Tag Archives: jobs

Travel | Life above the clouds – working as a flight attendant

13227097_467600236762891_2670598566680473826_nSomething a bit different for you today, one of the best things about my travelling lifestyle is the people I meet along the way. People doing all kinds of jobs and living completely differently to keep their life as nomadic as possible. Travelling up in the Northern Territory of Australia, I met a new friend who alternates her travelling lifestyle with working for Thomas Cook Airlines as a flight attendant – a job that seems so glamorous and full of travel that I just had to find out more about what was involved – read on for my interview with a flight attendant:

Which company do you work for and for how long have you worked for them?

I work for Thomas Cook Airlines and I have been with the company for a year now. The contract is only seasonal so I work the summer season and have the winters off.

What attracted you to the job?

Following my passion for travel. When I got back from a 12 month trip I started back with two companies I was with previously before I went away. I was working full time at a dental practice and part time on the weekends in the local night club. As much as I love working I wasn’t settled being back in the same routine. My Canadian friend said one day ”if you love travelling so much why don’t you work in the travel industry” and that was when the light bulb went off in my head. I started applying for airlines and I got the job! I truely love everything about it and it is perfect for me in this stage of my life.

How long did it take to train for the job? What was involved in the training?

The training period lasted for 5 weeks and the typical working hours of 9am-5pm. It involved both practical and theory. They were 7 exams in total and it was a very intense 5 weeks of my life but I learnt so much in that time. Not only did I learn all about the aircraft type I was trained on but all the equipment the aircraft has onboard to ensure the safety of the passengers. We learnt the company’s procedures for first aid, fire, emergency landings in and out of water, decompression, hijacking, disruptive passengers and many more.

In the training we also had to have a practical swimming test with our clothes on followed by a life rafts practical and the use of life vests to make it as realistic as it could be. In the training centre we had fake fire drills and we had to follow the procedure of finding the fire, using the right equipment to fight the fire and the what the role is of each cabin crew to ensure the safety of our passengers. In an emergency landing we had to prove that we had the knowledge of how to handle the situation which was tested upon us by our amazing trainers that work with the company.image

What are the best/worst things about being a flight attendant?

Being a flight attendant is unlike any other job. A lot of people assume we just waitress on a plane but it is so much more than that and the knowledge we hold involving the safety of the passengers is vital to offering the best service. Working with new people everyday, greeting passengers and going that extra mile to make there holiday experience that bit better and being rushed off your feet then looking out of the window at the Alps mountain range just puts a huge smile on my face. I would say one of the best things about being cabin crew would be the long haul but I have yet to experience that in the new year. I will be trained on the A330 which flies regulary to the USA and the Carribean. With that you get to stay in the company’s hotel and explore new destinations.

I dont really have any negative points about working on a airline other than it is exhausting! The days go really quick, you are constantly busy from start to finish but driving on the motorway back home after a 16 hour shift to have a couple of hour sleep then back to work for the next shift is an experience! My body quickly got used to it though which was good. It is not a ordinary 9/5 career, you could be on standby from 1am in the morning and be called out for work at anytime. You really need to be organised and punctual for this career. My life out of work is very different too, because of my random working hours and working weekends, bank holidays ect it is harder too have a ordinary social life but I do make it work.

What are the perks of the job?

I feel that when I experience long haul shifts I will get more perks as you travel to new destinations with work and get paid for it. Within the company we get a discount for holidays and flights if we choose to book with Thomas Cook. We also get other discounts with entertainment companies such as Go Ape or Alton Towers, gym memberships and other little perks that I need to find out more about.

What is the highlight of being a flight attendant?

Other than travel, my personal highlight is having the opportunity to sit in the flight deck on my break time and admiring the view at 38,000 feet in the air. One of my best memories would have to be a night shift I was doing. I was on my way back from Tenerife and I sat in the flight deck on my break and the view was breathtaking. The moon was behind the aircraft, with the blanket of clouds below and thousand of stars in the dark blue sky twinkling away is a image I will never forget. It made me really appreciate life.image

What is the average day like for you? How do you adjust to long-haul flights/time zones?

This is related to short/mid haul flights where I fly there and back in a day. An average day consists of getting ready for work, driving a hour to work then after I have parked up and got the staff bus into the airport grounds I make my way to the crew room. In the crew room we have a briefing with involves checking out money floats, briefing of the aircraft type/ flight time/ destination/location of each crew member/passenger profile ect. Then we have safety and procedure questions that need to be answered correctly. After we have done our briefing we make our way to the aircraft.

Once we are on the aircraft we have to do all of our safety and equipment checks, when completed we pass them on to the cabin manager. The passengers will then start to board. Once everyone is happy and seated and we are in the air we can start our outbound services. Depending on the time of day we usually do the bar service first, after follows inflight meal then duty free. If we have enough time we do another bar service before landing. After landing when the passengers have disembarked the cleaners will come on then we need to do seat pockets and the appropriate checks before passengers start to board again. Inbound flight is the same routine of services before landing back in the UK.

