Interview

Leather chairs arranged around a board room meeting table

Jane and I got back from London last night, to discover amongst the mail on the doormat a letter from the University of St Andrews inviting me to an interview. On Wednesday. That’s right: this Wednesday; the day after tomorrow!

The interview is for the post of Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager, which would be such an ideal job for me, combining my love of Web design, usability, accessibility, content management and organisation.

Information Architecture (IA) is the discipline of combining the aesthetics and mechanics of Web technologies to create usable, accessible and attractive websites. IA is about helping create websites that can easily be used — how frustrated do you get when you can’t find something that you know is on that site? — updated and expanded.

The interview on Wednesday will begin with “a task”, probably something like bringing the three-headed watchdog of the underworld, Cerberus, to the surface without the use of any weapons, followed by an interview that includes a 10 minutes presentation about a website that I’ve developed.

If it is your discipline, please pray for me as I prepare for the interview, travel to St Andrews on Wednesday morning and for the interview itself. I’m really excited about what the post could offer me, and what I could offer it. Please pray that between the interviewers and I we discern whether this is what God wants for me next.

Delivering job applications

A stamp that says Urgent

This last week I’ve filled in two job application forms, both for very different jobs at The University of St Andrews — one in Education Liason, the other in IT. Both posts caught my imagination and I’ve been quite excited filling in the application forms imagining how I might carry out those roles using the skills and experience that I’ve accumulated so far. I just have to wait and see.

Because the deadline for application forms for one of the posts is tomorrow, I’m driving up to Cellardyke tonight to stay over so that I can hand-deliver the form to Human Resources tomorrow morning and get back to Edinburgh without having to lose half the day.

Something that I’ve found really helpful when filling in my forms are a couple of sheets that I’d prepared a few years ago. On them — and I need to update them once again — I have a kind of elongated and exploded CV, detailing fully my previous academic and job experiences (exact dates, addresses, contact details, responsibilities, training courses, etc.). I also have another sheet listing all my places of residence with full addresses and dates. Those two sheets have saved me so much time in the past, and are easy to update as and when I need to.

Could this be the job for me…?

Bling cross
Bling!

I had an email from my friend Jonny Coore today. He’s a student at the Church of England vicar factory Trinity Theological College, Bristol, and he offered me this tempting thought about my job situation:

How is the employment situation? Birmingham still needs a Bishop and I thought we could do a job share – you can wear the hat so long as I have the bling.

I’ll mull it over from the confines of my sick-bed.

My JIIG-CAL results from 1985

My JIIG-CAL results
My JIIG-CAL results print out from June 1985. Yes, that’s geniune ye olde 128 line, tractor-feed computer paper.

Thinking about what I’m going to do next I looked out my JIIG-CAL print out from 1985 to see what it had suggested that I do.

JIIG-CAL stands for “Job Ideas & Information Generator – Computer Assisted Learning” and is a software application that helps students to work out, based on a simple questionnaire, what they would be good at career-wise.

In 1985, while I was in fourth year at Selkirk High School, I remember sitting in a classroom filling in the JIIG-CAL questionnaire, which then had to be sent to the Borders Regional Council headquarters to be entered into a computer (probably the size of a lorry!) and a few weeks (!!) later we received back a dot-matrix print-out with our recommended career paths. (How things have changed.)

Here’s what mine said, it’s dated 26 June 1985 (that’s over twenty years ago!!):

  1. Statistician (8/10) – Skills: logical, numerical ability, good self-expression, co-operative
  2. Occupational Therapist (8/10) – Skills: good organiser, resourcefulness, sympathetic, good with your hands
  3. Youth & Community Worker (8/10) – Skills: outgoing personality, good organiser, energy, tolerant
  4. Social Worker – Fieldwork (8/10) – Skills: sympathetic, pleasant manner, able to inspire confidence, patience
  5. Assistant Prison Governor (8/10) – Skills: able to understand other people’s problems, leadership, good administrator, able to discipline
  6. Mathematician (8/10) – Skills: good concentration, logical, analytical, good self-expression
  7. Probation Officer (England/Wales) (8/10) – Skills: able to inspire confidence, perseverence, resilience, sympathetic
  8. Social Worker – Residential (8/10) – Skills: able to inspire confidence, perseverence, resilience, sympathetic
  9. Insurance Underwriter (8/10) – Skills: sound judgement, honesty, able to take responsibility, accuracy
  10. Physicist (7/10) – Skills: scientific approach, numerical ability, good reasoning power, accuracy

So there you go! I’d forgotten that it had suggested that I ought to become an Assistant Prison Governor. I wonder why only ‘Assistant’, what skills would I need to become a full Prison Gov’nor? I loved this skill required: “able to understand other people’s problems” … yeah, but we’ll lock them up anyway!

