Stressed and Spending Too Much

In these strange times, most people are experiencing increased levels of stress, and financial anxieties have escalated for many of us. Whether it’s job insecurity or the loss of a job leading to a radical change in our financial circumstances, it’s difficult to know what we’ll have from one week to the next. As we’re all spending much more time online, and it doesn’t matter what we’re watching, TV streaming, Tik-Toks or YouTube, we’re all being drip-fed the content that drives our spending, whether we realise it or not.

Whilst we are all missing the high street experience, a bit of retail therapy is a good way to relax, some of us have taken comfort in a little (or a lot) of such retail therapy, but in these uncertain times, this has added to our worries.

Online retailers are increasingly offering the interest-free payment services given by Klarna and Clearpay and despite some recent criticism from debt charities, when used wisely, they can certainly help with these anxieties by making it easier to buy our ‘must haves’, but to what extent?

These ‘buy now pay later’ apps can lull us into a false sense of calm when spending, perhaps letting us get a little carried away, resulting in more stress, particularly three months later when we’re still paying for something that is no longer shiny and new.

Taking more control of our spending is one way to alleviate some of the anxiety and it can sometimes be as simple as asking ourselves if the stuff in our baskets is something we need or just something we want. It’s a small question, but there’s a big difference between a need and a want and understanding this, as well as getting into the habit of asking yourself that question, is a good way of stopping ourselves from getting carried away with our online shopping.

Although we can get carried away with online shopping at times, these apps can be a useful tool for dealing with emergency purchases, like replacing a smashed phone, or a new warm coat when the snow is suddenly falling! Great if you have the money for both, but if you don’t then this could be something that is causing the interest-free debt to pile up on the apps and giving you more anxiety and stress instead of less. 

A good way to determine what you actually need to buy is by leaving things in your basket for a while, come back to it at a later date and decide if it’s something that is worth spending money on. For these things you want, really think about the affordability, and consider your other weekly or monthly commitments. Needs are much easier to decide as they are usually more important, like food or needed clothing items. It is still always good to consider the factors stated before, just to check it is something you need. 

It’s easy to not think when spending, causing much more stress later on than is needed, especially in an uncertain time like this. Spending time thinking about what you are buying and how you’re going to pay can alleviate many worries and anxieties. 

The Power of a Conversation

Sometimes I catch myself thinking back to that time last year on a bus when Katie literally said to me “Hey, it gets better.” 

When thinking about what I wanted to write for my first Hey It Gets Better blog post, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how I came to be in this position in the first place! And to do that I would need to talk about Katie. So, as an introduction to me, here is the story about mine and Katie’s first conversation (probably).

I had never spoken to Katie until the third year of our history degree, when we both started our special subject together. We talked briefly in group situations, but never alone. It wasn’t until our mutual friend left us alone on the bus together when we got to speak one- to- one. 

Just as a bit of context about this encounter on the bus; I was not feeling great that day. In fact, I was not feeling great that entire month. 

University comes with its own set of stresses that everyone experiences at some point and to varying degrees. For me, an amalgamation of home worries and friend troubles made the never-ending seminar reading and essay deadlines an impossible task. I was struggling to do basic things without worrying; making a cup of tea or a meal for myself was a shaky struggle. I was lucky just to get out of the door for our seminar that day.

I am not sure what it was particularly about Katie that made me open up to her about all of this (seeing as it is quite a heavy first conversation to have with someone you don’t know too well).  Perhaps it was her friendly personality that made me feel pretty comfortable speaking with her. Perhaps I was just so stressed that I was at breaking point and she had no choice in the matter!

Most likely, though, I think it was Katie simply asking me how I was that led us to have such an open conversation about our mental health.

Katie was really kind and opened up to me about her own experience with therapy, and recommended getting a referral for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I had never really thought about therapy for myself before; surely my stress isn’t worth any time and hassle? My anxieties will just go away, right?

How wrong was I. Katie made me feel as though my feelings were valid, like I was worthy of having therapy if that’s what I wanted to do. So, I did! And after 5 sessions of CBT, I was able to do the basic tasks I was struggling with the month before. Though there are a variety of things that work for different people, this is what worked for me. And I was lucky that Katie introduced it to me at that moment in time.

It is funny looking back on that day a couple of years ago. Sitting on the bus together, we didn’t know what a coronavirus was, and then fatefully Katie said to me ‘Hey, it gets better.’ And now here I am in 2021, writing a post for the Hey It Gets Better blog! Whilst this is a sweet story about how we met, it shows the true power of a conversation to change someone’s day- hey, to change their whole life!

