What piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

It’s funny: I’ve asked every participant of my #LittleChats series so far what piece of advice they’d give to their younger selves, but I’ve never been asked the question myself. It’s a tough question and, unless you don’t think too much on it and stick to the cliché “be yourself!11!1!!”, everybody’s answers will be different dependent on their experiences. My younger years – particularly my high school years – were some of the worst years of my life despite the fact that I was very much myself; I was always taught not to care about others’ opinions of me. Of course, this advice isn’t always easy to follow when you’re being bullied – it’s inevitable to feel hurt by others’ words, especially mean af high school kids – but, in hindsight, I was probably bullied because I was myself. That’s the sad reality of bullies; they pick on the characteristics that make you unique, predominantly because they’re jealous that they don’t possess them themselves. I gave up quickly on trying to fit in in high school because it was obvious that I was different from the onset. I had an unhealthy obsession for the Jonas Brothers, but I also loved the likes of You Me At Six, Paramore and blink-182. Weirdo. I dyed my hair jet black and had layers upon layers which I backcombed every day to create a beehive-scene look. Weirdo. I would look forward to going home after school on a Tuesday and watching Countdown followed by The Common Denominator followed by Four In A Bed on Channel 4 (though nobody knew this until now). Total weirdo. Once I realised that I was different, I embraced it and learnt to ignore the haters. So, if not “be yourself”, what would Little Pav tell little-Little Pav?

Image description: A pink and purple sky with clouds

One piece of advice I often like to share with others is “whatever you do, do it for you”. I suppose this extends from the notion of not caring about how others perceive you; why waste your time trying to please others when you can spend it investing in becoming the best version of yourself? As well as ~ embracing ~ myself (*vomits a little*), I’ve always been one to follow this advice and ~ chase ~ what I want, if you will (*vomits a little more*). Take this: when I was choosing my GCSE options in Year 8 (we started our GCSE subjects one year earlier at my school – not the coursework or exams, just the subjects for ~ fun ~ I guess, though it most definitely wasn’t fun), I opted for Drama, Music and Dance; the infamous “triple threat”. Before we submitted our choices, however, we were invited to attend a meeting to discuss our options with a member of staff. Any member of staff. You could have chosen Geography, Media and French and been assigned an Art teacher to discuss your options with. I don’t even know who the member of staff I met with was; for all I know, she could’ve been a dinner lady. Anyway, I went with my mum, and the discussion went a little like this:

“So, Sophie, what GCSE subjects have you chosen?”

*clears throat* “Drama, Music and Dance!” *smiles confidently*

“Hmm… Are you sure? This doesn’t seem like a very secure pathway.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I love all these subjects.”

“That’s great, but have you considered something academic to balance your options?”

“No… I also love English and Spanish, which I’ve chosen as my mandatory language, so I don’t need to choose anything else.”

“Right… But you might be better off choosing something like Business Studies, no?”

“No, I’ve thought about it and I want to do Drama, Music and Dance. That doesn’t mean I won’t be successful.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying…”

You get the gist. And, to be clear, that is what she was saying; she was insinuating that if I merely chose “non-academic” subjects that I’d have no security later in life. Well, here I am, with a Bachelors in English Language and Linguistics and a Masters in Global Marketing. Take that, lady! My point is, even though she was adamant that I chose subjects more strongly associated with job ~ security ~ (which most teachers wrongly do, let’s be honest), I went with my gut. I always knew I wanted to pursue either English, Spanish or the Arts, and I did. I also opted for English Literature, English Language, Dance and Spanish at AS level and continued all but Spanish at A2. Which conveniently reminds me: I loved, and was really good at, Spanish (and I envy sixteen-year-old Sophie’s ability to walk into her AS exam and write a 7-page essay entirely in Spanish) but, after Year 12, I was done. AS Spanish was bloody difficult and, when I’d narrowed my prospective degree choices to English and Dance and therefore decided to drop Spanish, I told one of my A level Spanish teachers to which he responded: “but… wouldn’t it be better to drop Dance?”. Don’t. Even. I was livid. I genuinely cried to this teacher due to the stress that AS Spanish had caused me, and he had the audacity to tell me that I should drop Dance – one of my all-time favourite subjects – instead? No. I wasn’t having it. And I didn’t. To be fair, I really miss it now and would love to pick it up again, but the studying of it in line with the curriculum completely sucked the fun out of it for me. Again, my point is: I did what I wanted. And I’m happy. So, after that anecdote, we’ve established that I wouldn’t necessarily need to tell my younger self to “do what you want”.

