Today marks the start of a brand new adventure. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment attempting to squeeze my life into my backpack and felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump. Oh god how I've missed that feeling. I've missed the feeling of freedom and excitement at picking up and starting again somewhere new and different. I've been back in Melbourne for five months after living here for five months last year - don't get me wrong, Melbourne has turned into a home from home for me and remains one of my absolute favourite places in the world. But when you know it's time to go, it's time to go.
Living in the city, both times, has been a real challenge with surreal highs and some crazy lows that have left me questioning everything. Every time I come here, I seem to end up in jobs that push me to the very end of my tether and while I've loved my cocktail waitress gig and have had an amazing time working on a rooftop bar all summer - I am more than ready to move on and get back to traveller life. This last few months have been both amazing and exhausting - I've worked too much in my goal to save as much money as possible and I've had to sacrifice my writing due to lack of time and routine. But at the same time, I've made some amazing new friends and I've had some pretty special adventures in this city and beyond. I don't regret a single second of it, but I know that out there a healthier and happier life is waiting for me, so I think it's about time I went and found it.
This past week has been a flurry of goodbyes and leaving drinks, after living here for a total of ten months I've picked up a pretty special crowd along the way. I want to say a huge thank you to every single person, who no matter how short a time we spent together, really made my Melbourne experience. Now I plan to finish my time here with a bang, tonight I'm heading to a pretty incredible house I've rented with my friends for a joint-birthday celebration along Great Ocean Road. We'll be spending the weekend there and, just as it should be, I'll be finishing my time in Melbourne with the people who mean the most to me. Follow me on Instagram and check out my InstaStories for all the live updates.
So what's next for Absolutely Lucy?
On Monday I'll be flying to Adelaide, where I'll be catching up with an old friend and checking out the city for a week. I'm definitely going to need a chilled week after this hectic last few weeks in Melbourne! Then I'm heading to Perth, where I'm hoping to find some road trip buddies to start heading up the West Coast with - it's been a dream trip for a long time and I'm so excited to be on the road again. I can't wait for the sunshine and beaches after this last week of rain in Melbourne, get me tanned, fit and healthy again. I've slipped into so many bad habits lately, not sleeping enough, barely eating and drinking way too much - hospo life has definitely got the better of me - so now I'm looking forward to taking care of myself for a while.
I'm excited to get back to blogging and to be able to focus on my passion for a while instead of working the same repetitive job and having the same conversations over and over again. Being a waitress in the bar was fun but I'm so much more than that and I can't wait to pursue the things I really love, to have the time and the energy to be creative again. I'll miss my big city life, my cute little apartment all to myself with a gym downstairs, my local coffee shop and bars where the staff remember my orders, my work crew and how much they cared about each other. I'll miss the families I found in my neighbours, my work crew and my besties I've met all over Australia. Melbourne is an incredible city but it is always the people who make the place and I've been lucky enough to meet some amazing characters who I already can't wait to see again. Next week I'll have lots more to share with you all - trust me I have a lot of adventures to catch you all up on! But for now Melbourne, over and out.
Something 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.
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.
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.
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.
Infographic created by Opodo.
I 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.
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?
Christmas 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?
I'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:
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?
It'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.
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.
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?
This 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?
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.