29 October 2014

Lessons Learnt in the Meantime

Most of you now know that I have just been offered a  6 month position at Grey EMEA in London as a digital communications intern. I am sure that part of the reason I was given this offer was due to the hard work I have put in since leaving university. I have certainly been busy. For the past month and a half I have had two part-time jobs, a bartender at a local pub and a retail sales advisor at EE, alongside writing this blog.  Although these positions were not part of my ultimate career goal they have taught me a lot of different skills which will be useful for the rest of my life.
So I thought I would share what I have learnt with you!

In both positions I have had to deal with difficult customers. It's almost impossible to work in sales without meeting at least one. I've learnt that unless you were rude to them first, it is not your fault that they are angry or rude. The best thing to do is to listen to them, let them have their say, always remain calm and never to interrupt them. If you don't know how to help them, ask your manager if they can. I firmly believe that it's the difficulties you face which make you stronger and which you learn the most from. There are always going to be times when you will meet with these sort of people in any career and the more experience you get dealing with them, the better.

I have become an expert at small talk, a skill very useful when you go for interviews and you're in the lift before it starts. I've always been quite an outgoing character but occasionally when I've been nervous or meeting someone for the first time I have been stuck for something to say. (Hard to believe I know.) But now I feel confident talking to almost anyone. In the end people are just people and whether they're a 40 year old farmer demanding another pint of Carling at 1am when you want to leave, or a timid shopper looking to get a new pay as you go handset, being able to connect with them is really important.

Being busy at work is actually so much better than having nothing to do. There is nothing more boring than being at work with literally nothing to do! No customers to serve, no glasses to put away, nothing. When you keep yourself busy the time actually goes much faster too. Also standing still for a long time is more painful for you legs and feet that walking around doing things. You might not like your job, but sitting around complaining about it isn't going to make it any better so just get on with it.

Patience is a virtue. Or so that's what people have been saying for ages and ages. If I'm 100% honest, I have never been the most patient person but the last month and a half has really taught me to be a bit more patient. Not everything can happen all at once and understanding that is really important. In the new position I'm about to start I will be communicating with people all around the world and with different timezones there's definitely going to be a fair amount of waiting around. If I had started this position in July I don't think I would have been as well prepared as I am now. So I am really glad that it didn't all happen straightaway for me because I would have been as good as I will be now.

My first time being formally employed has also taught me a bit more about the different ways you can be paid, and how and when you pay taxes - which before I had absolutely no clue about. With the government's allowance of the first £10,000 you earn in a year as tax free, I'm feeling pretty lucky! I've managed to save up some money which will help me pay a deposit on a flat (when I find one). I've never really been motivated by money and while I've been living with my mum I've not had to pay for any rent or food. In the past I would have said that I didn't need a part-time job because I don't care about money but the savings I've made are going to be really useful.

I'd advise anyone who is in the position I was in to try and get a local job while you're still applying for positions that are closer to your ultimate career goal. They might not always be fun but they can actually give you a lot more than just money!

25 October 2014

When Should We Start Thinking About Christmas?

Whoville 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)'

It's the 25th October, only 60 days until Christmas! I know to lots of people it probably feels like quite a long way away, but I can't help feeling it's closer than we realise. I absolutely love Christmas. I've been known to start playing Christmas music early in November and I've already bought at least one present. I'm always the first to start decorating the house with tinsel and lights, and to place our plastic Christmas wreath on the front door. I think a lot of people grow out of Christmas, but I'm certainly not planning to. 

What I'm wondering is, when should we start thinking about Christmas? When I say thinking, I mean seriously thinking about it - choosing what presents to buy friends and family, what meat to eat on Christmas day etc.. Supermarkets have started trying to sell decorations and I have seen a lot of advent calendars in the 99p store this week; magazines will have already made their December issues, including where to buy the latest Christmas jumpers and ideas of things to fill your stocking; and restaurants have already started taking Christmas bookings. So it's clear that some of us already are thinking about it, but when is it socially acceptable to start talking about Christmas with others? 

