Jobs with Benefits: No Strings Attached?

When I moved to London last May following the completion of my degree, I came here with the intention of getting a job related to my studies. My Bachelor’s degree was in American Studies, so, you might ask, what kind of job did I intend to get?

American Studies is one of those degrees that doesn’t really have a particular job attached to it. If you do a degree in accountancy, you know that your future is going to involve Excel spreadsheets and a calculator. In fashion, at least a pair of scissors. American Studies…America? The whole reason I went to university was because I had this epiphany a week before my 30th birthday. I had been searching my soul the previous few years, asking myself what it was that I wanted in life, where I wanted to be. The epiphany answered: living and working in America was all I had ever really wanted. As a teenager I used to wish I had been born on the other side of the pond; I hated being British, and it was really only the influence of my extremely patriotic English ex-husband who persuaded me that it was a good thing to be British. Now I am proud of my nationality, but I still see America as the place I have always wanted to be.

About nine months before my 30th birthday, prior to having this great revelation, I decided that if I wouldn’t ever the get the chance to live in America, then I should at least have a dream trip there. Having got the agreement from my then-husband that we could do it, I spent months researching the places I wanted to visit (conclusively, along the West coast) and more months investigating flights and accommodation. Painstakingly looking at the international flights to and from the States, the domestic flights from place to place, costing up hotels and car hire.

A couple of months before our trip, during my intensive research stage, my ex-husband intimated that this wasn’t really a trip he wanted to go on at all. My reply, to both our surprise, was that I was going, even if I had to do it alone. He laughed and said that I wouldn’t even go to the Co-op on my own.

He had a point. I hated going to supermarkets on my own, going clothes shopping on my own. I even hated nipping to the local shops to pick up milk. I hated going anywhere on my own; what made me think that I would be able to go travelling on my own?

I think it was then that I finally started to admit to myself that my marriage was crumbling.

It was something I had been in denial of for a long time, but the realisation that I was willing to do something as drastic as going travelling on my own, and the fact that my husband didn’t want to do something that was obviously so important to me, and more importantly it was a holiday – he loved holidays and we had two weeks in Orlando for our honeymoon – set the alarm bells ringing.

We did go on the trip, in September 2008. Six nights in Los Angeles, four in Las Vegas, and a day in drizzly Seattle. I had planned four nights in San Francisco and three in Seattle, but we had to cut our trip short, because he was due to start university. On the whole, we had a great time, and this trip cemented my love for the place I had seen on the big and small screen as a teenager, in a way that my honeymoon in Florida hadn’t.

Previous readers will know that I spent six months in the States as part of my degree. I won’t go into that now, as I want to get back to my original reason for this particular blog, other than to say that my study abroad period is where I realised that I could write, and gave me the confidence to know in my heart that writing is what I wanted to do in the future; what I wanted to be paid to do.

So fast forward to May 2013. I take the chance to move to London without a job. Having had no joy in finding a permanent job, I knew that temping would be the way to go initially. A month after moving, I was offered an administrative, data-type job, similar to what I’d been doing for twelve years before my degree. Being desperate for money, I took the job, thinking that it would give me the opportunity to pay the bills while searching for that elusive dream job of being paid to write.

After three months of being a temp, I was offered a six-month contract with the company, a luxury retailer. A further six months later brings us to last week, where I signed on the dotted line to spend another six months with them.

The great thing is that I now have a job with benefits. Never had a job with benefits before. Friends with benefits, sure, but never a job with benefits. The only perk I ever got from the National Health Service is 20% off Nandos. Which is a great perk that I still continue to receive, but sshhh, don’t tell anyone. I now get a subsidised travelcard, which will allow me to travel the whole of London for a quarter of what I currently pay to travel my short commute to work. I also get a staff discount and clothing allowance, although anyone who knows me knows that the only place I buy labels is in charity shops. I certainly can’t afford to buy clothes and accessories through my employer, staff discount or not.

I am now also being given the opportunity to travel on company business. I am currently on my way back to London from Leeds, the first of three overnight stays I will have in the next month.

