THE JOB CENTRE – LAURA WILLIAMS

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Age: 29

Occupation: Writer/Digital Nomad

Which means: That she writes. For a living. And travels. A lot. 

Did you go to university? I went at 22 as an independent mature student, after taking four gap years to travel the world, work, and do a part-time business degree that I quit after the first year because LOL, that is SO not me! I entered the University of Derby as a Creative Writing student, later switching to Creative Writing and Media Writing so I could diversify my skill set. That’s the advantage of going to university a little bit older – you know how to get the most out of it, and aren’t afraid to ask for it!

What was your first job after graduating? I spent the year after I graduated running a children’s language school in Rome, a job that allowed me to spend my mornings working on my web presence and writing a book. That gave way to moving to London where my self-compiled digital knowledge – that I understood the online world, how digital marketing worked, social media, and that I could demonstrate the ability to create high-level content that people actually wanted to read – got me an internship in SEO, that within the month had become a full-time job. I quickly side-stepped in PR, and then left to go freelance.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Yes – but then I forgot. Got talked out of it. They don’t encourage you to pursue many “creative” jobs at school, do they? Even at university, on my course, they discouraged us from thinking we’d make a full-time living from writing. We were expected to use creative writing as a string to our bow – one of many things we’d do as part of a “portfolio career”. Coming back to writing full time feels like coming home.

Do you have an agent? Yes, I signed to Ella Kahn of Diamond Kahn and Woods Literary Agency in April 2015, after a publishing house approached me and said they were interested in my work.

How important is it to have one? Ella has been a guiding light for me, navigating the complicated pitching and submission process in a way I can only marvel at. She does her job – liaising with editors – and I do mine: writing something worthy of their attention. Signing with her has been a huge step in my writing career, both for the tangible results she’s yielding, but also for the support. Writing is such a lonely pursuit that it’s nice to have a teammate, now.

How did you land one? I got her by writing a blog post about needing representation, that got shared on Twitter and she saw it. I talked to a bunch of agents, but Ella co-founded her own agency at 25, so I knew if she trusted herself enough to do that, I trusted her too.

How do you come up with book ideas? Everything I do is personal memoir, so it’s direct experience that informs what I write about – from my digital journalism stuff, to the blog, to the ebook I just launched about being braver in our everyday lives. My full-length manuscript is something I am currently trying to get traditionally published, but that is about my life, too.

How long does it take to write a book? My eBooks take about three weeks to compile, and my full-length book years and years. Writing 90,000 words for that one has been the journey of a lifetime, but now I know how to do it I hope the next one will be quicker!

How many times have publishing houses rejected you? My agent doesn’t tell me that! She only tells me the good news, and it’s a process we’re still going through.

What does a typical day at the office look like for you? Well, every six weeks or so I live somewhere new: this year alone I’ve worked from Bali, Malaysia, Bangkok, India, Derbyshire, London, Rome and I’m answering these questions from Istanbul! So my routine changes constantly but mostly I try to be up and out at a local café by 9 or 10 in the morning, where I do my most creative work (book writing) first. I’ll eat lunch, wander around whichever city I’m in, maybe take a yoga class and meet friends for dinner or carry on working. I do about 8 to ten hours work a day, four or five days a week, broken up into a way that serves my life – rather than altering my life to fit my work.

Let’s talk blogging. Why did you start your blog and how much of a part did it have to play in getting you to where you are now? My blog has been everything in getting me to where I am now. It’s been going since 2008, and in the first instance has been a place to simply practice writing. I found my voice through keeping to regular updates, and once I had my voice I started getting to grips with different ways to promote my work: newsletters, social media, different styles of posts. I’ve grown a small but committed readership and that is why my agent signed me: I demonstrated that people, my readers, were already invested in me. Like I said, I got my first job in London because of my blog, too.

What are your achievable goals? To get my first book published, write a second one, and keep living all over the world as I do it. I think I’ll always blog – it’s such an intimate medium, and I find real joy in connecting to my community that way. I’ve considered running ads on site too, so maybe it will grow to accommodate that – but only if it “fits”. I’ll never do sponsored posts, I don’t think. I just want to keep telling stories. I don’t want to *become* the advert.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d be a hairdresser, I think. But honestly: I cannot conceive of a world where I don’t write.

You talk about your “tribe”. How do you recommend someone find theirs? Do you actively scout it out or leave it to fate? The only way I have ever found “my people” is through doing me. Whenever I’ve tried to manufacture aspects of my personality to attract the attention of people I thought I wanted to be friends with, it’s never worked. Folks recognise inauthentic personalities a mile off. I find that whenever I stop seeking approval from others and commit to writing good stories and living my best life, I fall in line with others vibing at the same level. The universe knows what she’s doing that way.

