Are your mid-twenties your make or break point?

It’s the time for finding yourself while trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

It’s the time for making mistakes but making sure they never happen again.

It’s the time when you essentially have ‘no responsibilities’ but feel like you have the weight of your decisions on your shoulders.

It’s the time for having fun but at the same time, to stop playing games.

No wonder, we’re all friggin’ confused!

Santa Monica beach

Living life carefree in LA on our trip

Your mid-twenties is a bit of quarter-life crisis for most people, I think. Most people are in their first/second job since uni but are still trying to figure out whether it’s the right thing for them while trying to scrabble up the career ladder that is missing a few rungs.

Most people are renting somewhere or living at home still, trying to decide whether renting is throwing money away for the sake of independence or whether to stick it out at the family nest to save up for a never-ending deposit while house prices are still rising.

Most people are in a relationship or heart-broken from a long-term one, where one person (in the middle of their own quarter-life crisis) has decided to call it quits because they don’t know what they want. Meanwhile, there’s always one half in a good relationship that’s trying not to fret over the future while still enjoying the freedom of how things are now, without a mortgage, wedding plans or babies.

Before anyone tells me how doom and gloom I’m being, I’m saying how it is. I love everything about my life as it is now, I feel like it’s an extension of my uni days, with a decent wage and more expensive taste in wine but with the same sense of ‘WHAT NEXT?’

There’s nothing wrong to looking to the future, there’s nothing wrong with having those days where you’re just like ‘Please can I just doze in my hoodie all day and watch my Big Bang Theory boxset’ because urghhhhh, too many thoughts and responsibilities. I guess it’s trying to figure out that life balance of having ‘THE PLAN’ and enjoying every moment of how things are now.

So, if anybody knows how to do that, leave your nuggets of wisdom in the comments…

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Taking chances

So…it’s been a while, just when I got into a routine with this blogging malarky, life has been a bit upside down for the past couple of months. In a sort of good way with a lot of stress in between but as they say, ride the storm and you’ll get a rainbow.

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Yeah I know it’s a cliche but I don’t like to be negative on my blog and some people might wonder if I’m showing a true representation of my life but to be honest, I don’t want everyone knowing EVERYTHING. You could probably accuse me of only posting positive tweets/statuses and that makes it seem like life is golden all the time but it’s not. No one’s life is.

As much as it’s interesting to see raw emotion on someone’s blog, I’m not comfortable with it because it’s there forever on your little corner of the internet. People write things in the heat of the moment and that’s good from a personal diary perspective but some may regret this later down the line.

Before I go off on a tangent, the things I basically haven’t written about in a heartfelt way on here is the stress of not knowing if I’d have a job by Christmas, having been on a maternity/temporary contracts for the past year. I’ve cried lots, I’ve drove my family, boyfriend and friends mad (and myself), my sleeping pattern is all over the place at the moment and my appetite has waned.

But I didn’t particularly want to whinge and moan ‘Woe is me’ all over social media and my blog; I’d rather treat it as a life experience and then write about it all afterwards. It’s been frustrating to put it all in a word but would I change any of it? Some parts maybe but on the whole, it’s something that I’ve had to do to get to where I am today.

I could have gave up a couple of years and just accepted that getting into journalism wasn’t going to be easy, I could just work my way up in retail or get a secretarial job (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but would I have been happy? Having had experience in both sectors, I knew that I couldn’t give up on what I wanted to do and one of the worst things that anyone can ever tell me is ‘you’ll never be able to do that.’ Yeah…well, watch me.

I’m absolutely over the moon to finally have a permanent contract at The Mirror now as an Online & Digital Assistant. Having graduated nearly three and a half years ago, I’m so glad that I didn’t give on doing what I wanted to do, when at times, it seemed like the easiest option to do.

It is worth taking a risk and a chance sometimes and if it doesn’t work out alright in the end, it’s still something you can learn from. If things hadn’t have gone as I planned, I have gained so much experience from it all and have met some awesome people along the way.

Typically I’m one of those people that always wants to run before they can walk- what’s next, kind of thing. I know where I want my career to go and I know with anything, it’s not simply a case of going from A to B. Sometimes you gotta throw in your plan C, D or even E at times. But for the time-being, I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

Babies Before Career?

So the whole babies before career debate has been sparked up again, thanks to Kirstie Allsopp’s interview with The Telegraph.

Babies Before Career? Photo courtesy of kidspot.com

Babies Before Career? Photo courtesy of kidspot.com

In light of the whole charade, I posted a Facebook status and a Tweet asking people what they thought about the debate and to my surprise, a lot of guys gave their thoughts. Some of you may think that the whole debate has nothing to do with men but it was interesting to hear that many were in support of it being an individualistic idea.

