Saturday 25 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Homing in on relocation turmoil

An apparent suddenness of circumstances

As the day nears the seriousness of the situation gets even more acute, not even two weeks ago would I have considered I would be making this momentous and life-changing decision.

In some cases, I doubt I am ready for it at all, it is looking like a classic case of being guided or even forced by circumstances rather than creating the circumstances in which you want to control all the events and issues around you – it is a very unfamiliar place.

However, in the last two years I have been in the most unfamiliar places of vulnerability, disease, lack and apparent lack of direction. It would appear there is an agenda only that it is scheduling the chaos that swirls around me without my having the control of the matters it presents.

Questions to ask

The countdown now is 11 days to my new job in England and I have to ask myself if I am asking the right questions and thereby getting answers to the things that should be managed, under control and sorted out.

There is no doubt that any move is stressful and disrupting, some friends have seen it as a new beginning too; I seem to have the 180 degree gaze of the extremes of the best and worst of the situation because I am in the centre of it all.

That question is how do you package a 20 year existence into a kind of storage whilst you find your feet, find your level and find your grounding in a new environment?

As I attempt to distance myself from the rut of it all to hopefully have an unbiased view of the matter, I recognise that the job opportunities seemed to be showing up more in the UK that in the Netherlands and I was pitching for those offers as they came.

A foreigner of sorts

The fact is, though I am a UK citizen with all the eligibility of working back at “home”, my home for the last 11 and more years has been in the Netherlands and essentially I am being employed by a global company to take up a permanent role away from my current domicile.

I suppose, the question I have not asked is, do they have a relocation package that includes, advice, help, assistance and reintegration programmes for returnees because if I am to be the most productive in my new role the last thing I want and they will want on my mind is the turmoil of settling down enough to settle properly in the job and make a good fist at it.

Somehow, I feel a bit relieved about having thought it through to this and it will be my first email out on Monday, the situation with them will now be if it matters that much to them to help – I should spend the weekend reading the contracts and terms as I hope to find some resolution to this interesting dilemma.

The fact is sometimes; your answers are framed by the questions you ask. As a friend shared, these trials are not beyond the realm of resolution.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Thank you, Holland


Just over an hour ago I receive three telephone calls, one to determine if I am in still interested in the offer with a last ditch effort to still negotiate the expected salary – I was not going to budge any more, though for a permanent job it looks like a good deal having been self-employed for 13 of the last 15 years; it is a radical pay-cut – the times determine certain circumstances.

Other candidates were going for about 12% lower but there comes a time when knowing that you are good value for money is where you stick to your guns and let them decide.

Soon after, I received the second telephone call that a bit of juggling had been done and what had been agreed had been accepted, I have the offer.

The third telephone call came from the agency handling the recruitment process congratulating me on successfully securing the job that was a great booster for my morale and confidence, my track record, experience and expertise had secured me a job despite the swirling turmoil that I was in, I am still capable of going for it and getting it.

Strangely Dutch

With that decision comes a whole range of things to be done, I have two weeks to prepare and after 11 years and 2 months in the Netherlands, I will be returning to work in the United Kingdom because basically that is where the work is now.

Most of the open opportunities I have seen in the last six months in the Netherlands have included the language filter, the requirement to speak Dutch – I do have a good grasp of Dutch but have rarely used it for business, the convenience of being European has meant there was no compelling reason to be proficient and even when I worked for distinctively Dutch companies the systems, documentation and communications have mostly been in English.

It then became interesting that suddenly these companies adopted an ultra-nationalistic slant but I guess it was to weed down market eligibility and crowd out the presumably non-natives.


So, a chapter is closing and a new one is about to be opened though unexpected in that I honestly would have preferred to stay in the Netherlands or move east to Berlin than return to England, but those are decisions we now need to make.

There is so much to do culminating in my medical and therapy sessions here before I resume duties in just two weeks.

I suppose this is the beginning of the many thanks I will giving to the Netherlands for 11 amazing, tumultuous, beautiful, crazy, happy and wonderful years.

Friday 17 June 2011

Thought Picnic: The genius of Facebook

Facing the past happily

I was chatting to a friend I last saw over two decades ago, he was one of my best friends when we were in secondary school.

The fact is for all the keenness of my memory about so many events of my past one aspect gives me concern, that of names. I have had too many instances where I have mismatched surnames and cannot for all the familiarity I had with the same people remember that essential piece of information.

Obviously, when the name showed up as a Facebook invitation, there was instant recognition with the mental slap on the head as how I could ever forgotten ever.

Everyone is a friend or a fan

However, for all the negative uses of Facebook, when I got chatting to my friend he highlighted something about the Facebook service that should have us in gratitude to whoever thought us the idea and implemented it.

