Sighing rather audibly for someone who was standing in a crowded
shop, Sarah picked up another copy of the local newspaper which
was emblazoned with '100's of jobs inside!' Slaloming her way to
the counter, she dug in her purse for the 50p needed to purchase
the daily rag and tried to leave the shop without breaking either
her neck, or inadvertently, someone elses!!
Sarah shook her head as she took her seat opposite her friend Katie in the crowded coffee shop opposite the newsagents she had just vacated. Katie looked disappointed but took a sip of her cappuccino and leant back in her seat.
"Oh well, we will find something soon enough I reckon!" She didn't manage to conceal her disbelief in her own affirmation though, and Sarah laughed aloud.
"Don't count on it! Unemployment is at an all time high, and people with degrees or just recently left university are struggling to find anything. It has been all across the media for ages now, and I don't reckon it will change anytime soon."
"Well, we need to find something - I don't know about you but my student loan is almost gone and I will then be on savings, and then looking more and more like job seekers!" Katie now took the paper from her friend and leafed through the pages. "Hey, what about this?"
Sarah picked up her bottle of mineral water (all she could afford as well as her bus fare home) and leant over to see what her friend was talking about. She pushed her long blonde hair out of her face and scanned the advert. It read 'Office junior required for busy family run hotel. Applicants will need to be outgoing, customer service focused and enthusiastic. Previous experience is desirable but not essential as training will be given. Please apply online or call Amanda for further information.' It then went on to state the appropriate web address and a phone number for Amanda.
"Hmm, maybe worth a shot I guess," Sarah mused. She leafed through the last few pages of the job pages, sighed and put it back down. "Well, I guess it would be a start. I will have to update my CV."
"Might be worth checking out the website, see if it asks for anything else in particular," her friend advised. "Or, there is this one. Listen."
Sarah laughed. "You are really getting in to this hey!" Her friend gave her a grin, cleared her throat and read out another advert.
"Wanted. Warehouse assistants to work five out of seven days, hours available 8am until 5pm. Please apply online. No experience required as training is available."
"Warehousing?" Sarah raised her eyebrows and laughed. "Oh come on, we did that at uni! Why would we want to do that?"
Kate shook her head. "I don't particularly want to, but we have
got experience and it would be a start wouldn't it? Unless you
just want to carry on 'signing on'? I don't know about you but I
hate that job centre. And if you don't find a job, they will just
send you for anything and everything - I'd rather have a say in
what it is that I do thanks very much!"
Pursing her lips slightly, Sarah tilted her head to one side, had a few moments of quiet contemplation and then shrugged. "I guess you have a point." She finally admitted. "But I think I will apply for that office junior job too. I quite like the thought of working in a hotel. It could be quite good fun!"
Kate grinned at her friend, drained her cappuccino and winked at Sarah playfully. "Who knows, you might meet the man of your dreams!" She teased.
"Ha, dream on!" Sarah retorted, tearing out the advert for the office junior and stuffing the slip of paper into her purse. "You want this for the warehousing jobs?" She handed the rest of the paper to Kate who rolled her eyes, laughed and took it from Sarah.
"I guess I will have a look! Anyway, you ready? I want to get the 4.15 bus, I have to meet Jake outside college."
"Your mum still making you walk home with him?" Sarah asked. "Crikey, I didn't realise the bullying was that bad?"
"Yeah, it's pretty bad," Kate was serious now as she stood up, pulled her jacket on and pushed her chair neatly under the table as she had found it. "It's not just him, it 's his whole group of friends. There are a few lads in his year and I think two in the year above who keep pushing them around, you know, bumping into them and claiming it was an accident. Sam went home with a nasty bruise on his forehead the other day, Jake told me that Callum Wyse and Fred Burton had tripped him over in the dinner queue and he fell forward and hit his head on the steps leading up to the hall. The teacher did have a word with them but to be honest, there's not much they can do is there?"
"Other than keep going in and putting in complaints, I guess not," Sarah stood up, slung her bag over her shoulder and followed her friend towards the shopping centre exit. "Right, well I best go get my bus, I think it gets in five minutes before yours. Call me about Thursday if you still want to go out, and let me know if you decide on applying for anything, or if you see anything else ok?"
"Ditto!" Kate retorted, carefully traversing the main carriageway separating the shopping centre from the bus station. "Catch you later!" And she darted over the road and vanished from view, just as the rain started to come down.
