Tag Archives: career

Does Kirstie Allsopp want to send women back to the dark ages?

kirstieI was so disappointed when I stumbled across this article by The Telegraph in which Kirstie Allsopp, of Location Location Location, had been interviewed on the topic of fertility and female careers. Allsopp is one of those women I always had time for because she seemed to have great values and a good head on her shoulders, but I can’t help but feel really let down and quite angry at her comments in the article.

The woman who fronts Location, Location, Location with Phil Spencer said that if she had a daughter, her advice would be: “Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.”

Wow. For someone who considers herself a “passionate feminist”, she seems awfully concerned with our basic biological drives and reasons for existence. What about our rights as women and about all the hard work campaigners have put in over the years to fight on behalf of women for fairer treatment both in the workplace and surrounding the having of children and retuning to work? Fair enough, it isn’t a perfect system and there are a lot of faults and there is a hell of a lot more work to be done to ensure women are being given equal pay and opportunities. But at the same time, a lot of people have worked very hard to enable our society to have the choice – the choice of education and a career, the choice to create a life for ourselves before creating a new life that dominates our own existence. Does Kirstie realise that by pushing these ideas on a hypothetical daughter could leave her without the opportunity to make this choice for herself? I am truly grateful to have had this choice, because I have always wanted an education, to learn and to study in order to benefit my career. I want a job I can love and be passionate about and I deserve that, as does everyone, regardless of their gender.

Steven DepoloWe deserve the right to choose when we want to have children, fair enough our biological clock is ticking and physically we may find ourselves unable to have children if we wait, but does that mean we should turn our own lives upside down and rush into the huge responsibility of raising a family before we are ready? One look at Jeremy Kyle will show you several reasons why rushing into having children and families before we are mature enough to deal with the relationships and the outcomes is a dangerous thing for society. Look at how the children suffer when they parents are more obsessed with sleeping around, drinking and screaming at them than raising them. Then look at how this affects the next generation when they repeat the same model of behaviour. Before you know it, we have a society of layabouts with an attitude that everything should be handed to them and they shouldn’t have to work because they are raising a family. They rely on the state and we end up in huge debt. Sound familiar? (Yes, yes, I know not all young parents are like this, but one walk around my home town will show you a lot who are.)

“Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward.

At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home, and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.”

Fair enough, she raises a valid point when she talks about our biology and the fact that there is limited time for women to be able to have a baby, and as I have discussed before it can be life changing and devastating for couples to realise they are out of time. But does that mean we should be rushing and neglecting ourselves in order to raise a family we are not ready for, with a partner who might not be suitable, in order to continue the human race? It just seems sad to me. I’m sure if I came to a point in my life where I had met the man of my dreams and wanted a family but was nearing 40 and suddenly found I could not have a baby of my own – I have no doubt that would be devastating. But, there are a huge range of options available, whether IVF, surrogacy or even adoption and I think, or I hope, that would pacify me and would be enough. But I certainly don’t believe for one second that ditching university and my career in order to have a baby at 18 would have been a useful solution. I would have resented the baby for holding me back and I would not have been happy.Gabi MenasheI’ll be honest, my maternal instincts are not that strong. I have no deep-seated desire for children at this moment in my life. I can appreciate cute babies and love to hold and play with them, but I also love giving them back to their parents. I’m not in any way ready for children at 24 and I’m not afraid to say it. I actually had a dream the other night that I found out I was pregnant right before going travelling and I was so upset, it ruined my life. I see life as something that should revolve around you and you alone at a young age – call me selfish if you want. I feel quite strongly that your teens and twenties are about learning about yourself, who you are, and developing that by experiencing as much as possible, learning as much as possible and growing as a person so that in turn you can help your children do the same. This is done by working hard, playing hard and achieving things to be proud of while asserting your own independence. I feel Kirstie’s comments hark back to an age where women had to rely on their partners for financial and emotional support when raising babies, now I know lots of women who manage all by themselves.