A simple “how are you doing today?” or “how are you coping with all the uni work at the moment?” could be enough for someone to feel reassured that they are being looked out for.

We all have the power to make such a difference in someone else’s life, whether that be our friends, family, colleagues, or even people that we don’t know too well! Equally, we should not be too embarrassed or wary to open up to people if we are not feeling 100%. 

I think this is what the story of mine and Katie’s friendship has taught me. Every single person is capable of making a difference in someone else’s life. Asking someone how they are may seem insignificant, but you should never underestimate the power of a conversation. 

Don’t Stop the Scrolling; Just Switch the Feed

Social media is a powerful tool to stay connected, share your life experiences and be inspired, right? Considering you probably reached this blog post via social media it is clear this platform is a great invention, but as we move towards a more digitally focused world where screen time is only on the rise, how can we ensure social media remains a force for good?

Putting it in perspective:

The average time spent on Instagram is 53 minutes per day, totalling just under 7 hours a week. Although we’d like to think this time could be used more productively, often it fills those 5 minute periods of pause, maybe waiting for a bus, heating up the kettle or simply having a break from the work screen. But existing in a world where spending 1/24 of your day on Instagram is the norm, it is important to bear in mind who we are surrounding ourselves with on this platform.

To put this in perspective, let’s imagine you’re on your lunch break, how would you feel after you spent this hour…

  • Having a coffee with someone who only ever discussed their endless holidays?
  • Grabbing a sandwich with the couple who only ever promote their most romantic moments?
  • Going for a walk with the yogi who only chats about their next new diet and the four gym classes they’ve just attended?

The likely answer is not great, perhaps stirring up feelings of inadequacy or a failure to live up to others high standards? When we scroll through countless posts every minute it can be easy to forget that Instagram is a highlight real, with individuals tending to only share their most positive and glamorous moments. In effect we begin to compare our daily life with others most positive moments which can impact us negatively, lead to constant comparisons and promote a false understanding of the realities of life. Granted some holiday bloggers, fashion influencers and fitness gurus can be inspiring, but try not to compare your daily life with someone’s best moments and check that you are following them for the right reasons.

Making it work for YOU

At HIGB’s we suggest the accounts you follow should either….

  • Inspire you
  • Make you laugh
  • Uplift you
  • Present a refreshing reality
  • Motivate you

Some of my favourite accounts are:

  • @rianne.meijer – Real and comical content focused on body reality
  • @chessiekingg – Honest posts discussing body image
  • @davidattenborough – Inspiring and honest posts concerning our planet

For more information listen to HIGB’s podcast interview with Gaby Mendes which discuss purging social media (22-28 minutes). Or you can watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. The documentary explores the dangers of social media and how large companies take advantage of users, ensuring they stay addicted

Don’t get swept up in the tainted reality of social media, follow more honest accounts and protect your mental well-being!

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. 

Ellie Smith

This Hey It Gets Better story comes from Ellie Smith, who is 22 and runs a feminist lifestyle blog from her parent’s house in an unremarkable town near Manchester. She is a 2020 BA English and History with Study Abroad graduate from the University of York (well done if you managed that tongue twister), and she is currently seeking my first full-time job in a digital or social media marketing role. Ellie got a starred first in her degree which is amazing and relevant to the story she tells as you will see below she struggled during her degree. She managed to not only get through it but achieved an amazing result. I hope you enjoy Ellie’s story.

Study abroad expectations vs reality

I really disliked studying abroad. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with how much I disliked it, and how much it negatively affected me. I was sold a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience, where I would meet new best friends and go to fantastic new places. In reality, the weather was too awful to go outside for most of the year (thank you, Scandinavian rain), yet my living space was infested with mould and silverfish. There were a variety of other more serious reasons why neither me nor my study abroad destination could live up to my expectations, but they’re not important right now. I was desperately unhappy whilst living in Denmark. Albeit, I had to spend the year there.  It was a third of my degree, and my study abroad grades became 40% of my overall classification. I couldn’t just return home. I didn’t want to either. Ultimately, I learned more from having a negative experience than I would have from a positive experience. Silver linings, eh?

My Resilience

Retrospectively, I’m surprised at my own resilience. I kept going because I never truly considered that there were any other options: the only thing we can do is move forward, hour by hour, and day by day. Time doesn’t stop, and neither do we. If you can get through the minute, you can get through fifty-nine more, and you’ll eventually get through the day.

