Anna Keomegi

This Hey It Gets Better story comes from Anna Keomegi who is a sustainable illustrator/fashion freelancer based in Nottingham. She is an incredibly talented artist and you can see some of her work here. She is also selling her fantastic Christmas cards on Esty and is offering custom illustrations for Christmas. . Her story is all about her life after graduating from university and all the twists and turns in the road that has led her to where she is now working as a sustainable illustration/fashion freelancer.

Anna’s Hey It Gets Better Story

I’m Anna Keomegi but friends call me Anna Keo Silly fact about myself: When I accepted my offer to study at Nottingham Trent University I thought it was in Notting Hill. Imagine my surprise when google drop pin appeared in the middle of England instead of west London. 

Life after graduation

I think this will be a story of false assumptions of the graduate fashion world. The pressure started at the end of the final year when everyone was talking about life after graduation and my fellow coursemates were getting interview offers from large high street companies. I just assumed that’s what fashion design grads do. Sell their soul and go work in high street machinery. Please, don’t be offended if your dream is to work for one of these brands. We all have different dreams. Mine was and still is very utopian, to work for a sustainable fashion brand or own one. 

During my final year I spent a lot of time listening to audio books and I stumbled across ‘Emma Gannon – The Multi-hyphen Method’ and It was life changing. Listening to this book I had my lightbulb moment, that’s me! It sounded like a dream lifestyle to be a freelancer and work for myself, so I made a plan. I will sell my soul for 2-5 years to one of these high street companies and then one day happy and proud walk out of there and become a full time freelancer and live the life of a multi-hyphenate. 

Little did I know it took me time to get my first interviews and I was really struggling with my mental health. No one really talks about it and I believe that especially this year’s graduates don’t have it any easier. It’s very hard to look for a job and not hear back anything, not even a rejection.

I ended up moving back home to Latvia to clear my head and applying for jobs became my full-time role – 9-5. I sat in my moms office space and wrote about how amazing I am and why I want to work for these brands. I think I sent out near to 90 applications (custom CV/Cover letters/Portfolio projects). Honestly, I was losing all hope and didn’t believe a single word that I wrote about myself in my cover letters. I’m amazing, talented and blah blah blah. I just want to get this job so I can quit in 3-5 years and live the life I want. Around November I finally heard back from 3 of companies and I packed my bags to go back to The UK and smash these interviews. You know what I did successfully get through 2 of them. 

Another thing that no one tells you – interviews take time. My first one started in November and was supposed to end In March, with the hopes of landing a job for Spring just in time for change. Guess what happened? Yes, Covid-19 evaporated all my hopes and dreams and fulltime job offers. Goodbye to selling my soul for the next 2-5 years. PUF PUF PUF. Honestly I was at the beginning of the same anxious desperate hole that I was in after graduation. 

A new confidence

I was crushed, lost and confused. It took me until now to realize that life has a good sense of humour. Just shortly before the lockdown, I took on a new client with a small fashion startup, I have worked with some of them before but it never lasted because that’s the startup world. Honestly, lockdown ended up being my busiest time of year as a fashion freelancer and illustrator. I had a new custom illustration project to work on each week and the client became a freelance contract. This all gave me confidence and realisation that maybe there is another way graduates can look at careers – but no one teaches you about that in uni. 

Currently, I’m working as a fashion freelancer and sustainable illustrator living that multi-hyphenate lifestyle that I thought I’d have to wait 3-5 years for. Obviously, everything isn’t perfect and this is just the beginning for me. I have to fight for every opportunity that I get, it is very hard but I love it. 

To anyone who is in the same situation of the desperation of getting that “dream job” I suggest maybe check in with your dream and be open to opportunities. TAKE A STEP BACK. I truly believe that everyone has the right to fulfil their dream and it’s possible that sometimes your dream or plan is a bit wrong. Mine definitely was. Don’t listen to people saying that there are no jobs at the moment and the economy is tough. It’s all up to you and there are jobs, the world is still going around and you just have to work very hard. Even when you think you already are working hard turns out that you need to push more. Listen to what you truly want and follow your gut. 

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