What I find fascinating, and which I think probably does still apply to me, is that I seem to have been suggested jobs which are either entirely people-oriented (occupational therapist, social worker, asst prison gov’nor) or are predominantly theoretical (statistician, mathematician, physicist). Hmm… head or heart?

Update

Friday 20 June 2008 I’m now featured on the BBC News Scotland website. Check out this new blog post: Jiig-Cal and BBC Scotland, which includes a video blog post by me using Seesmic.

Computer says no

Last Friday (14 October) I went for a job interview at Heriot-Watt University. Yesterday morning I received a letter thanking me for attending, saying that the standard of applicants was high, but that I hadn’t got the job.

The job was for the post of Web Editor, initially a task of dealing with the backlog of site updates, but potentially moving into more in-depth PHP/MySQL database backend coding. I knew that my editing skills and my XHTML/CSS knowledge was certainly up to the task, but I felt that it would come down to how much they needed someone with solid database skills.

Since first meeting with the bishop a couple of months ago to explore my future beyond April 2006 — which is when my current appointment ends — I’ve been trying to think widely about what to do next. As far as full-time ministry is concerned, as I think I’ve blogged before, I don’t really want to ‘run’ a parish. Being a priest doesn’t have to equal being a rector or priest-in-charge.

I’m also a little uncomfortable with the idea of one person ‘running’ a church congregation; it can potentially lead to a temptation of feeling a little self-important. Which is a naturally human response: wanting to feel significant and important. But it’s not what priesthood is about for me. Priesthood is a bit more subversive, working in the background, encouraging others, building them up so that they can exercise their ministries and gifts. And I feel that ‘running’ a congregation would get in the way for me to do that effectively. That’s one thing that I’ve enjoyed about working in this team at St Salvador’s and the Church of the Good Shepherd: the admin side of the job has been shared between the congregation and the team.

Stipendiary (full-time paid) ministry is about giving the minister enough money to live (a stipend) which releases them from having to find paid employment work to support themselves and their family so that they can exercise their ministry more fully. Ironically, I’m now at a point where I suspect that I need to go out into the ‘secular world’ (another phrase I don’t like) to find employment so that I can exercise my ministry more fully.

But then maybe I’m reflecting something of where the Church is too. My future is uncertain right now; the future of the church is also unclear. And I suspect that the path the Christian Church also needs to take is outwards, towards the general population. We need to leave our quickly-emptying safe houses and get back into the community, whichever way that we can. During the last couple of years, the best conversations I’ve had, the deepest, most spiritual conversations I’ve had are with friends (mostly Joinees) in the pub. Or while sitting with people in hospital. Significantly, not in church buildings.

So many of my friends are leaving the Church — or have already left. It’s not that they are no longer Christians. It’s not that they have no interest in God, or developing their own spirituality. It’s that they no longer feel that the Church as it is today is meeting them where they are. (To be honest, I feel that most of the time too, so I’m not surprised that they do too.)

I’m left today with the disappointment of not getting the HW job, but encouraged that I got an interview at one of Scotland’s best scientific universities. That has to say something positive about my having the skills to compete in that market. I’m also disappointed that I currently can’t see a way forward to exercise my skills and ministries within the Church in a full-time capacity, and also that the Church currently doesn’t see reaching out in new, dynamic and simple ways to the general population as a number one priority. And again I find myself finding comfort in the story of Abraham called out from his comfortable life in Ur to be lead by God into the unknown.

I don’t know what’s ahead. At times it terrifies me, to step out into the unknown, to return to employment outwith the Church. But it’s also terribly exciting. All I want to do is to follow God, be obedient to God, and to use my gifts in a way that helps others and also fulfills me in a creative way.