Got enough presents there Lou? 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' (2000)
For a lot of people nowadays Christmas revolves around presents. It seems to be the main feature of the day. Whether we are eagerly anticipating opening a present we've been waiting months to get our hands on or anxiously watching our parent's reaction when they receive a set of body wash for the third year running,  a lot of time is spent thinking about presents. Sometimes finding the prefect Christmas present can be quite stressful, not to mention expensive. No one likes to be caught in the last minute rush on Christmas Eve where you end up choosing something completely impersonal or out of budget just because you have no time and/or patience left. Believe me, I've made that mistake a lot of times! 

With online shopping some of these problems can be averted but preparation is still key. Deliveries around Christmas time can be unpredictable and I wouldn't advise ordering something in the week running up to the big day, unless you are willing to risk presenting a wrapped up receipt. More and more people are starting to buy Christmas presents earlier. Having worked in retail for the last month, I've had quite a few questions about whether there will be any Christmas deals and I've heard the phrase 'early Christmas present' more than once. In fact, just today one of my colleagues mentioned having already bought all of her Christmas presents! Now I'm not suggesting we should all be that organised but perhaps thinking about them now would be sensible. Especially as spacing out the buying process could help keep our bank balances healthy. 

Another question I'm interested in is when should we start decorating, thinking about the food we're going to eat and playing Christmas music? A lot of people follow the 1st December rule. But if you are going to order your meat from a butcher then you'll need to do this well before December (I'm not sure when exactly because we just get a turkey from Sainsbury's each year). Even if you're just getting a turkey though, you need to work out how many people are coming to lunch or dinner, and if you're inviting family to stay. You may have to work this out earlier than you think, they might already have a couple of options and you'll need to make your offer known before they make plans. If you're going to go away for Christmas, you'll start planning even earlier. 

'The Bare and The Hare' (2013) by John Lewis

Finally when is it okay for Christmas advertisements to start appearing on TV? I said in my post last year's about Christmas advertisements, that as soon as the Coca Cola ad had been seen the Christmas season had officially started but of course not all companies can wait for Coca Cola. In fact I am sure that all the big department stores have already made plans for this years advertisements, if not already filmed them. I'm keeping my eyes out for the first one I see. 

There is a lot of growing resentment out there that Christmas has been taken over by commercialism. It's turning into a display of decadence rather than a time of good cheer or a religious holiday. I can't deny that Christmas has got a bit out of hand, but thinking about it earlier can prevent this. Last year the government predicted that on average British households will spend £820 on Christmas and I wouldn't be surprised if they predicted even higher figures this year. But by being prepared for Christmas you should be able to cut down the amount you spend. 

My conclusion, it's comes down to personal preference. But if you want to spend less time and money worrying about it, then starting to think about it soon might be a good idea. 

20 October 2014

My First Video Blog - 10 Tips to Stay Motivated

I thought I would try something different for this post. This is my first ever video blog (or vlog)! It's a bit cheesy but hopefully you will all really like it. I watched a couple of experts on YouTube for advice and used the family's 20 year old tripod. Sorry about the windy weather and occasional bird noises! I only had one morning to do all the filming and the weather was really changeable! The topic I've chosen is 10 Tips to Stay Motivated! Let me know what you think!!

15 October 2014

20 Most Annoying Things About Living With Your Parents

I don't want this to make me sound ungrateful because I'm not; I love my family and I am very privileged to live with my mum. But that doesn't mean that she isn't really annoying sometimes, just like I can be annoying too. A lot of people I know are or have been in a similar situation to me, living with their parents after 3 amazing years of independence at university. If I'm honest I do find it hard living without the freedom I have become accustomed to. I thought the best way to get over how annoying living with parents can be is to make a joke out of it. A couple of people might not connect with some of these but hopefully most of you will! And don't think badly of my mum after reading this, she's the best.

1. You have to continually explain what you are doing today/this week because parents must know where you are every second of the day.

2. You are now the resident IT technician and are expected to solve all mobile/iPad/computer problems - especially relevant now I've started at EE.

3. You have no authority whatsoever. This is not your house. So are you supposed to ask permission for your friends to come over? (Starting to feel 10 years old again?)

4. You will get nagged over and over to do chores. Haven't you tidied your room yet?

5. You have to share the TV. But it's worse than normal because parents always want to watch programmes you have no interest in, like ones with subtitles or whole golf championships from start to finish. It's not your house remember so don't complain.

