THE JOB CENTRE

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I know how hard it is to land your dream job straight out of university.

In fact, it’s near on impossible.

I worked bars, retail, and mundane temp jobs after graduating, heck I even proof read market research reports for a living at one stage. I struggled with knowing what I wanted to do, why it was mandatory for people to get up before 7am, why grown ups behaved so bizarrely at office parties and why people insisted on bringing their own mugs into the office. But I also interned at magazines, publishing houses and kept my blog alive.

The working world wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be, but I made it work. With no direction.

All I ever wanted – pre and post graduation – was for someone to write down a list of jobs for me to choose from, let me pick one and then usher me into said industry. But it wasn’t that easy, of course. First of all, I hadn’t considered my future a priority between the hours of Monday Mosaic and Thursday Arena, which meant I had no work experience under my belt. Secondly, I knew I wanted to write and there’s no clear route into that. And thirdly, I had no real guidance or practical advice to follow.

It’s very easy for people to tell you to ‘pursue your dreams!’ and to ‘do something you love!’ but unless that thing is saving lives, putting out fires or sorting out accounts, there no clear cut path for you. You have to forge it yourself. And I ended up doing what many creatives do when they aren’t sure what else to do and led myself down the garden path into teaching. Don’t get me wrong, some days I loved it, but mostly I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Admittedly, I learnt lots, but I could’ve learnt a heck of a lot more completing a writing course or looking into doing an MA.

However.

Learning the hard way not to let yourself get washed away with the tide has led me here. To this campaign. To help others to think about what it is they want to do. And then expose them to one person’s way of getting there. Because they might have some tips for you, they might inspire you, or you might just want an insight into the working world. Or a different industry. Whatever the reason, I hope it’s helpful.

Throughout September, I will be introducing you to lots of women who are doing their thing. And doing it well. Be it journalism, finance, marketing or surveying for a living, I’ve got it covered. These aren’t women who were handed their jobs to them on a silver spoon, but women who actually worked hard to get to where they are today. And I have a lot of time for that.

So listen to them. Ask them questions. Start a conversation. Network, even.

Being an adult isn’t easy, so let’s help each other.

Welcome to The Job Centre. The first post will be up tomorrow.

HOW LUNCH DICTATED MY CAREER – A GUEST POST

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I don’t know about you, but Big Important Life Decisions completely paralyse my brain’s ability to function.

Offer me a double chocolate muffin or an apple and obviously, I’m not mad, I’ll opt for the muffin. I’ll probably take two, one for the road.

Ask me which I’d prefer to watch out of Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde and yes – I’m only human  – I might pause for a second. But then I’ll see sense and plump for the original. Way more bend and snap.

But ask me what I want to DO with my life and I’ll be pretty stumped. And that’s because the opportunities are endless…which is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Feeling me so far?

When you’re REALLY young the hardest decisions are the likes of:

“Do I eat my chips before my stupid peas or do I leave my chips ’til last and risk getting full?”

[to be fair that’s a question that’s still highly relevant well into my adult years]

Or even the delicate and highly political:

“Who’s going to be my best friend at school today? Sophie…so she’ll invite me to her bouncy castle birthday party? Or Olivia…because then she’ll let me plait her hair at break?”

Even as you grow up through your teens the options are laid out for you:

French or German.

History or Geography.

Backstreet Boys or Boyzone.

Gap year or straight to uni.

It’s not ’til uni is ending that you are suddenly hit with the enormity of your career choices. Yes, it’s slightly different if you studied medicine – your path is fairly set, Dr McSmug. But for many of us, leaving uni meant – for perhaps the first time – we didn’t have anyone offering us A or B on a little plate. It was A-Z and maybe some cheeky hieroglyphics thrown in too. Just to add to the chaos.

When I was a little nipper the only jobs I knew about were the ones I’d seen in picture books: nurse, train driver, teacher and farmer. I literally thought the world was operated by those four jobs alone.

Then dawns the realisation that not only are there countless more industries than you ever envisaged…but within those industries are a complicated hierarchy of positions.

I remember feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed – aged 21 – as my life lay before me and I found myself, much to my disappointment and surprise, not married to Prince William (plan A) or Prince Harry (plan B).

It seemed as though I was going to have to choose a career. I just didn’t have the foggiest clue what that career was going to be.

In the end, my first job out of uni was working in the advertising industry.

Want to know why? The truth?!

It’s because I made the mistake of going to a careers fair completely knackered and hungry.

And it was alphabetically laid out, clockwise. I only managed as far as ‘A’.

I’m happy that one of my KPIs isn’t chaperoning zoo animals. Although I did end up being an accidental sex pest at my advertising job.

*NOW A SLIGHT TANGENT*

On the subject of zoos…I’m not sure how long I would have lasted as a zookeeper. I’m on the crazy end of the squeamish scale. The first time I went to visit my sister in Zimbabwe we went to a crocodile park and I’m DEATHLY afraid of crocs.

I asked – nervously – how many of the beasts they had. The tour guide responded with gusto:

“There are thirty…

Cripes. But I think I can cope with 30. Just.

“-thousand crocodiles in this park.”

Kill me now.