Now, I have many friends on Facebook because the basic concept of interaction is Friendship and that is between people, when dealing with an organisation, institution or some personality as a public figure their profiles offer a different mode of interaction which allows you to click on the Like button.

In essence, you befriend people you know or seek to establish some relationship with and like things, objects or people you are fans of.

This is the air travel of interaction

Before Facebook there were few services that offered the means for re-establishing contact with long lost friends, you wondered where they were, what they did, how they have changed and so on; they were memories – sometimes keen, sometimes faint but we were in terms helpless and just let time run its course.

I am on many networks and have registered on alumni management sites but none have come close to the kind of social interaction that Facebook offers to rediscover and reacquaint yourself with your past; memorably nice or downright rotten.

You do have to filter your reconnections; I refuse to allow my curiosity to know to drive me back into the arms of the dreadful nightmares of the past, they are best left latent maybe even forgotten and never rekindled, no, not for a second.

Facing a broader spectrum of your history

So, as I have written before, Facebook has brought me in contact with family and relations, some so extended and the first time I met then was on Facebook. In my 40s I am making new contact with people I went to school with in the 70s and early 80s, it is surreal.

Such opportunities never existed except at alumni reunions but with the world being an ever smaller place and people travelling even further afield than before the opportunities for live meetings are more diminished.

You make a friend on Facebook and literally all the gaps get filled at an instant depending on the information shared and people share as much information to what is primarily their circle of current and close circle of friends which gets cascaded out to others who are acquaintances and long lost contacts who have become Facebook friends.

So, what Facebook has done for the rekindling of relationships is phenomenal despite the misgivings of many, it brings you back into the broad spectrum of all the people, issues and circumstances that have defined your experiences and history; crowding them into your present and forging and future that would be interesting to control, if you can.

Facebook is no joke

Looking beyond the technology and vehicle of social networking there is something greater at play; what you choose to do with those re-established relationships is left to you and how you handle those you have never had but now have to opportunity to tend, grow and foster might well define who you might become.

For all the figures, ratings and daily interactions that range from trivia to downright serious, Facebook in its concept is a work of genius and its ultimate uses have probably not yet been imagined by those who started this amazing experiment.

If there is anything you can take from this realisation, it is that Facebook is no joke, you constantly have to ask yourself about what you share, what is private, who you are willing to meet, what you are ready to relive, if you should curb your enthusiasm and whether you really can handle what Facebook brings back to you.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Nigeria: Giving your relations a heads-up on scammers

Protocols of contact

It is necessary to send a cautionary note to the many of us separated from our close relations by time and distance that certain unscrupulous middlemen might be tempted to take advantage of that situation to misrepresent our situations to our close relations and by doing so deceive, defraud or scam them.

There have been a number of instances where certain confidence tricksters have contacted relations with tall tales about believable but made-up circumstances drawing close relations into confidence.

It is important that we establish the protocols of contact and communication with our relations that they are not unduly taken advantage of.

Eliminate surprises

In my case, I have decided that I will neither use couriers or messengers to convey goods, services or messages to my relations without first informing them that such an arrangement has been made.

In essence, do not surprise them such that cold calls and surprise packages or messages will allow them to drop their guard when confidence tricksters come in to play.

Never send strangers to your relations, if you do, ensure that you and that stranger have at the point of initiating that messaging activity talk to the specific relations you expect them to contact beforehand.

Maybe you should establish code words or passwords that need to be verified before strangers are given an audience, these culprits can have obtained your details from all sorts of sources and use that to convince your people – the absence of the secret password will put paid to that criminal enterprise.

In other words, adapt the money transfer verification protocols for your purposes.

Always for their net gain

In many cases, your relations are the receivers; you should never make arrangements that have your relations having to pay up for any goods, services or messages you have initiated, they should gain a net profit and not a loss by reason of poor coordination.

Ensure, your relations know your real circumstances in terms of status, needs, means and concerns, this should ensure no one is able to plant strange stories about you to gain unwarranted confidence.

It is important that they know that when they are contacted by strangers to part with anything your relations should at least contact you, failing which they should contact at least two of your siblings, close friends or known associates before they act to part with anything which should be done only in company and never blindly.

Share the information

If the contacts ask that none of the information they have offered or shared be discussed with others, immediately suspect foul play and ensure that the widest possible network of people are engaged – if the report is that you are in trouble, you need concerted efforts of help not isolated sources of uncoordinated activity.

It is difficult to properly codify a proper warning chart of things to make your relations aware of, but it is most important for them to be fully apprised, properly informed, rarely surprised and in complete control of any communication channel that is opened on your behalf with the support of everyone else who genuinely has your concerns to heart – those people can never be those strangers, no matter how good their intentions at the onset presaging the opportunity to take advantage of your kith and kin.