New Year motivation

After some unsuccessful interviews for jobs I wanted and another successful interview for a job I didn’t (on this occasion turning it down was definitely the right choice) I’m in need of a little motivation for the new year, so I thought I’d share 13 of my favourite quotes in the lead up to 2013…

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1) Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out – Art Lunkletter

2) Everything is ok in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end – Anon.

3) When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, ’till it seems you cannot hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time the tide will turn – Harriet Beecher Stowe

4) Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent – Calvin Coolidge

5) It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up – Vince Lombardi

6) Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want – Dan Stanford

7) Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement – Jim Horning

8) The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck – Channing Pollock

9) Anyone who doesn’t make a mistake isn’t trying hard enough – Wess Robert

10) Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance – Bruce Barton

11) The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel – Steve Furtnick

12) Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm – Winston Churchill

13) Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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And here’s an interesting article: How to make decisions (it’s also reassuring to read the comments – we really do all make mistakes, and a lot of us find it hard to make decisions). The key thing I’ve taken from this article is clarification of the difference between following your gut and falling into psychological traps. If you can step back from your emotions and separate gut reaction from emotional reaction, then going with your instinct seems to make a lot of sense.

Happy New Year!

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A vegetarian Christmas

lisa_the_vegetarianI’m a vegetarian and have been now for around 7 years. I have a number of reasons for this choice – I don’t particularly like the taste or texture of meat, I don’t like the idea of eating something that was once alive and that I definitely wouldn’t want to kill myself, and we have so many other options of what to eat that I kind of just feel eating meat isn’t necessary.

There are also health benefits to not eating red meat, though fish and white meats could be argued to be pretty good for you. I guess it really depends on how much of an effort you make to eat the right other stuff (beans, pulses, wide range of fruit and veg, cheese, milk and other sources of protein etc.) as to whether or not being a vegetarian makes you healthier than being an omnivore.

Am I a vegetarian for ethical reasons? Sort of, but I realise that from an ethical standpoint vegan-ism is really the only way to go (apparently cows have to regularly give birth in order to keep producing milk and the calves are taken from their mothers at a very young age). Eating less meat is also a great way to reduce carbon emissions, and having a strong interest in environmental issues I do try to do my bit! Although I now hate the thought of eating meat, I have no problem at all with anyone else choosing to eat it. This is just my own lifestyle choice.

So obviously I won’t be having a typical Christmas dinner, and I thought I’d share a lovely nut roast recipe that I first tried last Christmas and will be making again for tomorrow. Nut roast has a bad reputation as being boring and dry, however this recipe from the Guardian’s website is delicious: Felicity Cloake’s perfect nut roast (scroll down past the discussion of the different aspects to find the perfect combination)

Happy Christmas!

The perfect gift

presentsI hate buying Christmas presents – or more I hate choosing them. Giving is great when you know the perfect gift that’s really going to be appreciated, but more often than not I find myself looking for presents for the sake of giving something, anything.

I genuinely don’t think I’d mind if no-one bought me a Christmas present, I’d be more than happy with Christmas good wishes, yet when you know you’re going to receive gifts you feel you have to give something back in return. This year we’re baking presents for our extended family, though I’m not wholly convinced they’ll all appreciate our efforts.

Maybe I’m selfish – I dislike shopping at the best of times and I have a tendency to leave gift buying until the last minute. I know that others really like to receive presents, I’m just not very good at selecting those elusive ‘perfect’ gifts. Maybe searching for ‘perfect’, rather than good enough, presents is where I’m going wrong. Will I appreciate gifts, well-chosen or not? Of course.

My grandma always asks for a completely honest answer when she asks: do you like this/will you use this? Offering to take back presents and replace them with something more useful or preferred in return if the answer is no. I appreciate this effort to make sure that everything she buys and gives is actually wanted and useful – it saves waste and unused gifts lying around the house. However this seems to be a maximising attitude, promoting discontent.

At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts, and even a generic gift shows that someone has thought of you. While I dislike the waste and materialism of Christmas, I’ll still be putting on my best ‘oh it’s what I’ve always wanted’ expression throughout the festive season.

All in the same boat

allinthesameboatI’ve recently met a few people who also seem to be a little bit lost in terms of where their lives/careers are going. Thought I’d share their stories just to emphasise the fact that there are a lot of people in this particular ‘quarter-life crisis’ boat.

Firstly, let’s call her Katy, is in her late twenties and desperately keen to find a meaningful job in the environmental sector. She left school and worked as a shepherd in the Mendips (now that’s a pretty unusual and interesting job!) before getting a job with the National Geographic Society in London. Discovering that she really liked geography she then took an undergraduate degree in it in London. Since graduating she’s done countless unpaid internships, and even worked abroad for a while, yet still she’s really struggling to get a job.

Katy says she finds it hard to sell herself, and just feels really indecisive and unsure about what she wants to do (which, from experience, can make it even harder to sell yourself). All she knows is she doesn’t want to be stuck in an office from 9 to 5 everyday. She wonders whether she should just take a low paid job and be done with searching for something meaningful and enjoyable. She’s also considering teaching but knows she’d have to be sure she was going into it for the right reasons. She’s currently planning to go back to London to find temp work and continue searching.