These days your career is something you need to work on from as young as possible. As my boyfriend is finding out now, messing up your exams when you are younger can leave you in a job you hate, education is great key that is handed to us on a plate when we are young but some choose not to take advantage of it. By passing these exams young and by putting the time into placements, work experience and a degree, you can really help yourself in the long-run (I’m not saying this is the only option, just using myself as an example). Those who go back to studying and working later on often find it much harder because you don’t learn as easily as you get older and after a long time away from study and work it can be a real shock to the system. So if we women are to forget everything we learnt at school by going off and having babies and raising them for the next twenty years before heading back to work – who is going to employ us? With no experience and no education – who is going to employ us over those with qualifications, experience and a great CV?tipstimes.com/pregnancy

“I don’t want the next generation of women to go through the heartache that my generation has. At the moment we are changing the natural order of things, with grandparents being much older and everyone squeezed in the middle. Don’t think ‘my youth should be longer’. Don’t go to university because it’s an ‘experience’. No, it’s where you’re supposed to learn something! Do it when you’re 50!”

I had hoped by the end of the article, might have a change of heart, but sadly it was not the case. Perhaps she is from a generation of women who put their careers first with many sacrificing families along the line. But I know so many strong, incredible women, my mum included, who had a great youth, trained and studied, had fun, fell in love later on and met a great man, who took time out to have children and went back to work as a nurse, but has now become a lecturer in healthcare. Say that’s not a success story, I dare you. For every case of heartache and sadness over not being able to have children, there are countless couples who have their own children, find another way and adopt or just live with it and still have a fantastic life. I refuse to go back to a time when having babies was the sole purpose of a woman’s body. I am here to learn, to experience and to live my own life before I create another.

I’m not saying that Kirstie’s ideas wouldn’t work for some people, but for many it would be holding them back and could create a country full of unhappy families and unfulfilled dreams which I think is far more dangerous than a couple of families who sadly cannot have children. Watch the discussion continue on BBC’s Newsnight.

How do you feel about Kirstie’s comments? Would you like to change your life around and focus first on family and then your career?

How to make the most of your lunchbreak

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Photo by Rachel Sarai

Hands up, who remembers what a lunch break is? The government and media might be saying that things are getting better, but everyone I know is overworked and underpaid. Most of my friends and family struggle to get a lunch break and often skip it altogether despite not getting paid extra or claiming it back later. It’s easy to do once or twice, but then it becomes a routine and before you know it, it just becomes the expected thing, and you have to fight to get outside to buy a sandwich. Then what happens when you suddenly realise you’s working an extra five hours a week without pay or even acknowledgement? It’s easy to do and I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past – I carried on until I felt so burnt out I could barely be bothered to work my actual hours. I soon realised that no matter what extra I was doing, it was never acknowledged or appreciated by the company – I was putting myself out and suffering in the process without anyone actually noticing.

So what did I do? I drew the line. I made that decision to stop working all these extra hours, to stop giving 200% all the time because it was starting to make me hate my job. I cut back, took a back step and stopped being afraid to say no when I was given more work than my hours allowed. Yes, people were surprised at first because I had always been the type of person to take on all this work and never complain but had I gained any more respect or bonuses as a result? Nope. I would actually say that after making these changes I felt more respected in the workplace than ever. I was no longer a dogsbody who never said no, I was a valued member of the team who people then realised had been doing more than her fair share. It wasn’t an easy thing to realise or to make that change, but it has really changed both my attitude to work and my awareness of how much pressure I can put myself under before I can’t take any more.

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Photo by Mo Riza

Now I make sure I always get a lunch break, and when I work extra hours, I am sure to claim them back or claim extra pay because it is what I am owed. I don’t mind paying my dues and giving 110% all the time, but giving 200% is unrealistic and plain exhausting – especially when it is never appreciated. This is when people burn out and why so many have to take a break from work with stress. Making this change has left me with lovely hour-long lunch breaks and this post is all about how you can make the most of your break.

