24

24

This week saw the 25th anniversary of my birth and the 1st anniversary of moving to London and starting my dream job. Because I’m super crap and haven’t written in forever, you’re now going to get a summary post of all the things I’ve wanted to write about while being 24 and living in London, but.. well.. haven’t.

24 has been the longest year of my life. Which is entirely a blessing when life since about age 13 has gone distressingly fast. Here’s what happened…

 

I went to Qatar in the Middle East.  I’ve never been anywhere too exciting in my life (aside from a week in New York which was just the best) so venturing to Qatar was super satisfying as one of the most random places on earth I could possible go.  I went to visit my friend Katy who edits an English magazine out there called FACT.  I spent a week just exploring and eating and breathing the super sweet air of this Aladdin country. It was fascinating to see it from Katy’s expat point of view rather than just as a tourist because it made me realise I really could live anywhere and feel comfortable anywhere if I wanted.  Which is a relief for the future!

 

I got back involved with Girlguiding.  From aged 7, I was a Brownie, and then a Young Leader helping at said Brownies unit until I went to uni.  I think after that I was literally brainwashed of the whole thing because it was only around October 2012 amid a desperate search to find something London based to replace the work I was doing with Girls Out Loud, did I see some press coverage of Girlguiding, and have the brainwave of ‘Oh yeah, I used to utterly love doing that?!’ No clue how I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

So now I’m helping at a guide unit (ages 10-13 so more of a challenge then Brownies, but a good challenge), helping now and then at Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Guide & Scout unit, I’m the Marketing & Communications Adviser for London North West County and have been trained as a 4 peer educator (to give sessions on the standard bullying / health etc but also skills like self-confidence, communcation). It feels good to be doing it in London for a while, because I feel closer to where the bigger policies and plans are happening, and that seems a good place to be right now as the organisation is changing a lot and trying to freshen up its image away from all the tradition.  I do miss nature walks though and just generally being able to take the girls outside…

Ooo and also I’m taking my Queen’s Guide Award! I have to complete it before I’m 26 (argh!) but most of it was stuff I was doing already.  It’s the highest award you can get in Guiding and includes things like service to guiding, improving a skill, research into an issue affecting the community, and taking your Guiding holiday license to be able to take the girls on holidays and camps.

 

The job is great.  I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.  I’ve realised that one of the reasons it’s hard for our generation to share stories on the workplace that could mutually help us all, is because we’re so used to sharing online as much as face to face.. and I just can’t publish most of what I would want to say about my work.. not because its bad, but just because it’s sensitive and wouldn’t be appropriate. Which pisses me off. So do ask me about it in person. But I’ve learnt a lot about the media industry, about negotiating or at least being clear about what you want, about work being a two way street where both employer and employee have to give and take, and that you have to be smart and play to your circumstances. Anyone who thinks they will be handed things on a plate once and because they ‘deserve ‘ it, is unfortunately not someone likely to get far, and not someone I would chose to employ anyway. (Generalising, obvs, but it’s an important thing to at least be aware of).

 

Keeping up the singing. I was really lucky to have found a singing teacher in London before I even moved (through people at Preston Opera). We really started having regular lessons in the past few months and focusing on my Grade 8. God I love it.  My teacher has suggested I learn quite a few options for the Grade, and then do a little recital of them all (which naturally terrifies me, but a good challenge!).  I’ve also been involved with an office choir we have at work where we rehearse every Wednesday evening. It’s been a great way to keep singing and we have a really great teacher while the music is a bit more poppy and laid back which is fun. Oh and also I’m going on a music camp at the end of June?! No idea what to expect but apparently we just spend a whole weekend learning a big piece of opera.. why not?!

 

Women of the World Festival.  I went to my first of these festivals just for a day in 2012, but this year I went the whole hog of 3 days and it was just a dream from beginning to end.  I couldn’t have spent a happier weekend.. just learning and having my mind blown by amazing women, and just feeling all this potential in the world.  And I took my live tweeting skills to a whole new level 😉 They videoed a lot more of it this year so you can still see lots even if you weren’t there. A woman at the end of the weekend made a comment like ‘I feel we come to WOW each year, say we’re going to keep it going and change things and then nothing ever happens’.. and I so disagree, because if any of the people in that room leave feeling the way I do, they’re going to spend the next year making changes in their own little patches and collectively things will get better.

 

I graduated from my MA! Crikey this feels ages ago now. But I managed the craziness of doing a masters project for 3 months while working. I was so proud of the final result. My magazine is a work in progress but it is everything I wanted it to be. And however stressful it was for that year, it was very much worth it.. I learnt so much and I know it’s propelled me more in my career.

