MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 121, September 2018

On Monday night, I attended the Men of Doveton program held at Doveton College. It’s hard to fathom that we’re over the halfway mark now. Part of me thought I would have dropped out weeks ago for two reasons: a) I’m not the sporty type in the slightest and b) Making social connections especially within a group of men is very challenging for me. I did have a couple of weeks where I questioned whether this group was for me. But the fact that I’m still here means that I have a lot of strength, determination and resilience to keep going.

Tonight marked the second week of learning how to play soccer down in the gym. It was very similar in structure from the previous week and I was still having the same problems. The ball was constantly losing control and rolling away from me when dribbling it. Head butting is still something I haven’t mastered yet. And playing the actual game, my fears from childhood bubbled to the surface again mostly around fear of getting hurt.

It’s very much a sensitivity issue and it doesn’t help when there’s a mixture of experienced and novice players. But I still gave it a go and was getting a good workout in. It doesn’t take long before you’re running up and down the court after the ball. And that’s pretty much the point of it, to become more active. I’m slowly starting to feel more included within the group too. Obviously this takes time. It’s something you have to progressively chip away at and slowly bring more of myself to the table.

In the second half of the session, we had Ted Whitten Jnr. and Laurie Serafini presenting on the topic of Prostate cancer and Men’s health issues. Ted is the founder of the E.J. Whitten Foundation and Laurie is a former AFL footballer and testicular/anal cancer survivor. Considering I’m not a huge footy fan, I wasn’t really that star struck by the presence of these celebrities but I knew a few of the guys in the group who were. https://www.ejwhittenfoundation.com.au/

This however didn’t diminish the importance of their talks at all. I think that it’s vital for all men to go see their GP regularly and have an annual health check. I used to be in the same boat myself when it came to going to the doctors. I would not only dread having a blood test done (I hate needles!) but also respond indifferently to the results (I’m overweight and have high cholesterol. Oh well, who cares?). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/essential-screening-tests-for-men

But now being 32 years old, I’m taking my health much more seriously since starting my journey two years ago to improve my body weight, fitness, wellbeing, physical health and mental health. And whilst I don’t necessarily need to get tested for prostate cancer until I’m over 50 years old, this is still important information to have as I can educate other male family members and friends plus know I’ll be prepared myself as I get older. http://www.prostate.org.au/awareness/general-information/what-you-need-to-know-about-prostate-cancer/

On Tuesday, I attended the first day of my Hospitality Job Ready Program held at The Cardinia Club in Pakenham. Honestly getting to Pakenham before 9.30am is a huge pain in the rectum especially when you’ve got built-up school traffic and roadworks everywhere you turn. Thankfully the run on the freeway was pretty smooth and therefore it didn’t make me late. The program was held inside the venue’s boardroom and facilitated by Julie Barrett from Somers Elite Training.

The first course today was the Safe Food Handling course. I actually did this course back in 2016 but felt like doing a refresher. Julie’s approach is very detailed, thorough and no bullshit. She throws in heaps of examples from her experience in the hospitality industry with lots of photos showing what not to do when it comes to running a business. She went through all the major topics including hygiene laws and regulations, cleaning and sanitation, hazardous chemicals, personal and environmental hygiene, food poisoning, contamination, hand washing, pest control.

The thing I really enjoy about Julie’s style of teaching is that she doesn’t take things too seriously. She has a black, sarcastic sense of humour when it comes to managers and staff who do the wrong thing and ties to back to lack of education and training. It’s all about getting the basics right and understanding why food hygiene is so important in a commercial environment.

The practical assessment involving the glitterbug cream to show how much bacteria can spread even after washing your hands is pretty alarming. I feel like every time I do an RSF course, I always learn something new. I’m a rote and visual learner so it can take some time for all the information to sink in and actually remember it all but Julie’s notes really help. She literally tells you which parts to highlight in the workbook so at least the important principals will stick. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/sitxfsa001-use-hygienic-practices-for-food-safety/

The second course was on Coffee Training. It was only a small group of us now which made it a bit easier to process all the material. Again this was another refresher for me after doing an Introduction to Coffee Making course a few months back at Chisholm TAFE. I was actually amazed that I was able to stay awake this far into the day. My biggest problem with learning is having enough mental stamina and concentration to handle a 7-8 hour training course but I was determined to stick it out today.

Julie walked us all through the basics of coffee grinding, how to make an espresso, timing your coffee shot, how to steam the milk, how to clean the coffee machine and the most popular coffee types. She then gave us a practical demonstration using one of the coffee machines out in the venue’s gaming area. This is where my anxiety levels slowly began to rise.

