Saturday, December 01, 2007

Jobs I nearly had

'List of the Month' time again!

This month, 10 jobs I might have had.....
(Yes, originally it was 8, but I've made a couple of additions.)

1) Detective, in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force - Even as a kid, I'd always been fascinated by the idea of living and working overseas (I suppose I'd read a lot of Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene.... and seen a lot of films like '55 Days At Peking' and 'The Sand Pebbles'), and particularly in China. And back in the late '70s or early '80s, there was a terrific documentary series about the RHKP on the Beeb, called 'The Hong Kong Beat'. When I looked into it further as a serious career possibility, I found that the terms of service were extremely attractive: high pay, low tax, and a generous tax-free bonus on completing a three year tour of duty. Only the silly shorts they wore gave me pause. When I went up to University, this really was my plan for a first job after I left. But then..... well, things started getting a little ugly in the colony after it was agreed to hand it back to China, and I was concerned that the job might become more about public order than fighting organised crime.

2) Professional Beach Bum - During my round-the-world backpacking phase in the mid-90s I visited a tiny Fijian island called Leleuvia (it's probably submerged now), and was offered a job as a 'host' there. Basically, you had to be friendly, strum a guitar occasionally, clean the toilets, make a weekly trip across to the main island to pick up supplies.... sleep with a lot of nubile 20-year-old Swedish girls. It was a tough proposition, but I thought I could handle it, was quite tempted for a while. It was a Lotus-Eating set-up, though. I asked the two young Aussie guys (permanently smashed on marijuana) currently doing the job how long they'd been there, and they genuinely couldn't remember......

3) Accountant - I was once offered a training contract with the National Audit Office (the UK government's in-house accountants)...... but failed the security clearance!

4) Researcher/Case Manager for the Criminal Cases Review Commission - Another government job, but no security check this time. I aced the aptitude tests (and, amazingly, the psych profiling!) and the preliminary interviews, and was assured by the HR manager that I was one of the strongest applicants they'd ever seen and was a shoo-in for the job. At my 'second interview' with the board of governors, I somehow managed to offend everyone in the room..... (Don't mention Hanratty.....)

5) Conference Organiser - This was a small company in the Home Counties that produced conferences on the financial services and IT industries. This one foundered because I needed a few hundred pounds to relocate, and my bank had cut me off without a penny.

6) Risk Consultant - God, what a glamorous concept! Definitely the coolest-sounding job I was ever up for. However, it was going to involve working shifts on a 24-hour hotline, fielding calls from places like Bogota and Johannesburg - "Somebody's trying to kidnap me! What should I do?" "Stay calm...."

7) Strategy Consultancy Lecturer - Errrr, not sure what the actual job title was going to be here, but that pretty much sums up what it was. An American company that produces analyses of business trends needed charismatic and energetic people to give impressive presentations introducing its latest reports to clients. Lots of travel, and (by my humble standards, anyway) a huge salary. I got the initial introduction through someone I met at a dinner party in DC. They loved me. It looked like it was going to happen. But...... immediately post 9/11 it was just about impossible for anyone to get a visa. And so..... I came to China to work for peanuts instead.

8) TV Presenter - In my first year here, I applied for a job on CCTV9, the English-language channel on the national TV station here in China. I had to wait around for about 4 hours, because they didn't have a camera available to tape the auditions. Not a good sign. The main attribute tested was memorization ability - they have no autocue/teleprompter, so you have to be able to deliver 400-500 word spiels from memory. I was actually rather good at that. Then, they reluctantly admitted that I would probably have to be able to speak pretty good Chinese to communicate with my film crew (I had asked upfront, and they'd told me Chinese was not necessary at all). Ah well - the pay was lousy; and I really wouldn't want to become a recognisable face here. And I did make one very good friend amongst the other candidates (none of whom took the job).

9) Radio Presenter - An American acquaintance, who I think of as 'Disco Mike' (think of The Simpsons' 'Disco Stu'), is a hugely knowledgeable music aficionado, and has worked in radio back in the States.... but his voice just doesn't function any more, it's shrivelled to a croaky whisper (too much time in smoky bars, shouting above the music, I guess). I had got an introduction to one of the producers at CRI (China Radio International), and Mike persuaded me to pitch a programme idea for a jazz & talk show, for which he would provide most of the music and script..... and I'd just have to be the voice. It was a great idea, but..... as a state-run organization, CRI is not very flexible: everybody has to be under exclusive, full-time contracts; everybody has to earn their keep by working long shifts on script-editing chores and so on. Hiring people for a single two-hour programme is not possible. Oh well.

10) Bar Owner - Yep, I have already turned down one formal offer to take over a bar here in Beijing (it had been set up by an Aussie girl we knew, and her Chinese boyfriend; but they were leaving the country, and wanted someone to take it off their hands), for a surprisingly affordable sum of money. My pal The Chairman and I were thinking very hard about buying it together, but.... well, the place was tiny and well off-the-beaten-track. I crunched some numbers, and couldn't picture any way that - even if we could make it a 'big success' within its very modest scope - it would generate more money for us than the teaching/editing/recording/etc. we do at the moment. And in all probability it would never be any more than a minor 'cult favourite' (as it was starting to become under Anna's management), and would struggle to cover its operating costs. I was mighty tempted, though. Sigh. One day, I think I will get into that business. One day....


Anonymous said...

That's just hilarious! My list of possible jobs wouldn't be nearly as interesting!

Anonymous said...

How did the Hanratty case get you into trouble?

Froog said...

Oh, the Hanratty thing? I was my usual crashingly indiscreet self. I suggested that I thought the CCRC was being far too conservative in interpreting its remit regarding review of contemporary cases, and that it was an unjustifiable waste of money to devote so much of their activity to historic cases like this. I mean, the guy had been dead for 40 years (and was - much as the innate 'defence lawyer' in me hates ever to say this - quite obviously guilty); and they were spending a ridiculous amount of resources on the re-investigation (I forget exactly what, but it was something quite absurd - I think, getting on for 50% of their annual budget!).

I thought they might appreciate some frank and spirited debate. But no - they were small-minded and insecure people, who didn't want anyone rocking the boat, however slightly.... not even in an interview.

Froog said...

Oh, another one I forgot to include (although perhaps not strictly eligible - since it wasn't a very real prospect: I never even got a first interview) was as a censor for the British Board of Film Classification.

I really think I might have been great at that job...... well, apart, perhaps, rather being rather too passionate about films and rather too passionately opposed to the idea of censorship. However, the folks at the BBFC never got the chance to discover these temperamental unsuitabilities of mine because they have a rather strong prejudice in favour of married-with-young-children types for these jobs. Sigh - it's so unfair.