 “I just don’t think it’s that clear cut for everybody. It’s a very individualistic idea! Depends on what kind of career a person wants and how important it is for them to have children. Personally, I have never been very “career focused” and think family is important. Having kids is an amazing thing, but only if you’re ready. So again it really depends on the individual.”

 “My partner and I currently have 2 children under the age of 4 I work full time and she’s at uni studying to be a teacher. I would definitely agree that I don’t believe it’s something you can decide on a whim. There is so many factors to consider. For instance if you’ve not met the person you wish to settle down and have kids with then you have no choice but to start a career. Then make the choice when it presents itself to you. At the same time I can see how a 40 something year old women speaking with hindsight would be the best person to get advice on the matter from!”

I think many people who know me probably think that this post would be more of a ‘feminist rant,’ because admittedly I’m not very maternal…right now. Sure I’d like kids in the future (hear that, that’s the sound of my family and friends falling over with shock) but I think it is down to an individual’s circumstances.

My parents were married and had a house at the age of 21 before they had me at 24 and my brother at 27. Sure, I’d love to be like them and I think a lot of us would like to buy in to the old-fashioned romantic notion of marrying your childhood sweetheart but this is 2014 and it doesn’t happen like that anymore.

I think Kirstie is highly presumptuous that most of us will ‘find a nice chap’ to settle down with in our late teens/early twenties. As many of us know, it’s hard to get out of the whole ‘Are we or aren’t we in a relationship?’ conundrum, let alone persuade them to put a ring on it. And to be honest, a lot of women want a stable relationship before procreating with any Tom, Dick or Harry AND with more people taking the university route in this day and age, having children later in life is all too common.

Having a career before babies can mean a foot on the ladder so that you can save up for a house or have a bit more financial stability. Graduates do tend to earn more money in the long-run as well. Of course, there’s always the theory that your twenties are for “finding yourself,” or travelling and with a baby in tow, that’s not always easy. At this moment in time, my stance is I would want to feel stable in my job, in my relationship and have a place to live before having children. Again, what works for some doesn’t work for others.

In support of Kirstie’s stance though; of course you can have a career after having children. My own Mum chose to have children first and has worked her way up the ladder and is even doing an Open University course in her spare time to better her career further. The upside is that my brother and I are in our twenties working and there’s no need for her to worry about childcare etc. There are so many opportunities for parents now to work from home, work part-time or in the industry that I work in, freelance while on maternity leave to keep yourself ticking over. The downside is that many laws that surround maternity leave are in serious need of updating and I agree that companies should be more flexible in terms of helping women combine their workload with motherhood.

As one of my friends commented on Facebook: “I am certainly glad I had my children before I am 30, so I can run and play etc. But it has left me unable to do work experience because we can’t afford the childcare it would cost for me to do free work, which of course makes it very hard to find a job in the industry I would like to be in.”

Kirstie also has a point in terms of bearing the ol’ biological clock in mind. Research has shown that your fertility starts to dip from the age of 25 (how depressing) with conception being more difficult for women aged 35+. Before you start winking at your other half, again its down to an individual circumstances, you don’t know until you start trying and for all you know, you may be as ripe as a tomato until you’re in your early 40s.

Another of my friends added: “As a woman over 40 who wanted to do well in good job and had a baby late I can say career is less tiring and in some ways easier than motherhood, however much you want it. Kirstie was right on this point: Nature is not a feminist. It is a lot harder to get pregnant over 35.

” But it is nonsense for anyone to suggest there is that much choice: you can be broody at 19 but what happens if you don’t meet the right bloke/don’t feel ready for parenthood?”

Exactly.

As women we put each other and ourselves under enormous amounts of pressure to do this, do that. Instead of digging our claws into each other, show support for each other’s choices in life.

Social media also has a lot to answer to, in terms of everyone obsessing over what everyone else is doing. “Everyone’s getting married and having babies, what do I have?!” You, my friend, have a kick-arse job and are having fun finding ‘Mr Right.’

So, to end my little spiel, do whatever you damn well please, when you want and when it’s right for you.

Welcome to 2014…

Hello and Happy New Year to you all! I know it’s been a while but time ran away from me in the run up to Christmas, I mean like craaaaaaazy busy!

There was not only one but THREE Christmas parties, which was great because I felt like I got to know everyone I work with better, can’t believe I’ve been there over three months now- time flies and all that jazz.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest via Lin L

Photo courtesy of Pinterest via Lin L

I’ve also got some exciting news to tell you, which if you follow me on Twitter etc, you’ll probably know about it but I’ve taken over the Gig Panel guide in The Ticket, an entertainment supplement free with The Daily Mirror every Friday! I’m absolutely over the moon to have been given the opportunity to do this and I’m looking to work on more projects in the future. Many fingers, many pies! My second panel is out tomorrow so don’t forget to grab yourself a copy.