 

I’m slowly getting back into running.  I still haven’t quite found my rhythm. I desperately want to run lots but can’t quite work out if I prefer it alone or with someone, morning or evening, whether I need extra exercise to compliment it.  But I’m just going to keep trying until something clicks 😉

 

Counting down to London.  I spent a long, long time waiting to get to London. I think I had a 24 month countdown at one point.  To be fair, things got better at home and I forgot about that countdown for a while, but for whatever reason, I have always wanted to be here.  Be it childhood visits, or too many movies, I never wanted to miss out on this cosmopolitan glittery magic.  And it is wonderful .  I’m so lucky to live so central. I cannot believe that now for the rest of my life I will always get to say I lived in Fitzrovia for a year (or more!). I prefer it to Paris, but I think that’s more the luck of a great job and just being more used to a culture I love.  I’m not going to live here forever. Who knows if I will even work here forever. I miss the countryside desperately and all the time, but right now my pulls country / city are still 50/50.  We’ll see. But I know how much I wanted this, and I’m so so grateful I got it.

 

Who knows what 25 will bring. I’m moving in with a boy so that’s a biggie. My career could go anywhere and good God I miss writing. I’m also just desperate to keep learning and discovering. But more generally, I feel like the last few years have been the super hard work, then 24 was the setting up, and now at 25, I’d really like time to just, well ENJOY it all for a bit. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting back and just taking it all in.. but I know how content it makes me, so I’m really going to try :)

‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’

 

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Role Models

There seems to be a lot of talk at the moment about how to ensure a moral upbringing for the current generation of children, and a growing number of commentators are starting to notice how parents seem to be left out of this discussion.

Among all the discussion over internet censorship, Charles Arthur was one of the first to pen an utterly compelling argument as to why giving ISPs the power to switch off ‘adult’ content would be both pointless and would be placing the responsibility on the wrong person, essentially making the point that it is parents who should be responsible for what their children see online.

Granted, it is not always that simple but it is surprising that so many initiatives for children seem to assume parents have no and can have no responsibility. Maybe it’s chicken and egg.  Did parents get lazy so the government had to step in, or did the government step in which led parents to get lazy. (I shall not expand that to its wider political implications!).

A recent study from Girl Guiding UK called Girls Attitudes Explored… Role Models found that 55 per cent of girls felt there aren’t enough female role models.  What I found sad however was that they said this despite also saying that mums were their top role model. I just wonder at what point we stopped finding our mothers (and aunties, and sisters etc) adequate role models.

Some girls just don’t have those people in the first place. Rachel Ward Lilley who runs Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise for raising the aspirations of teenage girls, says “All girls need role models. Some of us are lucky enough to get these informally with support from family and friends but many don’t.”

But even for those who do, sometimes it is just a case of wanting to know what else is out there, says Rachel.

“We often find when we are with the girls that they have very little knowledge about careers and certainly not in detail – sterotypes are frequently the norm – for example lawyers are all like the ones on TV, predominantly male, old and wear gowns.  When we had some young cool and trendy lawyers involved in a Discovery Day programme in Leeds last year the girls initially found it difficult to believe they were what they said, but once they did they all decided they wanted to be like them – we had a room full of would be lawyers.”

There are certain types of role models such as actors, journalists and writers who are more naturally in the spotlight for girls to look up to.  But there seems to be a desperate need to expose these girls to a far wider range of life and career choices that aren’t so obviously visible.  As Rachel points out “I believe in the saying that ‘it is difficult to be what you can’t see’.”

 

Thumbnail image: Nandadevieast on Flickr

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Relight the flame in business relationships

Life Hacks have published a great article entitled Let’s End Networking, Please, bemoaning the now cringe-worthy excess of networking events.

It’s a great antidote to the growing number of networking events in every industry even down to university, and argues that these events are now too cold and “explicitly manipulative”, where people only connect to get something they want, rather than building relationships.

Allen Gannet who writes the article says we cut ourselves short by only taking what we need from networking and that  ‘we create a false barrier that prevents connecting with them personally’.

While he doesn’t draw the link explicitly I’d say Twitter and other open social media may be both the cause and potential antidote to this situation.

On the one hand it has never been easier to ‘make a connection’.  With LinkedIn you could give someone only a one line reason to connect and bingo you’re in. Talk about not building a relationship.

