Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Big News

Similarly to my last post - I too have experienced an anti-climax in relation to my first job.

I went home to visit my family, with the biggest and happiest news I could give. I rehearsed how I would surprise them. I would tell them with a smile spanned across my face, as their expectant faces filled with joy and relief. Finally, what I have worked so hard for; what I have struggled for so long for has happened. I now have a proper job. They will embrace me with pride.

The reality was dissappointing and their reaction completely unexpected. I don't even think I got a "well-done". It has been so long that I think they already thought I had a job. I have been working, that much is true and freelance has been going well. But a permanent role is different. I felt like the boy that cried wolf and that I had been craving this attention, this congratulatory fan-fare but it was lost.

Ah well. I can still pat myself on the back and get myself a few drinks in to celebrate - or atleast at the end of the trial period.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

First Job

With a year of struggling to live on £100 a week in endless, dead-end placements - exhausted from working in excess of 40 hours, with a weekend job or bar work on the side - to be offered a permanent junior role with a decent salary is the ultimate achievement. The sense of relief and exasperation in your first proper wage packet is uncomparable. All your hard work has paid off. The expectation is that signing that contract is like the beginning of a beautiful marriage between you and your job (your first proper job!) - it should be the happiest day of your life - and not a decision to be taken lightly.

A friend recently confessed to me her regret at signing the contract for her permanent position. Having worked there several months beforehand, she knew what she was getting - with long hours, and backache from being hunched over a computer without a lunch break, she worked hard to maintain the full-time role; to convince the directors that she wanted the job. Having proved her worth and happily accepting the role, she settled into the permanent position to find the workload and hours have only got worse, and with no hope of it getting better, she's considering leaving. The honeymoon period is over. With her eyes on the prize, she had lost sight of what really mattered; that she was happy.

This regret can be avoided if you only take a job you are happy in and look forward to doing. A job that excites you and that has you skipping to the train station and into work every morning. A first full-time role should be carefully selected. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work in a variety of different places during my year on placement, to allow me to be sure of what I want to do and who I want to work for.

In doing a placement or a trial period for a full-time job, it is a time for the company make sure you are right for the job; but also for you to make sure that they are right for you. Ideally you should be in your first job long enough to warrant a level promotion, or a much higher salary at the next and so it is important to want to stay there and make all the hard work pay off. I went to University and struggled to become a graphic designer because it is important to me to do a job that I enjoy; I want to work somewhere that I love. If the job isn't up to scratch; you can find another. Don't make my friend's mistake and don't be tempted by the money alone. After all, it is not the money that is going to drag you into work everyday and keep a smile on your face.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Second Chances

I have been offered a job.

There is nothing more humbling than being asked back to an agency which you enjoyed working for and whose work you admire. But it made me think; what would have happened if I had stayed? Have I made my life more difficult by leaving?

When interning at this agency, the only thing that stopped me staying was money. It is always money. I enjoyed working there and felt I was needed in the operation of everything. I love their work and was proud to say I was interning there. The people were lovely and they have a great studio culture, but they paid so little I had to escape every 2 weeks to sign on, which I was always embarrassed to mention, but it had to be done. When I was offered freelance work, I took it, and took the plunge into looking for work over the summer, which has been a mixed experience.

Money will always be the motivation for me to leave a placement - even if it's going well. Perhaps sometimes you need to leave to be appreciated. A close friend of mine was offered a job shortly after attending an interview for freelance work, whilst still working for an agency that clearly take advantage of her. I think they knew that once being offered freelance money, they'd never get her back and would no longer be able to pay her the little amount she was on.

Similarly, when other people, of high design status, start offering you work, it gives you the confidence to demand more and expect better. You aren't an intern anymore. You could fill a junior designer's shoes, and should be paid accordingly.

It goes to show that in the end, if you impressed them with your attitude and your work, you will still be remembered, despite not being a pushover and working for next to nothing.

Every book I read about getting into the design industry explains that working for pennies gains you respect and people appreciate you and remember you for it - but I think being strong, independent and valuing yourself are more important and memorable traits.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Disappointment and Desperation

All through school I was a straight A student, with continual acknowledgement that I was "keen to please".  I still am, ofcourse. When offered placements or freelance work, I am always eager; ready to work for anything I am offered.