  • Always get away from the computer screen. Do your best to get outside and get some fresh air, this is a great time to get in some exercise which will help refresh you after all those emails. I like to go for a brisk walk around the town or by the river and always feel better for it.
  • Do your food shopping – why not save yourself from the Friday afternoon rush or free up some time on the weekend by taking on the supermarket in your lunch hour? If you live close enough, take the shopping home, or leave it in the fridge at work. If you don’t work or live close enough for either, why not order online and get it delivered?
  • Browse the shops. A lunch hour is a great time to whiz round the shops in town, although busy it is never as busy as a Saturday and you can use the time to try on clothes or stock up on make-up.
  • Getting your hair cut can be a perfect fit if like me you go for a wash, cut and blow dry. My hairdresser can do it perfectly in 45 minutes which still leaves me time to wolf down a sandwich. It also means you get instant comments from the rest of the office!
  • If you work close enough, why not pop to the gym or an exercise class? I would love to do this, but just don’t work close enough. A lunchtime swim or yoga class would be lovely.
  • A perfect lunch break for me is often spent escaping into another world when reading a good book in the sunshine by the river. A book is such a treat, but music will do the trick as well. Just a bit of escapism nicely relaxes you for when you head back to the office.
  • Meet with friends for lunch or a coffee and have a catch up – the hour will fly past and you’ll be racing back to the office. Plus if you all work close together but have busy lives outside of work, this can be a great way to find time for a catch up. If your partner works nearby, this could make a short but sweet date.
  • If you really can’t escape the screen and the weather outside is foul, why not use this time to blog, write or research? It keeps you busy, uses the time wisely and there is less to do when you get home.
  • For those who work in the centre of town or cultural areas, there are always exhibitions and events on at museums – you could pop along and learn something new (these are often free as well).
  • Take the time to prepare really nice lunches for yourself when at home – lovely salads or leftovers from last night’s dinner – if you have a lovely meal, you often go to more effort to eat and enjoy it. If you are wolfing down a soggy sandwich or a Cuppa Soup you’re more likely to rush it while working. Taking the time to enjoy your food makes a real difference to your attitude towards food as well.

How do you make the most of your lunch breaks? Have you got any good tips for ways of filling that lunch hour?

Check out what I’ve been up to since graduating

My profile at 20somethings

My profile at 20somethings in 2014

Just a small post today – I just wanted to share with you guys the link to my profile piece which is now live on the 20somethings in 2014 blog. Check it out here.

It’s a self-written piece focusing on what I have been doing since I graduated university, what career path I have taken, the experience I have gained. How I have branched out further in extra work and my plans for next year. I also share my views of the job market and would love to hear what you guys think of the piece. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!

My home town is full of betting shops and cafés – the perils of making career plans while growing up in the countryside

Photograph by Nick Hubbard

Photograph by Nick Hubbard

I come from a large town called King’s Lynn, in Norfolk – you might have heard of it, more than likely you haven’t, but it is close to the Sandringham Royal Estate where good old Queenie comes for her Christmas lunch and is plonked halfway between Cambridge and Norwich.

Google Maps - King's Lynn

Google Maps – King’s Lynn

It doesn’t really matter where I am from, but I thought it was polite to introduce myself. On a quick walk around the town centre during my lunch break, I couldn’t help but notice yet another betting shop had popped up, add this to the countless charity and pound shops, and of course the ridiculous number of cafés  and coffee shops and that just about makes up my home town. The King’s Lynn high street has certainly noticed a decline in the number and quality of shops over recent years, with several branches of huge chains closing due to high rents and lack of footfall, but on the contrary, we have had our first, and rather large Primark open, along with two huge new Sainsbury’s and Tesco superstores. So perhaps things are on the up?

But I’m more concerned with those who are younger, the teenagers and high school students growing up in a town like this, those trying to further their work experience and careers, and those forced to move home following university – just what is it like growing up in a town like this? I thought I would take a closer look at the pros and cons of town life and how it affects our futures.

Photo by Elliott Brown

Photo by Elliott Brown

Cons:

  • Everyone grows up in a small town with the attitude that their home is a “shit-hole”, they treat is so because they have not chosen to grow up here and because they know nothing else.
  • Everyone spends their youth looking for an escape, some rush to do so without qualifications and end up struggling while others do well. Half will go on to university (some of these just to escape rather than to study something they love) and the other half will settle down young with kids (multiple) and usually a great deal of drama in their relationships.
  • It is difficult to get to find work sometimes with so many people going for the same jobs and the range is less – with most work in retail or waitressing/pub work rather than perhaps securing lower jobs in larger companies with chances to work your way up.
  • Less opportunities for work experience in certain fields – I was the first to be given the opportunity to do work experience at the local paper for nearly a decade – and there are very limited options for those in year 10 who are looking to learn about work for future careers – many end up spending the two weeks in a school despite having no interest in teaching.
  • For those who have been forced to return when they finish university – there is a real lack of jobs in certain areas, for example, marketing and business, which means graduates are forced into lower paid and unrelated jobs to make ends meet.
  • Less independence in some ways – perhaps a lack of experiencing travelling around a bustling city alone and less responsibility for own personal safety – but at the same time this could work in the opposite way and individuals can become very independent – but also can experience the freedom of a real childhood.
Photo by Bremnma

Photo by Bremnma

Pros:

  • My absolute favourite pro of living in Norfolk has got to be the incredible location, I am walking distance from endless woods and beaches, I live near a castle surrounded by a moat, the Queen lives just up the road from me, and soon, so will Wills, Kate and baby George. There is so much to see and do, and I have truly grown up as a ruddy faced youngster with bright eyes and a runny nose from running around outside covered in mud – the way all children should grow up.
  • Easy access to Central London (just two hours on the train) which means commuting is possible for further work experience either in London or Cambridge, or just for trips out.
  • There is more opportunity for work experience with lesser candidates and a chance to blow your own path where others haven’t before. A chance to be a big fish in a small pond before tackling the ocean. Again, this really helped me with my journalism.
  • A lack of distractions and more opportunity to focus on your studies in smaller schools so you get more attention and focus from the teachers… (this does depend on the school and the teachers though)
  • Leaving the town for university really helps you to gain perspective and realise that your home is not a “shit-hole” and it makes you appreciate it for the future. You may even willingly return and take up a job here.
  • You have the opportunity to become close to a company and lay the groundwork on a personal level before finishing university which can really help with securing a job post-graduation whereas in a larger company, or one that sees a lot of interns, your face could be lost in a sea of expectant students. Plus, you would really have to shine on paper as well as in person compared to a town.
  • Less travel – commuting is a pet hate of mine and I am lucky to have found a job in my home town which takes me just seven minutes drive in the morning and a short walk – in a city, you could be on a bus/tube for up to an hour or you could be travelling by train out of the city. This is exhausting and adds a lot of time onto your working day.
  • Having this extra time can provide you with the opportunity to look into other areas as extracurriculars – for example, my festival writing has been helped by having lots of festivals close by and it was this that got me into it. It could also give you a chance to do something completely different such as volunteering for the Lifeboat.
  • Inspiration – these beautiful Norfolk landscapes are the inspiration for so much local talent whether musically, theatrical, dance, art or anything else – it can be a great head-clearer and muse for writers and especially bloggers. I love getting outside and blowing away the cobwebs – always gives me an idea for a new post such as this.
Photo by Jon Bunting

Photo by Jon Bunting

I’m sure I could list many, many more pros and cons, but I think that I’ve covered the main ones. With all these thoughts in my head lately about the future, I have found myself wondering how much growing up in King’s Lynn and returning here has affected my career and plans – I wonder what I might be doing if I weren’t here working as a journalist. It must be a concern for students now, especially those living in a small town, that their limited experience as a result of living in such a town might hold them back – but I want to reassure all students out there that this is not the case and in fact living in a small town instead of central London could help your future rather than hindering it.

Navigate the Christmas work do and escape the New Year’s shame

It’s that time of year again, when the invites to the Christmas party whiz round the office and instantly your stomach either leaps at the excitement of a night-out with your workmates, or your heart sinks at the thought of yet another opportunity to shame yourself in front of your colleagues. Which will it be? Well, take a look at these top tips and hopefully you will survive the Christmas party this year, avoiding the embarrassment of going back to work in the New Year.

