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.

FREEDOM – A GUEST POST

large (1)When I was young I was free.

Of course, we all were. We didn’t have jobs, rental agreements or hangovers, we were just existing in a wonderful state of sometimes-euphoric mostly-moody teen angst, where the only thing greater than our lack of responsibility was our cereal intake.

Then, one day, something happened, and our longing to be adults who were taken seriously smashed us in the face harder than the floor did that time we tried skateboarding in the Tesco car park, and we realised that all along we’d been tricked into following a false dream.

We were rewarded with responsibility when we worked hard and proved we were deserving; finally being left alone in the house when our mum went to play squash of an evening at age 13 (and inviting our much older and frankly creepy boyfriend over to watch South Park and make out), being given complete control of our own computer priviliges at 14 (and looking at weird sex forums on the AOL chatroom), even being gifted the holy grail of deciding our own bedtime at 15 (and wrecking our sleeping pattern by forcing ourselves to stay up until 1am just so we could say we did).

At the time, we were oblivious to the fact that we were being slowly integrated into the adult community. We were under the illusion that these fun perks were the main components of adulthood, that choosing our own dinners (spaghetti with hot dogs cut up in it) and having free reign of the TV on weeknights (Hollyoaks > The Simpsons > Dream Team > Bad Girls) were the biggest decisions we were ever going to have to make.

Inevitably the fun slows down as we realise that when they start to give us actual cold hard cash in college our mum will tell us we have to use it to pay for our own clothes and junk food, rather than Colin Farrell wall calendars and hair extensions like we were planning to. They’ll start trusting us with being able to get ourselves to class on time but won’t tell us that we’ll actually feel obliged to be there, and that bunking off in the park in the sunshine will make us feel anxious and sweaty, not warm and relaxed.

When you escape to university you start to think that maybe you were right all along – adulthood is brilliant! You can pass your semesters without going to a single lecture thanks to the miracle that is the Internet, you get money for nothing – literally nothing – and can spend it on whatever you want, and people practically force you to spend your time having fun rather than focusing on your responsibilities.

Eventually, though, your university years pass you by and the fun suddenly stops. Everybody tells you that your “real life” is about to start but in reality it feels like everything is coming to a grinding halt.

We resign ourselves to getting a job and go through emotional turmoil from our very first day of the nine-to-five existence, wondering how we’re ever going to survive fifty years of getting up every day and going to work without being discovered and becoming a worldwide star or bagging ourselves a billionaire husband before the age of 22.

We flirt with the idea of becoming exotic travellers like the girls we see on Instagram who spend their time modelling bikinis and getting high, but very quickly realise that we are neither cute enough nor rich enough to kick start that venture. Bizarre job choices become more romanticised than ever and one day you’ll find yourself thinking “I probably could be a professional wrestler” in a bid to settle yourself in any profession that doesn’t involve ever stepping foot in an office and spending the third day in a row helping Neil fix the printer.

We wonder if freedom will ever come again, if we’ll ever be blessed with the familiar but distant feeling that anything is possible, and then one morning we find ourselves curled up in bed at 5am after a really shitty 24 hours, so we call our best friend from the comfort of our flat that we decorated all by ourselves and are actually pretty proud of, and we venture into the city to climb a skyscraper in our pyjamas, buy a hot chocolate with money that we earned through our own hard work, and watch the sunrise over the tops of the sparkly buildings that once inspired us to think we could rule the world.

It’s on those mornings, above the clouds, whilst the city sleeps and you and your best friend eat croissants and slag off boys for a full fifty minutes, that you realise that this freedom is a better freedom than any you ever could have imagined when your mind was frantic and your thoughts were wild.

This freedom is real.

Written by Emmy Christmas.

A girl who wrote something perfect for this moment in my life, without even realising it. An angel.

Follow her on Twitter here, she’s hilarious.