Once everyone has disembarked after landing we then need to make our way back to the crew room for a debriefing which involves cashing up, talking about any events that went on during the shift and how we could improve on anything. Then I make my way back to the carpark and drive 1/2 hours home depending of the time of day and traffic.

Can you see yourself doing it long-term?

I have a very busy lifestyle but I like it that way. Long term maybe. Depends on what opportunities the future has to hold for me.

What’s your favourite place you’ve been to/fave cities?

With work the only city I have stayed over is Glasgow which isn’t that exciting comparied to long haul flight destinations.image

How much time do you get to explore the places you visit?

This all depends on which destination you go too. Some can be a night and clear day in New York or 4 nights in Las Vegas. It completely varies depending on how many flights go out to that destination each week.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career as a flight attendant?

If you have a strong desire or passion for travel and have experience with customer service I would recommend this career path for you. It is a great way to see the world, meet new people and it is a career like no other. I also like the glamour side of it too as I feel very feminine at work comparied to when I used to wear scrubs at the dentist haha. Be happy in what you do as work takes up most of your life in the bigger picture. Life is too short to regret the choices you make.

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Infographic created by Opodo.

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Australia | It’s tax back time and I’m celebrating!

imageI write a lot about budget travel – about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that’s what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I’ve been the poorest I’ve ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don’t know how you’ll afford a bed for the night or how you’ll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I’ve worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I’ve given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I’ve worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I’ve ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.

Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don’t just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap – without any control over what was happening. Now I’m not saying all employers are like this in Australia – some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don’t like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I’ll talk about that more in a later post, I’ve had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don’t get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we’re over there. I know it’s not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don’t feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.

So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you’re getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia – a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne – I also managed to work a lot. If you’ve worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you’ll understand why I feel like I’ve had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There’s something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself – I’m always proud of the fact that I’ve funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it’s like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let’s face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.image What’s that quote? “If travel was free, you’d never see me again” and how true that is, if it wasn’t for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I’m just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don’t need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don’t have expensive tastes – I’ve spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you’re jetting all over the world. Even if you’re staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you’re talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it’s like some new version of the American Dream – as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who’s to say it wouldn’t, these days money spells freedom and that’s all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.

That’s why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers – because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven’t already applied for your tax rebate – why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I’m getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 – so it’s definitely worth doing. Don’t be put off by the paperwork – it doesn’t take long and it’s more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way – don’t miss out on claiming back your money because you’re lazy – that’s your next travelling fund right there!

What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax – can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?

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Relationships | Why it can be great to start a New Year single

imageChristmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status – a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it’s something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas – you don’t have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you’ll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years – which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I’ve been old enough to go out drinking I’ve been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I’m not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I’ve had. I’ve conquered all sorts and I’ve done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the season – all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We’re blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn’t it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close – at what we’ve achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We’re all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They’re thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life – I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn’t want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy – it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.

It’s not the answer for everyone and I’m not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you – do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become – if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need – make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn’t matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move – once you’ve taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.

It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead – to find the happiness you’ve been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet – it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings – I’m just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I’m not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I’m out there making it happen for myself.

Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 – where are you heading? 

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Darwin | Being broke down under and top tips for finding a job | Australia

imageDarwin was the first place I have tried to find a job in Australia – when I was in Sydney I looked to see what was available and found loads of jobs but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t really need to work. But by the time it came to arriving in Darwin I was flat broke, seven months of living the dream had been fun and I’d never once had to hold back from spending because I made sure I saved a good wad of cash beforehand. But now I was at a point where I could barely afford rent and instant noodles – any backpacker out there will know the kind of broke I’m talking about. The kind of broke where you suddenly have a horrible feeling you won’t be able to get yourself out of this situation, where you realise you can’t even afford a flight home and you start feeling like you need to call on the bank of mum and dad. Its kind of scary when you’re backpacking solo to know that when you run out of money you have no backup, that you don’t have a boyfriend or best friend there to loan you a few dollars. It’s happened to us all – it doesn’t matter how good you are with your money, sometimes life just catches up on you. But that’s okay, I think if you’re a backpacker who hasn’t lived in dire straits for a while, you’re not a real backpacker. I’m very lucky and I know that if I were ever desperate my parents would be able to help me out but I know many people who aren’t that lucky, and to be honest, there’s much more satisfaction in fixing the problem all by yourself.

