I’m Late, Again, But I’m Not Sure What For…

So today I’ve been in a completely excellent, and wonderful mood. I’ve been a shiny happy person, bouncing about, making milkshakes for people, taking puppies for walks, going above and beyond for guests at work… All is well with the world. I like that; especially when you feel so good about yourself that you want to be nice to people. I like making people happy, if I can.

I’ve even managed to not eat rubbish, and I’ve been to the gym. I feel like a little superhero. I bought myself a preposterously extravagant new mid-year diary too. I love it, because it is just completely beautiful. The cover feels precious, and I’m one of those people who adores pretty stationary, and filling in the information in the front is quite possibly the most exciting thing, well, ever.

Everyone knows what I mean. The excitement of fresh paper can’t ever be rivaled by digital takeovers, and sometimes you must have a piece of equipment that doesn’t rely on a battery pack, or need an extra charger. Holding onto a physical object is quite comforting, and scribbling things down is satisfying. Ticking things off on a Blackberry simply isn’t as extravagant as scribbling it off with a pretty pen, in a pretty book. There’s a sense of romance surrounding the concept of the diary, and the ability to write in it. It is personal in a way that software is not.

This is of course, the trouble with all this eco-friendly work. There’s no romance in electricity, and there’s no personality in a Microsoft software package. Paper gave us a sense of age, and of character, because we used handwriting, and tucked our favourite photos inside them, and made them ours. OneNote is a fantastic academic program, and there’s no doubt that it has made my filing system much, much more efficient. But a pretty diary is special; it might be materialistic, and I’m sure that the environment objects to my using of a diary. But I cannot ignore such a prominent sense of nostalgia that I associate with beautiful paper, and colourful patterns. It’s a permanent record of a period of your life, and the fact we haven’t got time to write down our trivialities anymore is quite shocking.

Everything is to-go. I am always running about, thinking where I have to be next. We don’t really sit down, and just, well, be there. At least not without thinking about something else. There are a million to do lists tucked away inside my head. And I’m always planning a new project and most of the time I haven’t quite finished the first, which is why I have half a room dedicated to ‘graveyard of projects past’. There’s so much to do, and it seems like there’s so little time.

And I realise it’s terribly trivial, and that diaries do not create time. But seeing those pages spread out before you provides you with a sense of perspective; there is a physicality to when things will be done, and when you will be able to do things. I think that perspective is worth all the money in the world.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

– Oscar Wilde

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On Being Employable

Recently, I have been engaged in a number of ventures that have been in aid of making myself more employable. These ventures began on Thursday, with an employability course, in the form of seminars. The course was two days long and covered a number of ideas, including networking, and business strategy. The difficulties that current undergraduates currently face were not understated; in 2014, when I graduate, there will be five hundred thousand graduates. This number does not include part-time students and postgraduate students that will be academically far more qualified for the job.

The emphasis of the course then, was making yourself into somebody, and not relying particularly on companies that are already overstretched. It has never been more necessary to make your own luck, especially in terms of creating your own market, your own service, and acting on your own initiative. This prospect is terrifying, and is overwhelming to the average undergraduate; few of us have any real idea of what we’d like to be, and where we’d like to go in our career. However, I am one of the very lucky few who does know; I want to be in publishing, as both a writer and an editor, and I’d like to have skills at my disposal that are transferable, and useful to an employer.

This sudden realization of the practicalities of employability did, temporarily, knock me for six. However then I stood up (metaphorically) and decided that the only way forwards was really to create my own business. It is something that I’ve been considering doing for a long time, however I’d never put any serious thought into this before. But on Friday evening, I sat down and made a business plan, thought about marketing, communications, and fees. And then I launched myself as a sole trader, in freelance writing and editing, and offered my services.

This led to a feeling I’ve never had before; a feeling of being in control almost. I did become acutely aware on Saturday of the magnitude of the task. The freelance world is competitive and it is cut throat. Experience is vital; experience in the real world is particularly important. In the modern world, having a degree is only a tiny part of a candidate, because at the moment, there is little for an eighteen year old to do, but get a degree. And this goes back to the challenges of the job market, creating something of a rather vicious cycle. (1)

So, as of today, I have registered as a sole trader, I have a new business email account, and a new bank account. I have a website domain name, and what remains is to locate  clients, and market myself in places such as LinkedIn, on my blog, and within my university. I have emailed every newspaper in the London area, and I am hopeful for either work experience, or a chance to grow as a freelance writer, and practice what I know I can do. At the same time, I’m writing non-commissioned articles, and sending them out to newspapers, again in the hope that this will lead to something. Something, anything; it doesn’t really matter, as long as it provides experience and perhaps something to add to my CV.

The biggest set-up challenge I’m facing at the moment however, is website design. I am extremely competent in using basic software packages, however I don’t have nearly enough website building experience to create a professional looking one. I’ve enlisted my Dad, to help me. This is another epiphany; you need help, to succeed, and therefore you have to ask for it. The worst anyone can do is say no.

And there we are. It’s Sunday evening, I have a business. All that’s left is developing a client base and a website; but it feels amazing to know that this weekend, I might have begun something that will form the basis of my entire career. I feel like I am finally getting somewhere; it’s about being brave enough, I suppose, to dive in, and have a go. The worst thing that can happen is it fails; but then again, it might succeed.

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(1) http://pjvanoverschot.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/self-employment-advantages.gif (all credit to Andy Singer)

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