6. Everything that goes wrong in the house is magically your fault.

7. You have to keep explaining to people that you are 21 and still living with your parents, then endure their look of pity/ridicule.

8. You can not sit around doing nothing without getting hassled. This also means no more lie-ins.

9. When your parents actually have something interesting to go to the house suddenly becomes the most boring place in the world and you find yourself waiting for them to come back.

10. There is never any food you want in the house. This does sound quite spoilt and I have no problem with doing food shopping myself but if I come back from hockey at 9pm and want something to eat all I can find is Ryvita, salad and homemade chutney. That is not a meal!!

11. You have to share the car and/or wait for lifts. This actually doesn't apply to me but I know a lot of people who are in this situation so I thought I'd add it to the list anyway.

12. You will undoubtedly be treated like a child again at some point whether it is being told what options you have for dinner (which is nothing!!) or reminded to brush your teeth. How do parents think we've survived for the last 3 years at university?

13. You are now the fashion guru and approver of all outfit combinations. This could just be me and my mum though.

14. You have no personal space. Your room is no longer your room because it's not your house, remember? So you have to be careful not to leave anything personal lying around.

15. When your parents have friends around you have to be polite and interesting, pretend that you remember them even if you don't and listen to your mum explain to everyone why you haven't got a great job and moved out yet.

16. Even though you are the fashion guru (13) all of your outfits will be judged for practicality and you will lose count of how many times they have suggested you wear/take a coat.

17. You will have to repeat something around 4 times before they begin to remember it. Maybe it's an age thing but parents aren't great at listening.

18. Occasionally you will be asked to house sit/dog sit/cat sit. This could be just for a weekend or it could be a whole week. This means you have to do all the chores and the organising of the family house on your own. Duties include getting up early to let the animals out, feeding animals, walking animals, cleaning house, food shopping, all cooking and washing up, and locking up the house at night. It also means that you can't go out and do what you like because you are supposed to responsible for the house/dog/cat.

19. You will be continually questioned about how many jobs you are applying for, whether you've sent the applications off and why you haven't heard back yet. However when you ask for any help they suddenly lose interest and have no useful advice whatsoever.

20. You feel like you're 17 again. You have just gone from all the freedom your student loan can buy to back where you were before you left. It's like that feeling when you go on an amazing holiday and then come back home and everything goes back to the way it was, but it feels worse because you've had a taste for what's out there.

Obviously there are some great positives about living with your parents, like it saves loads of money, but who wants to read about that. If I've missed anything off the list let me know. I've made it easier to leave comments below.

For people like me who are keen to move out of their family home, don't worry it will happen.

10 October 2014

Why Are We All So Addicted To Social Media?

The first thing I do in the morning is check my iPhone for messages, notifications and Snapchats. When I go on holiday my first question is, will there be WiFi? And the thought of a long journey without any phone battery is my idea of a nightmare. Some people probably think that's really sad but in reality most people my age are the same. I barely use my phone for calls or texts anymore. I've just started working in a phone shop and it's not minutes or texts customers ask about, it's data. It's all about the internet. It's about social media. 

There are so many different platforms, each with their own uses and attractions. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Whatsapp, LinkedIn and the list goes on and on. These are just some that I use on a regular basis. In fact I would probably check each of them daily and some more than 5 times a day. An addiction is "the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice" and I wouldn't say it's a stretch to describe my relationship with social media this way. I also wouldn't call my situation unique, in fact I'd probably call it common. The question is, why are we all so addicted to social media?

It's continuous.
It's a bit like those online games we all used to play when we were younger. I'm thinking of FarmVille but there are loads of different variations of the same sort of thing.  Even though you're not always playing, the game keeps going without you. You have to harvest your crops or you will lose the money you spent planting them. If we think even further back, it's a bit like Tamagotchis (although my parents never actually let me have one). You have to keep playing the game to keep your digital pet alive. Social media has a similar enchantment. People are continuously uploading new pictures, statuses, pins, videos etc.. Somehow, masterminds like Mark Zuckerberg have managed to create the feeling that you might miss something if you don't keep checking back. Although the pictures of your old university friends' crazy nights out are still going to be there 3 weeks later, who wants to be the last one to see them? 