On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about separating your personal and professional life on Twitter.  I’ve always felt uneasy about this, and maybe this article explains why.  If we maintain one universal persona on social networks we might achieve what Gannet is calling for, by communicated and networking with people with your own genuine voice.

Interestingly,when I try and explain social networking to anyone who wants to use it professionally, I always encourage them to maintain one account but to think of it like networking, in the sense that of course you’re going to be professional, and of course much of what you talk about will be related to your given industry. But also that, in the sense of the type of networking Gannet is calling for, you will also be friends with that person, you will ask how their family is, you’ll joke about the state of TV at the moment, you’ll admire their dress.  In really good, and let’s admit it, really effective networking all this happens. So why not on Twitter?

And to bring it full circle, many people DO already recognise this and do this on Twitter, so maybe its time we brought it back to face to face networking too.

This reminded me of one of the 10 commandments in the classic business book What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School which says “You can never have too many friends in business.”  Maybe it’s time to bring back that warmth.

And ultimately, as Gannet says, “If someone is not good enough to be friends with, then why do business with them?”

 

Thumbnail image: Greentechmedia on Flickr

did-you-know

Top 10 tips for kick starting your job search.

Looking for a job is hard no matter if you’re a graduate, unemployed, been made redundant, wanting a career-change or simply unhappy in your current job.  There are many free career search resources out there but it’s difficult to know where to start with them.  Here are 10 tips & resources to help show you how to find a job.  Please let me know of any more you have used and rate.

 

1. Understand the world around you, and particularly what that means for jobs.  It’s cheesy, but the Shift Happens (below) video is still an inspiring video to watch (note the best version is still from 2008 so some of the figures are dated).  Key fact to take away: The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.  Lesson to take away: you don’t have to follow other people, you can create your own job.

2. If you hear of a job, from a friend, in a film, whatever… research it! Find out as much as possible to see if it might suit you.  A good place to start is Prospects.  It features great job and industry profiles such as the Creative Arts industry or an Advertising Art Director (as well as lots of other aids such as CV help etc).  It is aimed at graduates but really is applicable to anyone.

3.  Use your career service.  If you’re in school or university you will probably have a dedicated room and/or tutor who is trained to help you with your career, be that simply choosing a career to start with, or how to get into the career you know you want.  University career services in particular have an unbelievable extent of information, training sessions, contacts and trained advisers.  And yet they’re shockingly underused.  Here’s my uni’s version, Futures, as an example.

4.  Read magazines and industry publications to keep up to date with advice and trends.  A growing number of magazines, particularly women’s (sorry men, you seem to have been left behind on the career focused magazine front!), are recognising our desire for our careers to be an enjoyable part of our lives.  Titles such as Red, Psychologies and Essentials often feature interviews with successful business women, tips on work and career, and up to date reports on the state of the work place (i.e. equal salaries). [Note: I’ve linked to the websites but often you’ll have to go to print versions for these features.]  Also, check out magazines like Recruiter for more in depth info on job markets, as well as trade magazines specific to your area of interest such as Marketing Week for marketers, to keep on top of the latest trends.

5. Talk to people you’d like to work for/with.  It’s so easy these days to email someone, or give them a quick call and say hey could I pick your brains for 5 minutes or buy you a drink.  Be polite and people will usually oblige.

6. Wanna know what’s even more easy? Twitter.  Twitter is now a great tool to see into the lives of people you never knew about before.  In the past it was all about celebrities and that was it, now services like twitter mean you can hear and talk to the CEO of a food corporation, the editor of a magazine, a graphic designer, etc… you can get a gimpse into their lives and see if it’s for you.  And you’ll learn more about the industries you’re thinking about it.  Amazing tool, use it.

7.  Live your career – if you want to do what you love but aren’t sure what that is, take advantage of programmes that allow you to explore your passions while being funded, such as The Rotary Foundation’s Ambassadorial Scholarships which allow you to study in a foreign country for a year, fully funded.  These awards invest in you because they understand that by giving you chance to explore yourself, you will ultimately help others to  make the world a better place.

8.  Be patient.  So you haven’t found your dream job?  Find something to pay the bills, relax a little and keep looking.  Spend your free time doing what you love and trying to find ways or jobs to make that a career.  You’ll be earning money, developing skills, and even potentially finding opportunities in your less than perfect job, to do what you actually want to do (think working out of hours on a project that wouldn’t be possible to create without the resources of your current job).