But what about my America dream? My writing dream? I hear you ask. I ask myself that all the time. I still peruse the job emails I get through, and sometimes I make a note of the ones I want to apply for (although I usually don’t). But right now, I am happy to stay put, while I sort other areas of my life such as moving house.

While I only graduated last September, it does worry me that I seem to have lost my desire to chase the dreams that were realised over the last few years. I know in my heart I have given up on living in the States, because it’s very difficult to get a working visa. I know people with many more qualifications and connections in the US than me, and if they are struggling to get a visa, I ask myself how is a 35-year old with a degree in American Studies going to be given such an elusive opportunity.

A writing job is not so much out of the question, but the last few months has seen me question what kind of writing job I would want. Would I be happy with a copywriting job? Depends on the kind of copy. I’m not so great at flowery descriptive text. I write from the heart, from past experience, from current experience. I write about depression, having a coil fitted, sex, internet dating. I attended a crime writing panel last year, and listened to one of the published authors, with years of experience in the publishing industry, admit that this experience did not encourage her to become an author. Her revelation that authors and their books are described as “units” in the industry, and the focus being on sales, sales, sales, has stuck with me. I want to be a writer, I don’t necessarily want to work for the industry that enables other people to get published. Maybe if it were an easier industry to get into, I might pursue it, but in truth, I have shelved that idea.

So, where does that leave me? I really have no idea. All I know is that I need to keep writing, and have faith that what will be will be. I also know, from past experience, that you can’t just sit and wait for things to happen. So more effort is needed from me in order to make life happen.

The Friends with Benefits relationship has really become quite well known over the last few years. Films such as Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached have drawn audiences of the rom-com crowd, eager to see whether the fairy tale is possible in this modern day commitment-phobic agreement. While Friends with Benefits is synonymous with the term ‘No Strings Attached’, does the same go for a Job with Benefits? If so, then perhaps this is exactly the job I need right now. A mutually beneficial relationship that is not meant to be anything long term.

Jogga-Blog No. 4 and 5: AKA The Return of 33andlostinlife

Out of all the titles you could possibly have expected me to pick for my first blog post in almost two months, I bet you didn’t expect to see the words “Jogga-Blog”.  In fact, this is the fourth and fifth Jogga-Blog combined, because my first London-based jog occurred on Thursday evening.  While afterwards I was most pleased with myself, the closest I got to blogging about the experience was thinking about it.  Well, you know what they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Today I was up early, so I decided to take advantage of the nice morning, before the heat became too overbearing, and take myslf off on another jog.  Once round the park without stopping this time.  I was most impressed with myself.

You may be wondering why it has taken me so long to write another blog post since the publication of The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 1.  I’ll do my best to fill you in on what has happened in my life over the last seven weeks, and from then onwards I shall attempt to keep you updated on a more regular basis.

I managed to find a lovely flat in West London, which I’ve settled into now.  My “housemates” are slightly older than me, but it’s nice to be with people who are full of stories from their lives.  I love listening to them talking, because it gives me inspiration for writing.  While this is the first time I’ve put virtual pen to paper in some time, I’ve been jotting down notes in my mind.  My little notebook that I use for my writing ideas got dusted off the other day, and I’m delighted to say that some of my ideas made it onto the page.  But I finally feel like my creative juices are starting to flow, which makes me happy because the pipes have been clogged for some time. Now though, that all my university work is finished, I can write for pleasure, without having to worry about deadlines, and I am thrilled that my ideas may finally find a place in the world.

It took me a while, but in mid-June I finally found a temp job, working in the Head Office of a high-end retail company.  The office is located only four tube stops from where I live, so the commute takes around 30 minutes door-to-door, which is not too bad considering I work with people who commute up to four hours a day.  The work is very similar to what I did in the NHS, analysing data, but instead of patients, it’s handbags and high heels.  I had a job interview for a writing position for one of these Daily-Deal websites just before I was offered this post.  While I was slightly disappointed not to have got the job, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that, for now, I’m happy with a nine-to-five job that I can do without having to stress out over it, where the people are nice and the commute isn’t too long.  I can get work on getting my finances back into a manageable condition, and use my free time to do what I have wanted to do for so long: write.  This job is temp to perm, which means it may become permanent in a few months.

