learning to work from home in a pandemic | graduate job

2021, career

Hello!

I’ve not written about the graduate job market or ‘post graduate life’ since I finished my undergraduate degree in 2018, since then I’ve finished a Post-Graduate Certificate in Professional Development Planning, a MSc in Digital Media Production and I actually got a job! Two months after my masters dissertation hand in I’m actually working!

As we’re living in another nationwide lockdown in the UK, my work has been exclusively from home and navigating mentally reassigning my home environment into a work space as well as trying to figure out a new workload is a challenge and a half. I know personally it takes me a little while to adapt to change and figuring all this out virtually is challenging for anyone who’s had to adapt how they work.

There’s a lot to figure out – not only a new group of people and procedures and responsibilities, but doing all this in the place I’ve been spending days and days on the sofa since my dissertation was handed in. It sounds easy enough in theory – all the things you usually have to do without the commute to sit in an office with less than comfy chairs, probably at least one person who annoys you a little bit and where it’s not socially acceptable to wear a blanket  cape when it’s freezing outside. Working from home should be almost fun with the fridge 15 steps away and no one to judge you for it, right?

By now, anyone that’s had to work from home knows it’s so much more than that – for me, my downstairs living room and kitchen area is all open plan. If I really wanted to I could probably dive bomb the sofa from my desk and I have snacks within arms reach basically everywhere. Today I tried working at my make-up vanity upstairs and I found a lovely little cosy nook to sit in, but the bed was two paces away and it was challenging enough getting out of it without the temptation to get back in.

It’s an entirely different mindset that you don’t very often have to get into at home. Being that switched on in an environment that’s usually associated with slowing down and relaxing? It’s why some students are finding online learning so hard – because it’s not their school environment.

I’d like to think it goes without saying that it doesn’t mean I think that offices should be open and kids should be in school, I’m not saying that at all, I’m just saying it’s a difficult transition to figure out.

Starting a new job without being able to meet any of my colleagues properly, separating my work and home environments and sometimes feeling a little lost with no one to turn to is strange, but at the end of it all I’m grateful to have a job – after my undergraduate experience of applying for over a hundred jobs and not getting anything and then worrying about being able to get a job at all when the job market is so minimal in a pandemic, the fact I have any work is lucky and I really do feel lucky to have it.

If anything, the thing I’m finding more difficult than working from home is being ‘switched on’ for 8 hours a day, being awake and functioning at 9am (anxiety ruined my sleep schedule) and navigating not being a student. I’m grateful that I can roll out of bed at 8.45am and start dinner as soon as I finish at 5pm (or lounge on the sofa before I shove something in the oven). Today my fiancé had a day off and I got to pop downstairs for cheek kisses and the occasional cuddle (don’t tell my boss) but it was weird that he had a day off and I was working because that hasn’t happened for about a year?

So my tips from working for home after four days of doing it – stay hydrated, have a to do list to try and stay focused, plan your lunch because half an hour for a break isn’t actually very long, set an alarm for the end of the day if it helps and today my phone popped up with a thing called ‘focus mode’ and it essentially blocks a bunch of apps during work hours and it’s a little annoying for procrastinating but good for not procrastinating.

And at the end of the day, we’re not working from home – we’re at home, trying to work in a pandemic and that’s not the same.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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New Year, No Plan

2020, goals, mental health

Hello,

Like many of us at this time of year, December often gets my thinking about setting goals for the next year – call them New Years Resolutions, 2021 goals or anything else, a lot of people really like the turn of a new year to be able to adopt a fresh new mindset and try and make lifestyle changes.

If you’ve read any of my goal blog posts, you’ll know I’m a massive goals person and won’t be surprised that I’ve been thinking about and making notes about what I want to achieve in 2021 for a few months now. When inspiration hits I have to write it down, or I will not remember!

And whilst setting goals and the New Year can be a great new start and a chance to refresh, it can also be really intimidating if you don’t know what the year is going to hold. When I planned this post I’d been applying for jobs with no reply (though I’m now in discussion about potential work starting next year… but I don’t want to speak too soon) and not knowing what could fill each day can be daunting, lonely and hopeless.

And after the year we’ve all lived through, lonely and hopeless have a whole new meaning.

