I’ve been planning on doing a proper work inspired post for a while now, and after seeing a few pop up (namely from the gorgeous Alex and Charlotte), thought I’d properly sit down and chat you through all things revolving around the big wide world of careers.
I asked on Instagram about the kind of topics you’d all like to see over here, and this came up again and again- so, knowing there’s no time like the present- I thought I’d get in to the nitty gritty of near enough every way I’ve dabbled in the world of work, and how I got into this blogging malarky. I feel like only since sitting down and going through it all do I actually realise how much I’ve done- so hopefully this is relatively useful if you’re in a similar position, or feeling a little lost yourself. I’ve also added in a few notes on what I learnt throughout each stage of work, in hope that there may be a little takeaway value from this too. So, let’s start at the beginning…
From UCAS to uni…
Having studied English Literature, History, Art and Photography at A Level- it always felt pretty clear to me about the direction I wanted to go in after I left school. After starting my blog whilst taking my A Levels 8 years ago- at the time it was very much a hobby and something I mainly used to share my photography work (which you can see here). It was one of the only websites that worked on the school computers in my common room, so breaks would be spent popping together new posts and sharing wish lists simply just because- trust me, there was no RewardStyle back in the day, kids!
When it came to applying for university, I definitely felt a bit lost- and was in constant debate about whether to take the ‘safe’ option of English or take an Art Foundation course and go on to something more creative. In the end I ended up applying for five redbrick universities, all to study some variant of English, and despite not getting into my first choices of Leeds and Nottingham- ended up going to Liverpool to study English and Communication studies- a city I loved, but a course I quickly grew to dislike (bar the handful of great pals I made), meaning I left 3 months in and moved back home to London.
At this point, I ended up feeling pretty lost- and although I tried (and failed) to get into London College of Fashion (something that left me completely heartbroken at the time), I knew it was time for a bit of a change of direction- and set off to the world of interning…
What I learnt:
– Always, always follow your heart and don’t feel pressure just because something ‘should’ be the right thing. I felt like I should have taken the ‘safe’ choice when it came to deciding on universities, but nobody knows you like you.
– If at first you don’t succeed, try again. A cliche, but something I learnt after leaving university and then trying again and still not totally cracking it. It’s so easy to feel demotivated when things don’t go your way- but there’s often a reason, and things will fall into place.
– There’s no shame in admitting something isn’t right. Thankfully I had the most supportive family and best friends- but making the decision to leave university was a toughie (especially when you know how much has gone into getting you there)- but if something isn’t right, it isn’t right- and better to have given it a go and worked it out than never tried at all. A lot of people say university is the making of someone, but it was leaving it that really edged me in the right direction. CHEESE.
On the shop floor…
Alongside education- I pretty much started working as soon as I was able to- basically, so I was able to go shopping and buy clothes. From working at a popcorn stand in my local shopping centre (ALL GLAM HERE LADIES), to Sunday shifts at Topshop, waitressing at my favourite local Italian and later endless shifts at Whistles on Westbourne Grove- I learnt a lot balancing shop work with everything else. I think there’s a lot to be said for people that work in retail; because the people skills, energy and work it requires is quite something (I always say everyone should have a stint working a Topshop sale to make them a tougher person)! After university, and whilst juggling interning- working in retail was an integral part of keeping everything afloat, and meant I could afford to do 5 days a week in a fashion cupboard- no matter how tiring everything could be.
What I learnt:
– Retail experience will always look good on a CV, and being a pest and re-handing out your CV to your favourite shop again and again isn’t always a bad thing- often it’s timing, so make sure you’re always top of the pile.
– If somewhere says they ‘need someone with experience’ before you have experience- make it! Start a blog- and pick up on your skills that you might not have had the chance to flaunt yet and give yourself some home grown portfolio pieces that show how passionate you are.
– That people skills and invaluable. Not only did I make some amazing friends through changing room shifts and early starts- but any job with the public is a great one to have.
Inside the fashion cupboard…
My first ever bout of work experience was at the NME- and they are some of my favourite memories from interning I’ve had, and possibly some of the most valuable. From writing practise single reviews, sorting post and occasionally rubbing shoulders with some serious greats- I felt incredibly lucky to be able to go back again and again until I left school, learning more each time and feeling a little more confident too.
After school and once I’d left university, I started emailing near enough everywhere in order to get some hands on internships. Although this is definitely easier said than done (it took a while to get anything through, trust me)- I ended up starting a long run of internships at Company magazine in their fashion cupboard, as well as Look magazine- both of which mainly consisted of sample returns and call in’s- which although tiring, definitely helped build experience. The last internship I did before I went freelance was at Notebook magazine- somewhere I have the fondest memories of, and the first place I felt I could properly get involved with the team and be of real value. I assisted on shoots, did an occasional bit of writing and truly felt of (small) importance- which always makes me feel very fondly of that chapter in my life.
What I learnt:
– Fashion cupboards and interning definitely isn’t glamorous, but being keen, upbeat and enthusiastic is invaluable. I know it’s easy to say and a lot harder to do (especially when you’re on your knees sorting through mountains of samples and feel incredibly self conscious)- but it’s the little ways of getting remembered that truly help.
– When applying for things be as creative as you like! I always recommend Etsy for amazing CV templates and know friends that have sent IRL post (and specific press-release style send outs) in order to try and get a foot in.
Hittin’ the freelance…
Between interning and going full time with my blog, I dabbled a little in the world of freelancing. I only ever did a couple of days a week across social media for a couple of different wholesale and PR companies, but it felt like a gentler way of sidestepping into doing my blog full time and managing myself- which wasn’t ever really the plan (I didn’t realise it ever could be)! It really helped me build my knowledge of social media management, and although it was a time where social was all very new and unknown- I felt relatively confident in what I could offer, and also learnt a lot about blogger outreach coming at it from the other side for a little while too.
What I learnt:
– Twitter is a great place for scouting out freelance opportunities. Both of mine were word of mouth and recommendations from friends, so talking to people in overlapping industries and keeping conversations up is a great way of knowing what is going on. Also checking sites like Fashion Monitor for upcoming gigs. I’m certainly no freelance expert, but this was what I got from the small nugget of experience I had!
And then full time with the blog…
And, bringing us up to about 4 years ago when I finally went full time with the blog! When I started it definitely wasn’t a viable career option, so rounding up to now when it completely is seems pretty surreal. Fortunately I never had to make the huge jump from secure 9-to-5 to self employed business owner, so it’s definitely been a work in progress (especially as someone who is about as savvy with business as they are with sports knowledge)! I’m definitely still getting to grips with everything from tax, Invoicing and standing my ground- but I’ve definitely started acquiring a new skill set meaning I’m able to grow, learn and develop as someone not only working creatively but owning a business too. But I definitely think there’s another post for that…!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this (pretty lengthy) insight into my world of work! Obviously I’m totally happy to answer any questions you may have (not that I’m by any means an expert)- but sharing is caring, and I’d love to share any advice I can- as goodness knows it wasn’t always online when I needed it!