You may be wondering why I bothered to do a degree in American Studies, if I was only to get a job the same as what I was doing before.  Well I got my degree results the other day, and I will graduate from the University of Lincoln in September with an upper second-class honours, or a 2:1.  This is reflective of the work I’ve done over the last four years, and while last year I may have been disappointed not to have received a first-class honours, right now I am just glad to have made it to the end with some sense of sanity.  When I started my degree, my life was very different, and what I want to gain out of a degree now is not necessarily the same as it was when I enrolled back in September 2009.  While I would still love to have the opportunity to work in America, I am learning to pick and choose my fights, and the opportunities for someone like myself to make the USA my home are slim.  What I’d rather do is focus on what I want to do, which is writing, rather than where I want to do it.  Days like today, where the weather is 26 degrees centigrade (79 Fahrenheit), and the forecast for the next six days is much the same, I’m more than happy to be in London, which is like a little greenhouse full of heat, where I can spend my lunchtimes sunning myself in the park, and the early evenings in the garden.

So I have somewhere to live, a job, and lots more time on my hands.  One thing I don’t have, is a relationship.  As you know if you’ve spent any time with me or my blog, that is high on my list of wants.  Right now, as much as I’d love to meet someone, I don’t have the money to spend on dates, or buying new clothes for dates.  But that is ok, because knowing myself as I do, it would be wrong to rush into finding someone, and people do always say it happens when you don’t expect it.  I can enjoy settling myself into my new life, and eyeing up the hot guys on the tube…

For now, life is good.  This chapter is still very new to me, and I’m very much finding my feet.  I’ve put on weight since my arrival, hence my desire to jog, and knowing that I won’t be able to afford to join a gym until possibly later in the year, I’m going to have to rely on my own resources and free exercise such as jogging and walking, in the tree-lined areas close to where I live and work.  By the end of September, I will have graduated from university, signaling the true end of the previous chapter of my life; potentially have secured a permanent job, and have made myself financially stable.  All the key ingredients for the basis of a happy life, on which I can build the foundations of the me I’ve wanted to become.  Please join me as the journey continues.  I’ve missed talking to you guys.



The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 15

As I type the number 15, it hits me how 15 days is only just over two weeks.  Two weeks until this challenge is finished; two weeks until I am released from the obligation to report to you folks every day how I’m doing in regards to finishing up my degree, and preparing for what the hell I’m going to do after that.  I have to admit though, while at times it’s been difficult to force myself to write that blog post before the midnight deadline (and occasionally I have missed the deadline for numerous reasons), I’ve enjoyed the challenge.  It’s given me the obligation to write every day and that is something I have really needed to do.  I want to be a writer, and I need to be able to write, whether I want to or not.  If this challenge has taught me one thing, it’s that I can write when I need to.

So where am I with my big plans?  Well, I’ve been working on essay number two, about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which is due in tomorrow.  There’s a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in, but I will get it in.  Re-reading the novel and making notes has taken a long time (it’s a long novel, almost 500 pages, and the type is very small!).  It hits me that in just over 15 minutes, it will be a week and a day until all of my essays will be in, and I’ll be free.

It’s strange to say that I’ll be free, as though my degree has been holding me back.  In some ways, it has.  Having to suspend my studies halfway through my final year wasn’t fun; nor was the prospect of staying in Lincoln another 18 months.  But I’ve done it, and it’s nearly time that I can say it was the best thing I ever did.  I can’t imagine being able to finish had I stayed on, and I can’t imagine what kind of person I would have been if I’d had to face the world this time last year.

With regards to that life that I can finally chase, a few days ago I placed an ad on one of the property websites I’ve been using to search for houseshares.  I’ve had quite a few replies, several of which haven’t read my profile, which states my need for a catflap for The Bish, or have ignored the title which includes the words “with cat”.  Yes, I’m talking to you, woman who rang to offer me a flat on the 13th floor in Bethnal Green.  Although to be fair I’d never go for anything on the 13th floor; despite the fact that my Dad always tells me it’s unlucky to be superstitious.