9.  Use internet job searches, and then some.  The internet has some substantial job listing sites.  The most well known include Monster, Total Jobs, Fish4Jobs, Reed and Guardian Jobs. Even more effective is to search on websites specific to your career area.  For example, theatres will often only list arts jobs on specific arts websites like the Art’s Council’s Arts Jobs.  But don’t stop with these websites; use them as inspiration.  Use them to see what jobs are out there… what kind of salaries? are you missing any key skills that the jobs you want seem to require? is there a job similar to what you want but not quite? can you ask someone in the industry whether the job you want exists? can you create it?

10.  Our government has a hideously under-marketed dedicated careers service called Next Step.  Their website has some useful starting points, but more importantly they have a careers advice line which you can call on 0800 100 900 (free from landlines, open 7 days a week 8am – 10pm).  Don’t expect these guys to divine your career for you, but they know their stuff and can help guide you in the right direction to get further tailored advice.

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I left my job today…

I hadn’t planned to write anything about this (yet) but while I’m in the emotion of the moment, here are a few things my first real job taught me…

  1. People are the most important thing in just, well, anything… be it work or play, everything revolves around people and I think that maybe the most important thing you can ever do is surround yourself with people who make you feel alive whatever you need to feel.
  2. Do what you love. Not in some distant future; NOW… when I was looking for part time jobs as an 18 year old fresher, I obstinately had no time for just any old job.  I wanted to do something I was at least mildly interested in, found it, pestered and pestered and eventually got a job tearing tickets in a theatre.  4 years including 15 months of a full time job later, I’ve had the time of my life :)
  3. Be curious, be persistent, be confident, be excited… not because it will get you far in life (though it probably will) but because it makes every experience you have so, so much brighter.
  4. People, no matter what they want out of life, are incredible…  I tend to get so ahead of myself;  in this job I have moments where I’ve had the chance to slow down and really understand people.  And the most beautiful thing I’ve found is how people can want incredibly different things from their lives and yet deep down it’s all just the same desire to be… content I guess? Something like that :) To be whatever they want to be.
  5. People are rarely, deep down, driven by money.  Things money represents perhaps, but rarely money.  Most people are better than that (!!) even if it is only deep down.
  6. A head on your shoulders is A MILLION times more valuable than a grade, a degree, anything measured by a fixed system created by a fixed group of people.  If those things help give you that head, great; if not, you are screwed. (Generally).
  7. There is some serious crap out there in the art world, but there are also some of  the most magical, inspiring, awakening little moments, lines, stagings… moments that take your breath away and can change you forever.  This is why ‘the arts’ and ‘culture’ matter.  Because amongst all the crap, are the little inspirations that make you see the world in that beautiful light that makes this life worth living.
  8. Finally… I learnt that being lost and confused and embarrassed and sad and frustrated and exasperated is all completely and totally and utterly worth it as long as you play on through all that… because eventually you start finding your feet and making things happen and finding your way.
I do believe that the harder you work the luckier you get.  I also want to acknowledge that the above is all just in my limited experience; none of it do I believe to be fact.  That said I hope as many people as possible can find their way like I did (and am still doing), and I know that it isn’t always easy, which is why I will spend the rest of my life helping as many people as possible to find their own way.
M xx
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So London?

Spending two months in London had a similar effect to Paris in that meeting lots of new people and experiencing lots of new places does no end of good to opening ones mind and making you grow up and understand things better.
It is also horribly confusing! My friend Kate wrote a great article on the quarter life crisis and that’s where I’m getting to now I think :s I’ve always been possibly too proactive in getting work experience and internships, and whilst yes they will look good on my CV, I also really wanted my experiences to lead me closer to knowing what I want to do with my life. And honestly I feel like I’m getting nowhere. I’m an optimistic person; I unashamedly get over excited about a lot of things, and I NEED to feel that way about my career since it’s going to be such a big part of my life. Maybe that’s asking a lot but I will get it. The areas I’m interested in get me so excited, it’s just finding the exact starting position that I feel comfortable in. I guess at least these internships have done some of the ground work.

When I was applying for universities, someone quoted to me the idea that if something does happen it isn’t because you weren’t right for it but because it wasn’t right for you. While I appreciate that that isn’t always 100% true, it’s becoming even more apparent in choosing a career. I realise now that whilst I won’t be cut out for every job, if you work hard enough you can get to almost wherever you want to be. The problem comes when you see that it’s not just about them wanting you for the job but about you wanting the job. Am I late to the game here? Maybe, but it is an eye opener. So what if I ace an interview, if the job isn’t something that interests me. I need that passion and interest in my job, and I’m going to focus on that from now on when I’m thinking about my career! Too many choices :) I know I’m lucky in that so I’m not complaining. It’s still complicated though.