I’m also one to quote the proverb “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end” now and then. Again, this alludes to my miserable high school years. I hated high school throughout its entire five-year timespan; that’s a bloody long time to feel miserable. Even though I was eventually comfortable in myself, I still hated feeling like a misfit; it was lonely, it was depressing and it was consuming. Nonetheless, as I mention in my World Mental Health Day blog, I finally found happiness in sixth form. I encountered more like-minded people, was no longer infected by toxic friendships and had more freedom. No school uniform. No vile bullies. No unnecessary drama. In the end, everything was okay. Hence my belief in that proverb. And my belief in it continues; as my fiancé was experiencing hell with his Crohn’s disease, I was hopeful that it would get better, and it has. It’s a chronic illness and there’s no cure as of yet, so of course there are worse days, but things are okay. Arguably, then, this piece of advice is a contender. However, even though I was miserable throughout my high school career, I was always somewhat hopeful that things would get better in that respect, too; I believed that I would make friends later in life, which I have who I’m incredibly grateful for, and pulled through by focusing on achieving good grades.

And that was my issue.

I’ve never seen or heard two words more frequently collocated than conscientious and attitude. Every academic tutoring, every parents’ evening, every end-of-year report: my teachers would always say that I had a “conscientious attitude”. And it’s true; I worked my damned ass off. In retrospect, it was partly a coping mechanism – throwing myself in my studies to escape my misery – but it was also in my nature; I come from a family of grafters. Except on a Tuesday when I would switch on Channel 4 and watch game shows consecutively first, as soon as I stepped in the door from school, I would crack on with my homework. Thinking about it, we had a lot of homework. If it wasn’t a mock English essay, it was a practise Maths paper. If it wasn’t Drama coursework, it was Dance theory. If it wasn’t Spanish reading, it was Spanish writing. And, boy, did it keep me occupied. Honestly, I don’t know how people completed such as well as galivanting the streets of our local town after school every evening; what that tells me is that they didn’t really try. And I tried. Hence the good grades.

But that was my issue.

Said “conscientious attitude” continued throughout my university studies. I would write as detailed lecture notes as I could, research beyond the recommended readings and study every assignment’s brief to its core. Even the 2,000-word assignments I left to write on the day of the deadline (because we’ve all been there), I was able to produce a good-quality piece of work because I’d prepared with detailed notes, further reading and a plan that aligned with the brief. And, again, I achieved good grades.

Still, that is my issue.

Although it’s all well and good to work hard and achieve good grades, it can be really debilitating. While I studied and worked my ass off, I never relaxed. I never allowed myself room to breathe or to let go. From my GCSEs through to postgraduate study, I was so completely engrossed in my studies that I didn’t really have any hobbies or interests other than to “do well”. And, while it resulted in good grades, it lacked selfcare – something I’ve developed an ever-growing passion for of late. Now it’s even clearer why. Before my GCSEs, I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London for 5 years and absolutely loved them. Every Saturday, I’d put on either a white tee with a large red SYTS logo or a black tee with a small red SYTS logo and head with my mum to London via the overground to Waterloo and the tube to Marylebone. I’d always have a ham and cheese toastie in the Green Room before class – it was almost like a ritual – and we’d stop off at M&S in Waterloo Station and grab a small pot of sushi for the train journey back. It was so nice to have a hobby outside of school; especially drama, which was so pedantic at school but so liberating there. The reason I quit was due to the need to focus on my GCSEs and, from then on, I submerged myself in my studies and never got out.

When I started university, people would ask me “what do you like to do in your spare time?” and I’d ponder “well, I like to dance”. As I advanced through my GCSEs, I developed a particularly strong passion for Dance. That’s Dance with a capital D, not dance with a lowercase d. There’s a significant difference. Dance with a capital D refers to the subject; dance with a lowercase d refers to the art. I was so completely passionate about performing contemporary dance as part of GCSE and A level Dance and grew better and better at it with every performance but, aside from the subject, I didn’t really dance much outside of school. I choreographed my own routines now and then and ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club in Year 10 where I taught my routines, but it was still at school. As I progressed through university, I realised that I was no longer a Dancer, and – again – that my hobbies revolved around my studies. Now, I was passionate about Linguistics.