I knew I would be fine after I managed to secure a job and luckily after putting something on Facebook about needing work, an old friend contacted me to say he was already in Darwin working in a bar and that he knew of another bar that was looking for staff. As soon as I arrived in Darwin – within hours of getting off the plane – I had updated my CV and printed off countless copies ready to pound the streets looking for work. I walked the length of Mitchell Street and back handing out CVs, talking to managers and flirting shamelessly, and it worked! Within 24 hours I had two trials and two new jobs. I would be working at Monsoons – if you know Darwin you will know it as the infamous party bar where we all have spent nights better forgotten – and Darwin Entertainment Centre, a theatre for the arts where I would be working in the box office. Now I was very lucky getting both jobs straight away and I have no doubt that it was particularly down to the fact that I was English, could start straight away, and wasn’t completely ugly. It’s horrible to say but a complete truth that employers in Darwin, and any other city, are very keen on employing those with English as a first language and, particularly in bars and restaurants, they want good looking staff. I had friends who were German and French who struggled to find work for a while because their English wasn’t as good and I had one friend who was told he couldn’t have the job in a bar unless he shaved his beard off! In Monsoons the girls were expected to parade around in their underwear and bikinis on a nightly basis, while the guys all flaunted their six packs.imageBut it’s not all about luck – I happen to believe we make our own luck in this world and part of that is down to our own determination to succeed. I know a few people who really struggled to find work, but when it came down to it they were not desperate for money like I had been. They had the luxury of enough money to keep them afloat and that gave them time to be lazy, to hand out CVs but not to push for jobs. For some, their priorities were more about having fun and partying first, finding work later – and they did, as soon as their situation became desperate. For me, I had no choice but to find work straight away otherwise I couldn’t afford basics like food or a bed, partying would come later and after the East Coast, a break was welcome. One thing to realise, Australia is full of jobs, everywhere you turn you hear of a new working opportunity. They might not all be career jobs but there’s a good mixture – and a hell of a lot more available than back home in the UK. After all I had heard about Darwin, it didn’t disappoint and offered a huge range of jobs for all kinds of people. I think that was one thing I loved about the city – it attracted such a range of people and all kinds of workers. I had friends who were working on fishing and pearling boats, others who were working construction or landscaping, others filled hospitality roles in bars, restaurants or hotels, worked as cleaners, hairdressers, chefs, mango farmers, or nurses and the list goes on. There was work for every type of role, the only thing that was lacking were office jobs but that didn’t seem to bother many.

So if you arrive in Darwin flat broke like I did – how can you make sure you don’t spend too long in limbo and quickly get earning again? Here are my top tips for finding work in Darwin:

  1. Do some scouting before you arrive – ask any friends who might be there or who are in Australia as often they have contacts. Use the Darwin Backpacker Facebook page as jobs and tips are always being posted up there. Perhaps even contact bars/hotels asking if they need staff.
  2. Look on Gumtree – it’s a reliable source for jobs in Australia unlike at home and I know lots of people who have found great jobs and casual work through it. My current job is one I actually found on Gumtree.
  3. Sign up to agencies – if you’re looking for specific farming, catering or construction work it might be worthwhile signing up to one of the many agencies in town. There is one that is free to join called Top End Consulting, but I don’t know anyone who actually found work through them. A good one for tradies was Skilled, which managed to find work for several of my friends.
  4. Update your CV and make it relevant – if you’re looking for bar work, just stick your bar/restaurant experience on there – feel free to even lie and make it up as I know many who used references from their home countries that were never checked. Hospitality is easy to pick up on the job and you will be trained in anything you don’t know.
  5. If you need a white card or RSA, make sure you know what you have to do to get it. But don’t rush and spend unnecessary money. I waited until I had the bar job to go home and complete my RSA – it took 25 minutes online and cost $10 for the Northern Territory but I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t have a bar job.
  6. Make sure you look good and have a big smile on your face – first impressions are everything – then walk the streets. Go by yourself, it looks better than having a friend waiting for you, ask for the manager in every place and hand over a CV. Ask if they are looking for anyone, tell them your experience and that you can start straight away.
  7. If anyone asks how long you are staying in Darwin, always lie. I knew I was staying for at least a month and a half but told them four months minimum. It meant they were keen to take me on as I wasn’t leaving and I loved it so much there that I stayed for three months anyway! No one wants to employ someone who is there for three weeks but they understand it is a backpacker town and people are always passing through.
  8. Make sure you speak good, clear English if it is not your first language, if you don’t understand anything, try to hide it then check with a friend later.
  9. If you get called in for a trial, make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear – I had to buy a black skirt and top plus black plimsolls for Monsoons and luckily could wear the same for DEC. There isn’t much choice in Darwin so you might need to make do until you can get to Casuarina – the nearest shopping centre.
  10. Don’t get a trial? Don’t hear back? Don’t lose faith – just keep asking around, keep handing out CVs to everywhere, not just Mitchell Street. Ask friends who are already working if they can put a word in for you or listen out for jobs that come up. You will get something – I don’t know a single person who failed to find work altogether!
  11. When you do get a job, make sure you have your RSA, tax file number, back account, superannuation set up ready so you have them ready to hand them over and will get paid straight away.
  12. And don’t forget those that helped you! Once you have a job in Darwin, use it for good and help other backpackers in a similar situation to find work. Across my two jobs I managed to find jobs for about 15 other people during my time in Darwin and that’s not even including the people who replaced me when I left. Spread the love and help everyone you can.