Half an hour later, Sarah stepped off her bus, ran across the road and up to her apartment which she shared with her older sister Donna and Donna's friend Clare. She did enjoy living with them but it was strictly temporary as after this academic year, both Donna and Clare would be completing their Masters degrees and heading off in their own directions; Clare to Lancaster and Donna was hoping to head to London. That gave Sarah about six months to find somewhere to live, unless going back to live with her parents, which she wasn't too keen on doing after having had a taste of freedom and independence. Recently single, moving in with a boyfriend was not an option, and besides there were more pressing issues - such as finding a job!
"Found anything kiddo?"
Sarah jumped as Donna placed a mug of coffee on the kitchen table in front of her, then pulled up a seat. Sarah sighed, shook her head and re-folded the newspaper that Clare had left from earlier on that day.
"Nothing much, well, there are a few options but I bet there will be loads of applicants," Sarah pulled her face, took a slurp of her hot coffee and watched her sister scour the pages for herself.
"That's what I love about you…so optimistic!" Donna said dryly. She flicked through the pages, then reached for a pen from the kitchen side. "Right, well there are about three admin jobs, one warehousing advert for numerous workers, a few retail jobs and a few part time bar jobs, but you could really do with full time I guess!" She circled a few vacancies with her red pen, then handed the pages back to Sarah. "Get applying!"
"Yes boss!" Sarah chuckled. Donna grinned, picked her mug of coffee up and walked out of the kitchen.
The jobs market really was dire at the moment; it had been bad for a few years but unemployment was on the increase. This is why the following Monday morning when Sarah walked into an interview for the office junior post at The Moreton Hotel, she felt positive and surprisingly optimistic. After all, she had got this far. But it hadn't been for lack of trying. For about three months, Sarah and Kate had been applying for posts all over the county, which considering they didn't drive and would have to rely on public transport, showed they really did want a job!
"Sarah Fletcher, here for an interview with Amanda Thomas," she informed the receptionist, who didn't smile, just looked her up and down.
"Take a seat, please," Anna the receptionist retorted. It sounded more like an order than a request, and it irritated Sarah slightly. Honestly, customer service!! Surely you would expect a more helpful, polite nature from someone who worked front line in a hotel?
Sarah looked up from her magazine fifteen minutes later to find a plump lady, whom she would estimate at in her thirties, with a sharp blonde bob, a checkered suit complete with what looked like stiletto heels, and make up that looked as though it had hurriedly been applied that morning, as there were still marks of concealer that hadn't been smudged in properly. This was Amanda Thomas, the Customer Service Manager for the Moreton Hotel.
"Yes." Sarah stood up in rather a hurry, smoothed her skirt down at the front, actually it was one of Donna's old skirts, but Sarah didn't own a suit and had borrowed one from her sister that morning. Donna had told her off for asking at the last minute, but fortunately it did fit and looked the part. She followed Amanda Thomas down the small corridor leading off from the reception, down to an office tucked away at the end. It was so small Sarah thought it was originally a cloakroom, but it did hold a table…and two other people.
"Please, take a seat," Amanda gestured towards a black chair on one side of the table, opposite herself, another lady who looked considerably older, and a younger gentleman who smiled at Sarah and offered a jug of water and a glass. "I am Amanda Thomas, the Customer Service Manager. This is Carolyn Moreton the owner of this establishment, and Ian Moreton who is the General Manager. The vacancy we are interviewing for today is for an office junior, full time which is 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm. Can I just clarify that you are still interested in the post before we start the interview?"
Sarah sat with her hands clasped firmly in her lap, a little unsure what to make of this woman, but she didn't seem to be joking, so she cleared her throat, nodded her head and managed to squeak "Yes!"
Amanda Thomas smiled. The smile did wonders for her face; gone was the serious, don't mess with me expression and in its place appeared to be a warm, genuine smile. Sarah instantly relaxed and sat back in her chair, anticipating the barrage of questions bound to come her way now she had committed to the interview.
"Well first of all, please can you tell me what you think the job entails, from the job description that was alongside the person specification and application form you had?" Amanda asked pleasantly.
The interview wasn't too bad all in all, although it was certainly an eye opener for Sarah, who had only ever been interviewed for part time jobs in a warehouse and as a general cleaner throughout her time at university. It went on for just under an hour with all three people chipping in and asking the questions in turn. It was a bit off-putting when they kept jotting down notes and throwing a few more questions into the mix that she hadn't anticipated. Luckily, Donna had coached her the night before and having had various administrative jobs herself, had plenty of experience to fall back on.
"Right, well I think that concludes the interview," Amanda said eventually, and without realising it Sarah let out a large sigh of relief. To her relief, all three of the interview panel laughed, and the tension in the room dissipated. "Now, is there anything you would like to ask us?"
