Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain

Leave a comment

Everyone says: ‘you’ve got to find what you like’

I’ve been debating an issue (in my head, naturally) for a little while. The issue is if you need to love what you do. It’s the career advice I’ve been told since I was 15. Only recently have I actually stepped back and looked at what was being said. (That sentence requires a little imagination but stay with me. I’m tired and I want to get this off my chest).

“Find what you love and it’ll never feel like work.”

That’s the one piece of consistent advice that was said to me from the ages of 15 to now by all sorts of people and articles. It’s a superficially great piece of advice. It’s also slightly ridiculous and not necessarily true.

First, not everyone feels that a successful career results in life fulfilment. Some people feel that as long as a job provides them with money to do what they want then that’s all they need. After all, who says a career needs to be everything?

Admittedly I’m aiming to do the whole what I love thing. Mainly because I’ve wanted to do it for so long, also because I think I’d be good at it and because I can’t really imagine doing anything else.

Still, this advice that has followed me for at least six years of my life probably goes a little way to explaining why I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

I want to travel, live a little like a nomad and see the world and I want to write and tell people about things they don’t know or need to know about. It’s pretty simple. I also want a nice house and at least two dogs and a cat. Maybe even a house rabbit that grows to the size of a crawling human baby. To have that costs money. Journalism isn’t really known for the high pay cheques especially when you’re just beginning as a lowly roving reporter like me.

In today’s society there is definitely a much stronger focus on academia and a career. Because of the stress, commitment and time needed for said career, the only advice given to remedy this complete and utter focus on work is to do what you love.

This results in 15 year olds being asked: “so what do you want to do?” As they feel a little awkward and not knowing, people quickly answer “Oh, you’re too young to know now anyway.” Yet it’s an expectation. A ‘regular’, more elite career is looked at with impressiveness and if you answer with an ambition to the question of “what do you want to do?” People dismiss it and remind you you’ll need a job for that.

Work is seen as a chore unless it’s something you love. Not a great way to promote employment.

Well duh. Obviously you need a job but it doesn’t have to be your life if you have other ambitions. You can decide to go into a career for the money rather than the passion for it and in doing so afford what it is you’re passionate about. Be that cars, holidays, houses, clothes, artwork – whatever.

Doing what you love makes sense to me, it means I will constantly feel driven to do well and to do better. I have a lot of dreams and although some of them require a bit of money (almost cried writing that lie, bit of money is playing it down way too much) I am not driven by those £s enough for that to give me enough of a drive.

For others it’s different. I have a few friends and family that have chosen extremely successful and satisfying careers that they do not necessarily love but allows them to live a life that they do love. That sounds pretty awesome too.

A career doesn’t have to be everything in a person’s life. Doing something as a way of living a life that you want to live is just as amazing as having a career that you are passionate about.

As long as you are living your life your way then nothing else really does matter. There’s no such thing as ‘true, complete and utter’ freedom (that’s a blog post for another time) but that’s the closest we’ll ever get to it.


Niche, niche, niche

I’ve spoken to a few journalists, editors etc and they have all told me the same advice: get a niche, a speciality. Apparently Jack of all Trades isn’t the most popular guy in the room any longer. Luckily I never fitted into this whole ‘all trades’ category so I don’t have to cry too long about any time nurturing a unneeded talent to better my professional future unnecessarily. Niches and specialities are where it’s at at the moment. This little bit advice, although given by journalists to someone wanting to be a journalist, does not only fall into the journalistic and media career path. It’s all the rage now, to be able to have a speciality: something you’re an expert on.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to say. I write on this blog what would be deemed as comment pieces. They are opinion. In terms of journalism, when working as Deputy Editor for my student paper I wrote for all sections: film, comment, news and lifestyle to name but a few. I know what type of journalism I want to go into but how can I class myself as a specific subject writer when I haven’t had enough experience to truly be honest in this bragging right?

It’s the vicious circle of work experience again. If I don’t have the experience I can’t find the niche that’s screaming for me. If I’m not carrying said niche on my shoulder while it whispers me expert facts and makes me sound clever then I’m less likely to get the experience. Oh, how I loathe it.

I’m also not a fan of niches, mainly because I have a fear of not keeping my options open. It’s strange however that I know by choosing a niche, a section of this big old world and becoming an expert in it, I could give myself more options, more cards than I have now. Right now, I’m holding an ace, a couple of low numbers and a joker. I can risk it for a better hand. If it doesn’t work out then I just need to keep adapting until it does.

Niches are scary though. There are niches in niches in niches. It’s like the biggest maze ever taken from some crazy children’s book. Obviously the trick with the advice given to me is to become a specialist (so to speak) but not so niche that I can only write about blonde haired women featured on TV during prime time that wear green. Maybe not that drastic but you get the idea.

I guess having a niche or a speciality shows that you have the commitment and dedication to actually learn more than the average person on a subject. It shows that you can keep a focus on something for longer than five minutes (a common feature of today’s society). It’s not just what the specialist subject is about, although that’s important I guess (saying that a world renowned newspaper editor began her career on a tractor magazine). It’s about the traits it shows in you as a person.

