In which I turn to Thomas Hardy for some job-hunting tips …

I’m a west country man. There. I’ve said it. For me the great cultural landmarks are: The Wurzels; The Cerne Abbas Giant; and, Thomas Hardy. So it’s hardly surprising that – in my time of trial – I should look to those beacons of west country goodness for help and guidance.

In vain have I struggled to find a clear message in I am a cider drinker or I’ve got a brand new combined harvester. Should I change direction and return to my family’s agricultural roots? Or should I sleep out overnight on the Cerne Abbas Giant? I might not find a job but I could just make medical history.

No, instead I turned to Far from the madding crowd, perhaps one of the greatest titles in English literature. Early in the story the ambitious Gabriel Oak finds himself down on his luck after a business failure. So he goes to a jobs’ fair in Casterbridge. He starts the day hoping to be hired as a farm bailiff or manager. But as the day drags on he changes tack. He puts on a shepherd’s smock and grabs up a crook. For a shepherd he will be.

But no. Recruiters are now looking for bailiffs so there Oak stands his skills now unwanted. Tainted for having been ambitious enough to have had his own farm. Doubly tainted too for that farm failed.

Putting on the smock and gathering up the crook had pigeon-holed Gabriel as surely as naming oneself on a CV as a public sector worker. Hardy’s advice remains pertinent today. Gabriel concludes that,

It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself, and extemporise a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it.

As I have been thinking again about my passions, my skills and my next move this quote has been floating around a lot in my head.

My normal inclination would be to do what Gabriel did. Elaborately prepare for my ideal job. But I think Hardy is telling me to be far more flexible than that.

It’s very confusing. Made more so by recently being told to harness passion to confidence to elbow my way into a job.

So. I must be committed and passionate. But flexible and fleet of foot. Analytical about the labour market and my skills. And yet boiling with enthusiasm to get stuck in. My head now definitely hurts.

But I come back again to that image of Oak standing unhired because he was offering analogue when the hoary-handed sons of the soil wanted digital. Is that me? If it is what should I do about it?

Mrs RPS has suggested that I might get on the front foot and offer my services to the government as the Official Fool. Afterall she reasoned it already has a photographer, a film-maker and stylist so a ruddy-faced roly-poly funster with an inflated animal bladder would surely not be noticed. I’d have to keep the bells and ‘hey nonnies,’ down to a minimum though – government is a serious business.

Anyone seen my cockscomb?


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
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9 Responses to In which I turn to Thomas Hardy for some job-hunting tips …

  1. SCH says:

    I’m so sorry, RPS – the role of “a ruddy-faced roly-poly funster with an inflated animal bladder” has already been offered to and accepted by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He was head and stomach above all the other applicants for the role and brought a unique, malevolent glee and his own set of blinkers to the position.

    I work for one of those nasty quangos, so am in exactly the same position as you – we are going some time before 2012 and I am also casting round for a new job – or should that be “flailing blindly in a slightly panicked fashion”? Thanks to the Picklemeister and his cohort of evil henchfools, and the ConDem’s somewhat organic approach to power (“what happens if we abolish THIS? Oooh, pretty – and look at the big hole it’s left!”), I don’t see much of a future in the public sector at all. All the passion and flexibility in the world isn’t going to matter when you’re up against such implacable and ideologically driven opponents. It’s all a bit sad, really…

    • Dear SCH,

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking time to comment. I am gutted about my dream job having already been filled. However, I cling on to the hope that an opening for a village idiot may come up but I may need some transition training to make me fit for the role.

      Best wishes


  2. What a great reference to Hardy, passed by the Cerne Abbas Giant last summer while holidaying round there.

  3. Mean Mr Mustard says:

    I endured ‘FFMC’ as we called it, as part of my English Lit ‘O’ Level studies. While it was a chore to study, we did get to see the film with Julie Christie. Thirty two years on, there are three things I have learned from Hardy’s book –

    Our English teacher explained one passage about how the pace of change in villages at that time was positively glacial – unlike the times in which we live now. The biggest event recalled in the village being the felling of a tree, or somesuch.

    That all should be wary of flashy, superficial types – especially military rogues like Sgt Troy. Perhaps worth bearing that one in mind if still working in the MoD…

    And that true enduring friendships – and even marriages – can be forged in a professional or work placed setting. Maybe worth remembering that many Public Servants are most certainly ‘in it together’, both partners working (for now) in the same doomed department.

    • Dear Mean Mr Mustard,

      I love the film too. Many of the locations hold happy special memories of my childhood and our courting days.

      I know exactly what you mean about folks who are equally at risk from working in the same threatened sphere.

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to comment,

      best wishes


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  6. This is certainly a spot-on reference to hardy. Thanks for the interesting take on the situation.

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