Sarah paused for a minute. Hesitated. Donna had told her that this was not just a wayward question; it was expected that you ask something in return.
"Could you tell me who I would be working alongside?" She eventually stammered, after what felt like ages but had in fact been a matter of seconds.
"Well, I would be your manager, however you would be working alongside Janet who is the team lead for both this position and Anna's position, who is the receptionist you saw earlier when you arrived," Amanda explained in her clear, authoritative voice. There was no doubt about it, the tone in this woman's voice clearly said 'do not mess with me, I am as hard as nails'. Sarah found herself fervently hoping that if she did get the post, by some miracle, that she would not end up messing up and getting on the wrong side of this woman.
"We have a few other people to interview, but we are hoping to get back to people by the close of play today," Ian the General Manager piped up, and smiled encouragingly at Sarah. "Let me just double check your contact details, and then we will be in touch."
Ten minutes later, Sarah stood by the bus stop at the end of the road, waiting for the 51 which would take her just outside of her village. The post was about twenty minutes from where she lived which was a piece of luck really, because it was also a nice walk alongside the river when the weather was nice, and the bus service was quite regular.
"Well?" Kate demanded as soon as Sarah had picked up her mobile phone. "How did it go?"
"Hmm, difficult to say," Sarah tried to juggle her umbrella, her phone and fumble in her handbag for the correct change for the bus which was just pulling in to collect her. "Let me call you back once I'm back home, the signal goes on the bus!"
"Righto!" Kate said cheerfully, and hung up abruptly.
Once she was off the bus, after having numerous stops and starts on the journey back to her village, Sarah let herself into the apartment, poured a drink of juice and rang Kate back.
"I think it went ok," she began, but hesitated for a split second. "Well, I mean I was in there for an hour or so, so I am not sure if that is a good or bad sign? What do you think?"
Kate laughed. "Hopefully good, they must have found you interesting!" She was buttering a piece of toast on her end and Sarah could hear it down the phone. It made it a bit difficult to hear. "Did you have to do any tests?"
Sarah frowned. "The interview was hard enough; what sort of tests?"
"Like word processing, spreadsheets, maybe answering the phone," Kate explained, still munching on her toast. "Some places make you do that. I believe it is becoming more common place. A friend of mine works for the council and she had to do two scenarios, a role play and an admin task, I think it was spreadsheets. All this, and that was only an admin job. I mean, she got it, but I think they have to make it seem harder to filter people out, if you understand what I mean."
"I guess so," Sarah admitted; this did seem to make sense. "But in answer to your question, no there was no test. They said they would hopefully let me know by the end of the day, so fingers crossed. Hey, anyway, have you had any luck with your job hunt?"
Kate gave a small laugh, swallowed the last of her toast.
"Toby got me a temporary contract working at the customer call centre for the newspaper. He said it could turn into a permanent role, but they aren't sure yet. It's better than nothing I suppose. I meant to tell you yesterday when I found out, but I wanted to wait until you had had your interview first."
"That's brilliant news," Sarah replied, thinking of Toby, Kate's stepdad. He was pretty high up in the newspaper that served their village and the surrounding villages and towns, and he probably would have had a word with one of his bosses to see if there was anything available. It was quite expensive to advertise, and agencies could charge a small fortune, so it made sense if there was someone who was qualified and able to do the role. "So when do you start?"
"Next week," Kate replied, now slurping her drink. "Anyway Sa, I got to go, I need to fetch Jake and if I don't shift now I am going to be late. Let me know if they ring ok?"
"Ok!" Sarah laughed. Kate hung up and the line went dead.
There wasn't really that much to eat in the house but Sarah decided she couldn't be bothered going out in the rain again, so fixed herself some chips and a sausage roll, hoping that Clare wouldn't mind she had filched the last one! She was halfway stuffing it in her mouth when her mobile rang again.
"Is that Sarah?" A familiar voice asked pleasantly. "It's Amanda Thomas here, from the Moreton Hotel."
"Oh hello Amanda," Sarah put her best telephone voice on and hurriedly swallowed the last mouthful of sausage roll. "How are you?"
"Very well thank you," Amanda retorted. "Well, I am ringing with regards to your interview this morning. We were all very impressed with you, and we have decided that if you are still interested, we would like to offer you the job."
Sarah froze, her juice halfway to her mouth. Her brain was having trouble digesting this information, and then suddenly the penny dropped!
"Oh that is fantastic, thank you!" She gushed, and she could hear Amanda laughing. "I would love to accept!"
"That's wonderful news," Amanda said. "There are a few things I need to send out to you in the post, and of course we need to get some references and a letter from you in the next 7 days confirming that you have accepted the post, and then we can discuss a start date. Do you have any holidays or anything else booked that you need to make us aware of?"