That said, I always reach out to people – online and IRL – to tell them when I like what they do. That’s’ been the beginning of many a friendship! Everyone likes to hear when they’ve positively affected you (but no brown-nosing!)

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

Create a portfolio of work. No matter what you do: nursing, teaching, writing, topless dancing – you need a go-to place online where – at a glance – a potential employer can see your experience, your passion, and how you’re contributing to the industry you want to be part of. Be a thought leader, investigate why your field works as it does and show that you’re willing to work to make it better. Even Tweeting about your industry is a good start, or keeping short blogs. Be proactive, and be prepared for a career path that is a wiggle of stops and starts – nobody gets their dream job at 22.

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I really love what Laura does. She’s real. And I like that.

THE JOB CENTRE – LEANNE BRADLEY

10687141_10152695285784231_1011364200546227153_nAge: 27

Job Title: Beach Bum. Currently in Sri Lanka on ‘gardening leave’ from my old job, but when I touch down at Heathrow, my new job title will be: Chartered Surveyor & Associate Director in the Central London Restaurant Leasing team at CBRE.

Which means: I find restauranteurs to fill vacant spaces within Central London on behalf of private land owners or institutional landlords- basically, I’m a glorified broker!

Did you go to uni? I gained a BSc in Property Development at Sheffield Hallam in 2010.

Do you have to have a degree to do your job or is work experience more important? Yes, in order to be a Chartered Surveyor you have to have an accredited degree! Work experience is very important, but unfortunately surveying is one of those professions that you have to decide on before applying to university. However, there are 1 year masters courses that students can undertake whilst in practice and lots of the big surveying firms usually sponsor grads to do this.

Were the exams difficult to pass? Any tips for revising? My uni exams were easy but the real challenge was trying to pass my APC to become chartered. When I sat it the first time, I was the only person doing it within the firm, so studying, staying motivated and having a full time job was really hard and I ended up failing! However, the second time round I had lots of help from BGP (my last company) and managed to pass! So if at first you don’t succeed, etc…

What was your first job after graduating? Entering into the profession in the middle of the recession meant that jobs were hard to come by, so I opted to work in Property Management (the less sexier side of surveying), which meant that I was responsible for managing multi-use buildings in and around London. The duties that were required of me ranged from setting service charge budgets to making sure there was enough toilet roll in the communal toilets!

So how did you end up at CBRE? As soon as I started property management, I knew it wasn’t for me, so when an opportunity came up to move into the ‘sexier’ side, I took it! I went to work directly for a private landlord doing asset management/leasing. This was great as I got exposure to all sectors of the commercial market- from offices and warehouses to retail and restaurants. From there, I knew I had a passion for retail/restaurants and being the personable person that I am, I thought I’d make a great agent. I guess the rest is history.

What does a typical day at the office look like for you? At BGP, I would often get to the office for 8am and respond to emails and voicemails from the previous day. I reported to clients on a daily basis, updating them on the process of leasing. A lot of time was also spent with colleagues, discussing and planning leasing strategies for the developments I was working on. This involved collating schedules or drafting professional reports and presentations. As a restaurant leasing surveyor, it’s important that I know about all of the up and coming restaurants, so my lunch times are regularly spent trying them out with either clients or agents. Lots of my time is also spent showing prospective restaurateurs and retailers around properties and developments or advising my client’s architects on retail specification requirements during the design stage of a project.

What do you suggest wearing to an interview? Surveying is typically quite smart, so I would always recommend wearing a suit or smart dress and heels to an interview!

What’s the culture like? A huge part of my job is being social. I am out 2 to 3 nights a week, with clients or other agents, and the success of my job is heavily reliant on my ability to communicate with others.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on? I worked on the redevelopment of Victoria, London – the Nova development – whilst I was at BGP. This is a mixed-use development of just under 1 million sq. ft, including residential properties, offices, retail spaces and restaurant units. I was part of the leasing team who are responsible for leasing 18 exciting new restaurants; examples of some of the names we have secured are The Riding House Café, Jason Atherton, Barbecoa, Bone Daddies and Franco Manca.

Do men dominate your industry? Surveying is – sadly – a very male-dominated industry. There are times when I notice my voice may not be heard, but the younger generation of surveyors are very accepting, which aids in my progression.