I tried to adopt more positive practices too – I took up journaling, I cycled more regularly, and I constantly played positive music. I arranged to meet others as much as I could.  I tried to be more sociable. Most importantly, I sought the help that I needed from those who were qualified to give it me.

In the end, everything worked out okay. I won an award for the grades I achieved whilst in Denmark. I’ve graduated, I’ve moved on. Now, I face the next challenge: seeking employment in the coronavirus-induced recession. I know I’ll get through it though and I know you’ll get through your next challenge too – we’ve already survived all our worst days, as the saying goes.

What helped me get through tough times

I used to think (hope) that doctors – and health professionals generally – were lying when they said that exercise and healthy eating helps you feel better. I thought it was an inside joke, something that the NHS or maybe even MI5 concocted, like carrots helping you see in the dark. Surely, exercise can’t influence your emotions that much? Surely, it’s a lengthy course of medication and therapy that helps you crawl back to your healthy mindset? I doubted the power of fruit. I doubted the power of vegetables. It was a mistake.

Our behaviour and our emotions are interconnected. Treating your body right will help you feel better. It won’t be immediately (you wouldn’t expect the flu to be cured after one sweaty, twenty-minute cycle to the shop), and it won’t be easy (exercise is hard when you’re not used to it), but it will be worth it. Find something that you enjoy – personally, I hate running. I find it heinously boring. My knees find it unnecessarily painful. I do, however, love going to the gym. I love cross-trainers. I love going for long walks in the countryside. Exercising and eating healthy don’t have to be a challenge – find something that you enjoy so that they’re something to look forward to rather than a chore. You can do this.

It’s also important to reorient your perspective. What’s happening right now in your life is temporary – even if the circumstances which are affecting you are long-term, your attitude towards them can change and become more positive. Challenge your negative thoughts: your slump won’t last forever. Again, you can do this. Be kind to yourself; you’ve already come so far.

Mike Haycock

Mike is the founder of The Lost Lot, a practical self-development platform for young adults. He is passionate about the bridge between travel and growth having lived and worked around the world, and wants to use those experiences (and lessons) to help others find their own way. In this HIGB story, he shares how a hard reset changed his life.

How a hard reset helped me find my way in life

Life has a habit of kicking you when you’re down.

It’s almost inevitable that when you’re fighting a bad situation, other issues will arise to add to an already overwhelming scenario. Unfortunately, life follows its own rules and not the ones you’d like it to live by. It will stick the foot in whether you’re expecting it or not, so your response to it is all that matters; are you going to stay on the floor, or fight back?

I’ve had my fair share of down days. Ones where it seems inconceivable that things will get better at all, let alone get to a stage where I’ve designed a life that I’m happy with. Yet, there are decisions I look back on that have been more decisive than most and have been instrumental in getting me to where I am today.

These have been, what I call, my resets in life.

What is a reset in life?

You can break a reset in life down into two; a soft reset and a hard reset.

Think of it like a phone.

A soft reset is where your phone has frozen, things aren’t working the way they’re meant to, so you hold a couple of buttons and it has a short “on/off” reset in life until it’s back to working order. In life, there are times where we’re simply not right. Our heads are muddled, we may be stressed from an overload of stress and information, or we’re low on energy and things aren’t going the way it should. We have our own “soft reset” in life by taking a temporary reboot away, such as taking a holiday.

A hard reset, however, is much different. Your phone seems irreparable. Corrupted data, your fun images have disappeared and connections lost. This mirrors life when we hit a dark tunnel, of which the light seems further away than the end that we know is there. We become anxious, depressed, isolated, scared and we lack any meaning or direction in life. A “soft reset” such as a holiday doesn’t work in this instance, here we need a hard reset. Here, we need a reboot of our core programming and what we want from ourselves.

These moments hit us all differently and in varying stages of our lives. As such, the unpredictable nature of life means we have no idea when we next need a reset. The unique circumstances and personal tolerances to situations means each response will be as  unique. What triggers me and then works for me, could be the opposite for you. Yet, somehow, we all know deep down when we need a reset, there’s something intangible informing us of that need. An uneasy unrest remains in the background until it rears its head into an unavoidable personal catastrophe.

How I used a hard reset in life to discover my own path

Allow me to give you one example.

My best friend and I moved to New Zealand, chasing the sunset and the dream of a better life elsewhere. On the surface, our friends were saying “we’re living the dream”. We’d always hear “you’re travelling the world, seeing things others won’t and loving life.” An element of that was true. We’re very positive people, so we made the most of everything that we faced, which made it look like we were sailing through an ideal life.

But, in reality, we weren’t.