I have seen one or two places which would be suitable, and I’m contemplating another jolly to London to view them.  While I’m aware that the next week has to be focussed on essays, I’m keen to have accommodation sorted when I’ve finished.

With regards to jobs, I’ve not applied for any more recently.  I get daily alerts from several websites, and I always check those, but nothing has taken my fancy, apart from a job as a Medical Secretary in Saudi Arabia, which I contemplated for about 10 minutes before deciding that me being a Medical Secretary would be far too dangerous.

Anyway, I’m feeling more positive, which is ironic because today I got my period.  I guess I had my PMT days last week, but it’s good to know that once that’s out the way, I can be pretty calm and focussed.

I guess the main thing to say is that I can feel the excitement bubbling underneath.  My time is nearly here, and I for one cannot wait to take my new life for a spin.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 27

After yesterday’s blog, I came to realise that I’m not so great at writing when I’ve had a drink.  Whereas many a famous rock star has penned a best-selling single while drunk (or stoned), drinking (particularly wine) seems to only have the effect that it makes my writing rubbish.  My Life Coach, Jon, called me out on both Day 37  and yesterday’s blog, Day 28, noting that they weren’t quite up to the same standard as usual.  Both were written after a couple of glasses of wine, and while I do enjoy the odd glass (or two), I need to bear in mind that blog-writing should take place prior to wine-drinking…

With 27 days left til the end of this challenge, my full focus this week has been on finding a job.  Perhaps naively, I had imagined it would be easier to get a job than I thought.  So now I’m applying for as many jobs as I can.  While I’m determined not to have thrown away the last few years of my life, including finding the realisation that I want a job that I love, I am also aware that it may take time to find that job.  One thing I do want to do though, is to move to London, therefore I may need to take a job which I’m not too keen on in order to get moved sooner.

Although I haven’t had any interview requests so far, I am hopeful that there may be one or two on the horizon.  I had a reply from a recruitment company today after applying for a job that I could do with my eyes closed (having done a similar job for many years within the National Health Service).  They are “processing my application” and will be in touch.  At first, I was a little wary of this, because all I could think was that the job is less money than I was on before and it’s the only job I can get.  But then I changed my view: it’s with an international organisation, and this job would allow me to make my move south.  So we’ll see what happens.

It’s very important to me that I find a career that I love.  I’ve had little job satisfaction in the sixteen years and various job roles that I worked full-time, from the age of just 15.  If I could write this blog and get paid for it, that would make me happy.  But while that may take some time to happen, I’m going to have to find something else to do 9-5, to keep me going until I can get to that point.

I’m actually quite excited about the whole job-hunting (and preferably job-acquiring) journey.  When I quit my well-paid (for Lincolnshire) job in September 2011 to concentrate on my degree (only to suspend my studies three months later!), I didn’t think I would ever want to work again.  I did some temp work the following March to July, which was more for the money than anything else, as it wasn’t a job that I especially enjoyed.  But now, having 95% of my final year finally out of the way, I’m looking forward to getting back into the workplace, making new friends, and getting that all important payslip at the end of the month.

The last seven years has been about finding out who I am and what I want to do; where I want to be.  I know I don’t want a job that I dislike, but sometimes, as a good friend once kept telling me, “a little bit of suffering is necessary”.  I truly believe that, and so while my first job back in London may not be my dream job, it will be the one that keeps the smile on my face, because it means I’m finally on the path to that job I will love with all my heart.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 38

After yesterday’s blog, it was pointed out to me by several people that today, was in fact, the 1st April, not tomorrow. Therefore I had a whole 24 hours less to make a decision about going to America to work for the summer.

After much soul searching, crying, more soul searching, and a bit more crying, I decided not to pursue the J-1 visa which would allow me to work in the States for the summer. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and I wasn’t particularly happy about coming to that decision, but I think it’s the best decision for me.