And if worst comes to worst and you can’t find anything permanent – why not do like a friend of mine who arrived in Darwin with a beat up old car, which he was sleeping in, and no money. He found some casual work, then more casual work, then more. It ended up being more reliable for him than permanent work because he could work several jobs around each other – he was doing everything from waitering, to bar work and front of house, to landscaping and odd jobs. It helped that he had a car and wasn’t fussy what kind of work he would take on. Within a month he had a good income and an apartment and it was another month until he found a steady job as a landscaper to get his second year visa signed off. But he still continued to take on casual jobs as well.

Have you worked in Australia – how did you find the job hunting process? Any other advice for finding work fast? Tell me about your experiences as a broke backpacker.

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Careers | 10 jobs everyone should do in their lifetime

imageI’ve had a lot of jobs in my time – from dominating hospitality in bars, shops, restaurants, pubs and box offices, to working as a journalist, editor and freelance writer. I’ve supported students in primary school, helped provide learning materials for college students and even worked as an au pair. Can you tell I like to experiment? I’ve always felt that we should try out as many different jobs as possible in order to really gain an idea of our skills and talents, plus working a cross section of jobs really helps to show how diverse we are. Many of these jobs I have held at the same time, and I think five is the highest number of jobs I have held simultaneously. Right before I came travelling, I was saving hard so I was working full time as a journalist, while also working in a pub/restaurant, freelance writing, taking an editor role for an online magazine and babysitting. It was a busy time for me, but I loved the challenge and the chance to gain experience in so many different roles, plus I was organised so I still managed to have a social life. It paid off, because getting the experience of working on a bar and recent waitressing experience helped land me a job in Darwin’s busiest bar/restaurant where I was working 40 hours a week. The babysitting experience and reference helped land me a job as an au pair which saw me working with two little boys five days a week and helped me save a lot of money.

While travelling, it is easy to pick up a range of different roles, because often you are looking for a stopgap role to save money before moving on a few months later. This is the perfect opportunity to keep trying new things and broadening your skill set, plus you have the sense of adventure and lack of restrictions to push you to try things you never have before. For example, living out in Australia has given me the opportunity and the drive to take on a job in the outback in order to get my second year visa, not something I would have had the chance to do while back at home. But even when we’re job hunting at home, there are plenty of ways to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It’s important to do this, even if the job won’t directly affect your career, because it gives us a greater understanding and respect for the roles others take on.

Here are 10 jobs I think everyone should try in their lifetime:

  1. Work in hospitality. Every single person should at some point have to serve others, whether it’s drinks, food, milkshakes or working on a supermarket checkout. It can be fun or it can be soul destroying, but it’s important to see both sides of the coin and to seriously understand the impact the way we treat those who serve us has on the world. It’s the domino effect – a simple please and thank you can mean the difference between good and bad service.
  2. Work with children, whether babysitting, teaching or nannying. It’s a learning curve and really helps you to understand whether you are ready for children of your own. It can be the hardest and the most rewarding job in the world. Sometimes you will feel like your head is going to explode, other times it will be your heart that is full to bursting.
  3. Work the shitty job. Everyone has one, that horrendous job you had to work in order to motivate you to move up, to change your career or to make a change. For me, it was working in a terrible milkshake shop that was so unprofessionally run that people were stealing from the tills. It’s what drove me to get the job at the newspaper and the rest is history.
  4. Work the job that changes you. I’m talking about the one that ignites a passion in you when you don’t know what to do with your life. The one that inspires you and fuels a drive to learn and grow within the role. This is the really important one, so many are left searching for something they truly love, but if you find it, it can change your world.
  5. Work for a good cause. Everyone in my opinion should volunteer at some point in their lives – whether it’s helping out at the Red Cross shop once a week, helping to run a kid’s after school session, working with the disabled or elderly, or volunteering overseas. Giving up my time at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand has inspired me to do more and was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
  6. Work the job that challenges you. We all end up working at least one of these, the job that pushes you to your limits, takes advantage of your good nature and willingness to work, the job that takes over your life. It’s always a horrible time when you realise how much a job like this has taken over, but it’s important because it pushes you to grow and to refuse, it helps you realise your limits and your worth.
  7. Work the fun job. Sometimes it might not pay well or it might be more of a hobby with benefits on the side of a main job, but it’s always a good one to have. For me, it was my role as the editor of an online magazine which gave me experience and free tickets to any festivals I wanted. Blogging is my latest fun job, it pays and fuels a passion of mine.
  8. Work the creative job. This is the one that really lets you be yourself and to use your talents to their full potential whether it is writing, building, designing, communicating, fundraising or whatever it might be. It gives you space to grow and to develop a new way of working.
  9. Work the career job. The one you really take seriously, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one you know will take you to a new level in your profession. The one you realise you’ve been working for all along.
  10. Work the change-of-career job. Not for everyone, but sometimes you get to a point in your life and you realise what you’ve been working for all along no longer matters to you. You realise that there is a new passion bubbling away inside you and you just have to follow it.

What types of jobs have you worked? What career would you like to get into? Have you had a game-changing career moment when you realised you had a passion for something else?

