Is There Such A Thing As 'The Dream Job'?
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Is a question that I don’t know the answer to. In fact I don’t think any of my friends do either - apart from the doctors and lawyers - those lucky bastards have had it figured out for years. That being said, as much as I thought I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, there’s no way I am cut out for it, so there’s no point feeling jealous of the vocational types, there’s a reason they’re in those industries and I am not.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my GCSE’s - I picked those on the basis of how nice my teachers had been in each subject, only for it to be different teachers the following year.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my A-Levels - I picked two subjects that I was naturally good at and two to impress my parents (of my own fruition) - I even tried to keep 4 subjects in Upper Sixth only to drop Chemistry right before my summer exams, after studying (and mostly failing) it for the majority of the year.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do at University - I took a gap year and then ended up having to change my course in second year (I discuss this in episode #18 of my podcast Adulting)
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished University just over a year ago, but here I am, and it’s going ok… I think.
The ‘I think’ is my fatal flaw. The biggest lesson I’m learning from being self-employed isn’t how to pay taxes, create a business or time-management; it’s how to talk about money, knowing my worth and being self-assured. As much as I vehemently believe that money can’t buy you happiness, happiness can’t pay your bills, either. Unfortunately as a woman I find it doubly hard to negotiate deals, ask for money or to turn down unpaid work. In fact to this day I do unpaid work because my fear of coming across as ‘a nuisance’, ‘annoying’ or ‘demanding’ is so ingrained that I’d rather just be quiet and make myself useful. Don’t get me wrong, unpaid work can be a necessary evil at times or even hugely profitable in the long run - however in my case it is usually exactly what it says on the tin, unnecessary unpaid work. It’s ironic because I’m sure you’d all agree I’m not in the least bit shy or quiet - quite the opposite. As an outspoken feminist I surely should be well-versed in business, should know my worth and should be killing it in my industry. The reality is I am (or was) so ill-equipped with the vocabulary needed to run a business. Phrases such as ‘I want’, ‘I need’, ‘that’s not enough’, ‘I am willing to work under X conditions’ simply never entered my lexicon, until now. This duality often causes me stress, why can’t I spot when I am being undercut, how do I present myself as worthy without feeling imposter syndrome? My boyfriend - and other men in my life - are often aghast at the things I agree to without even asking for payment. I often feel a flush of embarrassment as I realise my minimal business acumen and the fact that I was just ‘happy to be asked’, rather than acknowledging the fact that I actually have a lot to offer and that in the ‘real-world’, ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ has very real consequences. It bothers me hugely to acknowledge that I was probably worrying about my weight whilst all my guy friends learnt about the stock market, taxes and the economy. (Yet another reason why diet-culture is bullshit - think how much time and money we could invest in our future if we weren’t so busy investing in our waistlines.)
I’ve learnt most of my lessons this past year through my failures or things that didn’t work out. I’ve learnt that people lie and not everyone has your best interests at heart. I might sound like an idiot but it just shows how privileged a life I must’ve lead to believe that people will always try to do what’s best for you - turns out not everyone is my mum.
In terms of getting to where I am now, I used to say it was a happy accident. That was my imposter syndrome speaking - I put more hours into my Instagram page over the years that I did it at university than I did my degree. I had a part-time job my whole way through Uni: Glam Nightclub, River Island, Urban Outfitters, Burger and Lobster, random promo work and after I qualified at the end of my second year; online personal training. I still got a 2:1 in my degree and 1sts in a good amount of my essays, but in hindsight I realise just how much energy I channeled into my account. Interestingly, at the time being an influencer wasn’t a career path I was aware of. I didn’t know what an influencer was until I was one. My Instagram was, to use a slightly tired term, a ‘passion project.’ Luckily for me, this time-consuming hobby actually meant - albeit unbeknownst to me - I was creating a brand, and a profitable one at that.