I have been waiting for many years for the opportunity to start the next chapter of my life, and I think that is what finally persuaded me. I want some stability in my life, and that was instrumental in my decision. I shall soon have finished my degree, and will be divorced. I will be free to start a new career, in a new city, and without the constraints of Uni workload and the knowledge of moving away making dating impossible, I will have the time and freedom to start dating again. While I realise that having a man is not everything, a happy, healthy relationship is something I have wanted for a long time and I look forward to getting that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you meet someone new.

I’ve applied for a couple of jobs this weekend, and found a few more to apply for. I’ve printed some copies of my CV to take with me to London. I’ve done some reading and note taking for my assignment. All in all, I’m feeling positive for the future.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 40

Wow, Day 40 already.  I guess this means I should have a serious think about what I want to achieve by the time the clock hits, now backwards, to Day Zero.

When I started writing this challenge, back at the beginning of February, I’m not sure what  I really expected to achieve myself.  I knew I would have finished all my assignments, or rather, I hoped I would.  After suspending my studies a year and a half ago, at a time when I couldn’t foresee myself ever graduating, I have never taken that graduation ceremony for granted.  Even now with my dissertation handed in and only (she says) four essays to go, I won’t assume I will be stood with my gown and mortar board this September, although I’m determined that nothing will stand in my way.

I had also hoped I would have had at least an interview by now.  So far, I’ve only had thanks-but-no-thanks letters, which is better than nothing, but it also means I’m not filled with hope for getting a permanent job offer in the next 40 days.  While I’m perfectly willing to consider temp work, I don’t know what I will end up doing, and there’s always the chance something will get in the way of what I want to do.  I know so many people who have had to give up on their dreams, for one reason or another, and I guess I’m scared that could happen to me.  But anyway, let’s not ruin things before they’ve even started.  I’m thinking positive.

So I guess as long as I’ve finished my degree, maybe found a job, then what else is there at Day Zero?  For me, there will be relief.  That I made it to that point.  Day Zero will be a culmination of the last six or seven years, and most importantly, the fact that I can finally tell myself: I did it.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 37

Right now I am so excited, and so proud of myself.  This morning I hit the 10,000 word count on my dissertation, and this evening I have completed Chapter One, with Chapter Three almost done.  I feel pleasantly surprised that I have actually managed to work all day, with the exception of a couple of hours’ nap during tea time, which is probably what has kept me going until now.

I am going to enjoy my positivity while I can, because with less than a week until my dissertation is due, I realise there is still plenty of time for panic.  However, if I can keep going this week like I have done today, then there should be no problem with getting it finished.  Of course, anyone who has done a degree will know that referencing your sources is a bitch, and extremely time-consuming.  If I don’t go crazy over finishing the content of my work, then the referencing is likely to turn me into a complete fruit-loop.

As well as having made great steps forward today, I’ve also done some preparation for tomorrow.  By this, I mean I have printed off my drafts of Chapters Two and Four, but this does mean that after I have my morning coffee, I can read through them while watching Frasier.  As someone who never makes packed lunches or prepares an outfit for the following day, you should be impressed that I’ve actually done something that will save me a job in the morning (and also mean I have no excuse should I not feel as work-inclined as I have today).

Ironically, the weather today has done nothing but rain.  Well, tell a lie, it did sleet a bit.  But it’s been overcast and pretty horrible all day.  As a sufferer of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), today could have meant a lack of enthusiasm; but instead I think the rain actually spurred me on.  This country’s inclination towards inclement weather is wearing me down, and after 34 years, I’ve had enough of it.  Once uni is finished, I’ll have the chance to move elsewhere, or at least towards the South of England, where it may be slightly warmer most of the time.  A random discussion today also gave me an idea for a new place to look at relocating to, but my piratey instincts are telling me to keep this to myself for now.

It’s now 11:20pm, and I hear my bed calling me.  But I shall be going to bed with a smile on my face, for today has been a successful day, and with it has come hope for the future, and the promise of a new life.  Time to switch off my laptop, make a hot water bottle, and go to sleep, ready to start again in the morning.

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