During the summer I took a placement I just knew wasn't going to work out. I wasn't interested in the type of design they did, and if I am completely honest, I was desperate to get out of the house. The summer was a tough one, I couldn't get any work. I signed up with countless agencies and had many interviews for work, but in the end I took the placement because I had to - there was nothing else.

Sod's law is ofcourse, that once you are busy and settling in, something else comes up. I had an interview with a place I have been freelancing at since and I love it. It is the type of design that sparks the fire behind my eyes, and makes me sit on the edge of my office swivel chair. I knew it would be better and the interview went so well, that when she offered me to start the following Monday, I decided I would have to leave the placement and wander into greener pastures. Besides, the pay has been incredible - when you are at the bottom of your overdraft, one step from signing on, money really does speak to you and it's time to say good bye to being nice.

It was Thursday, and in an office where no one speaks a word all day and you eat lunch at your desk, reading bbc news, I had left it too late to say anything. I was bored there, the work they gave me was patronisingly easy; I was unchallenged and unmotivated. After an awkward Friday meeting of forced fun (with wine and crisps), I left for good. I put my door access card on the table and never returned.

I felt awful. I had let them down. The first week of a 4-week stint and I had bottled it for a better deal. I hate being a disappointment and I could just imagine the Monday morning meeting that followed... the bitchy remarks and what they might think of me. I am not that person, but I had to put myself first. If you have a gut feeling you have to follow it, and I did. I don't regret it, but ofcourse it means I can never go back there again. I have burnt that bridge, and if anyone person from that office talks to a potential employer of mine, I will be in trouble.

It is a risk worth taking, though. So I guess the moral here is not to take a placement unless you are truly "feeling it" but if an internship disappoints you, don't feel scared to do the same to them.
Internships are like relationships, sometimes you just have to be the one to call it off.

What I do regret, though is my awkwardness about it. I was frightened they wouldn't let me leave. I felt that it was too late to say anything and that my next opportunity would pass me by. I literally just slipped away without a word. I offered to finish the work I had started at home, and I apologised hoping I would be understood, but I never heard from them again. I didn't get paid either. But maybe I deserve that.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Tea Time: A follow up

Just one to get off my chest, but when speaking to a friend who has just embarked on the placement adventure she was complaining how boring it was, and that she was given nothing to do.

Having spent a year saving up for the wonderful opportunity of working with London's finest design agencies, I felt so disappointed for her. What a waste.

Instead, her supervisor barked at her to make the tea round - she happily obliged.

I just want to say to this supervisor (whom I have actually met), that coupled with the disappointing efforts to teach and advise my friend, the audacity to demand tea, would not have been met well with me.

Whatever the reason, to demand an intern to do the tea round is unfair and plainly rude. Espescially on the second day. Absolutely outrageous.

From the Other Side

One of my friends and fellow graduates has just been offered a full-time job. Our celebrations were much of an anti-climax, because she'd been working there for the best part of the year already. Seven or so months on a placement pennies, and she had had enough and demanded a proper wage. In a company, which has clearly seen better days, she is heavily relied upon and has a lot of responsibility. When offered the job her sense of relief was tarnished by the further heavy work load thrust upon her, and the tighter deadlines. With early starts and late nights; she needs a helping hand and was asking me if I knew anyone looking for a placement.

Seeing I was baffled, she began to explain that she could see the benefits of "cheap labour" from the other side. She needs an intern to image search for her all day, so she can get on with the real stuff. I was devastated; the cycle continues - and it all makes perfect sense. Small design agencies don't get paid a great deal, and where staff are heavily relied upon, such that she is, £100 a week is a small price to pay for the weight of work loaded off her.

Interns seek experience and guidance, and small agencies, like my friend's, just want cheap labour to make their lives easier. Whilst it is completely understandable and almost forgiveable, I am devastated that a year as an intern with bottled up resentment and false hope, she has come out of the fire to send someone back in. If you are going to learn anything on an internship, it is not going to come from image searching and making tea. These are two major signs of a dire internship. One where you will be led on with false promises and you should get out of there. If you don't learn anything, it isn't worth the bother, and they certainly don't deserve your efforts for the money they pay you; find an agency that does.