People throw around phrases like ‘it has to be better next year!’ but if we’ve learnt anything is that we don’t know what’s coming and we can’t expect it to be better. 2021 can’t be this beacon of hope where we expect everything to return to ‘normal’ – this week, the British Government have announced a lot more places moving into Tier 3 (very high risk) measures and despite a vaccine being given, there’s a whole lot of talk about things getting worse before they ever get better. So putting too much hope on 2021 is the kind of optimism my realism can’t get behind.

So 2021 is a mystery, like every New Year is, but with the experience of 2020 behind us it feels a bit different this year. Thus, going into the New Year with no plan feels impossible.

Granted, there’s always things to be grateful for – having our health, a roof over our head and food in the fridge has meant so much more this year, being with someone who’s not lost their job and is still working is a privilege and even just living with someone and having company feels like a luxury. But that doesn’t make not knowing what could come in 2021 any less scary.

Not knowing is the worst kind of not having control and for the control freaks among us, that’s where a lot of feelings of intimidation come from. But there are ways to make it easier – I’m a huge advocate for to do lists, setting yearly and monthly goals to help with consistent progress, adapting how daily to do lists are made to suit what makes you feel productive and learning to check in with yourself to learn what makes you feel calmer and happier and working on it.

Looking ahead is always scary, whether it’s a year, a decade or a lifetime, but being able to reign it in, take it a week, a day or even an hour at a time feels more achievable. Working on mindfulness to tune into our psychological and physical needs and intuitively get to know our bodies can be hugely beneficial to our wellbeing. Even things like a skincare routine and a healthier diet are short term things that are worth focusing on.

I’m not saying this from a position of someone who’s ‘perfected’ any of this – my to do list today is about 14 tasks long because I’ve been feeling a bit low this week and not sleeping well, I’ve not opened my meditation app in months and I 100% do not regularly use any of my skincare products, but I know that when I feel ready, spending time on these things will be good for me. And I will be okay.

New Year’s is a strange time of year – it can be incredibly sad to end, excited for a new beginning, grief for those we may have lost, anticipation of plans for the coming year; a whole host of emotions, good and bad. When I was younger, I hated New Years because I was so depressed I couldn’t see my life getting better, then when I was at uni I worried that things would get worse and the evidence of the passing of time scared me. But now? The New Year is going to come and go anyway, so I’m learning to accept that the year will bring whatever it brings and I can only control what is in my power.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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May Goals 2020

2020, career, goals, student

Hello friends!

Somehow we’ve made it through an entire month in isolation/lockdown/quarantine/social distancing/however you’re wording it! A whole calendar month! I’m now approaching my 7 week anniversary since my partner and I started spending 24/7 together and we’re fine, no danger of us killing each other, but I might not fit through the door when we can finally leave!

Comfort eating aside, it’s time for some new monthly goals. Part of the reason I’m maintaining my routine of goal setting is because even though the world we’re living in at the moment isn’t normal, I still kind of want to pretend it is and that includes setting goals that I would be setting anyway!

Let’s crack on!

  1. follow diss plan – as part of one of the assignments I had to submit in April (4 on one day… thanks coronavirus) I had to make a schedule of how I will work on my dissertation project between now and potential hand in (who knows whether CV-19 will push it back) so I figure actually working on them is probably a good idea!
  2. drink 2l a day – hi I’m permanently dehydrated and I have been getting better, but I want to make it more of a habit and I have a reward plan! My true love and my addiction is coca cola – I used to have a really bad habit and now I’m quite content with one can a day. But if I don’t hit my 2l goal, no can of coke for me. Hoping this will help me be more consistent!
  3. apply for 4 jobs – it’s getting to that point of uni again – same as two years ago on my undergrad, I’m getting to the point where the end is near and I need to start thinking about my life as a masters graduate. I want to try and apply for one job a week, though I’ll be honest – I’m terrified of it. A year of being rejected from hundreds of jobs has just made me feel like getting a job is impossible, so please keep your fingers crossed for me!
  4. finish cross stitch – I bought one of those cross stitch kits from hobbycraft months ago and it was only when we literally get a government order telling us we can’t leave our house that I started it. Threading the needle was annoying because the embroidery thread is so difficult to use but even so, I’d really like to try and finish it this month! It’s more a symbol of making time for myself to do something creative without purpose (i.e. it’s not for YouTube or uni, it’s just for me).
  5. write 27,000 words – always setting myself creative writing challenges! In 2020, every other month in the run up to NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days) and in May I’m aiming for 871 words ‘a day’ (though, no pressure to write every single day). I’m not sure what I’m going to write yet so that’s probably not the best start!