"No, I can start any time," Sarah sounded so enthusiastic, and she really meant it. "Thank you so much!"
Amanda laughed again. "Well, you deserve it, you were the best candidate and you nailed your interview."
After a few minutes more of conversation ironing out the details, Sarah hung up the phone, then dialed Kate's number. Kate was thrilled, and declared a celebration meal and drinks were in order. Both girls were glad to have jobs after many months of trying, but they knew they were the lucky ones. Some of their other friends were still struggling, and Ben, Kate's boyfriend was still out of work almost a year after leaving university.
"Well here's to Kate and Sarah's new jobs!" Ben thrust his glass of Guinness into the air, almost knocking Imogen's glass of wine into the candle in the centre of the table. Imogen glared at him, then relaxed and smiled as she turned to Sarah.
"Well done," she pushed her glasses further back up her nose; they were always slipping off! "So whereabouts is this hotel?" She sipped her rose wine delicately and listened to Sarah chatter on excitedly about her new job. Kate was talking animatedly to Ben and Simon, another university friend and describing her new job.
Almost two hours later after polishing off a steak, some chocolate melt in the middle pudding and a few healthy sized glasses of white wine, Sarah was ready to head back home. Kate looked as though she was ready too, and the others were just finishing off either their dessert or their drinks. Ben had called a local taxi company, and upon checking his watch started to encourage everyone to hurry up as the taxis would be along at any minute now.
Two weeks later, Sarah stared at herself in the full length mirror on her wardrobe door. It was only half past seven, but this was no ordinary day. Today was Monday 8 October and she had to be in work for her first day in just an hour and a half. She had been up since six, showering, making sure she had the correct bus fare and of course sorting out her clothes and make up. It was important to make a good impression the first few days especially, and Sarah knew people would be carefully scrutinizing her. One last twirl in front of the mirror reassured her that she looked good, with her hair back in a neat pony tail and a black pin stripe skirt and matching jacket, with a light pink top underneath. Her shoes were sensible black flats, and the make- up was just subtle enough to tell she had some on, but nothing over the top.
By eight thirty, Sarah was on the bus heading towards the Moreton Hotel. As luck would have it, the bus dropped her off virtually at the door, she only had to walk up one street and take a left and she was there. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down in droves and she hadn't picked up her umbrella. As the bus continued its journey there was no sign of the rain stopping, so in the end Sarah pulled on her rain mac and hurried as fast as possible up the street Unfortunately, Sarah didn't see either the large puddle or the postman arriving at the hotel, and before she knew it she had lost her footing, slipped and taken both herself and the postman down into the large puddle.
Letters and parcels flew into the air! The postman's hat also went with them, and Sarah had lost one shoe in the fall. The postman staggered to his feet, glared at Sarah but still offered her his hand to assist her in getting to her feet.
"Is everything alright down there?" An amused voice called from the hotel entrance. Batting her fringe out of her eyes, Sarah glanced up and inwardly groaned. It was the General Manager Ian, and he was looking curiously at her and the postman, who was now collecting his parcels up and re-stacking them in his post trolley. He, on the other hand, did not look in the slightest bit amused. Thoroughly hacked off was the expression that Sarah would have used, or words to that effect.
Sarah pulled her shoe back on even though it was soaking, and tried to look as presentable as possible, which was definitely easier said than done! She looked towards the postman and managed to squeak a barely audible "sorry". To the postman's credit, he did give her a cursory nod acknowledging the apology, but he offered no retort in return, merely handed a small stack of slightly damp letters to Ian, then set off down the road, his hat now back in situ and his trolley trundling along behind him. It occasionally bumped over an uneven paving slab, but at least everything was in one piece.
"Miss Fletcher," Ian smiled, as Sarah mounted the few steps that led into the hotel. "How about you erm…make yourself presentable and I will bring a coffee in to you? Today is mainly induction with me, Amanda and Janet so not to worry about starting exactly on time. We always like to go easy on people the first week. Sort of, the settling in period." He eyed her up and down again, a hint of a smirk on his face as Sarah blushed and nodded.
Anna the snooty receptionist hardly gave Sarah a glance as Ian keyed in the passcode for the reception office. Sarah wasn't sure what to make of her. She certainly looked the part with her dark rimmed glasses, impeccable hair cut and her sharp suit, which was a simple plain black jacket and trousers, but reeked of class.
"We call her 'The Ice Queen'!" Ian whispered to Sarah as they brushed past the edge of Anna's desk. Unsure whether she had heard, Sarah avoided direct eye contact with Anna and just muttered 'hi' as she followed Ian to the desk behind Anna's.