Social media makes you feel connected.
It's called social for a reason. It's all about the connections you can make and keep. Social Media's common aim is to bring people together, to share ideas and create networks. Most people have times when they are alone, whether it's once a day, a week or a month.  Some people enjoy this peace and quiet, some don't. With social media, you don't have to be alone. You can spark up conversations with people all around the world. It's this opportunity to communicate with people you don't see regularly in a fun way that has surpassed email or snail mail. Most people like to have lots of friends and social media is an easy way to stay in contact with them all. But you have to keep going back to that site to stay connected. Let's say you meet someone new on a night out, you get introduced by a mutual friend, chat for a while and then go your separate ways. If you know their name, or even if you don't, you could probably find them online by search through your mutual friend's profile. If you send them a friend request on Facebook, you'll have to keep using Facebook to contact them unless you ask for their number or email, which could be a bit too soon, I mean you've only met them once? And that's how social media draws you in. 

Social media gives you freedom.
There are things that are normally socially unacceptable that become okay on social media. I'm not talking about being rude or mean. But stalking through someone's old photos on Facebook is completely fine. You can get away with reading through all of someone's tweets for the last month without anyone knowing what you're doing. There is so much information about people on social media nowadays and that's what makes it so popular. It gives you much more freedom than the real world and you can express yourself in any way you choose. You can be whoever you want to be and say whatever you want to say (as long as it's not offensive). Social media provides the freedom that people crave in life and that freedom is what makes it so likeable and addictive. 

Who can tell what the future has in store for social media or whether in 10 years time we will all have forgotten about Facebook. All I know is, it's pretty addictive right now. 

5 October 2014

Why We Should NOT Ignore Advertisements

Nowadays there are so many different types of advertising and we are coming up with just as many ways to ignore each one. A lot of people record TV programmes they want to watch, like The X Factor, and then fast-forward through the ad breaks. In magazines people often skip the first couple of pages because they know they're normally 'just the advertisements'. Billboards and poster boards (especially the small ones on escalator walls in London tube stations) are so commonplace that most of us don't even need to ignore them - their constant visual bombardment creates a blur. But advertising is all about consumerism and obstructs our daily lives, so it's right to ignore it, yes?

No. That's my simple answer but if I stop with just that this will be a very short post. Advertising is important in many different ways and it can add a lot more to your life than you think. You might be thinking, she's just saying this because she wants to be in advertising or maybe she just weird. But hopefully after reading this you will start to consider the uses of advertising and will have a more positive view of the industry.

Firstly, not all advertising aims to drive sales. There are actually lots of different motivations behind different advertisements. For example, public services commonly use advertising to instruct others or create changes in behaviour. In November 2012, Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia commissioned the campaign 'Dumb Ways to Die' to promote rail safety. They wanted to remind people how important it is to be careful around trains. They were not trying to sell more train tickets. This campaign reports to have contributed to a 30% reduction in "near-miss" accidents which is clearly a positive outcome and a great use of advertising.
Similarly, at the end of 2011 the British Heart Foundation launched a TV advertisement staring Vinnie Jones showing viewers how to perform hands-only CPR. This has saved at least 40 lives and has a really worthwhile purpose. Advertisements like this prove that there is more to advertising than people realise.
However, lot advertising is about sales. But, so what? If it's a great product or service that could improve your life or someone else's, does it really matter if you were persuaded to buy it? Without advertising there is no way you would know about all of your possessions or would have bought them. A lot of advertising can be really awful and annoying. With so many different TV channels and YouTube, advertising space is certainly becoming more widely available. But just because there are are some rubbish ones out there doesn't mean you should ignore the rest. If you went shopping for trainers, there might be loads if styles or colours you don't like, but that doesn't mean you'd stop looking for them and never buy a pair again.