Right, I’ve convinced myself (as if the advice wasn’t enough!). I need a niche. I’m off looking for mine, the one thing I can begin training myself to be an expert on, wish me luck. Not sure what will qualify me to one day announce that I have a niche but when that moment comes, I will make myself a badge.

Me looking for my niche. I’ll obviously be wearing clothes and carrying a bigger magnifying glass.


This is a title

This is a blog post. You are a person reading this blog post; you may be skimming through or reading every word as carefully as it was written. You may be letting these words wash over you or may be letting them sink under the skin to settle.

I am a girl. I’m trying to become a journalist. Right now, according to society, I am a nobody. My box according to the world would be ‘graduate: potential journalist.’ I’m sitting in my garden lacking inspiration, being frustrated at continuos application forms and cover letters that need to be filled out or written, all essentially wanting to know who I am. What I can do for them. What makes me special.

How can I explain something like that? How can I summarise in a letter or a box that allows for only 200 words that I should be hired above the other hundreds of applicants? Where do I even begin?

I am like everybody else. Because everybody else is trying to be different and I am trying to be different. We’re all trying so hard to stand out and get ahead that we all end up on the same start up line. We are united in wanting to be individuals. There are only so many words that can be used to describe myself, even obscure words are in limited number. A language, although constantly evolving, is not quite infinite. So how can you show you are more hard working, more passionate, more determined than everyone else if there are only a certain amount of words to use and everyone else uses them too?

The thing with applications, CVs and cover letters is that attempting to make them stand out to a company that probably sees thousands of these documents a year, makes the task very, very hard. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible of course. Nothing is impossible.

I received all the documents for my journalism course starting in September. They mentioned work experience and I know that you just can’t stop trying. It doesn’t matter if you’re being boxed in and labelled as whatever hole it is that society is trying to mould you into.

It is what it is. You are what you are. The words you put on the paper are much like the words I’m typing into this blog post. They could be skimmed over, ignored, read over and appreciated. Either way it’s a hit and miss thing when you’re writing something to someone that has never met you and doesn’t know you. The best thing to do is keep trying, you’ll get someone that really does let your words sink in and sit in their brain. They’ll be the ones that will see the difference in your overused words on an application form. They’ll feel the emotion behind the typing (hard to do but it’s true) rather than just take the words at face value. They’ll have mastered reading between the lines and if they feel that you’re different, even though we’re all the same, just trying to be different. Then that’ll be the moment. The one you’ve been waiting and working for. The moment that changes things, that creates ripples.

We’re just people. These are just words. It’s all trying very hard to stand out and still to connect with someone.

Leave a comment

CV Writing

Exciting title for this blog post right? Well I was inspired by, as you may have already guessed, writing my own CV. My CV isn’t even what you may consider a boring CV, I mean there is stuff to read on there in terms of work experience etc. It’s not a CV in desperate need of pumping out. It is readable. Yet, I find it dull. It’s because I’ve read a lot of other CVs; from exemplar ones to my friend’s ones to CVs that belong to people that have been in a career for quite a while. They all read the same. My question is simple: how can you tell which one is special?

Obviously here I’m classing my CV and my skills as special. They’re not, but if I have no confidence in my ability and in my knowledge of being able to do something and do it well then I’m doomed.

The trick to writing a CV is to make it as easy as possible for you reader/ prospective employer. It’s not like writing a novel where you keep building tension to the climax of your story. It’s more similar to writing an article for a daily newspaper where you need to keep your audience reading until the end, inform them of everything that they need to know without filling their brains with useless information. A CV is even faster though. You basically hand over your bones whilst telling your prospective employer: “Look at these! They’re good, strong bones; they can handle anything you throw at them, they are there for your moulding if you so wish but they can do it alone too.”

What an employer needs is someone who understands. I think when people are applying for jobs, they miss this very important thing. If you can show an understanding for a job, then you’re not only showing that you’ve read the job description. You’re also showing that you have taken the time to read it, understand it and tailor everything including a CV to said job. You’re showing that you can do it on your own and fit the mould of a perfect employee for the employer. You’re showing that this application for this job matters because it is tailored for the job. You want it.

That makes a good CV and a good application. Add a little colour, some easy to spot and read titles and you’re showing your employer how easy you can make their life. You’re more likely to get a callback and an interview for a job if your CV is neat, organised, informative without having too much information. Think of a CV as an instruction manual to your ability working in a certain company.

Thinking about it, a CV isn’t necessarily where you’re going to shine brightest. The CV, like much in life, is a stepping stone to getting you an interview. Once you’ve cinched that then you can go all out in the interview: then you can shine.

Many companies now are still using CVs and an additional cover letter and application form so this advice still stands and it is still important to keep a CV updated as often as you can. Many companies, however, do insist on online applications and nothing else: advice still stands as far as I’m concerned. When writing a CV or filling out an application, your goal is to get an interview. That’s the focus. From there you could get the job, and who knows where that could lead you?

Leave a comment

1 more graduate in the world

On the 19th July at 4pm my graduation begins. Three years are coming to an official end and I will be handed a piece of paper by an apparently important man wearing some robes and told ‘Congratulations.’