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From the darkest days to the happiest new year

cheersAs New Year approaches, I wanted to take the time to write a post about how thankful I am to be ending the year on such a high. It hasn’t been the easiest year for me, and it had a pretty rotten beginning that even forced me to take a time out from blogging. I remember feeling the lowest I ever have back in January and February, wondering what the hell my life had become and desperately looking for a way out. It was pretty horrible, and I won’t lie, it makes me pretty sad to look back on it now because for a short while I became a very different person. Over the months that followed, I gradually got my life back and started to be happy again – how did I do it? I started making plans for my future, I threw myself into work and saved hard, and then, I booked a ticket and planned to travel the world. It’s not an option that is available to everyone, but having that goal and that hope of a better 2015 was really what got me through and I’m so happy I made that choice.

I’m not alone in this, I know so many people who seem to have found this year a bit of a struggle. For some it was horrible and totally out-of-the-blue break-ups, for others it was a crisis at work or even redundancy, and for some, it was just realising that they weren’t where they wanted to be in life. Everyone has dealt with it in different ways, and every single one has made it out the other side with a smile on their faces.

I’m really proud to know so many people who have not only survived a difficult year, but who have made it their bitch.

I hope that I can count myself among them, and that’s why I have thrown myself into blogging and saving – my main two pastimes for the year. I like to think it has really paid off with huge blogging milestones like being recognised by a complete stranger on a night out, being chosen as Blogger of the Week for two large blogging publications and being shortlisted out of over 2,000 entries for the individual travel blog section of the UK Blog Awards. I’m really proud of all this, and it is a wonderful feeling to have all your hard work pay off, but it wouldn’t have happened without your support.

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So I’m saying goodbye to 2014 – the year of survival and hard work. And welcoming in 2015 – the year of success and happiness. I’ve done nothing but work hard and pay my dues this year and I plan to take back 2015 as my year of following my dreams and pursuing what I really love. It’s time I did something that is just for me, not for anyone else. I think it’s time we all did the same – have you been putting something off because you’re scared to jump? Well no more. This year let’s all take a risk – let’s all go after that dream and make it our reality. Life is short and this year has flown by, so why let another year disappear without reaching that goal, or even setting one? Everyone I know seems to be setting themselves goals at the moment – some are getting engaged and planning a wedding, others are heading off to university, or are planning a big move and a new job… all very inspiring individuals. Me? I’m planning to be happy, to see things I haven’t seen before, to experience cultures and see the world. But without an amazing group of friends, family and blog supporters, I don’t think I could have dreamed I would be in this position a year ago. So this post is to say thanks to all of you guys for all those times you listened and all those times you gave me the push I needed to start making my dreams a reality.

How do you feel looking back on your 2014? And what goals have you set yourself for 2015?

Ab Lucy sign off

10 day countdown to being unemployed

new beginningIt’s finally starting to sink in. As you’re reading this I have just 10 days left at work… and that includes today! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone since I handed in my notice, but it really has flashed by. It’s certainly been helped along by me still having holiday left over, so even though I have just 10 days left, they are to be scattered over the next two-three weeks. Everyone in the office has been firmly on countdown for me over the last month, they almost seem more excited about it than I do… not sure if I should take offence at that! But it was going to a launch event at the local college on Monday that really made me realise this is actually happening. As I arrived, loads of people came over to wish me well and say good luck on my travels – it seemed so odd to me, because for the longest time this has just been something in my head. Just a passing daydream of something new and exciting, but now it is really becoming a reality.

So with 10 days left at work – what am I doing and what do I have left to do?

1. My countdown starts with those frantic emails out to every contact I have ever had, made, met or spoken to in my time here. I’ve been trying my best to make sure everyone is aware I am leaving and where they can send emails in the future.

2. Trying to find a replacement for me, and trying to find out what will happen to my entertainment section when I leave.

3. Making sure I get the opportunity to write any stories I have had lurking in the back of my notebook, and to plan in time to write any others I’ve had in the pipeline.

4. Interviews – I love meeting people and talking to them face-to-face, so I’m trying to make sure I get the chance to do as much of that as possible before I leave.

5. Training others in the office up on the technical side of our system and making sure they all know how to work the website when I leave, as up to this point I have been mainly in control of it.


I won’t lie, it’s pretty chaotic and I’m starting to worry I won’t get time to do everything I want to do before I leave. But then I remind myself it doesn’t actually matter if I don’t – much as I would love to leave the team with the next four What’s On sections ready and waiting: 

That is not my responsibility and I can only do my best.

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I’ve also been reminiscing about my most memorable moments at the newspaper – trust me, there’s been quite a few! After three years of working here, and loving it, I’ll be taking some very fond memories away with me.

I wanted to share some of them with you:

1. My week of work experience – realising I wanted to be a journalist and getting the front page after just five days at the paper.

2. Being asked to take on writing a weekly column for the paper and causing a bit of a stir – I loved the complimentary letters, but the complaints sure gave me a laugh!

3. Being challenged to write about all sorts of topics – from fuel prices to train services, from bomb scares to charity efforts. Plus all the random stories like the cow that escaped from a field, went on a rampage and ended up tearing through someone’s living room.

