Creativity – Changing stuff, being happier, repeating.

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Last week I went on a really good date night. It was good because it was a Thursday and that means it was nearly Friday and there’s never anything bad about that. It was also good because it involved an evening spent in the company of Caitlin Moran – funny Times columnist and author of books which I immensely enjoy.

It was a fairly low key event in The Troxy where she was interviewed by a fellow Times columnist and they talked about all sorts and it was funny and relatable and at times very touching. There was a game of ‘shag, marry, avoid’ involving Trump, talk of masturbating, talk of smelling of soup and talk of being scared of men. I saw Caitlin talk about life and writing at an almost identical event a few years ago and I took away from that exactly what I did from this one – I should stop doing stuff creatively that I don’t like that much and do whatever I want, even if that’s not much at all.

What this did was reinforce a feeling I’ve had for some time now. I haven’t been using my blog or social media in the same way as I have done over the last few years lately because this feeling that it wasn’t really what I wanted to write or do or put my name on kept resurfacing. I’ve been busier than ever before the past five months and this all consuming time has left me unable to blog much, but I also just haven’t wanted to. Massive cba vibes all round, which is not really what you’re meant to admit to people but it’s true. I haven’t wanted to blog, or tweet much or interact online because I started feeling increasingly like I hate everything I’m doing. Instead I’ve been enjoying my job more, getting out more in my spare time and trying to relax and lay off grinding my teeth.

I think when I started out blogging and trying to learn more about online platforms it was for a specific goal. I was looking to change jobs and do something more focused and when I achieved that, for a while it spurred me on to do more. Then after that time, I found myself doing the same as everyone else in what is a very over-saturated market. This feeling has lingered. My time has been limited. My energy has lessened. My motivation for this thing I used to love has frittered away.

I knew all of these feelings existed but I just sort of kept covering them up. I was putting concealer on my creative crisis. Like, hello massive life zit making me feel quite awful, let me just dab you with some nice nude cover-up until you look and feel even worse and people point and stare.

It took that evening of listening to one of my favourite inspirational women who openly tweets about the importance of weeing after you get laid in the battle against cystitis and writes columns about politics and women’s rights at the same time, to truly realise I was fully over my need to blend in and tick boxes. Caitlin Moran talks a lot about having a platform and using it to be honest and open and to reach people in a way you’re comfortable with. That’s why I came to this part of the Internet. That why I started giving WordPress some of my hard earned dollar, but it’s not the same anymore.

I don’t want to write about stuff I see tweeted onto my timeline everyday because I don’t feel I have anything new to offer. People are already doing a mighty fine job in that corner of the market and I don’t feel like it’s my cup of tea anymore. That doesn’t mean I won’t still read it, because I will, I love reading about other people’s lives. I just don’t want to do stuff just to do stuff. I don’t want to have this schedule of box ticking. I don’t want to do what people expect. I want to do stuff that I like, even if only two people read it and one of them is having IT issues and they’re stuck on my website involuntarily.

That is fine. I am happy with that. Sometimes I force my dog to sit on my lap when I feel down and she always comes round to it eventually. If you are stuck on this website I hope you’re easing into it. If not, apologies. Ask Siri to help you.

I know what I want to do with my spare time now. I have this almost fully formed idea in my head of what to burn creative energy on and what my hobbies will be over the next year.

It does involve doing stuff on here and it does involve trying to knit again even though I heard my mum and nan snickering secretly at my first effort (low point). I will essentially do what I want. I will enjoy it. It will be great (probably). Now I am going to lay down because I ate a lot of Thai food then ran for a train and it’s painful.

All the blogging feels and stats from 2016

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Blogging in 2016

The end of this year has come around ridiculously fast. A year that I thought would drag in anticipation of moving and living back at home has flown by. It doesn’t feel possible that January is only a couple of days away.

This has been a weird blog year, particularly towards the end, where I’ve found myself with virtually no time to update, write, plan or do any kind of admin. I’ve also felt out of inspiration and a bit like the extra work isn’t worth it. I did toy with the idea of slowly shutting down and doing something new with the website next year, though I have no ideas for that either. I think this feeling will pass, as it has done by before, and I know this blog will still exist this time next year despite my bad blog mood, I just need some rejuvenation, which I’m hoping 2017 will provide.