While there is some truth in that I chose English Language and Linguistics at undergraduate because I was always good at English at school and always preferred Language over Literature, I was genuinely passionate about the subject. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have discovered such a passion had I not worked hard for it, but I find it so fascinating and, as I watch Countdown now (or still), I admire Susie Dent as she so ardently shares her findings on the derivation of a word or phrase in Dictionary Corner. There is so much to Linguistics; in simple terms, it’s “the scientific study of language”, but it’s actually so much more than that. Not only is it the scientific study, but also the psychological study, the sociological study, the phonological study and the etymological study of language. It’s understanding language in different contexts. It’s understanding that language comes in a variety of forms; spoken, sign and pictorial, to name a few. It’s understanding the connection of all the languages of the world (so, to answer the all-common assumption “does linguistics mean you can speak loads of languages?”, no – we don’t know an abundance of languages, but we have certainly explored many; most of which you’ve probably never even heard of). Anyway, as I said, it’s bloody fascinating. Although it’s extremely important to choose a subject you love for your degree, I didn’t really have a hobby alongside my undergraduate apart from binge-watching Friends in between working on assignments and playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my commute to university. Similarly to my situation with Dance, my main pastime outside my degree was linguistics-related: the Roehampton Linguistics Society, which I founded with my “linguigals” who are equally as passionate about the subject as I am. I loved the society; I made friends for life, felt more motivated to complete my assignments and had events to look forward to, but I’d still go home and watch Friends for so long that Netflix would rudely ask “Are you still watching Friends?” repeatedly.

As I unfold in this blog, when I started my postgraduate degree, I conducted a huge Instagram follow spree to familiarise myself with the way large brands were exploiting social media as a marketing tool as – after all – I was about to study Marketing. I considered all the brands I’ve ever seen or used or liked, searched their names and clicked their “follow” button. To my surprise, most of the brands I thought of were makeup brands. I’ve worn makeup ever since I was 11; I started wearing foundation solely to conceal my acne, but I would continue to add more products into the mix – blusher, eyeliner, mascara – as I developed through my teenage years. But, back then, all makeup ever was to me was an element of my daily routine. Nothing more, nothing less. I added more products into the mix as I would notice that wearing foundation alone washed me out, and so I would apply a little blusher to add a healthy glow, a little eyeliner to enhance my eyes and a little mascara to accentuate them further. Makeup was just something that us teenage girls did, right? However, little did we know then the impact of brands. Only once I engaged in this follow spree had it occurred to me that I am a “loyal” customer to certain brands, particularly Clinique. For five whole years, I stuck with Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which I would apply with a Clinique Foundation Brush and remove with Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover. Clinique, Clinique, Clinique. Honestly, I didn’t realise how much of a huge brand Clinique is until I was about 18. I used it because my mum used it, and she’s always been familiar with big beauty brands, but me? I was completely oblivious; I used it due to sheer influence. During my university years, I branched out on brands to add to my makeup kit, but I still didn’t really know whether what I invested in was actually from “good”, or even renowned, brands; I remember asking my mum after I’d tried Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer for the first time “have you heard of Benefit?” and she looked at me as if to say “well, duh”, but exclaimed “yes – they’re a really good brand!”. Oblivious. Then, after I’d followed Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram, I came across Lisa Potter-Dixon – who was previously their Head Makeup Artist – on their Instagram Live, and the rest is history.

Throughout my postgraduate studies, I became more and more interested in beauty. I discovered more beauty experts through Lisa and her podcast which she co-hosted with fellow makeup artist Hannah Martin Life and Lipstick, including Emma Guns, Bobbi Brown and Caroline Hirons, and would watch endless makeup tutorials, beauty unboxings and all the rest. I was totally surprised myself as I’d always thought makeup tutorials these days merely consisted of cakey, contour-heavy looks, but I’d finally come across artists who create beautiful looks without all the huss and fuss of layering and contouring. I finally found a hobby. Now, I consider myself a total beauty nerd; I know of endless beauty brands – good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, up-and-coming and over-the-hill – and all the beauty terminology. But, most importantly? I love it.