4. Being trusted by all those families to write tributes to their loved ones, particularly those I already had a personal connection with.

5. Taking on control of the entertainment section of the paper and completely turning it around – even doubling it in size after showing how good it could be.

6. Taking on responsibility of managing the website and social media output for the newspaper – a huge role in a company that is all about “digital first” and one I performed very well.

7. Getting to interview the likes of Adam Ant, UB40, Deaf Havana, national production company founders, West End stars, soap stars and many more – for a town in Norfolk, I’ve done pretty well.

8. Reviewing huge events, festivals, gigs, theatre productions and much more – I have loved every event and will really miss getting to see this cultural side of the town.

9. Working with some amazing PR/Marketing whizzes who have become great friends as well – you guys have made my life a hell of a lot easier and I really enjoyed working with you.

10. Working with all my amazing friends in the office – we’ve been under a hell of a lot of pressure particularly during the last year, and time and time again we’ve pulled together and managed to get the paper out. Those outside the office have no idea what work goes on behind the scenes, and we would never have made it through without sticking together. That includes our “rivals” who quite frankly are under just as much pressure as we are.


I can’t imagine what my last day will be like in the office. I imagine it will be pretty strange, as I have never actually left a job that I cared about before now. But I don’t regret my decision for a second, and I know the whole office are really excited for me to start a new adventure. A huge thanks to the team for everything they’ve taught me over the years. I will be firmly making the most of these last 10 days in the office.

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And I couldn’t finish this post without a tribute to the best Bridget Jones moment – when she quit her job!


Have you left a great job behind to move on to other things? How were your final days of work – did you feel happy or sad to be leaving friends and that part of your career behind?

Ab Lucy sign off

The Eternal Battle: Qualifications vs. Experience

battleThis is a subject that comes up time and time again, and after receiving an email from friend a few weeks ago asking for some advice on how to get into journalism – I thought it might be about time I tackled this subject in a post. Everyone has a different opinion on whether qualifications or experience have the greater input into where you end up in life, and I know there are great examples for both sides – but I know so many students are left confused by which one they should be focusing on. When you’re at university, you’re constantly told you need to gain more experience but when you try to get some you are told you’re not qualified for the role. It’s an eternal battle and a vicious cycle – one that many students struggle to break. So which one should you be concentrating on?

Experience

I will always be a champion for the experience route, I may be an English Language and Communication and English Literature graduate, but I’ll be honest when I say that my degree has not really had much influence over where I have ended up. I loved studying for my degree because I was passionate about both subjects, and I would always argue that if you are passionate about something it is worth studying. But it is easy to think a degree will get you where you want to be when in actual fact they really won’t in many cases. While studying at university, I applied for work experience at national publication, More Magazine, where I spent two weeks working on the fashion desk, helping on photoshoots and so on… It wasn’t for me, but it gave me my first piece of worthwhile experience to add to my CV. Work experience at my local newspaper turned out to be the most valuable – after five days I had the front page and had been asked to write a weekly column. I also worked full time for a month with them (paid) before returning to university and was given a job upon graduating. Since graduating, I have also started writing for a festival news and reviews site, of which I was made the editor. It has not only given me great experience, but it looks fantastic on my CV and will help me in the future. Despite not being a fully-qualified journalist, I have worked in two journalistic roles since graduating three-four years ago all because of the experience I have gained. I know other fully qualified journalists who have put a lot of time into becoming qualified, but have been stuck with unpaid writing work or copy writing roles instead of journalism.

Of course, not everyone is trying to be a journalist. But this is something that will work in most professions – I have friends who work in retail, in marketing and advertising, in engineering and several who have become teachers. All of them have had to gain experience in their chosen fields before they were able to progress in their careers – it has just come in different forms. For one engineer, he was given experience and training as part of the course to become qualified for his role. For the retail worker, she started as a shop assistant and gained experience while working on the job, which allowed her to work her way up and become qualified as an office manager. All of the teachers had to gain experience of working in schools, mostly unpaid, alongside their PGSE studies so that they could finish their qualification. And those in marketing and advertising found their experience vital to gaining employment in bigger and better companies upon graduating – completing a placement year or few months while studying was a necessity. Of course, all of them also needed qualifications in one form or another, but their experience played a much larger part in their overall career path.

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Qualifications

In many fields, experience can be impossible to gain without having some kind of qualification beforehand. Journalism can be a tricky one, particularly if you are applying for work experience before studying for an NCTJ, because there is so much competition. I was lucky that I was given the opportunity to do work experience at the newspaper because I was the first in over five years to do so, and I wasn’t even studying journalism! But I know of many student journalists who have struggled to get experience without already being enrolled on a journalism course. If you know that you want to study journalism, it is a good idea to just go for it and study for your NCTJ because some papers are unwilling to take on work experience students when they do not have skills like shorthand, or a knowledge of media law. Don’t do a journalism degree! I can’t stress this enough – I know so many journalists who have done a degree and then have had to pay to study for a NCTJ afterwards because they haven’t fulfilled all of the criteria. If you want to study a degree as well, why not do like I did and study English or another humanities subject you have an interest in? Just bear in mind it is important, particularly if you want to work for a newspaper or news site, to be qualified. But also bear in mind, that there are lost of people out there who are working as journalists and freelance writers who are unqualified. It is not necessary to have a NCTJ, but it is a helpful addition to your CV and skills.

