The Naked Listener’s top 10 lifehacks for the first-time jobhunter or employee (Part 2)

Friday 5 August 2011, 12.01am HKT

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Updated 14 March 2014 (fixed broken links)

Previously in Part One, The Naked Listener divvied up five of the Top 10 Lifehacks for the first-time jobhunter/employee — regardless of the number of years you’ve actually already been working.

We continue today with Part Two, with lifehacks 6 to 10.

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6. Make only controlled body movements in front of people.

You’re a sodding adult now, by virtue of your joining the national workforce. It isn’t school or uni/college anymore. You CAN’T do whatever the eff you feel like it.

Make no sudden movements.

Don’t wave or flay your arms or legs about in front of others.

Don’t nod or shake your head on every other word you hear.

Just be fast and steady when required for work.

Keep all body movements under your conscious control.

People DIDN’T grow up with you. They DON’T know (or care to understand) what the hell you are or what makes you tick. They will misunderstand you and you will be misunderstood.

Trust me, you’ll be more respected and more trusted if you appear calm and controlled of yourself. It tells people that you are confident and know what you want in life. You’ll also get to sleep with lots of chicks (or guys, as the case may be) — but that’s another story! Your waving and kicking around like a bloody spastic will not put the right message across.

“Never put yourself in an all-or-nothing situation.
If you find yourself in a situation you cannot win,
then fly away — fast. Put your life in your

own hands — and keep it there. There is a fine line
between bravery and stupidity.”
— Baron von Richtoffen, a.k.a. The Red Baron, ca. 1916-17

7. Keep your own timesheet.

Keep track of your workhours, even if your workplace already has timecards for your clocking in and out.

Be honest with your own private timesheet. It doesn’t have to match up with the company timesheet or timecard. Neatness is desirable, but not essential. The details are more important.

In case of dispute, at least you’re not left relying on company time records (which the company can withhold from you, or even fudge them just to screw you).

With your own time record, at least you have something else (called prima facie rebuttal evidence by lawyers) to question the veracity (truthfulness or reliability) of the other side’s ‘evidence.’

For example, back in the day when I was in publishing, I kept a private timelog of my editorial activities. I noted down starting and finishing times for editing work, manuscript by manuscript, chapter by chapter. I also noted down the times and quick details of phone calls, inhouse meetings, outside meetings, etc, etc, etc. Fortunately, I never had a dispute with my employer over matters like that.

But my publisher did have a dispute with an [academic] author over the time spent on her dreadful, gormless, nearly illiterate manuscript. The dispute spilled over into litigation, and the publisher was durably indebted to me for getting out of that fix because of my timelog.

By the way, you should get into the habit of making a written record of all your most important private, personal activities. They don’t have to be highly detailed — just something to indicate the time and place you spent doing such-and-such. I still have my timelog from school for doing schoolwork — only 100 sheets of paper (15mm or ½in. thick) for my entire education! Not really a space eater!

8. Mark time before going to work.

Don’t just wake up, cobble yourself together into some semblance of human form, and then go to work.

Relax before and after work.

Relax — you’re going to get sacked sooner or later, or be replaced by some robot or software.

If your job is lifelong employment, you need to relax even more before and after.

If you don’t learn to relax, you’ll burn out, and lose your job — ergo, lack of income. Where’s your god then?

What is mark time? This is like marching on the same spot without moving forward. In the same way, you potter about the house doing nothing in particular. Basically, this is time that you’re waiting to leave for work. In other words, it’s idle time before action stations.

Get into the habit of giving yourself 45 minutes of mark time before hitting the road. Those 45 minutes exclude toilet time and breakfast time (hopefully not one and the same). Your body and mind need those 45 minutes to get into the train of things. If you’re in an almighty rush to get up and get to work, you’re going to be in an almighty rushabout frame of mind at work — making you screw up more.

Whilst I’m at this, get into the habit of not lying in bed until the last moment. Learn to de-internalise this childhood antic. You’re just stressing your body out (if not your mind also). Just get the hell out of bed! The warm-up time will compensate and smooth everything out for that.

9. Eat something before leaving home.

In my day, French schoolchildren used to bite two chunks off of a chocolate bar and gulp down half a glass of cavados (a kind of brandy) before trundling off and have breakfast in school.

Never leave home on an empty stomach.