Thanks to my ever-growing interest in beauty, I’ve become interested in listening to more podcasts (like The Emma Guns Show), trying more new products (predominantly beauty products, but they’re still new) and watching more video tutorials (something other than Friends!). Not only do I want to do more of all this in 2021, but I want to develop even more hobbies, like reading actual books, which I haven’t done in years. I’ve always enjoyed reading blogs, articles and non-fiction pieces – which probably further influenced my preference of English Language over English Literature – but I want to hold, smell (yes, smell) and enjoy a good book.

So, back to the initial question: what piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

Worry less, relax more. It’s that simple.

Since my teenage years, and through all my adult life thus far, I’ve been constantly worried. Worried about “doing well”. Worried about making others proud. Worried about the consequences if I didn’t “do well”. No one else was worried; no one else cared if I had or hadn’t “done well”. What does that even mean? To me, it meant achieving good grades, but everyone else – my teachers, my professors, my parents, my partner and my friends – they would’ve been proud of me regardless. I could’ve failed my GCSEs, my A levels and my degrees, and they’d still be proud. They’d still be proud because I still would’ve walked away having tried. I just didn’t need to try as hard; I needed to relax more.

Working hard is in my nature. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to work hard and allow myself time to relax. And that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe I should’ve started earlier, but at least I’m working on it now.

Worry less, relax more.

#LittleChats: with Georgia Weekes

Hello and welcome to Episode 5 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twentysomethings about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties! This episode sees me excitedly chatting with 24-year-old eDiscovery Analyst Manager (how cool does that sound?) from Bristol living in Kent, Georgia Weekes! Along with several other of my previous guests and me, Georgia graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018. She initially chose to study both English Language and Linguistics and English Literature at Roehampton but, after a few weeks, changed her mind and stuck with linguistics (I did the exact same thing when I applied for university!). Besides, as if English Language and Linguistics isn’t enough of a mouthful, Georgia rightly points out that English Language and Linguistics and Literature would’ve been too gross a mouthful! So, what does Georgia have to say about life as a student, graduate and twentysomething?

Image description: Photos of me and Georgia with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Georgia W.”

Hey, Georgia! Thank you so much for chatting with me. We also became great friends through our degree in English Language and Linguistics. As I’ve asked the others, what made you choose this course of study?

Hey Soph, thanks for having me – I’m really excited to play a part in your amazing blog!

It was on a whim, really! During my A levels, I did best in English Language, so I decided to run with it. I had no idea what career Linguistics could lead to, or even what it would entail when studied at degree level – I just wanted to do something I thought I was good at. Who could have known it would become such a great love of mine?!

That’s great! In our final year, you also founded the Roehampton Linguistics Society! What were your reasons for this and how did it enhance your university experience?

I threw myself into the studying side of university in my first two years. I was a real bookworm. Although that’s all well and good, I didn’t want to look back in years to come and realise I had missed out on the social side of university. For this reason, at the beginning of my third year, I made a conscious decision to get involved with as many societies as possible. Before long, I was talking to Mia who would become Vice President of the society – about whether she thought Roehampton would benefit from a Linguistics Society. She is the one who pushed me to start setting up the society and I’m so grateful for that. So, to answer your question, I suppose I set up the society purely for selfish reasons, to help me have the social university lifestyle I really wanted. But, in doing so, we brought together like-minded linguists, helped people to study, and created the most amazingly talented and supportive friendship group. To this day, it is my greatest achievement.

It really is a great achievement!
Then, during your degree, you became particularly interested in studying Law. I know you said you weren’t sure what career your degree could lead to, but did you consider any other career paths during?

I toyed with the idea of several different careers: journalism, speech and language therapy, accent and dialect coaching, teaching, and even doing a PhD. I’m a very indecisive person, but I’ve learnt to be okay with that. I think your twenties is exactly the time to be indecisive, explore an array of avenues, and work out what it right for you. It’s okay to not know what you want for your future.

I totally agree! What then influenced you to consider law? Are you still considering it?

In 2016, my Dad – who owns a home development business – ran into a pricing dispute with a customer which went to court. I am very supportive of my family (and I suppose a little competitive), so I got really stuck in helping my Dad put his case together. We poured hours into writing up the statement and collecting supporting documents – it was so rewarding to discover that we won. I wanted my career to be filled with that feeling over and over again.