It’s been all systems go since the New Year, I’m on full holiday countdown and as a result, my to-do lists seem to be endless (I totally do need a new Cath Kidston passport holder, right?) and my inner Super Girl has upped the ante so that I’m one step ahead at work while I’m away…I’ll let you know how that progresses ha!

Thanks to everyone who has posted and sent me some recommendations for Thailand, so unbelievably excited! Although I’m slightly apprehensive about the 11 hour flight, never experienced a long-haul  before so again if you’ve got any advice, throw it my way. I’m just praying that I don’t get a snoring drunkard sitting next to me with a bladder the size of Wales en route.

This weekend is a busy one as it’s that time of the year again, its almost the day of my birth and I really wish that time didn’t go so quick sometimes, feels like I was 19 only about a year ago ha! Alas it’ll be the last year that I get to tick the ol’ 18-24 age box on a survey (*sob*) so I’ll happily do any questionnaires or quizzes etc for the next 365-odd days. Just don’t ask me come January next year!

Celebrating with my fellow January babies Dan & Emma and we’re off to Kanaloa in the City for a bit of Hawaii in the winter…makes sense of course! There will be photos and a little review…if I don’t let the cocktails go to my head too much.

Until then, aloha!

Advice for Journalism Grads

So I know I’m still not quite there with my ol’ Journo dream but I don’t think it matters where you are in your life with your education/career, you’re constantly learning and adapting so without further ado, here are some of my little pearls of wisdom for journalism students and graduates, old and new.

Class of 2011

Class of 2011

Intern, Intern, Intern!

Yes, most of you are probably sick to death of your lecturers and advice columns telling you to intern but as we know, experience goes a long, long way. I know that many of you at university now are having to put ridonculous amounts for your tuition fees and so the thought of slaving away for free or the minimum wage is not a welcome-with-arms-wide-open one but trust me, employers are more likely to look at intern-magnet Maggie with her 2:1 than no-experience Eva with her 1st. You may have a 1st (go you!) but all it tells employers is that you can do what is asked of you to the point of perfection for your degree but you need to think and be a little bit outside the box. No way am I saying that you should just ditch your lectures because you’ve got a full-on 9-5 two month internship with NME (tempting- I know) because at the end of the day, you still need to get those little letters after your name. It’s all about finding the right balance between work and play.

Many of you find it easier to intern and get work placements during vacation periods, which means you don’t have to race out of your Monday lecture come 5pm, because you need to get to a press event etc, however holidays mean that there is far more competition to compete with to snap up those internships. If you’re super-duper organised, do contact places in advance (especially high-end publications) and get your placements sorted before the next term has even begun. Another huge tip when applying for internships is to tailor your emails and cover letters to that company. Find out who you need to specifically contact and do your research!! Say what you think you will gain from working with XYZ as well as why you think you’re Super-Duper Intern of the Year etc. Companies despise Dear Sir/Madam/Whom it may concern and copy-paste type cover letters- sending “I would love to work for GQ magazine…” to Grazia isn’t going to impress them! Yes, I know it takes a lot more time and effort but it’s worth it for the good of your career!

Like me, if you have a part-time job while at university or post-graduation, it can also be a nightmare juggling work commitments with studying and interning but it can be done, you just have to find your inner Super Girl/Guy and burn the candle at both ends. It’s handy if a company can be flexible so that you can get the most out of your experiences without it disrupting your day to day life and you’re still a helpful asset to them. I worked for my local newspaper on/off throughout the summer and Christmas break of my second year and luckily the Senior Reporter was so on the ball that she knew exactly what days I would be in and planned things for me to do, whether it be going out and about with the other reporters or conducting telephone interviews and dealing with press releases in the office. Working from home or remotely can also be useful for getting some work experience, although it’s not as fun but I did a lot of PR work and research for the now defunct My Retail Heaven around my studies and I still got to attend fashion events.

Going down the freelance route is also mega handy albeit some might say a more risky business in the current climate, but if you’re willing to put the work in, it can certainly pay off! A benefit of freelancing can also mean payment but make sure that once you’ve got the thumbs-up from the editor for your piece to be commissioned that you formally agree to a fee. Large media organisations will more than likely have their own contracts and procedures for fees but make sure you get into the habit of typing up invoices for your work and keeping tabs on it all, especially if you are raking in the commissions. This, my fellow journos, is where Excel becomes extremely useful! Yes I know that formulas and journalists do not necessarily go well together (High-five to all of you English Lit geeks) but a basic sheet with the publication, title of the piece and the fee earned will be more than enough to make sure you’re not losing out on payments and will allow you to keep track of your monthly earnings. It’s also a nice little aid for your portfolio if you can’t organise it as you go along.