And that’s what I’ll be focusing on in May! The whole lockdown thing has made my anxiety take an absolutely nose dive in the past few days so I’m really trying my best not to get stressed by uni work and to maintain structure and routine as much as I can.

I’ve got it easy I know – I’ve got enough money, I don’t live in an immunocompromised household, I’ve got lots of time to work on personal projects, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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what am I doing with my life?

2020, career, lifestyle, student

Hello!

The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 has been confusing – outside of stuff going on in my personal life, I’ve been trying to figure out what comes next after I’ve finished my masters in Oxford. I’ve been working towards the same ‘career goals’ for the best part of four years but with a year of rejection after I graduated from my undergraduate degree and finding out more about the industry through job applications, research for a professional development course and starting research for my dissertation I’ve realised that actually, I don’t want to work in this industry that I convinced myself I want to be part of for so long.

And with that decided… what do I do now? I’m feeling incredibly lost about what I want to do when I finish my degree. I finish my classes in May and my dissertation is due in September, so over the summer I could start working in an industry that I really care about… if I could figure out what industry I want to work in (see ‘is too many passions a bad thing?‘ blog post…).

My goal for the year is to have a full time job by the October/end of the year whether it’s an industry job or an office admin job (which, feels more realistic but that might be because I’ve lost all confidence in all of my ability to do anything). But by then I’d also like to have more of an idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life.

But I know for sure that I am not the only student or person my age who isn’t sure what they want to do and feels intimidated by the future and the whole expanse of a career in front of them.

So here are my completely-non-academic, not-from-experience, might-not-even-work tips from me to you – one unemployed, confused twenty-something to another.

  1. Don’t fixate on your first career job being with a company that you want to stay with forever. People move jobs, people develop through different companies, people even change entire careers after 20 years in an industry so try not to put too much pressure on yourself to find the company that you never want to leave because let’s be real – they’re probably a big company that have a lot of competition and are more likely to take you on a couple of years down the line when you have more experience.
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed by being in a job that you want to stay in forever – people change careers. Someone can spend 20 years of their life being a geography teacher and then decide they want to be a writer. Someone can spend years training to be an actor or performer and end up wanting to be a nurse. Someone could go from being the biggest daredevil, stunt coordinator gymnast to working at your local supermarket. Things change, people change, industries change. You won’t be ‘stuck’ in whatever your first job is and don’t feel tied down by whatever your qualifications are (unless you want to be a vet and you’re a qualified hairdresser… you might need to go back to uni).
  3.  Stop trying to make your hobbies profitable – sure, we all want to do something we’re passionate about. But sometimes, hobbies should just be left to be hobbies; things that we do in our spare time just for the sake of enjoying them. Whilst it’s important to me to work in something that I’m passionate about, I’m only just learning that I don’t need to incorporate everything I love doing into my career.

And four – I should take my own advice.

Saying ‘don’t worry’ or ‘don’t get stressed about this’ is so easy but hopefully it can help to remind yourself that actually, these things aren’t the be all and end all and everything will work out in the end.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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the eve of 23

2019, lifestyle

Hello!

It’s my birthday tomorrow – normally I spend the few weeks leading up to my birthday getting excited and looking forward to it, but this year it’s really snuck up on me. My boyfriend and I are moving to our new flat in Reading this weekend and that is most definitely taking priority but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it.

slight update: between drafting and publishing this blog post, our estate agents (with three days to go) have pushed our move in date until September 28th so, all round very emotional and frustrated tbh

I’m a very reflective person – New Year is my best and worst time of year for that very reason – and my birthday always has me looking back on the year that’s gone passed. And 22 was an… interesting year.

It was the most challenging year of my life so far – having been home for a couple of months after graduating, having no luck in getting a job in any way shape or form, spending the next few months in denial that I couldn’t get a job and feeling particularly inadequate in every way, shape and form. 22 will always be the year that the only thing that mattered to me was being able to get a job and starting my career and, to be honest, that still stands now even though I’m less than a week from starting a masters degree in Digital Media Production.

