The Superfan and the Psychometric Test

img_6357Doesn’t that sound like a book title to grab the attention, if only for the wrong reasons? Maybe for my next book I should come up with a random title and then write the book to fit? Anyway I digress. The title actually refers to the highs and lows of my weekend.

On Saturday I had an ‘author event’ at our local library. Originally it was going to be a book reading and signing, but that got cancelled due to lack of interest (it was on a school night) and swapped for a Saturday morning craft session. Only I forgot to sort crafts. So at 5am Saturday, full of cold, I searched Pinterest for ideas, and produced craft unicorns, Minecraft Torches and bookmarks. I was still cutting out cardboard at 9.30am when I was meant to be leaving for the library! Me, disorganised? Hmmm.

Anyway, it was a bit of a washout. Five or six  girls made unicorns, but no one really knew why I was there. (The minecraft torches ended up being used for my son’s Nativity Pringle Pot, so not totally wasted!) Until a young lad came in, carrying a copy of Hope Glimmers. And next to him, his dad, who it turns out I went to school with. But they were there to meet Mandy Martin the author, not Mandy Jarman from school. The dad’s surprise when he figured I was me was awesome. The best part, though, was that Hope Glimmers had been purchased online and they’d brought it to be signed. By me. Like I was a real author or something. And when I said there was a new book based on Minecraft, the lad’s smile made my year.


Nativity & Santa Pringle Pots

I read an article a while ago (written in 2008 and updated here) by a guy called Kevin Kelly, who said that what creative people need to succeed is a 1000 true fans; superfans who will buy anything you produce. I’ve never had a superfan before, generally my books are bought by people I know, or anonymously on Amazon, where without reviews you don’t even know if they liked it. I’m not saying this boy was really a superfan, but it certainly felt like it at 11am on a Saturday morning as I signed books for him.

My happy bubble was short-lived, however, when I received an email from Boots (a High Street Pharmacy Company, for non Brits) with feedback on a job I had applied for as a trainee pharmacy dispenser. Please note, ‘trainee’. As in, to be trained to do the job, surely?

This is my first experience of interview by computer and I’m not impressed. Having clicked ‘apply’ through the job website, they asked for my job (just one) and my education (just one), so I put Invigilating and a Masters in English, as my two most recent. No request for CV or experience or anything. Just an email with a link to a psychometric test.

Now, I hate psychometric tests, especially now I’ve been out of the work game for a while and am fully entrenched in ‘me’ because ‘me’ is a socially-awkward introvert who finds people challenging. But ‘work me’ is outgoing, confident, creative, innovative and all that jazz. So anyway I tried to understand what the questions were getting at, although that’s pretty tough in most psychometric tests as that’s the whole point of them. Except we’re not all black and white, either or, ‘this statement best reflects me’ without context.

I worked in a bar when I was a uni student, and loved it. In fact I wanted to be a bar manager when I graduated, but my first class degree actually proved a sticking point in the interviews I went to because the starting salary was so low. Anyway, six months after I’d been working in the busy train station pub, dealing with difficult customers and working alongside a team of twelve people, they made me do their psychometric test ‘for their files’. I failed. They said they would never have hired me because funnily enough it showed that I am a reserved introvert who doesn’t much like people. Thankfully they had six months’ experience of me being a complex human being who was able to act a role at work, convincingly too, and they trusted me enough to have me run as assistant manager for a while.

Given all that, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I failed the test from Boots. But I was. Surprised and gutted (the job was perfect for me). And angry. Because this was their response:

We’re sorry to have to let you know that you haven’t been successful on this occasion due to the level you attained for the questionnaire assessment.

You will need to allow a 12 month period before applying for a similar role as this will give you adequate time to develop your skills and experience.

Adequate time to develop my skills and experience? How do they know anything about my skills and experience? They didn’t even ask for my CV. See that I’ve worked front of house in Hotels, Restaurants, Youth Hostel, Bars and a Clothing Store. See that I’ve worked as a Marketing Manager with direct reports, worked in Communications and handled the grumpy ‘Letters to Director’ that were received. I could go on. And I did, in my head, at 3am, full of cold and disappointment and a little bit of despair. This was a trainee role, where presumably a person would be given the relevant skills and I didn’t even get a look in.

Sigh. Breathe.

It doesn’t matter. A company that interviews by bot is not one I want to work for. But it’s battered an already bruised confidence.

Thank goodness for superfans, that’s all I can say.

Christmas Craft and Childhood Memories: 2013 365 Challenge #331

My Pringle Pots

My Pringle Pots

I sat up until 2am this morning, creating Christmas pringle pots for my children, after sleeping on the sofa from 8pm to 11pm. By the time I got to bed I was wired, and didn’t fall back asleep until 5am. I woke again at 6am with a need to write my blog post, so here I am.

