had my next task all sorted.

I waited until Dad was out on a business meeting – because I wanted to keep what I was doing secret until I could present it to everybody, 'ta dah, thank you, thank you' – and smuggled one of my brilliant and geeky sisters into the building. I put her in front of the intranet with a grab bag of Skittles (you know, getting people to work for you is really easy: as Dad would say, people in his firm do much more demeaning things for peanuts, so I figured a big bag of sweets would do it for Alice).

And I asked her to build me a secret chat page where people could talk to each other – but the bosses couldn't find out, because you'd have to be invited (by me!) and have a password.

It takes a few days of pretending Alice was my assistant before she cracked it, but before long I'm handing out secret squirrel invitations to join the chat at my very own intranet page.

When Dad is next in the building, I make him a cup of coffee, sit him down at his desk ('Don't look nervous, Dad, I haven't crashed the car,' I say), flex my fingers, and open up the intranet cafe.

A wave of obscenity leaps off the screen and smacks me in the face. You would not believe the filth that workers at an engineering firm keep in their minds. I have to go and sit down now just thinking about it.

Even dad is shocked. Poor Courtney on reception (the 'let me show you what's in my stationery cupboard' thread). Poor Shanay in the secretary pool (the 'top ten nice but dim' thread). Poor Janine in accounts (the 'fat minger' thread). And, er, although I'm beginning to see a pattern here, poor me (the 'ten ways to kill a cocky/stupid teenager' thread, among many others).

I turn to Dad, face ashen. 'Why... why? I just wanted people to talk to each other. Not, not... hate each other.' Dad has regained his cool by now and is metaphorically lighting the cigarette of wisdom and blowing out the smoke of schadenfreude (although in real life he'd be out in the snow by the back door with the rest of the cancer chasers).

'We work for an engineering business, son. These people are regulated and complianced to within a 25.4mm conversion of their lives.'

'Is that a joke, Dad?' I ask, dully. 'Is that actually an engineering joke, when I am staring death threats in the face?'

'Engineers must take their small pleasures where they find them, son.'

'So you're saying that if you let them into a non-regulated space they have to trash it? Like, I dunno, if Keith Moon was an embedded microprocessor designer there's a chance he'd still want to blow up hotel toilets with cherry bombs?'

'Yes, but probably not a premium-end hotel. Think more Premier Inn. Although they do have very nice bedlinen, apparently.'

'But I thought they'd want to use the space, I dunno, creatively. I thought they'd like to be free of the rules for a bit.'

'Well, they like it, that's for sure. Look, there's a new thread just getting going: 'Come the revolution, whose head is going down the toilet first?' with the finance director at the top of the list. I'd take it down, son, or you're going to be in a world of trouble.

'When they let Aung San Suu Kyi out I bet the first thing she did was not go online and post 'which one of my guards had a nose most like a willy?'.

'You're young enough to think democracy is a good thing,' says Dad. 'I'm not sure engineers entirely like democracy. They're good with parameters. Parameters they can get behind. Freedom upsets them a bit. Try benevolent dictatorship next time.'

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