On the surface, the Instagram highlight reel papered the cracks, as it so often does. Finding work was impossible. Money was tight (and getting tighter by the day). We had taken a calculated gamble and moved four hours south of our initial safe haven, to where we believed there was work, only for it to turn out there wasn’t any. We were duped in on the promises of hours, only to arrive and realise those promises were as flimsy as our bank accounts. Oh, you can enjoy a beach when things are going well, but it’s hard to remain as upbeat on the same beach when you don’t know where the next paycheck is coming from.

This was not a temporary crisis, but an existential one as well. What am I doing here? Have I made a terrible decision moving away from my comfort bubble? I have no real skills, am I so far behind everyone else in? What am I doing in life? What can only be described as a quarter-life crisis meltdown had begun, which made me forget about the more immediate worry of not being able to afford rent and food. The idyllic setting was in juxtaposition to our headspace, which made it seem more a cruel prod than something to enjoy.

The 8th of November was a hard reset moment.

There was no holiday or soft reset from this situation. No help to call in. We chose to get into this fight, both our current predicament and in life, so it was up to us to climb off the canvas.

I’ll lay out the six-point strategy we stumbled upon and the journey we went through to discover it. A journey which allowed us to not only fight back but end up having the most incredible adventure, both literally and figuratively.

Using the reset well

1. Acknowledge the situation

We grabbed our laptops and went to the only place that had free and stable WiFi, Burger King (a riveting location for any life-changing story, I know).

We sat down, got some $1 onion rings (which was both lunch and dinner for the day), and talked about our situation. Lines such as “What a mess”, “Not what we expected” and “There’s more to life than this” were thrown about. We could’ve gone back to the hostel and finished our remaining beers, making the situation tomorrow’s problem as alcohol so often does (which, although another story, is a soft reset itself).

But you’ve got to be honest in that moment. Acknowledge the situation isn’t what you want, whatever it may be. For us, being broke, homeless and without direction sucked.

2. Write your dream/ideal life down

After a solid hour of moaning about how unfair life currently was, we decided to start taking some responsibility.

We chose this path, so we can work our way out, in the same way we had entangled ourselves in. We started at the very highest level:

“what do you want to do in life?” “what’s the perfect scenario in 10 years?” Even we noted how lofty these questions were in our current predicament.

Being someone who loves to travel, who’s ambitious and also quite a creative free spirit, I discussed how I’d love to have my own travel and media business. One where I was both financially free and living the lifestyle I craved. I was visualising where I wanted to be, but by writing it down, it created a firm link between fantasy and reality.

Write your dreams and your ideal life down, and it begins to provide an anchor to the direction. Our situation remained, but the anxiousness eased, the fog became a little less dense and a very faint path forward cleared.

3. Set goals

After living in the clouds for an hour, we came back down to earth and begun to reverse engineer our way back up.

If my own travel and media business was the goal, how would I get there? Did I have the experience to call on in the different areas I needed? Was my background sufficient enough in travel, media and business?

From my lofty dream, I drew three lines down to each of the above areas and judged myself on each. These were still “ideals”, but in bite-sized chunks, they were far more achievable.

The one thing I had the most experience in, and the area where I had a genuine passion, was travel. I felt I could add a lot to travel business and if I tweaked my CV and cover letter, I could present myself in a better light to an employer in the industry. Simultaneously, I began with free online courses to top up my knowledge in other areas. Before I knew it, I was on a trajectory towards my dream, albeit a very slow one, whilst also beginning to find a way out of my current predicament.

So set goals and give yourself some short term targets to reach. Whilst the day began in a haze of anxious uncertainty, a few hours of solid work began to shape us, and our future.

4. Dig deep and take action to survive, but look forward

Despite our renewed optimism, we still had 100 bucks to our name, nowhere booked to stay and no job to call ours.

The dream was there, the goals were there, but we understood they meant nothing if we closed the laptops and never looked at them again. Without moving from our seats, we changed our CV’s, re-wrote cover letters and began researching every tiny detail of the industries we wanted to find ourselves in.

Before leaving the comfort of Burger King (I never thought I’d write that sentence), we applied for about 100 jobs in relevant sectors. Tourists, locals, backpackers and even wildlife wandered in over the hours, but us two English guys would still be found hunched over our laptops, buried into the momentum we had built up.

But we didn’t allow any expressions of grandeur to creep in. We understood that we’d have to work bloody hard and start from the bottom. As long as we were in the right industry, it’s all a positive experience. We didn’t get ahead of ourselves, we needed to survive first and were aware that we would not be walking into a CEO position, but we were ready for whatever role may come up.