  1. If you want to get out of drinking altogether, why not just say that you are driving? Offer to give people a lift to the do and that way they’ll be so grateful not to have to pay for expensive taxis that you might get away with it with minimal peer pressure. Or, if you don’t have a car, try the ‘I’m on antibiotics’ one – it works every time, just tell them you have an ear infection.
  2. Learn to say no. It’s hard to refuse a drink here, or a snack there at Christmastime, but they soon add up and you’ve eaten 1,000 calories worth of junk before dinner, or you’ve drunk the whole bottle and have a stinking hangover. If your workmates are the type to keep offering drinks and pushing more wine on you, just say no thanks then move the conversation on – after a while they’ll stop offering if you keep distracting them.
  3. If you do drink, try lying. Fair enough, telling lies is not nice, but Santa will forgive some little white lies if they will preserve your head on Christmas Day and you’ll thank yourself when you have some extra cash in the New Year. Just try telling people you’re drinking doubles and actually order a single. Or, say you are drinking vodka and a mixer, then just have the mixer! So simple, just don’t let anyone else accidentally have your drink! Avoid cocktails at all costs.
  4. Say you are really skint and can’t afford rounds, this gives you more control over how much you drink, rather than ending up with a new drink in your hand every five minutes… it might save you some cash as well!
  5. If you are drinking but don’t want to get smashed in front of your work pals, try having one glass of water to each glass of wine, it will keep you hydrated and stop you getting as drunk as quick. It will also make you drink more slowly. If at a meal, ask for water for the table.
  6. Not drinking? Or sticking to just a couple? Give yourself a curfew and avoid any chance of getting smashed later on and making a fool of yourself. If you set yourself a home time, you are a lot less likely to be sucked into a round of shots right before you leave which means you are less likely to stay and drink until you pass out. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with leaving before the end of a party – after a certain point, things just get messy and people get very silly.
  7. EAT! Food is your best friend when it comes to a party with drinks. Line your stomach with a big breakfast and make sure you have a carb-heavy dinner or lunch to help soak up the booze. If you go for a meal at the party, be sure you eat something sensible and don’t get too distracted by the wine. Keep an eye on how much you drink with your meal – this is where the water might be handy.
  8. Dress appropriately.  The Christmas party is not a time to wear a skirt that is the size of a belt, boob tube, new sexy sequinned nightclub number or to push the boundaries on how many buttons you leave undone.
  9. Free bar? I know it’s tempting, but hold yourself back. It’s not worth the humiliation that will follow for as long as you work there.
  10. Chat to your boss and your seniors early on in the evening when you’re at your best. A heavy discussion about increasing your salary and their nose hairs is not a good idea at 1am after four bottles of wine.
  11. NO SNOGGING and NO AGGRO! Take the time to chat to people you wouldn’t normally at the do, but don’t use it as an opportunity to ‘get to know’ Tony from accounting or to finally sort out Bekki and her attitude problem. And don’t get emotional – you and your boyfriend may have just broken up and you and your mum may have had a huge fight, but drunk at the work do is not  the time to sob on your boss’ shoulder about it all!
  12. Avoid anyone who is taking pictures after 10.30pm – this is the cut off point for when you will probably start to be a bit tiddly, the photos are never flattering and you can’t trust anyone not to post them everywhere.

Good luck!

 

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Journalism: What’s it really all about?

“It is one of the professional tasks of newspapers to unmask the fraudulent and the scandalous. It is in the public interest to do it. It is a job which newspapers have done time and time again in their long history.”

Lord Justice Lawton

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Reunited and reliving those precious memories of university

After a long six months, the House of Boobs girls (as we were nicknamed at University of Hertfordshire) were finally reunited for a weekend of catching up, drinking champagne and cocktails, eating copious amounts of chips and dip, and most of all, making enough memories to tide us over until the next meet-up.

After living together and spending nearly all of our time together over the three years of university – supporting each other through the course stresses and deadlines, cheering each other up over boy trouble, staying up into the wee hours with drunken tears, celebrating each other’s achievements and having each others’ backs on every night out. We’ve been through a hell of a lot together over the years and we’ve all come out of it stronger than ever. Boys truly have come and gone in that time, as have jobs and other friends – but the one thing that has stayed constant is that we are all – without fail – always there for each other no matter what.

After arriving in a village near Chelmsford, Essex, at one of my former housemate’s house, we unpacked the mountains of stuff we had brought along, tucked into a delicious dinner and had a quick catch up before heading upstairs to get ready. We all glammed up in our high heels and fabulous outfits – my top is from Missguided and skirt from Ark – and after a couple of glasses of wine and making sure we had all remembered our ID’s, we clambered into the cars and headed out to Leigh-On-Sea.

Our destination was a bar called Bellinis, which was quite small but served great cocktails! To be honest, we could have been anywhere and I wouldn’t have noticed what was going on around us – we were all having so much fun dancing like loons, drinking Jam Doughnut shots and laughing, a lot! It was amazing to be surrounded by the girls again, because they are all the type of women who I wish existed everywhere – none of them will ever put you down or say a bad word about you if they have your back. It was so nice to be surrounded by such supportive friends who were nothing but happy to hear everyone’s news and celebrate everything going on in their lives. It is rare to find a group of girls who honestly act this way, who don’t put each other down, and I am proud to have friends like these.

I have such fabulous friends. Nearly all of them are in very happy, loving relationships with great guys (not something that they could boast in university!) and the ones who are not are confident and happy in going solo. Some are nearly finished battling through their PGCEs and are now teaching classes of little ones, while another is working in Asos marketing department, another travels to Germany and America regularly for work. Another is heading off travelling around South-East Asia and Australia at the end of the year and another is working as a para-legal and loving it. I am proud of everything they have achieved and have yet to.

Am really looking forward to the next meet-up and hopefully we won’t have long to wait. The main DJ from our old student union is holding a huge reunion party so hopefully we will all make it along to that.