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.

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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

Who has a Plan A anyway?

Sorry it’s been a while, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks with a city break in Barcelona at the beginning of the month (blog post soon!) and a couple of nail-biting, nerve-wracking days in between. It’s all been worth it though and I can now reveal my exciting news to you all…

As of next week, I’m starting my new role as an Editorial and Publishing Assistant at the Trinity Mirror Group!!!

I am absolutely over the moon, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me and I can’t wait to get involved and gain some amazing experiences. The road since graduating has taken a slight detour along the way but like I’ve said before, nothing in life is ever straight-forward, especially career paths. It’s about making the most of the experiences you do come across and learning as much you can from them. Skills translate across the board and although you may think that you’re gaining nothing from your part-time job while at university, you’re learning life skills such as punctuality, customer service, communication and working as a team, which will stay with you forever.

Plan A

Admittedly, I have become frustrated on more than one occasion (as my poor friends and family know) and at times, it feels like I’ve been running into brick wall after brick wall. The key is to not give up! I’m my own worst enemy at times because I’m always so determined to reach my goals, no matter how many times I have to dust myself down and pick myself up again.

Like with anything new, I’m getting my head around that dreaded word, CHANGE but as I’m much as I’m a wee bit nervous, I’m massively excited about my new surroundings (Helloooo London town, my old friend) meeting new people and running around like a crazy girl, burning the candle at both ends. I’m hugely grateful to the opportunity I have been given for the past year and I’ve worked with some awesome people who I hope to keep in touch with for a long time. As another chapter ends, I can’t wait to see what the next one holds…

Another Graduation, Another Mile-stone

So being unusually sensible, I had an early night last night and then I was up and at ’em this morning for my Body Pump class at the gym. It was tough going but then again, no pain, no gain as the saying goes. I don’t think my arms are going to thank me for it tomorrow though ha! I figured that I need to step up my game a little bit so I’m incorporating gym classes into my fitness routine alongside swimming, slowly turning into one of those exercise fanatics but I guess that’s a good thing!

Anyways I digress…this week has been slightly exhausting work-wise so that’s why it was nice to have an early night yesterday even more so! Following on from the triathlon last Sunday, I was also grateful to have Monday off in aid of my brother Scott’s graduation ceremony. He had his at the Barbican Centre in London, where I had mine two years ago so it was slightly nostalgic. Although the weather was sunny, it was also annoyingly windy so my little floral tea dress wasn’t the best thing to wear!

The wind-swept look...

The wind-swept look…

Graduation ceremonies are inevitably always long but it was a lovely day, spending time with the family and celebrating another mile stone in my bro’s life, after his 21st earlier on this month. In a way, as corny as this sounds, it feels like we’ve all reached another mile stone. Both the bro and I have now completed our respective years in education and it feels scarily even more grown up. My parents have seen us both through our education and helped and supported us along the way and within the next few years, we’ll (hopefully) be flying the nest.

A very proud day...

A very proud day…

I think graduation always presents a mixture of feelings; relief and achievement in one way and fear and “what the hell am I gonna do now?!” in another. It’s been two years since my own and part of me thinks “Wow, I remember writing a blog post about finishing uni!” and on the other hand, it fills me with panic. Things are still tough out there and I’m still not close to my aims in life but then again it wouldn’t be a  goal if it was easy, would it? It’s easy to become despondent but as the Dean of my brother’s university London Met said: “You may have to take up jobs and placements that aren’t what you really want to do but take them, learn from them and you never know where you might end up.” A piece of advice that should resonate with Graduates old and new.

Sure, you always get people say after you tell them what you do for a living, “But didn’t you do journalism at uni?” or suggest that you look on the BBC’s website. Pur-leaaaaaase, without sounding ungrateful but unless you’ve done so many job applications that you’ve actually lost count, you’ll know that it’s not simply a case of writing to the BBC. Job applications are not fun, they’re not meant to be and it is mentally hard to make yourself look all singing and dancing in your 22,158th cover letter while trying to remain optimistic with each one you do.

The same thoughts battle it out in my mind on a weekly basis; “I’m a graduate, I’ve worked hard throughout my education and therefore I deserve to get the role I want,” but then I remind myself, “I’m lucky and I’m grateful to have a job in a time where so many young people are unemployed and therefore I will try to make the most of the job I’ve got,” I’m sure so many people in the same boat experience the same thing but I always strongly feel the latter, afterall A job is better than NO job at all.

