The Twenty-Something Series: 5 things I've learned in the last year

This past year has been a whirlwind of change for me, so in this post I reflect and share a few things I've learned.

About this time last year, I left my job.

I graduated uni in 2016 and started on a finance graduate scheme working in audit from September. By December, I was applying for other jobs, and by this time last year, I had handed in my notice and was about to leave.

I hated it. I was miserable. It just wasn’t for me. I’d never wanted to work in finance and just took it because it was such a great scheme. I have friends still on it now - but it was not for me. 

I wrote more about quitting my job in this post last year. 

Since then, it’s been a complete turnaround. I worked for a few months as a freelance social media content manager, started in September on a new grad scheme in an area I actually wanted to work in, and even finished writing two new books! 

Because it’s been such a 180 from last year, I wanted to share a few lessons learned.

1. Think about what you actually want to do, and what you want from a job

I knew I wanted to work in IT. I wanted to work in a more digital area, something focused and challenging and that I would enjoy. I knew I wanted a graduate scheme where I could get new and exciting opportunities, have guidance, and push myself. These were all things I'd thought about when I was first applying for jobs, but mostly I was just hoping for any job after uni.

When I applied for graduate schemes the second time around (after deciding to leave my job), I only applied for things that appealed to me. Finance? Didn’t even get a look in. I couldn’t take a job I knew I wouldn’t really be that keen to do in the first place, or I’d likely end up in the same boat all over again.

Also, within my current job, trying to think about where I want to be (even if that's only as far as my next placement and not 'where I see myself in five years') has helped me to stay focused and try to get the most out of what I'm doing now. That kind of drive and focus is something that I've found helps me to enjoy what I'm doing even more.

2. Take opportunities, and network

I was fortunate to be connected with a company I did some freelance work for last year, managing their social media. I had some skills in that area and they had capacity and resources to accept that help, so I worked with them in the lead-up to a big event and they were happy enough with my work that I continued to work with them throughout the summer. It was really enjoyable, great experience, as well as being a way to make money while I was waiting for September and my new job to start.

This also applies to my new job: I’ve jumped at opportunities to get involved in projects, even those I count as ‘extra-curricular’, like charity fundraisers. I’ve tried to work to build my network within my placement, but one of the biggest ways I’ve found my network has actually grown is through these extra projects, where I can connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise talk to. Not only does this make the extra effort really fulfilling and rewarding, it's something I know is a good thing to help me lay foundations to build a career.

3. Getting outside of your comfort zone is terrifying and totally rewarding

I’m going to back this up with a bookish example: I tried writing something in the past year that is not like my usual work. It was a really fun project for me, and I shared it with my agent, acknowledging it was maybe not the sort of thing she’d expect me to produce. 

And she liked it! I’m currently working on edits with my agent now, and we’re going to look to publish it. The scariest part of this for me was sharing it with my agent, knowing there was every chance she might turn around to say ‘it’s great, but...’

I mean, handing in my notice and telling my manager I wanted to leave my old job last year was completely terrifying, too, but that's paid off tenfold!

4. Having structure in my day helps me become more productive

I'm more productive when I'm busy and I have a lot on. If I have a day to do nothing, I will... do nothing. After a long day of work? Let's write! Organise stuff to move! Do errands! 

I know this isn't something that works for everyone, but what I'm getting at is that it's important to realise what works for you, and how you work. I know that if I ever became a full-time writer, I'd need to put a LOT of structure into my days to make sure I kept on top of stuff. And it's different to uni, where your days aren't so strictly 9-5 and late nights for studying or parties are all too common. 

5. Doing new things alone is scary, but so worth it

I wrote more in this post about doing things by yourself, and I'd say I was reasonably used to it before I moved away from home. Actually being on my own was a whole different kettle of fish. (Yes, I could ring my parents, but I was responsible. Bills don't get paid? That's on me. Nothing in for tea? Tough cookies, I've got to go out to the shop and buy something.) 

Even the travel I did to Germany for work was scary! A new country where I had a few phrases of the language, working with people I'd never met - what's easy and comfortable about that? But I loved every moment, felt more and more confident travelling about by myself (which I'd not really done before), and learnt a bit more German while I was there.

But honestly, I feel like I've grown up so much in the past eight months since moving away from home and being completely independent, which makes it completely worth it as far as I'm concerned.

The past year has been a whirlwind. I've talked before about how I've struggled with my mental health but I've never been happier - living independently, doing a job I really love, even all the writing I've been able to do. A lot has changed, but I feel like I've gained a lot from it all.

(Plus, today is about a year since I started my new blog - and I've had over 50,000 views in that year! Thanks to everyone for following along with me - and here's to an even better next year!)

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