Portfolio

City Offline...hot off the press!

City Offline…hot off the press!

Again this was something that was drummed into me while at university. From the moment you start getting your work published, build up a portfolio. Not only is it sometimes a requirement of your degree to hand in a portfolio but it’s an absolute essential when applying for internships and jobs. Always turn up to an interview with your portfolio to hand even if you are not told explicitly to bring one. Showing it to your potential employer at an interview will not only show your initiative but you’ve also got proof of all your work to date.  A simple hard-back folder with plastic wallets from WH Smith or Rymans Stationary will more than suffice (unless you’re going for a more creative role perhaps) so find the time to organise your clippings and articles neatly. If a lot of your work has been published online, use screenshots to slot in as a hard copy and add links to your online CV or blog…which leads me nicely to my next tip.

Start a blog or website

Of course this was going to be one of my pearls of advice, it’d be silly not to include it! Like I’ve mentioned before, I started blogging as a sort of social hobby while I was in Sixth Form, I wasn’t really into MySpace or Piczo (remember that?!) and I wanted a more creative platform beyond the realms of the School Newspaper to let off some teenage angst. A web module was part of my course at City and from our first year, we had to create and keep up an all-singing or dancing blog. I had already created an early version of Essex & The City using another domain so it was fairly easy for me to get stuck into. The blogging scene had exploded massively by the time I graduated and I felt that it was a good platform for me to keep writing and be creative, especially because I worked full-time for a year in retail and it was hard to fit long-term placements around it.

I know a lot of the blogosphere is over-saturated with fashion, beauty and style blogs but find a niche in what you’re interested in; I follow music, fitness, swimming and baking blogs as well as fashion ones. If you’re not feeling confident about having your own site, write for others (like Yuppee Magazine) in the meantime and get as much of your work out there as possible! I also include my blog url on my CV and at every interview I’ve ever had, I’ve been asked about it. Make sure you’re blog-savvy though; be professional, know the law when it comes to copyright and defamation with content and don’t put anything on there (or social media in fact!) that you wouldn’t want your potential boss to see. Delete those drunken photos in a trolley now!

Contacts

One of my lecturers at City University always placed emphasis on having a contacts book, not only for interviews but also other journos, PRs, your uni mates etc, because you never know when they might come in handy. Aaaaand if you’re missing that all-important bit of information for an article, you’ve got contacts to hand. Everyone meets so many people along their way through their education and their career and obviously it’s extremely useful when it comes to internships, looking for work and even social events. You can always use your contacts to be introduced to others and you never know, if you scratch their back, they might even scratch yours.

Keep in Touch

Friends for life

Friends for life

Always keep in touch with your contacts too, drop them a line and ask them how they’re doing etc. Again, not only with your internship affiliates but also your uni mates too, especially in the first few months after graduating, when most of you are in the same boat, trying not to capsize through the choppy waters of the real world. With social media and business platforms like LinkedIn, there’s no excuse!

Employment

Be prepared to suck it up, especially when the post-graduation buzz has died down and reality slowly comes crashing down on you. Ouch, yes, I’m not going to sugar-coat it, I was absolutely terrified when I graduated because I started uni in 2008 when the economy crashed and although I’d thought at the time “Everything will be fiiiiiiine by the time I graduate…” Nah huh.

Jobs are scarce and the media industry is competitive which can feel like two massive obstacles but try not to let it dishearten you, even though I know it’s hard. Frustration is a feeling that I think most of us graduates post 2008 know all too well but seize opportunities, even if they’re not directly related to what you really want to do. As I’ve said a gazillion times before, we can’t all live on nothing so if you have to work more hours at your bar job, so be it. When I worked at LK Bennett, I had the opportunity of working at the Press Office for a couple of weeks and being surrounded by gorgeous clothes and accessories in general, gave me inspiration for my blog posts. Make the most of everything because you never know where it may lead…

Always be nice! 

And last but not least, be nice! Be polite, be professional, be prepared to work hard and don’t give up if things don’t go to plan. Some people are lucky and Plan A works for them while the majority of us take little diversions off our intended path but you live and you learn. If anything, the little diversions I’ve had to take post-uni have given me ounces of inspiration for blog posts (yes, rants from time to time) and they’ve made me even more determined. Different experiences colour your life and you’ll eventually discover one that outshines the others.

Good luck! x