A reason to leave the office…

I’m lucky enough to be able to say I love what I do for a living (selling holidays to Japan) but a couple of years ago I realised there simply had to be more to life than your day job. I used to spend hours at work, in front of a computer, getting less and less productive as the night went on, and I realised I was in danger of losing my passion for my career.

I was saved by salsa. After trying a class one evening I found myself hooked, and soon started finding every chance I could to dance in order to have a reason to leave my desk at the end of the day. Getting out, meeting people, learning something new and moving my body gave me a new reason to be alive, and before long I was happier and healthier than I had ever been.

Learning salsa led me to also learn other Latin and African dances, and now I dance salsa, bachata, cha cha cha, kizomba, semba, merengue and I’ll have a go at anything else you throw at me.

I’m back at work this week after a lovely Christmas holiday and started the week with no dancing in my diary. Classes all seem to be starting again next week, so I resigned myself to probably having a week of working hard and late, and not having the usual release that dance gives me. Without a reason to leave the office, would I just end up working late? Probably.

And then I was saved. Some of my wonderful dance teachers decided to put on an impromptu kizomba social dance tonight, lots of my friends were going, and before I knew it I had a reason to leave my desk at six on the dot, and something to look forward to all night.

Tomorrow I’m booked in for a Zumba class so I can shake my funky stuff a little more, and I’ve found some salsa for Friday now too. 

Dance not only gives me a reason to leave the office, it makes me feel great, and it’s one of my reasons to live now. 


Finding the one…

Quitting a job is a bit like finishing a relationship – you never know how the other person is going to take it. Sometimes there are tears, raised voices. They might even beg you to stay, tell you they’ll change or try to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Or perhaps they’ll just say “meh” and accept it. But you always know in your heart that you’ve done the right thing. No matter how good you felt when it started, no matter how sure you were this could be the one, you just know when it isn’t working and it’s time to move on.

In fact, it occurred to me recently that jobs and relationships actually have an awful lot in common. In both cases, aren’t we really just searching for “the one”?

When we’re young we have casual, part-time jobs and casual, non-committal relationships. These days, people often don’t really settle down until they’re over 25 – some take considerably longer. But by the time you reach your 30s you start to notice everyone around you getting more serious.Β Words like “career”, “commitment”, and “marriage” are used.Β As we grow older, we start looking for the one we can commit to for the long haul. Finding “the one” can be just as difficult if we’re searching for a career, or searching for a long-term relationship.

Like the pair of skinny jeans you look at longingly in H&M, sometimes we try things on just to see if they fit. I know I’m guilty of this when it comes to relationships and jobs (and skinny jeans). I’ve tried working in record stores and dating musicians, I’ve tried working in offices and dating men in suits. Just like the skinny jeans, you try them on even if you’re not sure they’re right for you. You try them on, but when you look in the mirror you just know something isn’t right, something doesn’t quite fit.

Dream jobs and dream relationships can both, in theory, be found online. I know a couple of friends who have recently found love through online dating websites – one even got married. In both cases, all you have to do is create an online profile and look for a match. Sometimes, they even come looking for you. But it’s not easy. There is a lot of rubbish out there, and you have to sift through a whole pile of lies before you can find the truth. Whether job hunting or looking for love you really shouldn’t lie on your resume, but you should be aware that others will not necessarily be as discerning. Both potential employers and potential partners might promise something they can’t deliver. We’ve all been there: you turn up for the date/interview and something feels wrong. He’s not quite as tall, dark and handsome as he said he was, or the office doesn’t look quite as bright and shiny as it looked on the website.

But sometimes you get lucky – whether it’s from a website, a newspaper, or through friends, it is possible to find “the one”. As far as my career goes, I’m feeling quite optimistic about the future. Since graduation I’ve tried various careers on, but none of them really fitted. However, in August I will be starting a new job at a company where I feel like I might be able to build a career and have a real future. I caught a glimpse of myself in the office window when I went for my interview, and it seemed to fit. It’s time for me to get serious, make a commitment, and build a future.

As for relationships, well I haven’t really had time for a while to be honest, but my eyes are open and I know “the one” must be out there somewhere…

LOVE by Robert Indiana

LOVE by Robert Indiana, New York


On job hunting…

Every day I wake up, and I restart the seemingly fruitless job hunt. Since I returned from Japan at Easter, I have been job hunting (also known as banging ones head against a brick wall).Β I started out with this naive confidence, believing that it was only a matter of a few weeks before I would be back in the land of the employed. Well it’s been eleven weeks since I returned to British soil, and I’m still looking.

At first, I was very choosy. I would look for only the jobs that I really, really wanted to do. As time goes on I’m, let’s say, broadening my horizons. But I remain realistic. If a job calls for skills I simply don’t have, I don’t waste anyone’s time by applying. I can’t fake my typing speed (around 45 wpm, ish), I can’t pretend I know shorthand (even the word “shorthand” gives me chills – but that’s another story), and I can’t even begin to speak French, let alone fluently (I can speak conversational Japanese though, but that doesn’t seem quite as in demand).

People say to me “Yeah, the job market is terrible, isn’t it?“. Well, no, actually. There are loads of jobs out there! At least, if you look on any of the main recruitment websites that’s how it seems. Last week I applied for 27 jobs – all of which I was qualified/experienced to do. How many responses did I get? Three. One was from the website I had applied through, saying that the job in question might actually be a fake, uploaded by robots or something. Two others told me I hadn’t been successful in getting interviews.