One of the first things that jumped out at Sarah when she sat down at her new desk was how small the office/reception was. The desk occupied by her new workmate was positioned facing the front of house window, complete with roller blinds which had the word CLOSED emblazoned on it in bold black print. At the moment it was open, ready to greet today's guests. The telephone looked like some form of high tech computer complete with headsets, numerous pre-programmed speed dial buttons, and a multitude of other different functions and wires connecting it to the desktop PC on Anna's desk. Anna's desk was a standard sized desk, although the trays were full of precariously placed pieces of paper, a few catalogues and a phone directory. In stark contrast, the rest of Anna's desk was immaculate, complete with a photograph of her and a handsome man who looked about her age and whom Sarah presumed to be Anna's boyfriend; she hadn't noticed a wedding ring on Anna's slender hand.
"Well, as you can see, we are small but cosy in here," Ian pulled Sarah's swivel chair out for her and gestured for her to sit. His tone was cheerful. "We don't have the best heating I will admit, but it is a working progress and we will be updating it, probably next summer. If you want to dry off, there is a hand dryer in the ladies, not that I think it will make much difference!" He laughed, and stopped abruptly when he noticed Anna roll her eyes at him, and also noticed the lack of laughter coming from Sarah. He paused awkwardly, cleared his throat and changed tack.
"Here at the Moreton, we have certain standards which we need to maintain. We have recently updated our policies and procedures although there are a few more yet to come, but how about you start off by reading these two files?" He pulled two white lever arch files from a shelving unit which was propped up by two boxes of what looked to be dust covered leaflets. "Oops." He exclaimed as the bottom shelf slipped down, and hastily jammed in a wadge of cardboard, wedging it back into place. "Watch these shelves, they are a bit temperamental!"
More like old and past it! Sarah thought to herself. She tentatively took hold of the first file, half expecting it to disintegrate in her hands, but luckily it remained in one piece.
"When Amanda comes in, I will come and fetch you and she will take it from there, ok?" Ian straightened his tie which had slipped after he had tried to repair the shelving unit. "In the meantime, if you can familiarise yourself with some of those policies and procedures, and maybe you and Anna could get acquainted?" He looked directly at Anna, who was untangling some phone cables; she rolled her eyes but nodded, still as silent as the grave.
"Tea and coffee is in the kitchen," Anna volunteered after five minutes of awkward silence. She pointed behind Sarah's desk to another door, behind which was a small corridor leading into a small kitchen. "If you are making, mine is coffee, black and one sugar." She swiveled back around to her desk, poked one elegantly manicured nail at her phone and trilled "The Moreton Hotel, Anna speaking, how can I help you?" down the handset.
"Right," Sarah muttered, momentarily at a loss for words. Looking around the cramped office, her eyes fell on the side of her desk which was full of yet more clutter, leaflets, menus and other such things, as well as old newspapers and all coated with a thick layer of dust. Deciding that she would start off with a drink, she wandered through to the kitchen, flicked the kettle on and prepared a few mugs for two coffees.
The first hour of the morning dragged on for Sarah, who just sat at her new desk, sipping the coffee which was a cheap brand but better than nothing, and listening to Anna talk for seemingly endless periods of time down the telephone. Two guests had checked out, but no-one had arrived yet. According to Anna, a minibus full of about ten people were due to arrive around lunch time, but the driver had called ahead to inform of traffic on the A50, and they may well be arriving late and so to ask Marianne the cook to prepare a late lunch for the customers. Anna had deployed Sarah to do this, but as it was a change of scene, Sarah had gone quite willingly, and had had a nice chat with Marianne the cook.
"She does nothing but moan," Anna sniffed, when Sarah came back and stated how pleasant she had found the cook. "Give it a week and you'll see. Moans on and on about how short staffed the kitchen is, and how no-one appreciates her and all that. Between us, she has big issues with the management, I think she and Carolyn the owner don't see eye to eye about the food. I mean, don't get me wrong, she is pretty good at her job, but she doesn't half moan!"
Sarah tried to stifle the laugh that was rising in her throat but succeeded in turning it into a hasty cough. Marianne hadn't been exactly complimentary about Anna, also calling her 'The Ice Queen' and saying that she was a snobby, catty madam who had ideas above her station.
"Rather you than me," Marianne had finished with, when she heard that Sarah would be working with Anna. "I'd rather work alone thanks!" She had laughed good naturedly, but it was obvious that she had no time for Anna, and by the sounds of it, Anna had no time for Marianne. Probably a good thing that they didn't work in the same area!