Dig deep to ensure you can pay the bills, but have excitement for what’s coming. After a productive day, and what can only be described as a world record stint for customers staying within a Burger King, we peeled ourselves off those matte red seats and towards the hostel to make the most of our final booked night. We were far from sorted, but our reset meant that we were optimistic that tomorrow would be a better day.

5. Reassess and reappoint

We began to see interview offers drip in over the next few days, which showed us we were on the right track. Optimism is a funny thing. In the same way that life kicks you when you’re down, it can also provide shoots of hope, which begin to snowball your optimism, and miraculously, the universe delivers on your positive energy.

We realised that being in a small tourist town meant opportunity wasn’t available in abundance, so we gambled and booked a bus up to the major city of Auckland. This was definitely a gamble, as it was a lot of our remaining budget, with the hostel we booked for two nights taking up the rest. If these interviews didn’t work, to this day I still have no idea what we would’ve done, but we would’ve found a way, I’m sure.

To our relief, they did, and that first pay packet that came in felt like finding a glittering oasis in the deep heat of the Saharan desert. This wasn’t a luxury, but a necessity (although like any lost soul who finds an oasis in a desert, we certainly enjoyed a drink from it).

Inch by inch, day by day, we worked up. Affording. Surviving. Then thriving. Today, we’re much further along that trajectory, but sometimes you have to stop and reassess. To make sure you’re on the right path means retracing your steps and seeing from where you came from.

The Hard Reset Changed My Life

That one hard reset on the 8th of November changed everything. I worked and toughed it out until I secured myself a role within a fantastic travel company. I worked up to a Tour Account Manager, which provided me and my friend the opportunity to save and explore the absolute best this world has to offer. The Instagram photos no longer papered over the cracks but were representative of the mind space we found ourselves in. I would not be where I’m at today, in a job I love with a side venture I’m passionate about if it wasn’t for my hard reset in life.

It shouldn’t always need rock bottom to reposition your life, yet more often than not, it’s the raw emotional trigger we need.

It arises because you’re sick of the past or present, but you control the future. Using a reset in life doesn’t have to be a show and tell to the world. I only share this story to show you that resets come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve had darker days and tougher challenges, but they remain ‘for my eyes only’. Externally, some may seem to have it good, but behind the hype and highlight reels, there’s a very real struggle going on.

People don’t need to know about your journey or struggle if you don’t want them to. Work on them privately and smash your goals, proving to yourself more than anyone that you can make it work. But if you choose to, remember that once you commit; commit. Do not 50% this. It’s your life and you can not delegate out self-development.

Everyone else has their own challenges to work on, so use a reset in life and begin to work on yours.

Becky Wright

Becky is 29 years old and lives in Devon although she was originally from Lancashire. She is now a Marketing Coordinator and studying for her MA in Marketing & Digital Communications. This Hey It Gets Better Story is all about her job hunt after she graduated and how she went from a job she hated to her dream job .

How I Went From A Job I hated To My Dream Job

At school you are told if you get a degree employers will be banging on your door, so when I graduated in 2012 with a Psychology degree, I naively thought that this achievement combined with previous work and volunteering experience would mean I would find it easy to get a job. But boy, was I wrong! I applied for hundreds of jobs and graduate schemes, including entry-level admin jobs, but I was either ignored or rejected as I either did not have enough experience or I was over-qualified. The HR manager at one company told me, “We think you would do an amazing job but you don’t have the experience”, and The Job Centre said I should offer to work for free. So frustrating! After 5 months of solid job-hunting I ended up working at an awful call centre. I felt like I should feel lucky for finally landing a job, but I hated every day. A couple of months in, just before Christmas, they ended up firing most of the new starters – myself included! This eroded my confidence and self-esteem even more. I could not believe I was back on the job hunt again so soon. I hit rock bottom and at the time I could not see how things could get better. But 4 years later I had landed my dream job in marketing and owned a beautiful home with my partner. I actually look back at that awful call centre job and laugh at it now!

Discovering What I wanted To Do

A couple of months after I was fired, I got a job as a support worker and worked in adult social care for the next 2 years. It was amazing being able to help people and while I loved the job, it was hard being on a zero-hour contract and I wanted something more challenging. I got a job as a customer service assistant at a bathroom company while I figured out what I wanted to do. As I enjoy helping people out, and love variety too, I would always offer to help on different departments, and this meant I picked up new skills. Even though I knew it was not going to be a forever job I tried to make the most of the opportunities on offer and also being on a salary meant I was able to get a mortgage and buy my first home.