Only in movies will you see svelte-looking chicks with great cleavage and no breakfast survive a full 48 hours in blazing heat or freezing cold with no food or water (or smudging of makeup) while radioactive volcanic ash rain down from a tsunami earthquake volcano eruption nuclear meltdown disaster that kills every living plant, animal and mineral in sight (excepting other groovy chicks and handsome men, of course).

More prosaically, if your flying f@#k of a public transport never materialises or breaks down or got stuck for hours in heavy traffic conditions — where’s your god then?

Never leave home on an empty stomach.

Your body won’t become fully matured until you’re 25 years old. Until then, have some kind of food in the morning.

No need to make a meal of it. If you can’t manage breakfast that morning, even a handful of peanuts plopped into the mouth on your way out goes a long way. A granola bar or a Yorkie or Mars bar eaten while waiting for the bus is better than a completely empty gut.

And bring a bottle of water if your journey is more than 30 minutes long. At least you have a bottle to use as weapon against an attacker. Derp.

While we’re on the subject, a glass of fizzy (‘sparkling’) mineral water or fruit juice during your mark time (Lifehack 8 above) really wakes your system up. Personally, I find San Pellegrino or Azzura will do the trick, but any fizzy mineral water will do just fine.

Sugary soft drinks cause wrinkles and promote acne. Caffeine gives you bags and dark undereye circles. High-energy ‘bull’ drinks makes you a nervous wreck by the time you arrive for work.

10. If they give you a uniform, wear the same clothes to work.

From the 1850s to as late as the 1970s, many uniforms were to be seen on the streets. There were also a number of trades and professions that had a traditional, recognisable style of dress (effectively an unofficial uniform), such as for shopkeepers and street traders.

(By the way, a civilian uniform is properly known as livery, as in the phrase “the uniforms of soldiers and the liveries of household attendants.”)

Pacific Southwest Airlines, USA, 1970s

Pacific Southwest Airlines, USA, 1970s

Being issued with a uniform meant that you needn’t buy working clothes and, for many, the uniform formed an important part of their wage. Uniforms were not meant for criminals to come by easily, so a chap in a uniform turning up at your doorstep was almost certainly legitimate.

If you work in a uniformed place, and if the uniform issued is not too revealing or embarrassing (and most are not), just wear it as-is to work. It’s just too much of a daily hassle to change in and out. Wear the same set of skinflint civvies (civilian garb) to work if you prefer, otherwise there’s no point wearing out your other clothes.

There is wisdom in that lifehack. Think of the job requirement to wear a uniform as a bonus. They’re less likely to recognise you out of uniform. Your work and private lives become quite separate then. And if you ever have to do after-hours overtime (especially the unpaid kind), turn up in your own clothes. Pretty soon the sense of awkwardness or embarrassment sets in that they’ll not ask you again.

Some uniforms are pretty good showoffs. For example, commissionnaires in London (basically doormen or watchmen) have dark uniforms that resemble police uniforms. Chicks and blokes really dig uniforms, know what I mean? Who the heck wouldn’t want to wear that on the way to work?

Protip:— At the very, very least, you can excuse your wearing the company uniform to work as a form of free advertising or ‘brand awareness’ that the company should be happy about. Whilst wearing the uniform, your gamesong is that you are of course conscious of the good name of the company and have always conducted yourself in line with that reputation. You might not like the job itself, but you are proud of the company. Trust me, you wouldn’t believe the high number of times management just go dead speechless with that.

That protip reminds me of London again.

Back in early 1980s, there was a song-and-dance theatre show around Leicester Square Tube Station that parodied fascists in some fictitious country. One of the actors there was always seen coming and leaving or traipsing around the general area during breaks, all the time in his fascist costume — charcoal blue-grey tunic, riding breeches, shiny black riding boots and fascist-style picco di tappo (peak cap). He’s rather famous now, but back then he wasn’t quite yet. He was very friendly with the local shopkeepers, very well liked at the kosher restaurant next door, and happy and willing to take pictures with tourists (including some ageing ex-fascists whose eyes brimmed with nostalgic tears at the sight of the actor’s tunic). He was, in fact, cranking up public awareness for the play, and also of himself as an actor in it. He was advertising it, but he wasn’t advertising it, if you see what I mean.

Obviously, you don’t have to go that far. If you are in that kind of business, that might not be a bad thing to consider doing.