His next line keeps me awake at night to this date, although I think it was intended to soothe us:

“Don’t worry, they rarely escape.”

RARELY ISN’T NEVER.

Cue me, bursting into tears.

*TANGENT OVER*

When it comes to those Big Important Life Decisions, it comforts me slightly that I have permission from the one-and-only Moulin Rouge creator himself, Baz Luhrmann, to not know what I want to do with my life. I mean the man has won 23 film awards (I counted on Wikipedia) so he must know a thing or two about ambition.

From Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)’:

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives

Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

I’m 31. I still have 9 years to meet Baz Luhrmann and still be considered ‘interestingly adrift’. I can live with that.

Written by the author of Disasters of A Thirty Something.

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A hilarious blogger (and now Agony Aunt to me) who documents all of the stories from her life that you or I would probably rather forget, all for our entertainment.

Visit her site or follow her on Twitter here.

The End

I think it would be unfair to say that I loved every second of university. In fact, the work was hard and at times boring and I found the city itself rather dull. But something I will say is that Exeter is what you make it. And what makes it, are the people. So, three years, thirty grand, 3000 bottles of gin, and many memories later, it’s all over. I’ve finally graduated.

It feels like a matter of days ago that I found myself in an empty room in halls, wondering what lay ahead of me. But in a flash, “Grad Week” was here and we were all saying goodbye for the last time.  Although it was sad to be saying farewell, the fact that everyone was so sad to leave meant that we made the most of every single moment. Some by dancing until they passed out, some by drinking until they chundered outside the club the night before their graduation and others by “gold rushing” with everything in sight. All of these options, in my opinion, are very favourable and made for a hilarious week.

But not only were they some of the happiest few days of my life, they were also some of the saddest.

Although I know that I’ll see my very closest friends again, it’s sad to think that I won’t see them day in, day out. I won’t be able to pop round the corner for a cup of tea, prelash at theirs or have an impromptu trip to the beach in the summer. Instead, we’ve all gone back to our respective towns and even countries where we once lived, to our lives before any of the past three years had happened and before any of us existed to each other. It’s strange to think of a time where they weren’t a part of my day to day life.

But not only will I miss my closest friends. I’ll miss all those people that you drunkenly bump into on a night out, share some tequila with and enjoy some light hearted (and at times emotional) chats with in the smoking area. It’s those people that (albeit rather pessimistic), you might never see again that makes the whole goodbye thing so tragic. It’s the people that you drunkenly kissed or perhaps shared a few days of fun with where there might have been a spark but down to bad timing, it never developed. It’s those people you admired from afar and never really got to know properly. It’s the people from your course who you worshipped because they were always far less hungover than you at 9am lectures. It’s those people, the people that you’re saying goodbye to before you’ve even really said hello to properly, that makes it so sad.

I have so many memories from university that they’ve sort of merged into one big blur but some that stand out for me and i’m sure many of you are; post lash at 12 Springfield, Arena, prelash in the lobby, nakedness and antics in the football stadium, Canoe Lash, varsity, SSB, the hotel, Mambos, Lash Olympics and the beach. But one night that will stand out for me over most is the Grad Ball. As my house mate said before we got in the taxi, ‘Don’t be sad Liv. This isn’t the last night, this is the night’. And it really was.  I got to say my goodbyes and have fun at the same time. I really couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my three years at university.

So, as we say our final farewells, unpack for the very last time and look back on our time at Exeter, I want to wish everyone the very best of luck for the future and hope that we will all, one day, come back together and party in style with some apple VK’s. For old time’s sake.

Now it’s time for us to down some aspirin, get some sleep and get over our three year hangovers.

For all the wonderful people I met at the University of Exeter, 2008-2011.

The Career

large (9)On looking at the picture, I’m sure you’ll have gathered that it’s not what you think.

I’m not going to sit here and spout to you about how petrified I am about being in third year and not having a job, because quite simply, I’m not that scared. I mean don’t get me wrong, the prospect of leaving university with no real plan does  indeed worry me a little… but it also fills with so much excitement. How boring it must be to know you are headed for a job as soon as you leave three years of “endless fun” only to walk straight into something you will be doing, and will most likely be sick of for the rest of your life.

For those of you who have a job lined up after university, this is NOT a criticism. I think it is wonderful if that is what makes you happy but this is just a little reminder to both myself and those of you who have absolutely no idea what you are going to do with your life that it is ABSOLUTELY FINE. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Yes, that’s exactly what it is: fabulous.

You can live the dream… go travelling, experiment with narcotics, take up smoking, have sex in bins, act like you know everything when really you know nothing. Do anything that you will look back on in four years time and cringe about. That’s the fun of being an adolescent, something I will be until the age of 30 by the way, because let’s face it, that dude didn’t write the song “Forever Young” for nothing you know.

So girls; keeping wearing those miniskirts and smoking Marlboro lights and boys, keep being drunken fools and kissing far too many girls of an evening. That’s (apparently) what our early twenties were made for. Learning lessons. We have all the time in the world to be successful writers, bankers, teachers and business men; it’s our last chance to be young.

Embrace it. Live it. Look back and love it.