Monthly Archives

November 2011

Five for Friday: Why you should check out ralphie.co.uk

Ralphie the cocker spaniel in the carIf you get a spare five mins you should check out www.ralphie.co.uk, follow Ralphie on Twitter or go and like his Facebook page. Here’s why:

1) Because it’s about dogs and dogs rock. Anyone who has one will know how much fun and frustration they serve up: a joy to be around one minute (cute puppy curled up on lap), doing amusing things the next (like growling at penguins on Frozen Planet) and then tripping you over and licking the sandwich it’s just taken you half an hour to prepare.

2) It’s named after my own dog Ralphie and he’ll get a popularity complex if people don’t like it. Our neighbours have just got a labrador puppy called Molly and Ralphie’s already peeved he’s no longer the cutest dog on the block.

3) It’s part of my Masters in Online Journalism and I desperately want to a) pass it and b) do very well. So the more support I get for it, the better. Pretty please!

4) You can play a part in contributing to the dog walking community of Milton Keynes and beyond by suggesting good walkies to add to the map, flagging up dog friendly pubs and attractions and swapping information and advice on being a dog owner. Comments, feedback and discussion are more than welcome!

5) Just because. Watch these two videos and just TRY not to laugh at the highs and lows of being a dog owner.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GRSbr0EYYU&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9w7I507D6E&w=560&h=315]

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

£50 on eggnog lattes!!! Am I Mrs Scrooge?

I’m full of the Christmas spirit – yes, it’s only November. I’m watching my swelling collection of festive films, recording everything TrueFilm on Sky has to offer in seasonal movies and Michael Buble’s new Christmas CD is now the only music I play in the car. I am the incredibly proud owner of snowflake pyjamas, two Christmas jumpers and a cardigan sporting knitted reindeer and I keep getting distracted from my MA studies by mince pie recipes on the internet. I’m also thinking about making mulled wine for the hobbits visiting from the shire this weekend and have organised my diary around the switching on of Newport Pagnell’s Christmas lights. Oh, and my reward for submitting my first MA assignment in a couple of weeks will be a visit to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.

Merry Crisis and Happy New FearAll that said and done, I have a small inkling that I may be turning into Mrs Scrooge this year – ever since my husband announced he’d spent almost £50 on eggnog lattes this month and I nearly choked on my turkey and cranberry panini. Now don’t get me wrong, eggnog lattes are lush – but £50!

There’s one more pay day between now and Chrimbo and it’s just not going to cover the yuletide spending frenzy I’d like. And this year I’ve become positively anal about savings and don’t want to dip into that pot, uh uh. And I’m worried that I’ll be asking Santa for contributions to my inflated car insurance, due for renewal in January and bound to be extortionate following a recent prang. Bloody Milton Keynes and its roundabouts!

I’m also wincing at the fact that now I’m a married woman I have to cough up for extra presents, which means less money for myself. Christmas is about treating yourself, right? Oh no, it’s about goodwill and peace to all men, or something like that. Pah. We have two families to buy for and I very much like the gift of giving, even if I don’t like paying for it.

So I purposely left toilet roll off the weekly shopping list yesterday, just to save myself a whole fiver, when I’m only going to have to order it next time because loo roll, let’s face it, will always get used. Toilet roll manufacturers are never going to go out of business are they?

This time of year is also sociable and sociable generally means expensive – Christmas dos, catching up with friends over eggnog lates – and we all know how expensive that can be *coughs and points to husband*, iceskating trips, and buying useless Christmas trinkets because you’re too weak to walk past shop windows without popping in to ‘browse’.

So I guess I’m less a Mrs Scrooge – because I wholeheartedly support the feel good factor that Christmas brings – and more torn between wanting to splash the cash on having a very merry time and wanting to have something bigger than a rusty twopence in the piggybank by the time 2012 rolls around.

Someone pass the winning Lottery ticket! Santa? Are you listening?

Picture by decarr66 via Flickr under Creative Commons licence