If anyone has watched the BBC’s We All Pay Your Benefits with Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford, the attitude of media graduate Liam, is not the right one to have. He turned down any job that was didn’t match his dreams and refused to take up even a part-time role within retail. I worked in retail for six years during sixth form and university and took up a supervisor’s role for a year after graduation. Sure the hours weren’t great and the wages are never enough to compensate for standing for long hours and putting up with rude customers from time to time but it has meant that I have had a continuous period of employment for the past seven years now. That says more to an employer than, “Well I’ve sat around waiting for the right opportunity to come along.” Opportunities don’t always fall into your lap and through alternative ones, you may find something that you didn’t realise you’d enjoy so much. Sometimes, we focus so much on chasing our dream career that we don’t realise that sometimes, a career can find you.

Sorry if this has turned into a bit of a rant but I think for me, it’s always this time of the year where I re-evaluate my life more than I do any other time. If any of you feel the same way, remember never to give up!

As I always tell my brother, as long as you try hard, that’s what matters the most. Give 110% in everything you do and people will notice and they may not say outright but hard work pays off. Graduation is the end to a beginning of a new chapter but things become a little bit more like one of those text based adventure books from here on out…

So…which way to go?

Scott_Graduation

The Graduate and the Catch 22

Many of you are now in the exact same position, I was in almost a year ago. You’re swapping sleep for Redbull to finish that dreaded dissertation and cramming for your final exams. You can’t wait to get out into the big wide world and find your dream job…

I’m not planning on turning this post into a pessimistic “the future’s bleak and we’re all doomed,” charade but I’m not going to sugar-coat life after uni either. I think most savvy undergraduates know that that the job market is full of tumble-weeds and many graduates are either employed or are in jobs that are completely unrelated to their degree. In fact, a recent article by The Guardian revealed that “a third of recent graduates are in unskilled jobs,” however we are still better off than those without a degree apparently, so not all is lost.

BBC Three aired a programme back in October 2011, “Up for Hire,” where they aimed to tackle youth unemployment and gave youngsters a platform, where they could put themselves out there to nab their ideal job. My Catch 22 thoughts came from watching said programme; while we are graduates, not all of us think that the world owes us something  just because we have a degree but at the same time, we shouldn’t have to put up with low-paid jobs in industries unrelated to our studies. Many of us are in those jobs and while we are grateful to be employed in today’s day and age and earning money, for many of us, those jobs are a stop-gap until we find exactly what we are looking for.

Which brings me to my next Catch 22…

Do potential employers look at our CVs and then think we do not have the passion or drive to succeed in our desired jobs because we spent the first year after graduation working in a bar?

I’d like to think that employers are understanding of the current job market and while internships are valuable to have on your CV, not all of us can afford to live on the minimum wage when we have bills to pay. On the other hand, there’s contemplating that risk of sacrificing six months of your life to undertake that internship with the strong hope that there will be a permanent position at the end of it. And then it would all be worth it, in the long run.

While I have done several internships, like most people, I cannot afford to work for free but I think the best thing that anyone in the same boat can do is to make sure you still have your fingers dipped in the industry you want to break into. From my point of view, I’m talking about the media industry and therefore freelancing, blogging, writing articles for magazines etc around my job so that I can still show that I’m interested in having a journalistic career.

Here’s a few tips for fellow graduates to follow:

1. If you can’t afford to take up internships, make the most of freelance work or negotiating a placement around the hours that you work. Some employers only want you to work a couple of days each week and that way you’re not out of pocket either.

2. Keep your knowledge of the industry or your specialism subject up to date. It can be easy to forget even the most simple of things while you’re busy answering phones at your day job, brush up on your skills constantly and read the news for developments in your field or changes in the law etc. The media industry is constantly changing and moving forward with social networking so remember the legal rules when it comes to your own blog and articles.

3. Get to as many networking events and recruitment fairs as possible! Contacts are absolutely vital for any graduate and also remember to keep in touch with fellow uni colleagues and tutors. Knowing that certain someone in a certain place can be your express ticket to your career. And remember, be polite and professional to everyone you meet! Manners always go a long way.

4. Like with any job that you’re applying for, monitor your social networking activity. Although Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and your blogs are a great way of communicating, make sure you’re not sending out the wrong message to people. A profile photo of you drunk in a trolley, eyes rolled back, clutching a bottle of Vodka might make you think that everyone sees you as a fun-loving party animal but a potential employer won’t look upon it too kindly. Sort your privacy settings out and really step back from your social networking profile and think of how you’re really portraying yourself to other people.

5. And finally KEEP THE FAITH! See, I told you this post wasn’t going to be pessimistic! Your big break will crop up when you least expect it and not everyone has opportunities fall into their lap straight away. When you’re sitting at your desk in the City, plugging away at the next worldwide exclusive, you’ll look back with fond memories (yes, really) of the days when you used to trawl through job sites and rewrite cover letters over and over again. The road to success is a testing one and at the end of the day, hard work and persistence does pay off.

The Road to Success is always under construction

There are breakdowns and potholes along the Catch 22 highway but then it wouldn’t be life without them.