Finding My Dream Job

At weekends I was always out and about exploring where I lived, so I decided to start an Instagram page and blog to showcase the Cotswolds. I built quite a big following in a short amount of time and it enabled me to learn new skills such as how to build a website, social media marketing and photography. This made me realise I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and I saw a marketing job pop up at a luxury property company which sounded amazing. I applied despite having no marketing experience apart from my blog. I landed the job as the Director admired what I had done off my own back. I absolutely loved my job and sometimes had to pinch myself as I could not believe I was paying paid to do something I enjoyed so much!

Top Tips

I have now been working in marketing for over 2 years and I have just started my MA in Marketing & Digital Communications. Looking back I have learned a few things:

  • It is ok to not know what you want to be when you grow up – Some of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do whereas I did not have a clue! I have learned it is fine to switch careers and you do not have to be stuck in a job you hate. I know someone who started their career as a teacher but is now working as an Occupational Therapist, and someone I worked with at the bathroom company is now training to be a solicitor. Every different job you do will teach you different things, for example working as a support worker taught me how to keep calm in stressful situations. Just follow your passion and you will get there, trust me.
  • Have the confidence to put yourself out there – I felt really silly applying for a job which I had no experience of, I thought my application might have been laughed at! But I knew I could learn and really give the job my all, so I made that clear in my application. Embrace the opportunities which are on offer to you so you can learn and pursue your passion. This may be at work, or maybe in your personal life such as volunteering or trying a new class. There are some great courses online now, some of which are free.
  • Try not to compare yourself with others – I often looked at other people my age who I thought were more than successful than me and would get down about it. Remember you do not know the full story, what you see on social media is only a small snippet.

But most importantly, things will get better and you be able to look back on the crappy days and realise how much you learned and changed since then.

Anthonia Adetunji

This Hey It Gets Better story comes from Anthonia who runs British Black Girl on Instagram where she offers fantastic career advice and motivation. Anthonia talks about the challenges of working out what you want to do, deciding whether to go to university and starting your first job.

My name is Anthonia. My journey started when I applied to study Marketing at University. In all honestly, it was a very last-minute decision. I always knew I was a writer/business person. I took Business in sixth form and Marketing was an area I really enjoyed. Initially, I wanted to study Business Law. As time went on though I lost interest so switched to Marketing. At the time there seemed to be more prospects down that path, but looking back I didn’t know a thing at that age.

Going to University

Did I regret going to University? I wouldn’t say I regret it. However, something I have observed upon graduating is that University is packaged as this thing that gets you automatic results when it reality it’s only the beginning. If I could do things differently I think I would have done an apprenticeship. I have 2 successful friends who did apprenticeships and are settled in their careers and debt-free. I would say really think about whether or not you need a degree for your field. It’s all about the experience, unfortunately for me, I didn’t do a placement year! So I found that I needed to prove myself when applying for jobs. However, what I found with my particular degree was that it didn’t even cover half of what was expected in my industry anyway. Employers want someone who has done it. So I would pick 3 years as a trainee over 3 years in university any day if I could do it over!

I think something that surprises a lot of people when they go into the industry is how much Marketing is centred on a lot of soft skills. From knowing the basic’s such as the 4 P’s to, search engine optimisation, Pay per click and Email Marketing. You are constantly dipping your toe into everything and expected to be flexible and adaptable.When I was at University it was all Reporting and Data-based assignments. I hadn’t really ever stretched the creative bone in my body. This was probably due to me not researching the industry!

My First Job

When I finished University, my first job was with an international charity and I was thrown into Copywriting, Design and PR work. I personally felt very underprepared, there was an expectation for me to know everything right off the bat. However, the point is that I got through it. I loved the job and that kept me really motivated. The best skill you can have is being a quick learner and hardworking! At first, I had the usual feelings of imposter syndrome. I remember when they hired me I was like “fuck what am I gonna do for 8 hours a day”? But I was lucky enough to have really supportive colleagues and an amazing manager who supported me. The more I learnt and could do things on my own the more I was motivated to keep going. A year later I can confidently do these things, again reinforcing that it’s all about extra effort. Not everything is covered in your degree or rigid.

I started the British Black Girl to guide other graduates and young professionals through my own experience. It was also a way for me to exercise my creativity and network to build a Digital Portfolio. I’m really happy with the way it’s going. Most importantly, it feels good to connect with people like me! Other individuals hustling and growing on social media.