* * *

In the next instalment

Stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow for bonus lifehacks in this series.


* * *


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011. Updated 14 March 2014 (fixed broken links).

Images: Sun style of taichi via egreenway ♦ Timesheet via Responsive Software ♦ Fob watch via eBay ♦ Granola bar by Cathy Kaplan via iStockphoto ♦ Bottled water by Eli Top Food Corporation via Alibaba ♦ Pacific Southwest Airlines via Spatzo.

6 Responses to “The Naked Listener’s top 10 lifehacks for the first-time jobhunter or employee (Part 2)”

  1. Yaxue C. said

    Golden. Every one of them. Not to mention the laughs. Can I save a copy for my daughter (bit early but too useful to pass them by now)? No. 6 is a surprise, but makes tons of sense.

    However, these are only good for a free society. When I started my first job, fresh out of college, as a librarian at a government agency in Beijing in the mid 1980s, I literally had no work to do but checking in and out a few books and magazines. There was no need to carry my contact information because I hardly saw a soul except for my co-workers and, after dark, the city was dead as a tomb. There was no such thing as work performance to speak of, though irking the boss could cost you a lot, and I did so on the very first day by not responding to his lecture the way he expected me to. There was no OT; if there was, I would kill myself to avoided it, because, God, I was going insane already sitting 8 hours day in and day out without doing anything (I tried to read but I was repeated reported on and reprinmanded). “If you find yourself in a situation you cannot win, then fly away — fast.” Are you kidding? To where? “Put your life in your own hands — and keep it there”? That’s precisely you could not possibly do.

    Thanks. Look forward to the bonuses.


  2. By all means keep, use, dispense, prognosticate, choose the words you like best with the lifehacks. They are for all and sundry, if it is right for you to use them.

    I suppose the hacks are broadly more useful in a free(ish) society, although Hong Kong is quite a dictatorial society, actually, although in a totally different way from China. Mind you, carrying a couple of cards with contact details never seems to hurt, just in case Lady Luck does come knocking.

    Fly away fast – doesn’t really matter where, just as long as we’re out of the line of fire. In between hell and high water, there are still waves…

    ASIDE: I have to say your English is very good. I suppose you must have lived in the States for quite some time. It’s very authentic English, not quite what I usually see in Chinese (of course, I’m assuming you’re Chinese, which may not be the case). I also recalled reading your comments in “Seeing Red in China” and they were quite trenchant.

    ADVANCE WARNING: The bonus hacks tomorrow will be, shall we say, ‘interesting’ and likely to irritate quite a lot of people. But they’re not usually written about, at least not the way I’ve tackled them.

    Your comments and presence here is always appreciated. Nice to read your trenchant comment.


  3. i had to stop reading this until my colleague left the room or fear snorting tea out of my nostrils and looking like a pleb. thanks for a funny read!!


    • Oh, I’m sorry to make you snort, spew, spurt and squirt like that. I think I’ve finally figured out why so few people leave a comment, preferring instead to email their comments privately to me – for fear that I might make fun of them, which I will of course. But you seem very charming and becoming, so I’ll postpone the laugh-a-thon 28.347 days from now. Muahahahaha!

      (Srsly, you presence here is always appreciated.)


  4. Yaxue C. said

    “Still in flux” was how a professor of mine in graduate school commented on my English. Nineteen years later, I realize how nice he was being to me because this is how he should be describing my English now. He should have said instead, “WTF! Stop wasting my time!!!!”

    You have already seen them, the little “in-fluxes”, popping up here and there and everywhere: grammar, spelling, usages, prepositions, punctuations, and more. I am trying to do better, knowing perfectly I will never get rid of them altogether.

    Like the professor, you are being nice to me. I truly appreciate that and thank you for not being a linguistic nazi :)

    All said though, I do enjoy English immensely. Compared to Chinese, I find it supple, elastic, precise, capable of saying a lot in a meandering sentence that is, however, still clear and airy. A crisp, mellow sentence is always pure pleasure.


    • You’re safe here: I’m no grammar nazi. I took Latin and Classical Greek in school, which normally would make anyone a grammar snot. My ‘thing’ is plain English, as much as possible if it is right to do so, so ‘everydayness’ is my thing. If it gets the message across, the language is the least of our problems. It is comforting to know that there are still people who are ‘still in flux.’


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