After graduating from Roehampton, I was over the moon to receive a scholarship to study Law at the University of Law and I spent two lovely years working as a paralegal. However, law is such a demanding career, and I’m not certain that I want that level of stress in my day-to-day life. I have begun to question whether I actually want to be a lawyer, or whether I just want people to perceive me as successful. If I am to continue on my path to becoming a lawyer, I will need to do three more years of expensive studying and training before I can call myself a solicitor – it’s a very big commitment for something I am not certain about. At the moment, I guess I don’t have a definite answer for you other than “I don’t know”, “I am playing it by ear” and “I will probably blame my indecision on covid in years to come”.

Until I am ready to make that decision, I am working for a tech company reviewing documents for their compliance with the Data Protection Act, a job perfectly poised between linguistics and law. A happy medium.

What a great response! With that, what would you say to a current student or graduate who isn’t sure what career path they want to pursue?

2017 Georgia would have told you to research the hell out of prospective careers, see a careers advisor, and go to career workshops so that you can work out what’s right for you. But I did all that, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. You are better off not forcing things and keeping an open mind. Use your time at university to enjoy yourself and build yourself as a person in every way you can. Say yes to every opportunity so that, when you do realise what career you’d like to pursue, you can shoehorn that experience into your CV with some semblance of relevance; for instance, taking part in the drama society could be used to show confidence when presenting in court.

Don’t. Panic. It’s okay to not have a plan. Some of the happiest people I know still don’t have a plan in their forties. Just be you and live in the moment. The rest will come.

I love that! Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t try to make everything perfect. I spent too much time in my early twenties trying to make things just right and wouldn’t want the same for anyone else. You got a grade you aren’t happy with on one assignment? You will learn from your mistakes and do better next time. You didn’t get the campus accommodation you hoped for? Don’t freak out, you will still build great relationships with your flatmates. Your dress tore on a big night out? So what, you were wearing a cute bra anyway. Learn to embrace the chaos. Trust me, it’s the secret to happiness.

And that’s how it’s done! Thank you so much, Georgia!

How great was that chat? Georgia’s story reminds us exactly of the purpose of these chats: that there are many avenues we can pursue later in life, but you don’t need to have everything figured out in your twenties. If you’re going to university, yes: choose a degree that interests you and work hard, but don’t forget to make the most of the experience by making friends, joining or creating societies and living for the moment. Whether or not you’re sure of what you want to do beyond your studies, everything will work out!

Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Georgia on #LittleChats!

#LittleChats: with Hannah Shirley

Hello and welcome to my very first episode of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twentysomethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay to not have your life figured out in your twenties! I am very excited to introduce my first guest, 25-year-old graduate from a little village in Cambridgeshire, Hannah Shirley! Hannah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton London in 2018 and is currently not only helping her dad’s company with some “super fun” running of day-to-day necessities, which she can luckily complete from home, but also working on writing her own book! One day, Hannah also hopes to visit all the Seven Wonders of the World. With that, let’s hear what Hannah has to say about her life as a student, graduate and twentysomething…

Image description: Photos of me and Hannah with the caption “Little Pav’s Little Chats with Hannah S.”

Hey, Hannah! Firstly, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me! So, you and I became great friends through the completion of our English Language and Linguistics degrees. What made you choose this course of study?

I always knew I enjoyed the history of language and I wanted to further my knowledge of how our language has changed throughout time and why.

I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a Speech and Language Therapist after seeing the amazing journey my cousin took who, being born 12 weeks premature, has severe autism and learning difficulties. Hearing him talk to me and say my name for the first time solidified my decision to bring that joy to other families.

Amazing! The history of English is really fascinating to me, too. That’s such a lovely story about your cousin; I’ll ask more about your career plans in a moment. Before that, though, what did you enjoy most about university?

Oh, god… it was so long ago… 🤔

Probably the vast topics we could choose from. I’m glad that no two modules were the same. Of course, there was overlap, but you could always expect something new which kept it exciting. I would have lost my mind if it were repetitive, every class being the same!

It does seem like a lifetime ago now!
You mentioned that you decided you wanted to become a Speech and Language Therapist from a young age after watching your cousin’s inspiring journey. Is this the career path you still have in mind after completing your degree? If so, what are your plans for pursuing this?

It’s certainly something I’m still interested in. I’ve looked into placements with speech therapy centres and the possibilities of shadowing language doctors in outpatient hospitals. Unfortunately, because of the current predicament we’re in, a lot of hospitals are reluctant to hire people, wanting to keep their places of work as safe and uncontaminated as possible. I’ve realised, though, that I don’t have to rush anything – there’s no right time to do anything – and taking a walk after uni before jumping into work isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite refreshing.

