Walking Into The World of Work Like...

I think a lot of us are now in that awkward stage where we've finished with exams and university and we need to find a job. Some people don't want to work right away and aren't ready to give up their summer just yet. I, however, am the complete opposite. I quit my part-time retail job almost three weeks ago now and knew that I definitely wanted to be employed before the summer. I had been applying for graduate jobs since the end of last year and hadn't been very successful. I applied mainly for graduate jobs in publishing/editing but it's a very elitist sector as I've said on this blog before. If you don't have at least a years' experience, they're not interested. Never mind the fact that I've been studying for the past three years and the two years before that and the five years before that...

I was lucky enough to land myself a job as a consultant, with a top London estate agent. I started last week and can honestly say that I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity I've been given to work with such a welcoming and friendly team. I always felt like I had to work in publishing because I studied creative writing. But if you know me, you'll know that all I do in my free time is watch property programmes like Escape to the Country, Homes Under the Hammer, Grand Designs and Coast vs Country. If I'm not doing that, then I'm building houses on The Sims. I always thought of this as an enjoyable pastime and never really considered a career in property. But the opportunity came up and the whole way through the interviewing process, it really did feel like the right job for me.

I think this is something that some of us ignore. It's really easy to want to take the first job you get offered. Thinking of all those sales jobs the graduate recruitment companies offer you? The ones where they advertise things like "Want to earn 30k in your first year?" "Want to progress to management in 2-3 years?". That may well be the right avenue for you, but if it isn't, then there's nothing wrong with taking a little more time to wait for the right opportunity. Obviously not too long though, as you don't want to unemployed forever! Another thing to think about is exams. I did have to take a legal exam in my first week, during training, which I was required to pass and there are plenty of other jobs that require you to take exams too. So that's just something to think about as well.

During my first week of work, I've learned so many things and I wanted this post to be a sort of quick guide to transitioning between studying and full-time work. So below, I've listed some of the main things I've learned so far.

Buy smart clothes.
It's all well and good getting a full time job, but then you realise you have to work five days a week and you only have one smart outfit... That's a problem. Get the basics sorted first of all - a shirt, a skirt/trousers and a blazer. I hate wearing trousers (at the minute) and I prefer to just wear dresses that I can slip in and out of. ASOS do some nice basic work wear but Mango have some very flattering workwear pieces you might want to invest in too. They do cost about £30 a dress, sometimes more, but you're going to be wearing these pieces on a weekly basis so I really would suggest forking out that little bit extra for something that is going to last.

Time is so precious! 
I love reality television and going shopping and staying up late playing The Sims. But now, that just really isn't feasible. It's back to having a bedtime routine and sticking to it, because otherwise I won't be able to do my job properly. I can't afford to be tired when I'm at work - it makes the day go so much slower and it's just not enjoyable at all. Also working all week means that when the weekend comes, you don't want to do anything crazy - you just want to relax.

Meal prepping is going to be your best friend.
I never imagined how exhausting it would be to come home and cook a meal for yourself. I don't get meals cooked for me at home, I do all of that myself. So pre-chopping vegetables and having quick and easy meals to prepare is an essential. It's too easy to grab a ready meal or a frozen pizza, but these are just foods that are going to make you feel lazy and lack energy. I've been trying to prepare things like pesto pasta and pies that I can cook in batches and just put in the oven when I'm ready. Even something like a big salad is a great idea, where you can just throw lots of bits together quickly.

Bring lunch into work!
We have a canteen at work and I work in quite a large business park that has a lot of restaurants on it. On Friday I found a really nice restaurant that was serving chicken katsu curry which is one of my favourite dishes. I bought that and a bottle of water and it came to £6 which at the time I thought was pretty good. However, £6 on lunch plus £7 on travel expenses amounts to £11 a day, which is £55 a week, which is £220 a month on travel and lunch! That is actually ridiculous and I'm so glad I'm writing this post so that I can constantly remind myself of how much more cost effective it's going to be for me to bring my lunch into work.

Don't skip breakfast.
It feels fine in the morning when you've just stepped out of the shower and you realise you've got about fifteen minutes left before you leave for work. You're not that hungry yet are you? But then you're on the tube with all the commuters and actually, you are hungry. You're also quite sleepy and you realise you've got about four or maybe even five hours before you'll get to go for lunch. Thinking about buying something before you go into work? No. Think of the money and just make time for breakfast. It will give you that boost of energy you need in the morning and it will keep you going until lunchtime!

Think about the time you're travelling
It might take you half an hour on the tube when there's no traffic on the roads. But if you're travelling at the busiest times of day, then you need to allow that little bit of extra time so that you can afford to get caught in traffic without frantically checking your watch. Once you're sat on the bus with only twenty minutes to get to work, but you've still got half an hour to get to your destination, there's no way around that. You will be ten minutes late. So just leave ten minutes earlier and make your morning commute that little bit less stressful than it probably already is.