Don’t feel like I am down on qualifications and how useful or important they are. I have always taken them very seriously, whether they were GCSE’s or final exams at university, and I always think it is worth working towards having an official document saying you can do something – even if you have known you can do it for ages before. It is an achievement for yourself, and it also proves to the world that you can do something. Being officially qualified puts you ahead of the pack, if two people go for an office manager job and one has completed a managing course and the other hasn’t – the employer will probably favour the one who has. When a potential employer is just looking at your CV, having an extra qualification on there can mean the difference between a new job and the dole. It can also mean a huge difference between the rate of pay – having an extra qualification can mean you are entitled to thousands more a year overall. It can also mean being paid significantly less than someone who is doing exactly the same job as you – soul destroying. I would always recommend trying to get a well-rounded CV packed with experience and qualifications – both will play a part in getting you where you want to be.

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But which one is more important to you? For me it has to be experience – as much as I love and am proud of my degree, I have found my working experiences invaluable. My time spent working at the newspaper and the festivals site has changed what I want to do with my life and has given me the confidence, knowledge and skills to achieve that with or without the qualifications. I see them as an added bonus to my life, but not something that will hold me back or prevent me from achieving my career dreams. I know that it will be different for those working in different fields – but I would love to know about your experiences of different industries.

Do qualifications or experience mean more to you? Which has played a larger part in bringing you closer to your dream?

Ab Lucy sign off

The art of shameless self-promotion

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It’s appraisal (sorry, “self-development meeting”) time at work and after all the conversations at work about filling out forms listing our good qualities, goals and achievements, it’s got me thinking about the people out there who go unnoticed. I don’t know if it is the British thing of underplaying our talents and feigning bashfulness, but it just seems to me a waste of time and something that is holding so many incredible people from getting the recognition and rewards they deserve for their hard work.

I’m talking about those quite individuals who put in countless extra hours, taken on ridiculous workloads and never get the credit for it because they just brush it under the carpet and fail to point out what they are doing to their superiors. This is great for a while, but soon this extra work and time becomes expected of you and if, or when, you leave the company they will suddenly be in dire straights because they never realised quite how much you contributed. Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me as well.

I’ve been this person who gives extra time and effort to a job and have seen how it can go completely unnoticed. I have had friends who have taken on three times their workload when people have suddenly left and have been expected to continue working like this to save the company hiring more staff. It is not fair – but is the company really to blame?

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Of course, the company has a duty to its staff to make sure they are happy and that they are getting the support they need in order to work, but if we never speak up how are they supposed to know? How will our bosses ever realise our true workload and the fact that we are struggling to keep up with it, the fact that we have given up on a social life? The short answer is – they don’t! 

The problem is that so many people out there take all this extra work on and although complaining to friends, family and co-workers about it, they never complain or raise their concerns to the people who can actually do something about it! Are we scared to say to our bosses that we do work bloody hard and to list all the extra jobs we take on? Why don’t we say that we deserve more money or more recognition for what we do? And why is it so hard to say when you are overworked and need to lighten your workload?

I guess it’s something to do with fear of failure or worries over what the response might be – especially in the current climate where people are being made redundant and losing their jobs all the time. But this doesn’t mean it is right. I have so many friends who drastically undersell themselves through lack of confidence or just not knowing how to go about it. It is important when you have a meeting with your boss, when writing that CV or in interviews to make sure you sell them the very best version of yourself and to blow your own trumpet because in this world, no-one else is going to do it for you!

loveI’ve always been a firm believer in being aware of your talents and your skills and making others aware by showing them off. Now for those who are getting nervous – I don’t mean showing off by boasting, I mean making it clear what you are capable of and what you are able to take on. Remember you are the only person who is holding you back!

Here are my top tips for showing what you’re worth:

  • If you have no idea where to start, ask a friend/colleague (or your mum) to point out all the things you contribute to the workplace and your particular talents.
  • Make a list of these and practise explaining them to friends and family so that you feel confident saying it to your boss.
  • Keep your CV up-to-date even when you are  in full-time work and make sure to add any skills, first aid courses, management courses etc.
  • When you take on extra work that doesn’t come within your job description, make sure to point it out or keep a list for when you next have a meeting with your boss.
  • Remember the importance of spinning things to your advantage. You could have “sent a few Tweets” or “handled the company’s social media outlets”. Don’t downplay and realise how things sound to both your boss and future employers.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more money or a new job title – if you can lay out all the extra work you do and justify a pay rise to your boss, you are perfectly entitled to ask. You might not get it, but you will make your boss aware of your workload and that you deserve more.

SkillsAndTalentsHave you struggled to blow your own trumpet in the past? How did you overcome this?