Another reason I know I won’t actually pull the plug is because of how much blogging has evolved. It’s gone from strength to strength and while there will always be people who don’t understand the concept of blogging, or put it down as being pointless, flighty lifestyle content, it isn’t. It’s hard work, a lot of work, involves a lot of skill and is a fantastic community, recognised by brands and big companies and it makes a lot of people happy, which counts for more than just something.

Blogging stats in 2016

I didn’t have any goals or major aspirations for my blog this year, which is perhaps where I fell down in the past few months. I’m going to hopefully set some sort of benchmark in 2017, and give myself something to aim for.

It wasn’t a bad year though, far from it.

I reached 471 email subscribers. I got a record number of hits in one month- 12,401 in September. I started averaging at least 200 page views a day from August, which for a little blog like this feels like a solid and steady number.

Aside from numbers, I celebrated two years of blogging and I got a feel for what works best in my writing style, which until earlier this year was still a bit of a mystery to me. I also got to go along to a couple of events, and received invites to several I couldn’t go to, which is a nice feeling even when you can’t attend.

Blogging going forwards

My first aim of 2017 will be to kick this blogging slump aside and sit down and have a proper think about what I want to do next. I want to get on top of planning, stop being such a bad scheduler, start writing more frequently and do more stuff that suits me. I also want to meet more bloggers that I love in real life, go to more events, read more posts and reestablish the feeling of being connected to a community, be it just on Twitter or in real life – hopefully both!

Time to go out and buy another new notebook obviously.

 

 

 

Two years of blogging: stats, lessons and gains

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I didn’t actually realise WordPress told you about your blog anniversary and I clearly missed the year one announcement, because the little notification I got this week was a surprise. Two whole years of writing stuff on here and flinging it about on social media to see if it sticks/anyone reads it. I feel like I should be putting a party hat on my laptop and eating cake with it, but that’s just weird.

At first, I don’t think many people did read my blog and when I first activated this little page, I didn’t expect anyone to. I had another blog I’d been writing solely about a very niche topic, which had become popular in the appropriate community, was used by a couple of small charities and worked well for what it was. It felt weird to suddenly decide to write about anything, in my own name, and try and get strangers to read it and be interested by it. I wasn’t sure I would keep it up, but here we are, two years later, with actual subscribers and comments and followers. It still amazes me slightly.

I’m thankful that I spent a lazy, rainy Sunday two years ago setting this up, because if nothing else, it’s taught me a lot of very useful skills. Skills that have contributed to me getting a new job, made me much more tech savvy, spurred me on to get better at photography and given me a hobby that I really enjoy. I’m not sure how many more years I’ll keep going, and I don’t have a sparkly, organised plan of what I want to do next (maybe I should, I probably should) but for now here’s two years worth of lessons, numbers and reasons to give this is a go if you’ve been feeling tempted.

I’ve learnt:

  • How to work with HTML
  • How to use an SLR camera
  • How to connect with PRs
  • The importance of online communities
  • How to steadily grow a social media account with targeted content
  • How to better judge ideas and when to take risks
  • Better knowledge of blogging, digital marketing, outreach and how to interpret audiences

I’ve gained:

  • The experience of going to events and seeing the sort of stuff brands do behind the scenes, or behind the shelves, if you like
  • Feeling more confident in my writing skills
  • A whole load of new contacts and blogging friends who are empowering, talented and provide me with endless reading material
  • A place to vent about stuff, share stuff I like and generally splurge my feelings
  • A bigger connection with people who have the same health issues as me and a much better grasp on how to cope with those issues.
  • Confidence in putting myself out there

The numbers– I used to find it weird when people shared their stats on blogs because I was always scared of how inadequate mine would look, but I’ve since let that go. I’m still proud that people come by every day to read this blog, even when it’s lacking new content or I’ve been to busy to update. So here we go- this is where I’m at

  • I got my 430th email subscriber today
  • My current daily average has just risen to a steady average of 565 a day, sometimes more, sometimes slightly less
  • My highest ever hits day was last week with 702 page views
  • My stats, despite less content, have doubled this year
  • 7,701 page views occurred last month

There are certain posts and topics that carry my blog into the higher numbers I’ve been seeing lately. There are certain posts which consistently give me views, clicks and show up in my search data, which is obviously great, and this has given me a good idea of what works, what people want to read and what I should focus on going forward. It also reminds me that’s fine to write about whatever you want, because ultimately, a personal blog is a personal blog, despite how nice it feels to see lots of visitors and link clicks on a new post.