I still have confidence issues that I need to overcome when it comes to actually getting hands-on and making coffees. I find putting the group handles into the heads to be tricky as hell and  I was hesitating a lot when it came to steaming the milk. The good news is that at least I gave it a go and didn’t let those internal fears (burning myself, having the milk explode in my face) stop me from trying.

It is all about learning, following the techniques and training tips and having lots of practice. Thank goodness that Julie is a patient woman and made sure that we were all trying to perform the coffee making process correctly. Perhaps one day I could be making coffees for customers in an RSL somewhere or a similar gaming venue to The Cardinia Club. Just have to build my confidence and experience up and I’ll be alright. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/coffee-training/

On Wednesday, I completed the second day of my Hospitality Job Ready Program held at Cardinia Club in Pakenham. Today was a similar deal to yesterday in that we had two different courses spread across the whole day. Firstly, I did my Responsible Service of Alcohol with a group of 15 people. Unfortunately the boardroom table didn’t allow much room between each of us so note-taking was pretty awkward but it was still manageable.  https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/courses/alcohol/

We covered all the important areas including: the liquor industry, benefits of responsible service, alcoholic content of drinks, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), intoxication, signs of intoxication, how to prevent intoxication, refusal of service, dealing with underage minors, checking ID, packaged liquor and functions. I found most of the content easy to follow as I’ve done the RSA a few times over the years. The hardest part for myself and probably most people is the refusal of service section.

Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to perform, even in a casual role playing scenario, it’s a lot to remember. Thankfully Julie provided us with many helpful tips to learn it easier. The best way to handle intoxicated patrons and refuse service is: 1. Have A Conversation With The Customer (How’s your night been? What’s the weather like outside? Are you here with friends or by yourself?). 2. Response (I think that you need to have a breather. That will be your last drink for a while). 3. Clarify The Refusal (I’m sorry but I’d be breaking the law if I served you another drink). 4. Offer An Alternative (Would you like a coffee, tea, juice or coke instead?).

For me personally, developing social skills is still a work-in-progress for me. I still have confidence issues when it comes to speaking up and being assertive. But I refuse to give up. The test made up of 20 multiple choice questions was very straight forward. Most of it is common sense and rote learning of statistics like how much the fines are and how much alcohol is in a standard drink. We also learned that a specific law will be changing. That is minors under 18 years old cannot consume liquor in a licensed premises even with a responsible adult present. https://www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/resources/education-and-training/responsible-service-alcohol

The last course in the program was the Bar Operations Training. This particular course was entirely new to me and I found much of the content really interesting to learn. We covered lots of areas including: beverage service outlets, main equipment used, duties of a Bar Attendant, Bar daily set-up procedures, wastage and stock control, alcohol characteristics, wine styles, basic spirits, glassware, measuring drinks, adding ice, garnishing, personal hygiene, cleaning and maintenance, interacting with customers and selling skills. As you can see, there is a lot involved but Julie just focused on the basics today. https://joboutlook.gov.au/occupation.aspx?code=4311

The practical part of the course was a little nerve-racking for me as we were out in public view behind the back Sports Bar. We each learned how to pour a glass of wine, measure and pour of 30ml shot of spirits into a glass and pouring a bar using the taps. Of course new experiences is one of my anxiety triggers so thoughts were rampant through my head (What if I make a mistake? What if I spill beer and wine everywhere? What if I do something stupid?).

But I still managed to give it a go and I did okay for my first ever attempts at making drinks behind a bar. I think it really helps that Julie is incredibly supportive, dedicated and encouraging. She didn’t judge us or put any of us off from doing it and I think that’s an important value for a trainer to have. Of course skills like these take time, practice and patience to develop as well as the correct coaching involved aka teaching staff the right way of doing things. https://www.somerselitetraining.com.au/course/bar-training/

To finish off, Julie gave each of us a job application and a few tips about making a good impression when applying for a job, what to put in your resume and also information about doing the Responsible Service of Gaming online training course which can be a good additional piece of training to have when going for Hospitality type jobs. Whilst Julie is very strict and precise with her style of teaching, I feel like she has good intentions. And with 40 years of Hospitality industry experience, I think she knows her shit just a little bit! http://rsgonline.vic.gov.au/

On Friday afternoon, I had my Metro Trains job interview and online assessment held at Cliftons Melbourne in Southbank. It’s been over two weeks since I attended the information session for the position of part time Leading Station Assistant (LSA) and to be honest, I really didn’t think I would make it this far into the recruitment process. My interview was to be held on Level 18 inside the building at 2 Southbank Boulevard. Considering I only have a vague recollection of the Southbank area, I needed to pull out Google Maps to prevent myself getting lost.