Some advertisements are truly inspiring and amazing. Even if you decide you're not interested in the product or brand, the advertisement can still have an impact on you. Nike's branding is an example of this. Their tagline, 'Just Do It' resonates with many consumers. They believe in seizing the moment, going for something big, doing more than you ever have before. They aim to motivate people and being motivated is always a positive thing. Their ' Just Do It - Possibilities' (2013) advertisement inspires you to take things to the next level. After watching this advertisement you feel positive and empowered. The marketing is unobtrusive which allows you to enjoy the advertisement without feeling like you have to love Nike as a brand.
The 'GoPro HERO4: The Adventure of life in 4K' advertisement takes this idea of ads that inspire to a whole new level. Visually there is so much going on in the 4 minutes of this video (clearly it's meant for YouTube not TV). It is perhaps one of the best advertisements for a product that I have seen in ages. It shows you things you have never seen before, from a behind the scenes angle. The footage is simply breathtaking and gives you so much more than the idea that you should go and buy this camera. This is a fantastic example of why you should not ignore advertising. If you ignored this one, you'd be missing something great. It really give you a chance to be a part of their adventure.
Good advertisements aren't thought-up in a 5 minute brainstorming session. They can take weeks to reach their final concept and this is before they even start to be made. There are people in creative departments worldwide who dedicate substantial amounts of time to making their ideas great. There are loads of really good advertisements out there, it's just that they are swamped by the irritating, unoriginal ones. But the truly creative advertisements deserve to be taken notice of, especially the ones which make you laugh. Evian's 'Baby&Me' (2013) is really cute and funny.
Watching these babies dance like their adult counterpart is a unique idea and the costumes really make this advertisement. If you let it, this advertisement can really brighten your day and change your mood. It's not forcing you to buy Evian water right this second. It just trying to make you happy, so why are you trying so hard to ignore it?

Likewise, O2's 'Be more dog', although is clearly promoting is brand, attempts to make you laugh while doing so. It's inventive and quirky, and like Nike's advertisements, motivates you to try something different. It's especially entertaining if you have a cat because you know it's so unlikely for a them to do these things. 
Basically what I've been trying to say is, not all advertising is bad, annoying, forcing you to buy its product or love its brand. There are different purpose for different advertisements. They can teach you something new, inspire you, show you things you've never seen before and above all they can entertain you. I'm not suggesting we should love all advertisements and never fast-forward through ad breaks ever again. All I'm saying is we should give advertisers a break, because some of their work deserves our attention. 

1 October 2014

Blogtober - The Whats and Whys

Today is the 1st October and the start of BlogtoberMost people nowadays have heard of Stoptober (to help quit smoking) or Movember (to raise awareness of men's cancer), so I thought I would do something similar. But no, I'm not going to grow a moustache.
Since my last nostalgic post about university life, Freshers' has started and everywhere I see students living the life I used to live (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat). At the end of that post I said that next I would write something positive about graduate life and what I am doing to get my career going. This is what I came up with.

Blogtober is going to be a special month of blogging with aims and targets. I will have new posts every 5 days - 8 posts in total throughout the month. Most of you know I want to pursue a career in advertising, so for this month will be writing about, media, marketing, advertising and graduate life. It won't be like reading a textbook or a boring news article though I promise. I will be expressing my opinions and hopefully you will in your comments as well.

You might wander why I am doing this. There are quite a few reasons. Firstly, it will build upon by existing experience and prove to employers that I can write in a creative and precise way. Secondly, I know that a lot of people, especially those who are my age, are turned-off by advertisements. People are fast-forwarding through them, skipping past them in magazines or just plain ignoring them. But there are some fantastic advertisements out there and I want them to receive the appreciation they deserve.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I am doing this Blogtober to motivate myself. It's hard work applying for jobs, waiting to hear back and taking rejection. At the moment I have two part-time jobs and another casual one, none of which are what I really want to be doing. With this Blogtober I have a target to achieve 1000 pageviews this October. Last November I started writing this blog serious and made it to 825 pageviews in a month. I want to beat that. In writing this blog I will stay focused on the career path I want to take and I will stay motivated.

At the moment I have some ideas about what I am planning to write about for the remaining 7 posts but I am also opening this Blogtober up to suggestions. Is there something you would like me to write about? Let me know in any form you like, Facebook, the comments section of this blog, Twitter or face-to-face (see my new contact page for details). I want to engage as many people as possible in Blogtober and show that blogging isn't just for experts, it's for everyone. You have to take control of your own life and make your own opportunities.