This is probably quite a boring blog birthday post. I don’t have anything spectacular to give away or a long gushing post about how much I love the blogging community and all that I’ve gained in the past two years (I do feel it I promise) but I like these little snippets into the workings of blogs. I’m trying to get back a bit of time balance to be able to post more frequently at the moment, because work and other health and fitness commitments have kept me very busy lately, but we’ll see.

If you are one of the people who regularly visit to read this blog, thank you VERY MUCH, it’s so, so appreciated.

It’s completely fine to be a cliche and enjoy blogging- the negativity needs to stop

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I was lying in bed the other night reading through the BBC News app and couldn’t concentrate on reading a full article, so I switched to Twitter. Less concentration required and more chance of dog videos and people falling over.

I started to scroll and saw, not for the first time, standard lifestyle tweets about food and coffee and Lush and make up and fashion, alongside some slagging off those exact things. ‘Ugh surprise surprise someone who writes a blog is having a caramel latte. How original’ Pretty tame, not overly offensive tweet, but there are plenty more cropping up all over the place.

It seems to be that while online communities are growing and becoming bigger and stronger, there are also even more people out there waiting to give someone a kick. If you don’t like lifestyle  posts, don’t follow lifestyle accounts. If you aren’t interested in reviews on new mascaras and face washes, clear your timeline of beauty bloggers. If female magazines make you angry, why do you follow their accounts?  I even saw a tweet last week along the lines of ‘sick of these blog RT accounts filling my timeline with blogs that are so shit.’ ERM..HELLO? UNFOLLOW IT THEN.

I mean, people can be stupid. And they are mean. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but there is definitely a line that’s too often crossed. Twitter has and probably always will be a place for those who have nothing better to do than to take their issues out on the unsuspecting, innocent public. And right now that public is the the online content creating world. And not the big stars or super popular people with 50k+ Instagram followers. The little people who do it out of passion and enjoyment. It’s not big and I don’t find it funny.

It’s certainly no laughing matter how popular and influential online content creators are becoming. Be it blogging, vlogging, instagramming, photographers- whatever the medium, brands are interested. They want to work with those who do all of this off their own back, so who cares if someone enjoys being a ‘blogging cliché’? You don’t have to like it, but you also don’t have to take every opportunity to bash it.

So what if there are loads of people out there who like coffee drinking, cats, fashion writing, Lush bath bombs and nude lipstick- there’s a reason there’s so much of it around. It’s what people like right now. Yeah, not everyone, but I don’t read blogs who post content I don’t care about, and surely that’s how it should be done? Perhaps we need to concentrate on consuming more of what we enjoy.

If someone wants to Instagram their coffee, write about their favourite eye palette and document their shopping trips- that’s fine. Chances are, there is a big group of people scattered around who’ll read and like and comment on that kind of content. If it’s not for you- then pass it by.

I really don’t think there’s a need to make someone feel bad for doing the ‘in thing’ or living up to a cliché (whatever that is) , especially in the saturated blogging world, because with that many people in one community, it was always going to happen. It will continue to happen. The lifestyle/beauty/fashion craze is not going anywhere.

 

We need to remember that bloggers are bosses – and it’s challenging 

  
There’s something about blogging that everyone seems to forget- it’s voluntary.

 I’ve watched friends build successful business models out of blogs. I have a few friends now who have made blogging their job. I know a lot of people who have a platform and over the past year I’ve floated into this online community of writers who work hard off their own backs to make something of a little digital space. 

But making something of it is hard. Everything that’s put out, every piece of digital content, every image, every tweet- it’s all work. Bloggers brainstorm, write, edit, design, market, communicate and evaluate. This is all done by bloggers who choose to blog. They choose to spend their time on it and that’s what makes it so rewarding. Seeing a spike in stats or reading comments of people who appreciate what you’re doing, even receiving emails of offers for work or brand collaboration, it all feels good.

But how do you keep motivated?