Where do you see yourself in two to three years time? I love my job and love being independent. I will always want to be looked up to and strive to maintain a good reputation in the industry. I have no set goals other than that I want to be happy, possibly work abroad and earn shit loads of money…

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d love to be a furniture designer… I’d like to think I’m quite creative.

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

Be confident and read your emails 5 times before sending them… you can never get them back!

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A powerful woman and good friend of mine. Any questions? You can ask them here.

THE JOB CENTRE – LOTTE RICE

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Age: 26

Occupation: Actor

Did you always know you wanted to perform? Not really. The seed was planted in my early teens and the dream grew over the years with each new experience. It really picked up in sixth form when I was acting a lot more.

Did you go to drama school? Yep, RADA, shortly after finishing my A Levels.

What was the application process like? I had initially, quite apathetically, applied to university during ‘UCAS Mania’ in our A level year. It seemed like the right thing to do. It’s what everyone else was doing. Problem was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study. I was interested in many things and my A levels were varied, but the only thing that I knew I wanted to do was act. So, when I randomly met Alan Rickman (long story), he said that if what I wanted to do was act, then I had better get on with it. I then spilt a glass of champagne on his really nice velvet jacket – oops – but went on to apply to loads of drama schools, got shit loads of rejections, kept going and luckily got into RADA. I know lots of people who spent years applying, and honestly – the amount of rejections you get has ABSOLUTELY NO CORRELATION to talent or ultimate success – they are absolutely ballin’ now.

What was your first job out of drama school? ‘The Way Of The World’ by Congreve at Chichester Festival Theatre. I was working with a huge cast, filled with seasoned actors, who had spent large swathes of their careers with the RSC and The National, or on television- a lot of them took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.

How important is it to get an agent? Depends. You can have an agent who does absolutely nothing for you and sometimes it is better to be without so that you be your own full time boss, generate some hype around yourself, and find success alone. Eventually though, if you want to work with the big dogs, you’ll need one. But you can work for yourself in the meantime.

What’s the best way of going about landing one? I personally believe you are wasting your time cold-calling agents. You are one of maaaany people trying to find one, or find a new one. It’s better to spend your time and energy contacting casting directors and directors, getting yourself a job, and then having something to exhibit yourself with. It’s always better to put yourself in a position where they can come to see you in something.

How do you go about finding auditions if you don’t have an agent? There is a website called Casting Call Pro, which many people use. Also, writing directly to casting directors and directors helps.

What’s the most recent play you’ve been in? I was in a Fringe play called ‘Love to Love to Love You’ at the Vaults Festival and Edinburgh Festival- it was a new adaptation of ‘Le Ronde’ by Schnitzler.

Is working on the Fringe fun? It’s very exciting, but not for the feint-hearted as the hours are as dodgy as the pay and you will probably have to hustle your audiences. It’s worth doing if you believe in the work, though. Plus, like all tricky things, it’s ‘character building’.

Do you find that surrounding yourself with actor friends helps? Yes. Especially those who I went to drama school with. It’s not unusual to say that drama school can be quite a traumatic experience, so when I graduated, I did sometimes find it hard hanging out with old friends who had no idea what I had been through. Actors know your struggle! And it can be a struggle. They’re also a lot of fun!

What would be your dream role? There are so many. At the moment I am doing lots of singing and would love to be in a play that involves singing too, although not necessarily a musical. I also love snazzy costumes, so would love to do some classy period dramas on TV. 

Are you working on anything at the moment? Yes, I am currently doing some voice overs, shooting a music video and developing a piece of new writing with a theatre company called PaperCut. We are planning to take it to The Vaults festival, Latitude and Edinburgh. Then, depending on how that goes, onwards and upwards! 

Do you work between acting jobs? YES! There is no shame in this. Even when I’ve had lots of money in the bank from big acting jobs, I’ve had to work, because too much time alone with no structure can play havoc on your headspace. Acting is, fundamentally, the worst industry for any sort of stability or structure. I know that some people are ok with that, but most of us need things to hold onto and keep us going- not only financially, but also mentally.

How do you keep your head up after a rejection? Believe in yourself! And move on. Bounce right back and keep smiling. Beat any disappointment or resentment out of you. It’s poisonous.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d be a doctor!

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self? 

Definitely to always believe and have hope. I used to freak out after I finished a job or if I hadn’t had an audition in a while. Keep cool, believe, have hope, keep smiling, be clear about what you want and then take steps towards getting it.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

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Oozing with talent and charisma. A very good friend of mine and an unbelievable party companion.

So. Much. Sass.

Any questions for her? Let me know and I’ll pass them on.