My job isn’t hard work, but I do work hard - and it is equally as scary as it is fun. Despite having lucrative opportunities, I don’t have a stable income and probably only take on 20% of the work I’m offered (if that), usually because it’s not in line with my brand/ethos. As such, I have learnt the importance of having different revenue streams. I earn money from personal training, adverts, and more recently, from writing articles/pieces for publications. In the future I hope to monetise both my podcast and my bookclub. I am still not comfortable talking about money, but I am trying my best to familiarise myself with it. Wanting money as woman is not, as I have unlearned, unladylike, uncouth or reserved for gold-diggers. Working hard to earn a good living is the biggest favour you can do for yourself and by extension - if you so wish - to help redistribute privilege. It was really a sad life lesson for me to realise, that whilst I don’t believe I am driven by money, money would enable me to do all the things that I am driven by, such as the conversations on my podcast, work with NGOs and other (so far) unpaid projects .The way I build my income is by no means conventional and with that, as with anything, there are pros and cons. On the one hand I am able to select projects that I would like to allocate my time to, and as such have autonomy to both align myself with relatively well-paid jobs as well as working alongside charities or NGOs. I am able to work from 6am until Midnight and have a nap at 3pm and then take a day off with no notice. But I also have to be vigilant with my work, this industry is a cruel mistress who waits for no-one (bit of an anti-feminist personification there #guilty). I don’t want to be dependent on a man, or anyone else for that matter. We are so lucky to be in a generation of social mobility for women, where women excel in business and are finally able to demand more from the system; I need to stop playing up to my prescribed patriarchal role of damsel in distress, it’s just annoyingly comfortable there.
What I’ve managed to do is capitalise on my strengths (not discounting the fact that I was in a position to do so) in a way that enables me to earn a living, which is obviously fantastic and there are loads of benefits to my job. Being an influencer is a job like any other - there are ups and downs and moments of uncertainty - I still don’t know what I’ll be doing in 5 or 10 years time. All I know is that I’m building a solid foundation for myself in the areas that I’m interested in and constantly trying to learn more. I am not under any illusion that this couldn’t come crashing down in a minute. Interestingly I think that this exacting knowledge is what makes me a fairly positive individual - it’s a bit like how knowing you’re going to die makes you happy to be alive. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not constantly worried about my life trajectory or simultaneously shocked that I’ve up ended up where I am. I feel huge amounts of gratitude to be in this position, one that empowers my voice.
When I finished my degree, I looked to start applying for jobs in advertising and journalism. Ironically the work I do, if you break it down, is advertising and journalism.
I think millennials get bad rap for wanting #livingmybestlife jobs, and I get that, we’re a generation of instantaneousness. We want EVERYTHING and we want it NOW! I know that my industry might not help, as it looks like influencers have it all and that it happened overnight. The majority of the time we’re doing the exact same job as you just with uncertain pay, uncertain rules, uncertain hours and then some random freebies thrown in. Some influencers are making A LOT of money, and I would say that influencer marketing is a female-lead industry, so we should be proud of that. But the people at the top of most industries are making A LOT of money - it’s just the newness of ‘content creation’, ‘influencer marketing’ etc. that makes it sit uncomfortably with some. Footballers can make 300k a week and everyones like ‘well, that’s football’, but an Influencer makes 30k a year and people still don’t see it as a credible source of income. The majority of influencers have to be their own: brand, manager, marketing team, PR, PA, photographer, model, strategist and so much more. I’m not saying it’s not amazing, but it’s still a job no matter how glamorous it may seem.
A dream career isn’t one which boasts #livingmybestlife and impresses other people, I would say it’s one that pays your bills and stimulates you - whether thats intellectually, creatively or socially. If my job stops doing either of those things I will look to change paths.
I think millennials, far from being little snowflakes, are actually changing some of the outdated industries that function on outdated ideologies - and that is fucking great. But, honestly, pay your bills first - you won’t be good for anything if you can’t afford to eat.