The other day I was reading through some blog related emails that had accumulated and I suddenly wished I had someone to give me an appraisal. I wanted some feedback on how I’m doing.  Something constructive. Someone to set me targets and tell me what’s good already and what I can work on. Basically, I wanted a boss. But when it comes to blogging, it’s your domain, you’re the boss. You have to do all the decision making and goal setting and planning and evaluation and you have to decide if it’s worth it. 

It’s really bloody difficult to keep it up sometimes. You might think “well no ones making you do it” -which is correct, but once you establish an audience, no matter how small, you just want to keep creating. Once you know that people out there are interested and you’ve watched your stats grow and seen your followers climb and read a few nice comments, you just want to plough on. You want to blog more. Write more. Reach more people. 

It would be nice sometimes to have someone to guide you. To have someone with experience and authority to come over and tell you what to do next. Instead you’re just sitting there with a computer, looking at your coffee like “latte please give me a sign. Tell me what I should do next you frothy goddess.” Lattes don’t give much constructive advice- that’s just another thing that bloggers do for themselves. It’s another reason why these people who take time to build their own little online palace deserve a nod of recognition. 

Blogging is big and it’s bold and it’s growing. It’s an exhilarating time to be an online content creator, you just got to remember that it’s all you and you’re doing pretty damn well. 

Blogging- where do you fit? What’s next? What’s even happening? HELP


Everyone and their mother seems to have a blog these days. If you want to read about or obsess over something- you can find a blog on it. I mean there are quite literally thousands of them out there pumping out content constantly, and I spent the latter part of last year thinking maybe it’s time to put mine to  bed because I felt swallowed up and aimless. I had very little time, very little inspiration and felt like an oddity for having seemingly different interests to the masses. That sounds like i’m sticking all blogs together and I’m not- I just mean the very prevalent lifestyle category and what I see when I scan Twitter or Instagram.

In my eyes (and many others I’m sure) things are getting too repetitive. The same subjects, products, brands and reviews are being written over and over, the same Twitter bios get used,  Instagram can feel like one giant advertisement where everything is 10% off and I get this weird feeling that the blogosphere could implode on itself. The end of 2015 wasn’t full of blove (blogging love, im writing my own dictionary), but I’m willing it to change.

How much more of the same can there be? Well… A lot apparently. I can’t see people getting sick of it, in fact standing around the edge of the digital playing field and observing showed me the blogging community were still very much enthused and wrapped up in the posting, scheduling, photo taking, group chats and community promoting of what I see as a very small subject list- but I’m no expert. I know there’s way more out there that I haven’t discovered, but we don’t have time to read everything. While I have become an avid blog reader and I do still constantly look for something new to read, I get it. I get why people love this safe haven where they can be part of the gang and join in on the latest bath bomb hype and feel nestled into a cosy, blogging corner.  It’s why I got one in the first place. I wanted in on that feeling and the blogging community is immense. Immense in a mostly positive way.

I guess basically…everything gets tired sometimes, and my view on blogging started to feel a bit, how should I say…NEXT.

What I want is for stuff to get shaken up this year, and that’s my outlook as a reader, not a contributor. I work in digital. I’m completely immersed in trends and social media and evaluation so I research the field a lot (I know I know, hold me back, I’m far too wild). I just want to be blown away by something new and feel excited. It’s hard to know where your content fits if you aren’t part of the mould that seems to shape an endless amount of lifestyle blogs- and this is my main issue. Even writing this I keep thinking GOD WHO CARES? Hasn’t there been so many posts like this already? Shall I just eat more Pringles instead?

I obviously do care though, because I’m still blabbing on about it.

You see I’m not that into Lush, I don’t buy tons of clothes, I don’t know how to do nice make up, I’m not interested in hauls or showing anyone what I bought at shopping last week (unless I thrift like a wizard and have a charity shop haul worth shouting about), I’m allergic to cats, I just moved out of my crazy flat and I’m not decorating a house with Pinterest style interiors.

I feel like the aforementioned are what I see posts about everyday and while I’ll happily read them, I just feel like I need to see something new swing by and land in my inbox or appear on my Twitter feed. I don’t feel totally like I can be part of the glossy crew.

I like getting drunk, eavesdropping in public, moaning about chronic illness, finding socks without holes in and managing to get my hair in a respectable top knot. And I like to write and take photos and make people laugh and go trekking up mountains and ride in tuk tuks.