Then there’s, let’s call her Nicola, who I met while working in a restaurant. She moved to New York for three years to study acting and says she even managed to find some work out there as an actress. However now she’s back in the UK and questioning all that she wanted to do since she was little – is an unstable acting career really what she wants? She also doesn’t want to be stuck in an office, hence waitressing for some money while she plans her next move.

Nicola is currently thinking about a big move back to New York, either to continue pursuing acting or to try to get into writing and directing. When talking to her she even used the term ‘quarter-life crisis’ to describe her situation. And she told me she’s worked as a waitress in quite a few different restaurants, often working alongside others in just the same position as us.

So we’re all in the same boat, we just have to try to enjoy the journey until we finally find the right place to step back on to dry land!

Wearing more than one hat

portfolio-careers-hatsI’ve recently been having a look on the internet at alternatives to a nine to five job, and there are a lot of books out there on setting up some kind of business of your own or going freelance. I also came across the idea of a ‘portfolio career’ which I’d never heard of before but is actually something that I think would quite suit me.

Basically a portfolio career involves working part time or freelance in a few different roles, which could be similar or completely different. This allows you to gain much wider experience and to cover more of your interests in your work – the variety really appeals to me.

During the summer I volunteered for a charity in the city near my mum’s home two days a week while completing an internship in the city I went to uni in, staying in my old student house, for the other three days. I enjoyed the change of scene – when I was starting to get bored with one job I knew I’d be doing something completely different soon. It was also good to build up different skills and experience simultaneously. I’m currently doing an internship two days a week and fitting in waitressing shifts when I can, and again I like the variety, two days at a desk and a variety of lunch and evening shifts waiting on tables and serving customers.

At school or university we don’t seem to hear about the option of an unusual career. It just seems to be expected that most people will go into a standard nine to five job. I realise that stability is important, and that maybe limited office hours could be a problem in certain jobs, however this sort of career could really suit some people who have a wide range of interests and/or skills.

A conscious decision not to limit yourself to a single full time job should be seen as a career choice in itself. I guess the problem may be finding the sort of part time or freelance roles that fit together, are in the same location and don’t cause too much hassle or stress trying to balance alongside each other. Definitely something to think about.

Second place again

Why does no-one want to hire me?! I’m getting interviews but not getting offered the jobs. I recently came second place – the reserve candidate – for the second time. Feedback hasn’t been bad, there’s just always someone better than me. It’s frustrating.

But then part of me is always relieved that I don’t have to make a decision (i.e. whether to take a particular job or hold out for another interview/opportunity etc.).

I am hopeful that when something does work out I’ll be able to be more content with it though. Having tried out a range of different jobs and read a lot about the whole process of decision making, especially regarding career choices, I feel that I’m finally starting to accept that my first job won’t be perfect.

I’m also starting to realise how much I care about other things than the actual work itself, like location, work environment and colleagues. I always knew these things were important to me but still placed the actual job above them. Maybe this is where I need to compromise, at least for now.

I’ve found another book to add to my list – Be a free range human – it’s about entrepreneurship and finding work that fits with all of your qualities, skills and values. I’ve always thought I’d love to work for myself, maybe this book will help. The idea that finding your dream job isn’t possible but that creating it is achievable is encouraging.

The great balancing act

So I’ve now finished my fourth book – unfortunately I’m not going to be able to keep up with reading books at this rate but I’m going to try to keep blogging regularly anyway! The main thing I’ve learnt from this book is that I’m not alone. Indecision affects so many people, and this book focuses particularly on women, whose freedom of choice hasn’t always been so great.

4. Compromise – you can’t have it allundecided book

(Undecided: how to ditch the endless quest for perfect and find the career and life that’s right for you, by Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley)

I’m discovering a lot of contradictions in my search for solutions. Settle for good enough, be content with what you have, versus follow your passion, keep searching for what’s right for you. Plan ahead, think about how you can fit in family plans with career plans, versus live in the present, not in the future. I guess it’s just a case of balancing all of these things.

Feminism is a significant part of this book, with a lot of discussion about how women’s lives have changed, from times not so long ago when the majority of women were (and were expected to be) housewives and mothers, to the present day when women seem to be expected to do it all, from having an amazing career to keeping up their appearance, looking after the kids and running the home (obviously this is a stereotype and there are a lot of men who are just as involved or even more so in bringing up children, cooking, washing, cleaning etc.).

I hadn’t realised how much of an issue gender equality still is. These authors argue, and I tend to agree, that the working week is designed to fit the lifestyles of men who have wives to go home to who take care of everything for them and have their dinner on the table. However this is no longer the case for most people, and both men and women want to be able to spend more time with their families and pursuing other interests and hobbies. It’s this whole idea of work-life balance (or work-life fit, as this book argues there really isn’t any balance – everything is a compromise and you always have to prioritise some things over others).

Some things I’ve taken from this book:

a) Let go of some dreams and hold on to those that are most important – If you can accept that you won’t be able to do everything, and choose a few things to focus on (at least for now), then you can let go of feeling you need to do it all.

b) Any kind of meaning or purpose, whether in or outside of work, can lead to contentment.

c) Remember that happiness isn’t as good as contentment. Happiness is short-lived and wears off; contentment is constant.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it. It’s written in a style almost similar to a blog, rambling narrative with lots of different examples and quotes thrown in, but I think that helps to make it interesting and easy to read. Essentially it says that there aren’t any real solutions – the key message is that you can’t have it all but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Compromise and contentment are both really positive.