I completely agree! As you said, we’re currently living in an uncertain time. How has this impacted you as a graduate, and what would you say to those completing their degrees during a pandemic?

I think it’s impacted upon what my idea of how a graduate would be living, if that makes sense? I always assumed that, once I’d graduated, I’d be able to move into my own place, have a job in my chosen field and effectively be a ‘grown up’. But this year hasn’t been like that at all – I’m 25 and still living with my parents.

I’d tell current students that this is going to be hard. It was difficult for me and I wasn’t studying in the middle of a pandemic. It will be draining, and you’ll spend days reading and writing the same essays until all you want to do is burn them. But the outcome is amazing! The accomplishment you feel when each essay is submitted, when every piece of work or exam or presentation is over, makes it all worthwhile. Don’t push yourself to breaking point, you’re only human. Do your best and don’t turn yourself into a zombie!

There’s much more to university than just the grades. Use this opportunity to turn yourself into the best version of yourself.

That’s such great advice! Every submission really is an accomplishment.
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

GET MORE SLEEP!

Find yourself a HEALTHY routine that works well for you and remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. DO NOT compare yourself to others, you’re perfect just the way you are.

Preach! Thank you so much, Hannah, and all the best!

Wow! Hannah has certainly shared many words of wisdom there. Many students and graduates often feel burdened with the pressure to rush into work immediately after graduating, though Hannah reminds us of why that’s not necessary — especially in the current climate. We’re still young, so let’s enjoy our twenties while we can, right?

Did you enjoy Hannah’s story? Stay tuned more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twentysomethings like Hannah on #LittleChats!

Lockdown 2.0: What’s different this time?

Yesterday, towards the end of my last working day for at least a month, an avalanche of gloom crashed over me as I anticipated Lockdown 2.0. It was the strangest feeling. Up until that moment, I thought I was prepared; “we’ve done it once before, so we can do it once again”, to quote every brand, celebrity and influencer comprising our Instagram feeds. Up until that moment, when asked “what are your plans for this lockdown?”, I would confidently respond: “you know, play more Animal Crossing, write more blogs and invest more time in myself”, as the previous lockdown. If I was so confident, then, what triggered that avalanche of gloom to crash so abruptly last night? What’s different this time? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I guess that’s the point of this discourse: to decipher what it is exactly that has made me and many others feel so despondent this time around.

Image description: “COVID-19” written on a black background

With that, let’s backtrack to March: it was during this month that a 12-week long national lockdown was ordered, encouraging non-essential workers and the like to “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”, as the mantra back then quite rightly communicated. The vulnerable received letters, text messages and special mentions to shield from that of anybody other than those they reside with and have somebody else acquire their needs. Key workers – again, quite rightly – received praise for their astonishing efforts in continuing to prosper during such an unusual time. Although we were fighting a global pandemic, a sense of unity flooded the nation in that we each played our part to combat the virus.

As our time at home progressed, many of us engaged in virtual pub quizzes aplenty, explored our creativity through the likes of cooking, painting and writing and spent hours on end developing our own island paradise on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This way of life inevitably became, in familiar terminology, the “new normal”. Notwithstanding, the tail end of Lockdown 1.0 saw the plethora of virtual pub quizzes convert into cliches, the lack of socialisation induce frustration and the yearn for a return to normality grow stronger and stronger.

Back in March, the prospect of a lockdown was entirely new to us. We’d never done it before, so we weren’t so sure as to what was in store (rhyme unintended). We’d never engaged in so many virtual pub quizzes. We’d never baked so many cakes, painted so many walls and written so many blogs. We’d never had so much time to devote to a video game. For this reason, lockdown was almost satisfying for many; it opened an abundance of avenues of artistry. On the contrary, it was also very difficult for many; some more so than others. Going so long without seeing family and friends, journeying to our favourite cities and accepting this reality was detrimental to a lot of us, both physically and mentally.

Come June, when many workplaces reopened for business and social distancing rules relaxed slightly, many – for the first time in three months – felt a fragment of relief. That’s right: just a fragment. Though it was relieving that we could return to work, reunite with loved ones and revisit some of our favourite locations, we all still felt a strong notion of uncertainty. Though social distancing measures were still encouraged, they were often flouted. Though you could not yet book a facial, you could get your beard trimmed. Though we were finally “allowed” to leave the house, the vulnerable and those living with them still felt obliged to stay at home. I related to the latter in particular given that my fiancé is deemed vulnerable; I did not yet feel safe to return to my usual position which, luckily for me, my employer was very understanding of and worked to cater to those of us in such situations.