I want to hold on to my piece of Internet for now and keep at it. I just hope there’s something dazzling waiting to jump out and be all like ‘HEY BLOGGING TAKE THAT YOU BASTARD LETS HAVE A PARTY AND TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS WHILE ON HOLIDAY IN A JUNGLE.’ I just need a shot of rejuvenation.

Sorry, I’m quite hungover.

Deactivating social media and reactivating real life

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I read a really good article via The Guardian a week or so ago about how social media is a trap. As I read through it, in my mind I was thinking, oh God, this is so painfully true, someone please set me free. I disabled my main social media platform- Twitter, a couple of weeks ago. What a bloody great choice that was.

I can’t even tell you how weirdly happier and lighter not checking and scrolling every ten minutes made me. I had talked at work about doing this a few weeks before but just never took the plunge. Then after a weekend of mess ups, stress and feeling very overwhelmed by work and life, I thought, screw you Twitter. You can go away.

I thought I would struggle, as I use it for all of my news, keeping up with friends, reading my favourite blogs, connecting with people, promoting stuff. The list goes on.

Actually though, after the first day, I forgot about it pretty much completely which I certainly didn’t think would happen. I did a lot more work, I got through my to-do lists much quicker, I was engaging more, my phone stayed in my bag and I wasn’t being rude to people by staring at my phone while talking to them. I also stopped seeing so much importance in such mundane things. Yes, I did last week call the guy who served me in Sainsbury’s baby, and usually I would feel like ‘OMG gotta share that one, PEOPLE WILL CARE’, I just laughed at myself and told my housemates, who laughed at me also and then we all forgot about it and moved on with on our lives, as it should be.

It’s amazing how much weight you add to everything, even things that make you unhappy, when you are constantly preparing your thoughts to be shared with the world. It has to stop somewhere. There’s some sort of invisible line that I crossed before this hiatus, and since stepping firmly back over it, I think I’ll stay here thanks. Ultimately, I need Twitter for work and it has a lot of use for me, so I will reactivate it and use it, but nowhere near to the scale I was before.

Looking back it makes me cringe a bit. I used to carry my phone around in my hand ALL the time like it was my child, and mostly it’s because I was forever clicking on the blue bird and scrolling. Scrolling through a lot of nothing and a lot of pointless, meaningless crap, which let’s be honest, is what dominates a lot of Twitter feeds.

When I logged back in a reactivated I found I didn’t really have a lot to say, apart from tweeting a pretty photo of Ireland, which is where I was at the time. I did realise I had missed a few things though: news updates, funny accounts that bring some humour to my day and then just the general sense of community among writers that I follow. But that was it. I didn’t feel like ‘THANK GOD I AM BACK I LOVE YOU TWITTER’ in any way whatsoever. It was weird even after 9 days away, which is no time at all, to see so many constant updates from all those accounts I follow so avidly, and some from accounts I have no idea why I follow at all. I had a bit of a ‘what is the meaning of all this?’ moment and then I just clicked off and continued making dinner.

Too much thought and too much obsession is where I was going wrong before. It’s time for less. Less is going to be better.

I can certainly tell you one thing, it’s good to get some perspective on what really matters. And it’s good to realise that tweeting every frustration and emotion gets you nowhere, which probably just frustrates you more. People are horrible on the internet too. I see it a lot, which is also a good lesson in not trusting people to use your name correctly and always making the best choice possible when putting yourself out there.

It’s surely a problem when a couple of weeks break from a social media channel increases your happiness a lot. That’s not right and it shouldn’t be that way. Anyone feeling a bit bogged down or trapped by it should just bite the bullet and deactivate. Even if you only last a few days, you’ll either realise you are massively over it and need to take a step back, or you’ll miss it so much you log back in and kiss your phone screen. Each to their own and all that, but worth a little experiment if you ask me.

So who the hell am I anyway? Let me fill you in

 I realise I have an about page that says some stuff and features a photo of me silhouetted on a Thai beach, but I realised the other day that I have never really written much about myself. This blog gets more and more visitors every week and I figure maybe some of them might wonder about me. No? Well tough because I am writing this anyway because I am in charge. The beauty of having your own blog.