Whilst this thought that I wasn’t good enough still lingers in my mind today, 2019 picked up a lot after realising that things weren’t going to get better if I didn’t try. I took a more permanent role working at my mum’s business as an office assistant and consequently worked enough hours to be able to consistently add to my savings account, upgrade my car and pay the deposit on our new flat (lol), as well as taking on a post-graduate certificate course in Professional Development Planning and decided to apply for a MSc in Digital Media Production. As well as getting my driving licence, a first aid qualification, doing lots of volunteering and making lots of self-development progress.

So 22 was up and down – I accidentally took a ‘year off’ though my mum doesn’t like me calling it that. My career isn’t where I want it to be, but I can’t change it and I can only make 23 better than 22 was. There’s no point dwelling on a past you can’t change! At least that’s what I’m trying to remind myself.

23 holds a lot of hope – having a place with my boyfriend, starting a new course in a new place, having a list of professional and career related things I want to achieve and knowing what I did wrong in my undergrad that I can amend in my post-grad hopefully will mean I can get this career off the ground (and maybe I’ll fish my self esteem out from the bottom of the ocean too!).

I’m hoping to go on a holiday abroad again, I’m planning to go to a festival with my mum next summer and I want to do everything I can to make 23 better than 22.

Sounds completely unrelated but hang with me – my boyfriend loves singing badly to songs and making up his own lyrics and the other day he came up with ‘dancing queen, young and sweet only twenty three’ and you know what? I’ll take that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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going back to uni – am I a failure?

2019, career, student

Hello!

It’s been over a year since I handed in my Final Major Project and finished working on my degree which means I’ve been applying for jobs for over a year and I’ll be honest, it’s utterly soul destroying.

I’m sure other people in my position feel the same – it starts to feel like maybe you don’t have the skills you know you have, maybe you’re not good enough for any of these jobs, or maybe you don’t actually want to go into the industry you’ve been working towards or whether your entire life so far is a lie.

Or maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic?

Maybe I am, but those are just some of the thoughts I’ve had over the hundreds of jobs I’ve read through and not applied for because it would either just be added to the pile of ones I never hear back from or I’ll get another rejection email and that won’t help anything.

So with the help of the careers team at my old university, I’ve been given the opportunity to study a Post Graduate Certificate in Professional Development Planning, which is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin – plan for my professional development (i.e. help me figure out how to get a job). And from there, depending on how the summer goes and unless I miraculously get a job, I’m hoping to start a masters degree at the end of September but I’m going to go to a couple of open days in June before I properly decide.

But is going back to uni just giving up on getting a job? Is the equivalent of saying ‘I know I can’t get a job without more training’? Obviously that’s just how I feel in my field of study – lots of courses have natural progression on to a more specified field including mine but for me there’s always that element of doubt.

So I thought I’d collate a few reasons why going back to uni definitely DOES NOT make me or you or anyone a failure and some things we can remind ourselves of whilst we’re still looking for the right job.

Getting more qualifications is never a bad thing – lots of people will do courses in the workplace, so it’s not that different to that really is it? In my unplanned year ‘off’ I’ve learnt to drive and become a qualified first aider so they’re other qualifications too, it’s just a larger scale much more expensive version of that.

It’ll make us more employable in the long run (hopefully) – having an MA to your name has to help a bit, doesn’t it?

I want to better myself and learn more and I would have done that if I got a job anyway – I love learning, developing my skills and keeping up with whatever changes in technology and I would have wanted to keep learning if I was in a career related job anyway. It’s just going about learning in a slightly different way.

I’m clutching a straws a bit I guess – it’s quite specific to be going back to uni because I can’t get a job and I’m sure most people going to do a masters are more than happy, in fact excited, to go back to studying because for them it’s not a last resort. And I suppose it’s not a ‘last resort’ – a real last resort would be giving up and deciding I’d work in retail or a job I don’t really want for the rest of my life. I probably won’t even be in this job I’m craving at the moment for the rest of my life so who knows why I’m being so dramatic about it all!

In conclusion (I’m getting back into the essay writing, can you tell?), going back to uni or studying a Masters or a PhD or whatever should never be something to consider a failure or be ashamed of. This post is as much for me as it is anyone else worrying about their future – even though it’s not quite going the way you’ve planned, it’s okay, something will happen, it’s just not our time yet.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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