Upon my return to my usual position in September, I quickly adapted to the second edition of the “new normal”; mask-wearing, social distancing and accepting that the pandemic was ongoing. In fact, I believe this was the case for a lot of us; following Lockdown 1.0, conversations typically derived – and still derive – from the topic of coronavirus because it’s happening. It hasn’t stopped. Every day, I receive notifications from the BBC App on my phone regarding “your morning/evening coronavirus update”. The reality is that people are still being affected by this horrendous disease. Hence Lockdown 2.0.

To answer the question at the outset, I think I’ve deciphered what’s different this time is that, although many of us explored creative outlets old and new during Lockdown 1.0, we were all impacted by the cliche of virtual pub quizzes, the lack of socialisation and the yearn for a return to normality; when businesses began to reopen and social distancing rules were relaxed, we were finally reunited with familiarity. Now Lockdown 2.0 has arrived, we know what’s in store, and we know that the implications can be detrimental. So, let’s focus on the good that came out of Lockdown 1.0 and implement them in Lockdown 2.0; book in those Zoom catch-ups with your family, friends and coworkers; bake those cakes you didn’t get to the first time around and play those video games to your heart’s content. Remember: this lockdown is necessary to help stop the spread of this cruel disease and, one day, this will all be a distant memory.

Stay safe!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Undecided whether to do a master’s degree? Here’s my experience

You’re approaching your final year of university. It won’t be long until you’re due to enter the “real world” of full-time work. You have no idea what you’re going to do upon graduation. All your friends have plans – one wants to go into law, another is going to become a teacher and another ~ somehow ~ landed a graduate position at a corporate company amongst thousands of other candidates – but you don’t. You have an inkling about what you want to do, though; “I kind of like the sound of HR”, “I think I want to go into speech and language therapy”, “I could go into events”, but what should you do in order to get there? Do you complete a year of unpaid work experience? Do you spend hours, days or even weeks on end sending out job applications, only to receive declinations from most? Do you study for a master’s degree related to the industry you’re interested in? This battle when approaching the end of your degree is one of the hardest to overcome; I know because I’ve been there. I’ve already written a blog about how I changed my career prospects after completing a PR & Marketing Internship for a luxury brand in the summer of 2017, but this blog is for those who are considering postgraduate study upon completion of their bachelor’s. In response to interview-style questions as asked by me (lol), here’s my master’s degree experience.

Image description: Me at my master’s graduation ceremony

What did you study your master’s degree in?

I studied my master’s degree in Global Marketing Management. I chose this course because, upon completing said internship, I began to develop a passion for marketing. Of course, I researched the course’s content before I came to the conclusion that it was the course for me (I also considered Forensic Psychology, Audiovisual Translation and Computer Science as I enjoyed my linguistics-based bachelor’s degree modules in Forensic Linguistics, Bilingual Language Use and Syntax so much and thus contemplated careers in forensic linguistics, audiovisual translation and computational linguistics, too!). The course offered 7 content modules covering the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management and required us to complete either a dissertation of at least 16,000 words or a “consultancy project”, a report based on an organisation with which you would need to partner for fieldwork access. I opted for the dissertation for which I explored the extent to which TfL respond to consumer complaints on Twitter in line with linguistic theories of politeness (because I had to incorporate my passion for linguistics into it to make the completion process somewhat easier) and the advice of marketing professionals on handling social media complaints.

Did you enjoy your master’s degree?

100%. I know some of my friends didn’t enjoy it so much either because it covered content they’d already studied in their business-based bachelor’s degrees or because it required so much research and writing (which, to be fair, they’re right about; 6 modules required a presentation and a 3,500-word report, 1 module required a group presentation, a podcast and a 1,500-word report and our dissertation proposal required approximately 4,000 words; along with our dissertation, that’s a total of 42,500 words, for crying out loud!), but I loved it. I didn’t mind the amount of reports not only because writing is a hobby of mine, but because it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the content we covered in each module. I enjoyed every module because all the content was entirely new to me and the nerd in me loves to learn something new. I learned how to be an effective marketing manager and how to thrive in such a career. Hence, I think it’s safe to say that I got as much out of my master’s degree as I could.