So obvs my name is Lauren, you might have worked that one out. I’m 25 and I work in communications, specifically social media marketing, with a focus on health and wellbeing. I live in Fulham, London with my boyfriend and a few friends in a big, old house. We have a fairly good time of it here, and we’ve been renting it since 2013. We plan on leaving towards the end of the year though to take a pitstop at my parents while we find somewhere new to live. I have a rare chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which basically means my joints are really stretchy, my blood vessels are fragile, I get random pain without any trigger and have bladder and kidney trouble. This illness is how I got into blogging.

A few years back I got so frustrated with the lack of info about a condition that had such an affect on my life that I started blogging about it, and the rest is history. This all went pretty well, and was picked up by relevant charities, I met lots of other sufferers and eventually decided that I loved blogging and wanted to write one that focused on the other bits of my life outside of being ill (though my other blog is still going). SO HIYA! Here we are.

Now I don’t want to get boring, though I feel it’s rapidly going that way, so I’ll keep this brief.

I love peanut butter. I’m allergic to cats and dogs though I have a dog at home. I’m obsessed with blending things. I have a big scar on one foot that sometimes people stare at. Everyday is a bad hair day. I really believe in courgettes. I think a good frying pan is an important life tool. I walk everywhere a hundred miles an hour. I once got led up a mountain by a wild dog when me and my friends had all but given up on our existence having got lost and run out of water. In Sri Lanka. On a boiling day. It was hot. You can see the dog in this photo, I called him Manuel.

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I travel a lot. I talk in my sleep a lot, most recently telling my boyfriend I was covered in coffee. I mean, that’s THE dream, not an actual dream. I wish I was covered in coffee.

I mostly blog in the mornings, when I get to work early, and take photos when I get home while there’s still light. It’s sometimes really hard to find time on top of work, and I fear when I start a new job next month it’ll get even harder. I nearly stopped blogging a few weeks ago after securing said new job (social media for Public Health England, since you asked) because I was feeling uninspired and lazy and was obsessed with Parks and Recreation in a big way. A friend told me if my traffic was growing, I should stick it out and see what happens. I also really bloody love my piece of internet, so yeah. It’ll be here a while more.

So that’s me. I’m off to devour some M&Ms before dinner because you only live once.

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Being young and career driven

So here’s something I would like to read more about: being a career person. I’m not sure what the technical term is, but I guess in my case it’s career girl? Professional super power? Work wizard? Well, whatever it is. In a blog market that’s saturated with overnight oats, ways to eat avocado, posts about happiness, mascara reviews and so on (which I, just like everyone else, still read), I like to also read posts that are geared up to the world of work. I’ve started writing them and they get pretty good stats, so I guess I’m not alone.

I think being ambitious is one of the best qualities you can have. I’m not talking being a total bitch about everything and being willing to push colleagues into a shark pool (imagine) to get what you want, I just mean having some drive to go out and get where you want to go. You know, like Leslie Knope. (If you haven’t watched Parks and Recreation, immediately leave this page and do so. That is an order.)

While your twenties is a time of often not knowing where you’re going and still an ideal period of your life to travel and move around and try loads of new stuff, it’s still also perfectly okay to be career driven. No one says you have go backpacking or live in a rain forest for a few months, or go to yoga retreats to find yourself just because you’re young.  If you want to be a go-getter in the workplace, then I say go get. I know I do. I want to go get (unsure exactly what because I’m 25 and I DON’T KNOW LEAVE ME ALONE) the kind of job where I do things I love and have freedom to work around myself. I don’t know precisely the job I want to do in the future, but I know the sector I want to be in and I know the things I need to go to achieve my goals. I like doing it. I don’t care about sounding like a bore or like I’m wasting my youth, because if you do it right, you can have it all.

Having it all is why I want to do well at work. I could lie and say I’ll be happy to live a simple life in a tiny home with the essentials for living because all you need is happiness, but er, no. That would be a million miles from the truth. Of course happiness is the main aim of life, but I like holidays, and I like Zara Home and I like feeling like I’ve achieved something good at the end of the day. I like finding things difficult sometimes without wanting to set them on fire. I want to do a job that makes me happy. So I work at it. I’m not constantly at home with my head buried in books and searching the internet for knowledge to get promoted or learn a new skill a week, I still have plenty of fun, but I always have something to aim for and it keeps me progressing.