Finally, for people starting University or wanting to enter the professional workforce. There will be setbacks and rejection at the start of your career, but that’s life. Remember that YES it does get better. There’s always a different route to take or comeback! Keep going, keep growing and keep learning x

My advice

  1. Don’t just look at the degree outline and apply, go above and beyond to understand what every module actually entails, because I didn’t expect to do Economics in a Marketing degree.
  2. Complete some extra courses at University and try and build soft skills slowly.
  3. Do the sandwich year, you will have a year in industry under your belt and it gives you time to really decide which course and career path is for you.

Laura Anne Moore

This HIGB story comes from Laura Anne Moore who has a brilliant story about the pressures of feeling like you have to have it together and confusion around her career. Laura has some fantastic advice and I hope you all enjoy reading it

Hey, my name is a Laura and I am 26-year-old single gal, living her best life in London. I am a personal finance blogger and money & mindset coach and my aim is to help women feel empowered by their finances.

I used to want to be an actress, ever since the age of about 10/11 (before that I wanted to be a Marine Biologist… my room was full of weird dolphin ornaments). When I left school I knew I did not want to go to University and decided instead to get a Full-Time job so I could afford to put myself through Drama School. By age 22 (after 3 years of being in my first job) I had saved £15,000 and was ready to start my Acting course. But right at the last minute, my best friend’s asked me to go travelling with them and I had the finances right there to say “yup okay let’s do it”. I realised how much freedom having money can give you and so when I came home from 7 months the other side of the world, I set up a blog and an Instagram helping others with their personal finance. It is still early days but for the first time I feel like I am working on something I am really passionate about.

The Challenges I Faced

I think personally, the hardest challenge I have faced to date, which has been an ongoing struggle, is the confusion around my career. I decided at the age of 21 whilst I was travelling that perhaps the acting life was not for me but that left me in a pit of despair in what I will do with my life. I had spent YEARS (and I mean years) confused and stressed about what I ‘should be’ doing next, where I should work, what I should experience, what I want to do, the list goes on. It is a classic scenario of feeling like you are meant to have all your shit together but not having a clue and the feelings of failure. Especially when you feel like everyone else around you has it sorted. You see friends in careers they love or working towards their dream jobs and you are sat there like ‘cool, I will just be clueless forever then shall I’. I felt like I had a million interests… yoga, cooking, travelling, videography, outdoor activities, wellness, food. The list goes on. We are all multifaceted humans and I was so scared to commit to one thing and I also did not even know how I could turn any of them into a job. I was so scared of being stuck in a 9-5 that I was not passionate about (especially when you look at all the digital nomads on Insta working in Bali) . It was all very over-whelming and this internal battle went on for years. I imagine it is a battle that a lot of people feel when they leave school or university and just have no direction at all and combined with all the adulting, it can be stressful.

I found that during my hardest times when I really struggled with where I was in life, stuck in the comparison trap and confused by where I was in life, the biggest help was reading and writing. I read countless ‘self-help’ type books like The Power Of Now by Eckharte Tolle and There Is A Spiritual Solution To Every Problem by Wayne Dwyer and they really helped ground me back into the now. I also journal every single day and have done for the past 5-6 years, and it is SO incredible what you can learn about yourself and work through. Putting pen to paper and just writing – whatever you fancy writing that day – is such a powerful tool.

My Advice

The advice I would give to people who feel the same as me is this; YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT. It sounds so cliché and I am sorry if you thought I would give you a solution, but that is not how life works. How on earth are you meant to know 100% what you want to do for the rest of your life, it is impossible. Some people are lucky, and they do have a really clear idea but that does not make them any further ahead than you. There is no race and no finish line. Some people have one career their wholes lives, some have 10 careers, some don’t discover what they love til they’re 50 and some discover it at 15. But none of these people are superior or living a better life. Just a different life. The best thing you can do, is try your best to experience a bunch of different stuff and take risks. Want to set up a blog? Go for it. Want to learn a new skill? Check out all the free options online and crack on. Want to travel? Save up and just go.

Sometimes the best way to discover what you DO want to do is by figuring out what you DON’T want to do. If you spend too much time stressing, you don’t give yourself the chance to relax and enjoy life. And most of the time, when we are relaxed and having a good time, we are more creative and open to new opportunities that lead to making connections or inviting new exciting things in our lives. Sometimes you read stories of really successful business owners or really happy people and they always say “I never thought I would be doing XYZ but I started out doing X, then I ended up doing Y and tat lead me onto Z and here I am”… That is life. If you are too busy focusing on the future and what you’re next big career move is, then you kind of miss out on what is happening in the present moment.