I don’t really know what to make of being a graduate, I got my results whilst in New York and I’m happy. Obviously, because I am not a decedent of Einstein’s, I did not get perfect marks. Due to lack of perfection, it took me roughly 24 hours before I could be fully happy with my 2:1 degree.

I ordered my gown, hood and mortar board yesterday. It was expensive just to hire it for a mere two hours. To buy the damn thing was extortionate: the hat alone (effectively just a cardboard square wrapped in black cloth) was £105.00. Insanity; you’d think after putting me in thousands of pounds of debt they could at least give me the hat. Jerks. At least I’ll feel like Harry Potter in my graduation robes; that, at least, gives me some comfort. I’m not even ashamed to admit that.

But I can’t help thinking that university is a much smaller deal than many people make it out to be. Especially in today’s society where jobs have double the amount of applicants; and unemployment is such an over talked about subject that people have just accepted that that’s the way things are. University and getting a degree, like I’ve said before, are just stepping stones. It’s good to have for the experience and the opportunities it has for you when you’re there.

I don’t think it should be sold as the best experience of your life though. If university is the best time of your life, that means out of the 80 or so years of your life expectancy. Only three near the first eighth of your life have been worth it. How silly.

When I graduate, I’ll be feeling proud. I’m coming out of these three years with more experience and more confidence in my ability. But that hasn’t just come from my course, that’s come from living away from home, from falling in love with the boy and from falling out and making new friends.

Many of the things I studied will probably be little use to me in terms of subject matter. In terms of teaching me how to learn, investigate, research, revise and ask for help however; they have done a lot for me.

Graduation is a lovely ceremony to have at the end of university. An accumulation of recognition for the three years of hard work that I have put into my degree. However, like the rest of the university bubble, I cannot help admit that it is over expensive (tickets cost £15 each) and a little superficial considering that I will be handed my certificate by someone I have never even met. That is likely to not even know my name.

I’m nervous and excited about graduation. My brain still can’t quite comprehend that it is just next week and although I may criticise university and it’s capitalist ways, I’ll be throwing my little black hat in the air just like everyone else and I’ll be one of the happiest people in the world come Thursday 19th July. Even if I am just another graduate in the world.

I MUST remember to get a photo like this.

1 Comment

Unpaid work – not volunteering – just unpaid work

I have officially finished university, I’ll be throwing my little mortarboard in the air come July and being very proud of myself for having been able to do what many have done before me: graduate. So now what?

I have lined up an NCTJ course which I begin in September, it’s only 6 months long because I figured if there’s an intensive option I’ll always pick that, why waste time and drag something out longer than it needs to be dragged out. Hopefully alongside that I can work for my local newspapers; and after the six months is up, find something either through local newspapers or internships or graduate schemes or contacts or whatever. I’ll probably have to work for free. I probably don’t have a choice in terms of that. The work I will hopefully do at these unpaid internships or work experience placements is worthy of being paid, to be honest, I’ve probably done something similar at university and been paid.

The thing with internships is that people are so desperate for the experience that they are willing to work for free. A lot of jobs that I know I could do (and that’s not arrogance, I promise), I’m not qualified to do because I don’t have the two years of experience they prefer. It doesn’t stop me from applying but I’m obviously dismissed. The only way to get to those jobs is to get those unpaid internships and even those you can be rejected from.

It’s a vicious cycle and gives employers more power than they should over an individual. I am fully prepared to work for free and have another job to help me pay for my outgoings but I know that I could go into another career (maybe one that isn’t as heavily saturated or used to taking advantage of people) and be paid, not much but paid, for the entry level jobs that I am gunning for as a graduate. Free internships are a way of taking advantage, much like when you’re forced to do work experience at 15. For my work experience, I went to a school and spent two weeks sharpening pencils, trying not to get headlice and being poked by a very fat eight year old boy; it was horrific.

Yes an internship may be unpaid but it gives you that crucial experience and that foot in the door. But maybe it would be more productive to branch out on your own, or be brave enough to demand that your skills are worth some sort of money even if that request is after two weeks free work. The things you’ll do in your unpaid internship or during your work experience are likely to be the same things you do when you get your first job in whichever career path you’ve chosen. At least that ensures a quick promotion, right? Maybe that’s an awkward question to ask actually. After all, people that have been doing the job for years are more likely to be promoted even though technically you’ve been doing the job for just as long although half the time it was for free.

Unpaid internships don’t even have the feel good factor of being volunteering. You’re doing it for selfish reasons, effectively so all sense of smug pride and being so nice is automatically taken away. Unpaid internships are like volunteering but not volunteering just working for free. Free work. We’re effectively asking for employers to give us the opportunity to do anything we can in their offices that would be helpful. We are like puppies looking for approval with big eyes, cocked head and a pleading look.

Us in puppy form. He’s a little cuter and a little less desperate though.

Whatever. It’s frustrating and just another obstacle for anyone wanting to get anywhere in professional circles. On that note, and however unfair it actually is: I’m off to fill out another tedious application form that doesn’t actually show anything about me with the same mundane questions. Wish me luck.