Our CAD blogger files another report from the world of short-term contract employment – except that this time she finds herself temporarily between jobs

Well, they finally gave me the shove.

I knew it the instant the boss called me into his office, since the only other occasion he had spoken to me, discounting a courteous kiss at the Xmas party, had been during my interview.

My services were no longer required, or rather, the money had run out and they had no new schemes coming in. I wasn’t too disappointed as you know, I’d become somewhat disenchanted

by the labyrinthine process of redesigning my supermarkets. These had metamorphosed from fast, cheap boxes into overdesigned space aliens that eventually collapsed under their own weight. So, I picked up the phone pronto and arranged one or two interviews.

The interview for a contract cadmonkey ought really to be a formality – more of a tradition than anything else – but my first one has more than a hint of good cop, bad cop about it. I arrive after everyone else has left, and a brief glance around the empty office tells me that this firm is definitely not among The Sunday Times’ 100 best companies to work for. The floor layout looks chaotic, there’s paper piled chin-high on every free surface, there is no break-out area and the workstations look grubby and uncomfortable. I’ll bet the ratio of male to female loos is uneven. It’s the sort of place where you sweat into your clothes all day with the windows closed tight and everyone is too busy to take breaks.

We do the handshaking pleasantries as the good cop finds me a seat and pops off to fetch a glass of water. I drop my portfolio on the table comfortable in the knowledge that they want

me more than I want them. So I appear fairly confident, but bad cop is wholly arrogant and seems to be on a mission to squash me.

The interrogation begins. Yes, I do drainage, highways, steelwork, and reinforced concrete detailing. Yes, I know the difference between moment and portal frames, am familiar with British Standards and suppliers’ catalogues. I can answer the phone and talk to clients without swearing. I’m okay with multitasking. And no,

I don’t have a degree – since when did it take a degree to drive AutoCAD? We’re talking consultant engineering here not nanotechnology. Technical drawing used to require the possession of a scale rule and the knowledge of how to use one or two functions on a scientific calculator.

I distract them with a load of CAD terminology such as x-refing, lisp routines and stan-CAD pull-downs. Ha, they’re out of their depth …

I know they want me more than I want them, so I’m fairly confident, but bad cop is wholly arrogant and seems to be on a mission to squash me

There are those interviews that require a “CAD test”, which means you’re left alone for half an hour and expected to have heart failure over drawing a few lines and circles. Oh really guys, I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t. It’s the kind of stuff a 12 year old could work out given half an hour.

Next, my least favourite question. This gap on your CV? What were you doing? I sheepishly admit to having been a “full time” mother. I’ve avoided admitting to being a single parent. It’s as good as being disabled, and now further proof is required to show I’m up to the job.

We get down to the issue of travel. No bones about it, I’d rather not be crawling behind five HGVs and listening to some rubbish on the radio for too many hours in the day.

Then they pose the “have you any questions?” question. I launch ahead with reasonably standard demands to anyone working in the 21st-century. Do you run AutoCAD LT or full CAD? My intuition tells me they’d be on LT – otherwise known as lightweight. Running on AutoCad LT is like driving a Citroën 2CV.

Do they allow flexible working? Sharp intake of breath. They didn’t get where they are today by allowing flexible hours. It’s too modern, too unspecific. And it’s non-negotiable. Why was I still sitting there?

Oh well, I learned my lesson. The next interview I simply establish that they are prepared to pay my scandalous hourly rate, find out when they want me to start, make my excuses and leave.

One of the underlying assumptions throughout all these interviews is that I ought to prefer a permanent position rather than remain a roving contractor. I’m asked, “Do you like being contract?” This is like asking me if I like being me. In any case, there is far more job satisfaction to be had from working for the companies that have won the bids.

What I didn’t mention was that I already had three other offers of jobs within the vicinity on similar pay rates. So, I took the job that offered flexible hours and the most interesting projects, but with the furthest to travel. I handed in my notice by the end of the fourth week after I’d established that the commute meant I couldn’t get my son to his swimming lessons on time.

I’m starting this week at a place closer by, only two stops away, non-flexible and what is more annoying, AutoCad LT. Never mind: I’ll jump ship as soon as something else better comes up.