You can find Laura’s blog on her website here and follow her on Instagram @laura_anne_moore.

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Embrace Your Inner Sloth

Do you ever feel like life is moving too fast. Blink, and you are too late, its old news, there is a new big trend. It is very easy to feel like a Sloth surrounded by Cheetahs. Although this year I have learnt that if you are moving more like a Sloth then that is actually okay.

Sometimes I set myself these big grand plans only to get frustrated with myself when things take longer than I thought. I am excited to announce that in July I will be releasing my podcast, Hey It Gets Better. I had the idea for this podcast about a year ago. It has taken much longer than I planned to create…. and that is okay. Not only am I producing a much better podcast because I spent more time thinking than moving but I have also got to live my life and enjoy my last year of university.

Like Sloths I Love My Sleep

Although before I realised this I spent a lot of time frustrated I wasn’t keeping up with all the cheetahs in the world (Hope my extended metaphor is making sense otherwise this entire post might sound a bit bonkers but please stick with me). One of the moments I realised I was more of a sloth was on a Facebook video call with my uni housemates when they all told me they thought my spirit animal was a sloth.

Best Sloth Friends Forever

At first I thought ‘errrmm excuse me, I do way more than sleep even though I love a good nap’. Then the more I thought about it I realised I might be more like a sloth than I thought. When I did some research and I realised I am definitely a sloth. Also, fun fact if David Attenborough could be an animal of a day then he would be a sloth.

Strategic Like A Sloth

At first glance, sloths seem to be lazy creatures however my research led me to discover that they are a lot smarter and strategic that I originally thought. Biologist, Rory Wilson, said that when sloths move slowly they do so in order to prevent large predators like eagles from seeing them. Wilson said, “I suspect that sloths are not slothful at all, they are just bloody careful.”

Now I am definitely no biologist and perhaps not even qualified enough to make this comparison but I think it works. Sloths move slowly in order to protect themselves. Reflecting on the year I realised I was moving slowly with my podcast project to protect myself not because I was lazy. Thankfully I did not have to worry about a predatory eagle swooping down but I did have to worry about my mental health and my OCD. I knew that if I took on too much whilst also going through one of the most stressful years of my degree then it would be bad for my mental health. Moving slowly was not a decision made out of laziness but a desire to protect myself. If I had took on too much I would have been like a sloth walking into an open field of Eagles.

Have there been any times you have changed how you work or organised things in your life for the benefit of your mental health?

Aware Like A Sloth

Sloths have super flexible necks, they can turn their head almost the entire way around! …. I can’t do this. However, like sloths I am aware of my surroundings and what is going on. If I rushed through this year only focusing on work and my podcast then I would have missed out on so many things. From cocktails with my friends, lazy Sundays to really good coffee. Slowing life down is not necessarily a bad thing especially if you are enjoying it much more.

Taking things slow also means you notice much more, whether it is a friend seeming down or opportunities you would have missed if you were moving too fast. It is wrong to assume that if you are slow you will miss everything, you can just as easily miss things if you are speeding by. Sometimes even cheetahs need to slow down.

What are your favorite small moments in a day?

Got A Lot Going On Like A Sloth

Sloths might seem as if they are just hanging from trees however there is an entire eco-system growing on their fur! Sloths have fur that algae finds delicious and there are lots of fungi growing on them. Because of the algae tiny animals like beetles then burrow themselves into the fur of the sloths. Just because we can’t see it when we look at a cute sloth hanging from a tree, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

When I am just sitting there I don’t have an eco-system growing on me but I do spend a lot of time thinking. Thinking about what I last saw on the news, what I read, conversations I had and sometimes just really random thoughts. Even though the majority of those thoughts never resulted in a life-changing action, without them I never would have come up with some of my most creative ideas.

When and where do you find your creativity sparks?

Are You A Sloth?

There are a lot us that often feel rushed by the world, in need of a slower pace and drained. We compare ourselves to the cheetahs in the world, constantly trying to replicate their methods but forgetting what makes us special.

It’s okay to be a sloth. When you embrace how you work best, take time to rest and recover then your quality of life becomes much better. Plus sloths are known to be very cute. We might not be a sloth all the time, sometimes we can be cheetahs but it is important to have some downtime when we embrace our inner sloths.

Don’t Hurry, Be Happy

If you are a sloth and you are proud then share this article on your Instagram Story and tag me @Heyitgetsbetter so I can see it.

And remember,

Hey It Gets Better !

Katie xx