If you have to wear heels, then bring comfortable shoes in your bag!
I always used to see women in smart skirts and dresses, wearing gym or running trainers on their feet in the mornings and evenings. I'll admit that it did always look sort of silly to me. But now, that's exactly what I do. I wear trainers to work and then put my heels on. It's just not practical to walk around in my heels all day. They're not uncomfortable exactly, they just aren't as comfortable as my trainers would be.

If I pick up any more tips throughout my months of working at my new job, then I'll make sure I put them down here. For now, that's all the knowledge I have to give and I really hope you enjoyed it!

Book Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

This is a strange novel - one that I'm really quite unsure of overall. The characters and plot loosely wind themselves around the infamous Manson family. Led by Charles Manson towards the end of the 1960s, the family are known for their cult behaviour and the brutal murder of the Tate family. As well as several other murders/assaults and the planned assassination of Gerald Ford - who was president of the United States from 1974 to 1977. So they were involved in some quite heavy criminal activity.

I didn't have this in mind as I read the novel, but there was a part of me that felt as if it had to be set against something more than just Cline's imagination. Mitch, who I believe is supposed to bear a certain resemblance to Sharon Tate, didn't feel like a character. He felt more like someone who had really existed, if that makes sense? The rest of the girls and Russell felt like archetypes for the kind of people many of us have known or know of. At first I described this book to people who asked as a sort of re-imagining of the recklessness of being a teenage girl who wants to fit in. Something I felt we would all have some sort of knowledge of, even if faint.

However, the further I crept into this novel, the more distance created between myself and the main character Evie Boyd. My experience of childhood was nothing like hers and I started to realise that this wasn't about a universal experience of being young, it was about a particular experience of it.

There are glimpses throughout of the things we all experience. For example, Russell's character felt like an exaggerated version of the cool guy at school that you wish would notice you. And then when he does, you realise you'd rather he hadn't ever looked at you at all. Because he seems alluring from a distance but is just sleazy when you get close enough to see clearly. I say that Russell was exaggerated because he was leading a sort of cult in the novel that encouraged young girls to live on a run down ranch with him, performing sexual favours in return for food and shelter and the illusion that he was looking after them. As soon as it got to this, it started to remind me of the very sinister recent BBC adaptation Three Girls, which followed the experience of the girls in Rochdale - who I'm sure we're all quite familiar with the story of by now.

Other things I briefly imagined I might relate to, include Evie's experience with her mother dating a few new men after her father cheated and left. Evie is only fourteen, but even at seventeen and eighteen I found myself grossed out by the fact that my mum had started dating. When you live in a single parent household and get used to the structure of things, it can be really difficult to accept change. So Evie's reluctance to acquaint herself with her mother's new dates was something I felt would be relatable to a good chunk of the population.

Also, Evie's desperation to fit in with someone - anyone - is an experience that I feel is somewhat universal. As a teenager, you're still trying to come to terms with your identity or even trying to form an identity for yourself. So when she spots Suzanne and is immediately enthralled by her rebellious, care free attitude, I sort of understood it. However, the more physical things got, the more sexualised the imagery became, again there was that distance. I could absorb what Evie was saying, but I didn't quite understand it.

I can imagine this being the sort of book you have to study at A-Level English. The writing is the sort of writing that would make an absolute field day for analysis. Phrases like "the cushions still holding the shape of his own sleepy body", "as if she could take in my words and make a home for them" and "the silence was knit with so much". There's a decorative quality to Cline's writing that does make for an enjoyable read. Until it becomes overused. Until every final sentence lingers with such drama that you find yourself eye rolling instead of gawking in awe.

Possibly the most irritating thing about the atmosphere of this novel, is the staggered way in which Cline constructs it. There are about five line breaks every chapter, making it feel like there is no continuity to the story. And this might well be for dramatic effect. I get it. Evie's life is scattered, the girls on the ranch are scattered, everything within the story world is scattered. But after a while you just start to feel like you're bouncing through a field of the writer's disorganised thoughts, wondering how to get to the finish line with a clear sense of what's really been going on.

There were short conversations throughout the novel about the tragedy of Evie's involvement with Russell and the girls. Once we reached the underage, perverse sex I felt like this was the tragedy we had been set up for. Surprisingly it wasn't! The real tragedy in Evie's narration, was the murder of Mitch and the others at the end of the novel. Which left me with the sense that Evie, narrating in retrospect from an adult version of herself, still hadn't quite accepted the horror of what her childhood had become from the very first day she agreed to follow Suzanne to the ranch. There were threads of acceptance, unwilling to be tied together by Evie and so, by the end of the novel you're left in a sort of unsatisfying ambivalence. Where's the justice? Where is Evie's understanding of what happened when she was just fourteen?

As I said earlier, it's a strange novel. I thought I was in awe of it at the beginning, but I'm now left thinking that I'd rather not read a word of it again...