I love it when my brain and body are fizzing with the need to get things done. I just wish they wouldn’t combine to pick such obscure times to do it.

I’m quite proud of the pringle pots, actually. And they’re not even to enter into the competition at school, but because we’ve managed to double book ourselves and so my daughter is unable to go to her school Christmas fair on Sunday. The school fair is one of those hyped events that I’m learning go with being a parent of school-age children.

Actually, a mother said to me the other day that school feels like a part time job we didn’t sign up for. Absolutely! The craft, the paperwork, the fundraising, the instructions and rules and regulations. It easily takes me a few hours a week of time and considerably more of thinking and worry. And the pay is lousy!

Grandma & Family (I'm bottom left)

Grandma & Family (I’m bottom left)

So, school have been collecting things or asking for money for things for the Christmas fair all week. Chocolate for the tombola, raffle tickets, admission tickets, the pringle pots. I’ve looked down the list of events and I think I can recreate Face Painting, Tombola, Make a Badge, and Tattoos.

I’ve printed some Admit One tickets for the children to buy and use, and they spent last night cutting them out. I’ve printed some raffle tickets for the tombola (as long as no one minds winning tins of beans or whatever I have in my cupboard!) and located the face paints. I just need tape and safety pins and I’m ready.

It brought back great childhood memories, when my sister and I used to stay at our Grandma’s house. We would walk round to the local shop and buy tat to raffle off. We would put on shows and make hoopla and coconut shy stalls. Then we would round up the neighbours and exhort money from them. Such entrepreneurial activity for ones so young! (We even made fruit machines out of cardboard boxes, because my father was rather partial to the one-armed bandits at the seaside arcades)

I spent an hour trying to find a picture this morning, to no avail, so I’ve added a picture of my Grandma and all her grand-daughters, in the sunny garden that brings back so many memories. I don’t suppose my mini Christmas fair for the children will be quite as much fun, but at least we’ve given it a go.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


The boat rocked as Jack jumped up. “I’ve got something!”

“Jack, sit down before we all end up in the water.” Claire clung to the side of the tiny craft, her now-cold coffee clutched in the other hand like a security blanket. Despite the sun overhead, the water looked cold and uninviting.

Both boys had proved adept at steering the small boat around the estuary and, to begin with, it had been rather pleasant letting them take charge. Once they’d got clear of the main traffic, and the bow waves of the bigger yachts, the water had flattened out like a mill pond. With the sun sparkling on the surface, and native trees huddling over the edges of the estuary walls, Claire had begun to relax and enjoy the morning.

There was something soothing about being out on the water. Even with the low chug of the boat engine breaking the stillness, there was a serene beauty about the far reaches of the inlet they had ventured in to. Overhead, sea birds shrieked their disapproval at being disturbed by the thrum of the outboard motor. Shouts of laughter from the boys, as they squabbled good-naturedly over who was the better steersman, competed with the cry of the gulls.

They had settled down to fish at the far end of Frenchman’s Creek. Heeding the warnings they had been given as they departed, Claire kept an eye on the time, not wanting to get beached at the far end of the creek as the tide slipped back out to sea.

The name Frenchman’s Creek rang a bell. As the boys wrestled with the fish tugging at the end of the line, she tried to recall where she’d heard the name before. Then it came to her: wasn’t there a book of the same name by Daphne du Maurier? She seemed to remember it being on her reading list at university. Some swashbuckling pirate story, full of intrigue and romance. Except the silly woman had gone back to her doltish husband in the end, instead of running away with her lover to France.

Strange choice. If it had been the other way around, the man wouldn’t have thought twice about leaving his children behind. She thought about Chris, her sister’s ex, and how much he had missed Sky when he left Ruth. Perhaps that’s a little unfair. Not all parents are as unfeeling as my darling brother.

With a yell of triumph, Jack and Alex landed their fish, dropping it into the hull of the boat, where it thrashed about like a thing possessed. Claire pulled up her feet and appraised the russet and silver body, suppressing a shudder.

“It’s a sea bass. Wow, look at the size of it!” Jack grinned. “Quick, Claire, take a picture, please.” He drew out the last word into a plea.

Claire put her coffee cup down and retrieved her phone, trying not to grimace as Jack picked up the fish and removed the hook from its mouth. He held the wriggling body in both hands, and gave a cheesy smile. As soon as Claire had taken several pictures, he gave it one last longing look before throwing it over the side of the boat.

“Don’t you want to keep it?” Claire asked, surprised, as the boys watched the fish swim away.

“Why would I do that?” Jack looked puzzled. He baited his hook and prepared to try another cast. “I hate fish.”