Without sounding like an Etsy wall print, I think people that chase their dreams are inspiring. I think being young and being career driven is a good thing. I think knowing what you want is just as okay as having no idea at all. I think we should basically take this strange, pre-middle bit of our lives and do everything we can to make our time worthwhile. Yes I know, I should shut up and go sew my feelings on a cushion or something. I’m going to eat some Rich Tea biscuits though, because sew I cannot.

5 ways to make yourself more employable in your spare time

Jobs are important seeing as we spend most of our lives at work. Depressing as it can seem at times, going to work doesn’t have to be a drag and make you feel inclined to punch holes in your phone when your alarm goes off. Although work could be a bit more respectful to our relationships with bed, let’s be honest.

If you’re going to get where you want to be work-wise, you need to make yourself employable. I’ve been told I’m good at this (though I think it might be something to do with luck) so if you want to become more attractive to employers, here are some good places to start AND you can do a lot of it at home, in your spare time. Get your fittest stationary out and tie your hair up, it’s time to get serious.

1) Pick a path to go down and focus, focus, FOCUS. It’s so hard to decide what to do when you’re young and I think we’re made to make choices like that far too early in life. Saying that though, you can pick a general direction to aim in, rather than just one job to try and snag. It makes it easier if you have an idea of where you want to take your life, so it’s worth putting some serious thought into it rather than blindly hunting for any job. For example writing has always been my thing, as I got older that turned into digital communications (because you know, MSN, then Facebook then iPhones) and I got there by sticking with the general idea that I wanted to write and I enjoyed working with technology, and I ended up doing a journalism degree. I got into health as a sort of niche after uni and now I’m going to work on social media at Public Health England. Having that main focus and pull in a particular direction has helped me massively.

2) Market yourself. Once you know what you want to do, start getting involved. Use social media to connect with like minded people, share related content, write your own content on a blog, contribute to discussions on Twitter and start making yourself appear like an involved, clued up and genuinely interested person. Being able to mention things like a blog and Twitter following at interviews opens up a whole new discussion. It’s also good for employers to be able to check you out online. This might sound a bit weird and stalker-ish, but it’s the world we live in, so look presentable out there.

3) Pick a skill to improve. You can learn and practice skills from the comfort of bed these days. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. For example, photography- this is something I’ve wanted to improve for ages, so I’ve started using my camera on my phone and Instagram to help me get better at taking images and decide if I should get an expensive camera. It’s FREE, it’s EASY and it’s actually quite fun. Chances are you already use apps and have gotten really good at things that count as a reputable skill, so remember to include it in applications. Photography is just an example, now stuff like Code Academy exists, you can really start boosting your CV for free and impressing the people you want to hire you.

4) Learn another language. This is something I want to do so badly. SO badly, and I know it’s a lot easier said than done. I always thought of learning a language after school as involving expensive lessons or having to go away travelling. After working in an office where basically everyone is bilingual, I’ve been informed you can  learn another language in so many other ways… on a phone, on a laptop, by listening to podcasts. I did download an app a while ago but I was so busy at the time I didn’t commit, but I recommend it as a good place to start. For the two weeks I used it, I actually felt like I was learning. That was Duolingo, which is pretty popular, but other good ones to look at is Babbel (which I just downloaded and looks really good) and Busuu. Commute to work? That’s the perfect time to do it. Unless you’re on a train so packed you can’t reach for your phone, in which case, do it before bed. Having a second language, if you research which one would serve you best, is SUCH a good skill to have and makes you look very impressive in applications.

5) Take something you’re good at and volunteer your skills. I do NOT mean work for free. Volunteering in your spare time is different. if you have a bit of spare time, or think you can give up a few hours a week at home, find a way to help out somewhere. This can be done by going somewhere or just by staying at home on a computer. Find a small charity in need of a bit of help locally, see if there is anything you can do and sign yourself up. When you’re offering up your time, you should get to decide how much you give, so you can completely tailor it to you. This can also be applied to loads of career paths. Think outside the box and send a few emails. The worst that can happen is you don’t get a reply. You can also look for opportunities on websites like charity job, which advertise for lots of different skills like admin, legal, vocational, financial and lots more. Having something like this to mention in cover letters and bring up in interviews shows a lot of initiative and proves you’re really out to get the job you want.