Since I began my search, I have applied for more than 50 jobs, registered with a number of agencies, and contacted some companies directly. I have interviewed with only 3 companies. Interestingly, of the 3 companies I interviewed with, only 2 ever actually got back to me.Β I don’t claim to be any maths expert, but there’s something wrong with those numbers.

But, as far as I know, I’m doing everything right. So I’ll just keep on doing it, and keep my fingers crossed.

By the way, if you happen to stumble upon this post and think you might need a PA/Administrator/Office Manager/Writer/Ambassador for Japan, you can find out more about me on LinkedIn, or check out my freelance writing portfolio here. I’m looking for a job in London, but am also open to Brighton and other big cities.

(Source)


I need to buy a ticket…

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, “There’s this wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, ‘Dear saint – please, please, please… give me the grace to win the lottery.’ This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, ‘My son – please, please, please… buy a ticket.‘”

My lament has gone on long enough. It’s time I bought a ticket. I don’t really think that trying to win the lottery is the way forward though – the odds aren’t really that great. So instead, my “ticket” will be a metaphor for action.

I haven’t been lamenting because I’m poor (although I’m not exactly rich). No, I’ve been lamenting because come April I will be unemployed for the first time in over ten years (if you count part-time jobs). I won’t have an income, and I will be back at my Mum’s house in a town I don’t really want to live in (nothing personal to anyone living there).

So I need to make a plan of action – I need to buy my ticket. If I don’t have a ticket, I’m never going to win, am I?

Plan of Action

1) Spruce up my CV.

2) Make a list of all the companies I would like to work for and agencies who deal with those kinds of companies.

3) Apply! (Even if no jobs are advertised.)

4) Believe that I can get a new job (this is a belief based on the knowledge that I’ve done everything in my power – not just a vain belief)

Wish me luck! πŸ˜‰


Tobogganing…

In my last blog here, I announced that I have just completed the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in less than a month.Β  I know that it is not yet a good book, and that it will take a lot of time and effort to make it something that could possibly one day be published, so why am I feeling so relieved right now?Β  When I know that, actually, there’s still a lot of work to do, why do I feel like I’m over the hill and tobogganing down with the finish line in sight?

I’ll tell you why.

Because, not only have I been dragging that damn toboggan up the hill all throughout November, I’ve also been dragging it about behind me everywhere I’ve been for the last three years or more. It’s a weighty old thing and can be really tiresome to drag around behind me, no matter how beautiful it is or how important I know it could be. I’ve dragged it around behind me all this time, hoping that one day I would have the time and energy to climb up that hill and take a ride, but always making excuses and feeling too scared to do so in case I reached the top of the hill and found I couldn’t let go and slide down. I was scared I might never reach the finish line, but also too scared to try.

Well, let me tell you, dragging my toboggan up that hill was worth it.Β  Not only was the journey towards the finishing line spectacular, even the view as I was dragging it up the hill was worth the effort.

And, now that I’ve gone through the process of dragging the toboggan up the hill and enjoying the ride down, I know that there’s nothing to be scared of, and it’s worth a little blood, sweat and tears. I won’t be afraid to do it again, and again, until I become a world-famous professional tobogganist!

So, if you’re dragging your toboggan about, whatever kind it may be (a novel, a song, a poem, a painting…), don’t let go of it. Just get started on that hill, chase yourself to the top, admire the view, and enjoy the ride towards the finish line…


Faking it.

Sometimes in life, you’re asked to fake it. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?Β  Today I got to thinking, how do you feel when you know you’re faking it?

Before you get all excited, I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about work. How many of you have done a job at some time in your life where you’ve had to fake it?Β  I have. When I was at university I worked in a video games shop, and I had to fake enthusiasm for shoot ’em ups. That wasn’t so bad though. At the end of the day, the customers didn’t really care if I liked video games or not. What did matter was that what they bought was right for them. And that’s where I had a problem.Β  My manager wanted me to sell them extra memory cards, extra control pads, extra everything, regardless of whether or not they needed it. “Just tell them they need it”, he said.Β  I couldn’t do that.

Now, ten years later, I hear from a good friend in a similar situation. Only this time it’s a little more serious.Β  A lot of my friends are teachers of various kinds, in various countries, and you wouldn’t believe some of the stories I hear. A teacher is someone you should be able to trust, but what is that teacher to do when they’re asked to fake it?

Some companies only know how to focus on money. Personally, I think value for money is more important.Β  My friend has been asked to fake it – she’s been asked to teach something she knows nothing about, to students who believe she is an expert, or at least a trained professional. She is neither.

These students are hoping to go to university in another country. It’s their dream. They’ve paid a lot of money to take classes in order to pass the very important (and, I should add, expensive) test they have to pass in order to get into that university. She has to teach them how to pass. And in order to do that, she has to fake it.

She knows about as much about these tests as the students know. Perhaps less. She’s not even a qualified teacher, actually. She’s just a native English speaker with a degree which, shockingly, is enough to qualify her to… fake it.

So, how would you feel in that situation? Could you fake it? It’s only a job, after all.Β  Personally, I would have some moral issues with it. I think I could only fake it so far…

This post was part inspired by the fabulous Sex & The City (Season 3, Episode 14), so here’s a clip. I love Charlotte’s line at the end.Β  Perhaps my friend is thinking “my career is a fake Fendi“…