Do you think doing a master’s degree has helped you to get where you want to be?

Yes. Not completely, but yes. I say “not completely” because I am yet to land my first “official” marketing position, but everything I’m doing now, I’m doing with the intention to get there. I only graduated with my master’s degree in late January 2020 and, around the same time, the role of Assistant Store Manager became available at the store I was working at part-time whilst completing my master’s and thus began working at full-time upon submitting my dissertation. I saw this post as a great opportunity for me to begin developing my managerial skills on a greater scale; while I gained so much sales, some team leader and little marketing experience alongside my degrees, the purpose of studying for a master’s degree in Global Marketing Management was to enable me to become, well, a manager. Although marketing is the industry in which I intend to land such a role in, I always seize every opportunity that becomes available to me to enhance my skillset and experience. Plus, I don’t think I’d have been offered the position if it wasn’t for the portfolio I’d created surrounding everything I’d learned as to what it means to be a good manager throughout my master’s degree as I’d never been one before and our store is one of the company’s flagship locations. I’m sure that holding this position will be pivotal in allowing me to progress to the next stage of my career.

Should I do a master’s degree?

That’s the real question. If you’re not entirely sure about what you want to do upon your bachelor’s graduation, should you do a master’s degree or pursue one of the other avenues like unpaid work experience or the never-ending job hunt for the “ideal” position? In my honest opinion, you’ll just know whether a master’s degree is the right path for you. If, like me, you’re academically driven and you’ve not studied the subject before, then it probably is. I’d never ~ properly ~ studied business or marketing before – not at GCSE, not at A level, not ever – for which reason I decided that studying the subject in a university environment, which I was already used to, was the best course of action. The truth is: all your options have their benefits. In some ways, gaining unpaid work experience – whether it’s for a week, a month or a year (has the Friends theme tune interrupted your reading process? If it hadn’t, it has now) – is similar to completing a year-long master’s degree but without taking out another hefty loan (wait, now it sounds better…) because you’re there to learn; the main downfall is that you might have to juggle another paid job on the side to get by. Likewise, job searching after university is not a bad idea; hell, it sounds pretty standard, right? As an unemployed graduate, however, it can be extremely tedious and, if you’re seeking a position in an industry unrelated to your degree, you might find that you need x amount of work experience in such. But, you never know: you could be one of the lucky ones.

Image description: Me and my friends on dissertation submission day (a.k.a. the best day EVER)

How should I prepare if I want to do a master’s degree?

If you decide to study for a master’s degree, I recommend preparing in the following ways:

  • Do some pre-master’s research. It’s important to be certain about the course you wish to study. Research the course’s content and module’s on the university’s website, compare it to other universities’ courses in the same field and research the subject in general on Google or via any contacts you may have. This will provide you a greater insight into the subject and whether the course is right for you. My course even offered an introductory module when I signed up on the university’s online portal which yours might do, too.
  • Be organised. It’s even more important to be organised throughout your master’s degree. Remember, it’s postgraduate level for a reason. In some aspects, it’s going to be even harder than your bachelor’s degree; you might find that you have more deadlines in closer proximities, the requirements for assignments more difficult and the further independence from your professors slightly unusual. If you’re in need of some organisation tips, I’ve written a blog all about how to be more organised at university as both a bachelor’s and a master’s student.
  • Enjoy it! The most important way to prepare is to ensure that you enjoy the subject. A master’s degree is a commitment much like your bachelor’s degree. There is no point in committing to another one-to-two years at university if you’re not going to enjoy the subject. Once you’ve done your research into it and decided that it’s right for you, try to commit to your lectures, deadlines and meetings with your dissertation supervisor as much as possible, all while making the most of it!

All in all, I really enjoyed my master’s experience. Like I said, I learnt so much about a subject I had very little knowledge in beforehand, I was lucky enough to make some wonderful friends with whom I could enjoy postgraduate life with (I’ve also written a blog about how to enjoy university as an off-campus student if you’re living at home throughout your master’s degree) and I think it has enabled me the ability to progress more quickly. If you enjoy studying and are considering a career prospect in a field new to you, then a master’s degree might just be the way forward.

As usual, I hope this helps and I welcome all questions in the comment section below or via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Graduating students, I wish you the best of luck and, if you’re going to do a master’s degree, have fun!

Love,

Little Pav ♡