This building was even more intimidating than the previous one with lines of booths, luxury sofas, designer armchairs and furnishings, a restaurant and several banks of elevators. Once I found where I needed to go, the reception staff at Cliftons guided me over to the waiting area. After briefly chatting to one of the other candidates sitting opposite me, I was trying really hard to calm my nerves and use mindfulness techniques to ground myself. It did help a little bit. I was focusing on the abstract floral patterns of the nearby chair and just observing shapes and colours.

Twenty minutes of uncomfortable waiting later, I was called up by a lady named Tara and escorted into one of the meeting rooms. The email I received last week was a bit misleading in saying that today’s session would involve a group discussion. This was not the case. In fact, my first task was to come up with a public announcement speech for a role playing exercise with one of two Metro Trains staff members. I only had 10 minutes to read the brief, jot down some notes and perform it. I also had to deal with a disgruntled customer scenario.

The nerves were really kicking in hard now as I’m not good at performing on the spot and thinking on my feet. The Metro Trains staff member, who was playing the role of the disgruntled customer, made it deliberately difficult for me, requiring me to think outside of the box. I was pulling all kinds of answers out of my ass from saying “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’re doing everything we can to rectify the issue.” to offering free transport and even a lift in my own car.

The next part was even harder…the interview itself. It’s not like I have job interviews everyday or even every week so I knew that this would be a challenge. The six or so questions that I was asked were pretty generic…Why do you want to work for Metro Trains? What does exceptional customer service mean to you? Tell me about a time when you faced a change of procedure or system, you dealt with a difficult customer, you demonstrated exceptional customer service, you acted in a safe manner in the workplace. (The STAR Method. S = Specific Situation. T = Task. A = Action. R = Result). https://www.vawizard.org/wiz-pdf/STAR_Method_Interviews.pdf

To be fair, I really should have been more prepared for these types of questions as thinking of specific workplace scenarios takes time for me. I also misunderstood some of the questions they were asking and for me it was embarrassing and made me feel kind of dumb. My hands were getting sweaty. My face was getting red and flustered. I was tripping over my words. Any confidence I did have pretty much left the meeting room after that. The pressure was building up inside my head and inside I wanted to have a mental breakdown. This is the exact reason why I hate doing job interviews so much.

However, I was determined to finish this no matter how hard it got. I even threw in a few details I’d heard about the Metro Tunnel and High Capacity trains that are being constructed. I also mentioned that I had some degree of knowledge around timetables, service disruptions and the role of the LSA. I was giving this interview my all, even though I could easily tell from the interviewers looks and body language that I’ve got a fat chance of being a successful candidate.

I breathed a sigh of relief as the interview came to a close with “Any questions?”. I was mentally drained and couldn’t think of any at the time. I just wanted to get out of that meeting room. The last part of today’s session was thankfully the easiest. I had to complete an online computer test which involved literacy, numeracy and oral communication skills. There were a couple of tricky questions but overall I found the task relatively simple and I got it finished very quickly.

I walked away from today’s interview feeling like I hadn’t done enough to be successful. I feel like there was a lot of pressure and expectation placed on me from the two guys who were interviewing me. The high corporate environment in which the interview took place was also really off-putting for me. And there were also a few curve-ball questions that I didn’t know how to answer. I physically and mentally felt stressed out from it, partly because I can get caught up in my emotions a lot like worrying what the interviewers were thinking about me.

But I have no regrets about going today. It was a big learning experience for me and I’m glad that I was strong enough not only to attend the interview but to stick it out. It was very uncomfortable for me but I still did it. If I don’t get the job, it’ll probably be a blessing in disguise. No job is worth killing yourself over and I feel like the demand of this role might be too great for me to handle. But we shall wait and see. http://www.metrotrains.com.au/careers/

“Hold fast, I’ll guide you through the night. And fear not for I am by your side. Listen through the rain. And you can hear the angels say. Help is on the way. The moment you begin to pray. When the thunders roar. You don’t need to be afraid. I’ll lead you through the storm. So please remember when I say. I’m with you always.” Owl City – Always (2018)

“Look up when the world gets you down And you’re gonna get by. Hang in when the world counts you out. And you’re gonna be fine. Sometimes that’s life. Some days nothing never goes right. But when your hand is mine. You got me floating on cloud nine.”                        Owl City – Cloud Nine (2018)

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