How to get the most out of a work experience placement

Photo by Selina

Photo by Selina

I spotted a great post by Kettlemag.com the other day about how to get the best work experience in journalism – fantastic advice from Sian Elvin for up-and-coming journalists who don’t know where to begin.

It made me think about work experience and the importance of getting the most out of it while you have the opportunity because quite simply, it can completely change what you want to do with your life. I am a great example of this – I went to university where I studied English Literature and English Language and Communication thinking that I wanted to become a teacher. The summer before my final year at university, out of desperation from working at a terrible milkshake shop and card store, I wrote to the local paper and asked for work experience to save me from insanity and to have something to show for the summer.

Amazingly, they welcomed me in – I was the first person to be given the opportunity in several years because the previous editor didn’t allow it. Sheer luck? Or a great CV? I had previously done an extra course at university on perfecting your CV and highlighting your credentials, so I would like to think this is what secured me the position. I went along, smartly dressed and full of beans  for my first day at the paper. I was there for just five days, but in those five days, I wrote every different type of story going, spoke to the public, interviewed, went out with photographers, went to court, inquests and council meetings with another reporter. It gave me a wealth of experience and even led to me securing the front page story for that week. This incredible experience completely changed what I wanted to do with my life and career – deciding there and then that I wanted to go into journalism.

When I left, I was asked to take on a student writing column specifically about my life and adventures at university – I wrote this weekly column throughout my final year at university and loved it. I still get people, including the local MP, talking to me about it now several years on. I also was the paper’s first port of call when two reporters left their jobs quite suddenly and they found themselves short-staffed – they took me on with no qualifications and I worked there for the month before returning to university. It gave me a fantastic opportunity and helped me secure a job and training for when I finished university.

But it has become clear to me over my time working at the newspaper, when I have seen several work experience kids come in of all ages and experiences, that so many just do not have the confidence to make the most of this opportunity. Instead, many prefer to keep their heads down and struggle along instead of asking for help or guidance.

So here are my top tips for getting the most out of work experience:

  • Don’t be afraid – you are only hurting yourself by not being confident enough to ask if you are not sure, or to pipe up if you think of a good idea. Those around you will just think you don’t care or haven’t got the confidence to do the job.
  • Local is just as good as national or regional – don’t be put off by the thought of going for work experience at a local company, it can give you a much better experience where you can get stuck into a range of things while at nationals you might be left making tea instead of learning. Also, they will value your local knowledge – my knowledge of the area I have lived in all my life is greatly valued in an office with lots of workers who travel great distances to work.
  • Dress smartly and practically – don’t wear high heels if you are going to be running around all day and a short skirt is not appropriate.
  • Ask questions – very important! You are there to learn as much as possible by asking everybody questions about absolutely everything. If it is a busy office, perhaps keep a list of things you would like to know and ask if someone could talk you through them in a spare moment.
  • Don’t be rude – we had one girl in who tried to tell the editors how to do their jobs, needless to say she was not invited back.
  • Talk to everyone – for example, you may be in the editorial team but be sure to talk to people from different departments like photographic or advertising – there are lots of levels to offices and lots to learn from all members of staff, no matter how low or high up they are.
  • Don’t worry about getting stuck in the tea round – if you’re like me and don’t drink tea or coffee then the whole thing seems rather ridiculous. While it is nice to offer to make a brew for everyone, and in some establishments it will be expected, but don’t feel like you have to make one I certainly never have. However, it can be a great conversation starter with other departments.
  • Remember you are in a busy office/workspace – many offices work to tight deadlines and you have to remember that everyone around you has a hell of a lot more work to deal with, that looking after you adds to their workload. Don’t take this for granted and try to see if you can help ease their workload by running errands of taking on more – they will then have more time to help you or answer your questions.
  • Grab at every opportunity – always ask if you can do any more jobs whether it is writing more stories, calling people up, face-to-face interviews, going out with photographers or whatever happens in your line of work. A lot of the time the bosses will forget to send you out on stuff, but it will help you out and will show them how dedicated you are if you actively ask for things.
  • Learn as much about the company/their product(s)/their target market and anything else you can find out beforehand – it can really show you’re switched on if you can rattle off some of this stuff or apply it when in the office.
  • Take notes – copious amounts. Never arrive without a pen or notebook. These will help you remember things like computer login details, quirks of the systems, how to do things like saving stuff on to their systems and much more. It will also help if you are asking questions to note things down because it can all be a bit overwhelming and you don’t want to forget stuff.
  • When you finish your week/fortnight, be sure to ask for a meeting with the boss if you are not offered one – ask for feedback on your work over the week (this will help you hugely in future) and if there are any opportunities for further work with them either as freelance, jobs that are going or for further work experience/internships. Also, if you are in need of a reference, this can be useful for further work experience applications.

So there you have it – my top tips for making the most of a placement. Don’t waste the opportunity – they are few and far between in today’s job market and you really can’t afford to not take advantage of the situation. Just be sure to make it work for you as well – don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel you aren’t getting much out of the week, just do it in such a way that you suggest things you could do to help them rather than saying it is rubbish.

Have you got any work experience tips? Share them below.