Thursday, May 19, 2011

Workshop, Day 2

Sorry I don't have any fun photos to share.  The last few days have been filled with mundane things that haven't really inspired me to whip out the camera.  Tuesday was mostly spent working on my CV and waiting for various packages to be delivered, and yesterday was day 2 of my "Next Steps" workshop at Penna.

This time I remembered to walk to the South Wimbledon station and take the Northern line up, which got me there about 20 minutes faster than taking the District line from the Wimbledon station.  It's good to know I have both options for getting into the city, since on any given day there are problems on at least one of the tube lines.  At least Transport for London is a little better than the Metro folks are about keeping riders up to date on service issues so you can plan around them.  Anyway, I arrived with enough time to fix myself a cup of tea before settling in for the second half of the workshop.  They have the same Flavia machines that were installed in every kitchen at Discovery, so at least I already knew how those worked.  The only difference was that the machines at Discovery gave you the option of having your tea or coffee over ice, while the Penna machines did not. Foiled again!  Although I don't think they had any ice in the kitchen anyway. <sigh>

We were asked to bring in a copy of our CV.  After spending many years whittling my resume down so it still fit on one page, it was a bit of a struggle to reformat and expand it into a 2-page document.  I ended up with something that was only about 1.5 pages, so I was encouraged to spend some more time expanding on my recent positions and then email it to the instructor for some feedback.  Once she had looked over everyone's CV, we moved on to interview tips.  She had a lot of good suggestions about preparing for an interview, keeping calm and focused, what topics to avoid, and even how to sit.  We were encouraged to do a thorough assessment of our skills, strengths, weaknesses, and achievements so we'd be prepared to answer any questions about them.  Then she made us practice by asking one another interview questions in front of the group.

I felt like I would be able to come up with a decent response to each question that was asked, but when the spotlight fell on me, I was asked what my weakness was.  I was like a deer in the headlights.  The best I could do was say, "job interviews," which got a laugh from the group and a reprimand from the instructor to avoid using humor until the end of the interview.  I have PLENTY of weaknesses, but I couldn't think of a good way to answer the question that didn't make me sound pathetic.  The instructor suggested the perfect answer for me -- something along the lines of: "As a recent arrival to this country, I'm not very familiar with the UK job market and workplace culture, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage."  It reveals no personality flaws and is easily remedied.  Of course, this won't work if the question is how that weakness may have affected me in my previous job, so I might have to think of an alternate answer.  It sounds like a commonly-asked question, based on the number of people in my workshop who chose it as their least favorite interview question.

We wrapped up around 4:30 with a questionnaire about the workshop and a reminder to send the instructor my updated CV and schedule a follow-up appointment.  I am entitled to 4 hours of one-on-one career counseling and/or additional workshops, plus use of their offices (computers, printers, copiers, etc).  That part is less useful nowadays, since most people have computers and printers at home, but if you are downtown and need a place to chill or check email or prepare for a job interview free of distractions, it's nice to know that's an option.

Josh had a busy day and didn't get home until 9:30, so we walked to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen a few blocks away for a quick dinner.  I had read somewhere that their burgers were the closest to American-style burgers, so I had been wanted to give them a try.  I love cheeseburgers, but I've actually avoided ordering them because I'm always disappointed -- they taste so different from what I'm used to.  Apart from a nasty sweet onion relish that we both scraped off before even tasting it, the burgers were pretty good.  The fries, however, were the thick British-style chips that just seem way too heavy.  I'd definitely order a burger there again -- hold the relish and mayo -- but will probably skip the chips next time.

After we got home, we Skyped with Rob (and his wife and son) so he could give us an update on the flooded basement.  It was nice to see some friendly faces from home, and Rob reassured us that none of our stuff stored in the basement was damaged.  Now that the sewer line has been cleaned out by Roto-Rooter, it is unlikely to happen again.  We were very relieved to hear that, and grateful that he had taken such swift and thorough action to fix the problem.  It could have been a complete disaster, but instead it was just a short-term (albeit expensive) problem.  Whew!

This morning I went on another shopping adventure with my neighbor, Anna.  She offered to take me to another branch of a furniture store we visited last week to look at a wooden bed frame with drawers underneath.  I thought this might be a good solution to two problems: 1) the lack of storage in our bedroom, and 2) that our existing bed won't fit up the stairs to our room.  Her GPS had a little trouble getting us there, but we eventually found it.  They did have the bed in stock, but it was pretty pricey (£600, or $970!) and the drawers were kind of small.  I took a photo to show Josh, but I think we're more likely to either just suck it up and sleep on the IKEA guest bed, or go with a "divan" bed with storage drawers, which would cost less than half as much.  A divan bed basically sits on a giant box-spring-type base, some of which come with large storage drawers.  You can see an example here.  For larger sized beds, the divan comes in two pieces, so it can fit through tighter spaces.  Our bed from home is a queen, but is equivalent to a UK king-sized bed, so at least we could still use our mattress and headboard.  (They don't have a queen size here.  Just single, double, and king.)  The drawers would be helpful for storing linens, blankets, or shoes, and would be more convenient than getting underbed storage boxes.
king-size storage bed
 We stopped at a couple other stores in the area, and then decided to go to IKEA, since we had passed it on the way there.  After a quick lunch of Swedish meatballs (of course!), we did some shopping and I picked up a few more things for the house.  Since I didn't have to worry about schlepping everything home on the tram, I grabbed a few bulky items like a stool, a wastebasket, a laundry hamper, and a garment rack.  I'm so grateful to have a friendly neighbor with a car who likes to go shopping!

Josh will be home soon, so I'd better get started on dinner.  Hopefully we'll have some more interesting stories to share over the weekend.


  1. I've always found that the best way to address that "what is your weakness?" question is to turn one of your strengths (perfectionism/detail-orientedness is a good example) into a weakness. For example: I can sometimes get caught up in little details, but I've learned to distinguish situations where it might be appropriate to do so from those where it's simply a waste of time. Obviously don't tell them that you're a fartwonger.

  2. Sonia, I was going to say the same thing! My typical answer to the weakness question is either exactly what you said or something about being a control freak. I don't say that, specifically, of course, but take that idea and make it sound better! And I also recommend not telling them you're a fartwonger.


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