#LittleChats: with Jess Brown

Hello and welcome to Episode 8 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! Hereafter, I chat with the lovely Jess, a 23-year-old BSc Psychology graduate from the University of Sheffield and MA Arts Policy and Management student at Birkbeck University of London! Alongside her studies, Jess works in a management and social media role in hospitality and has recently launched her own platform called Creative Graduate which we’ll come to a little later. If Jess isn’t studying or working, she’s probably singing – often without realising – either Lady Gaga or a spontaneous singsong about her workday; she believes being on furlough has been a welcome break for her colleagues (though I’m sure that’s not true)! With that, let’s hear about Jess’ experiences as a student, graduate and twentysomething…

Image description: #LittleChats with Jess Brown

Hey, Jess! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I can’t wait to hear about your journey as a student and graduate. Firstly, what did you study at bachelor’s level and why?

Thank you for having me! I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Sheffield and graduated in 2018. I always found Psychology really interesting and, after I decided not to pursue drama and theatre post-A level, it seemed my next obvious option. I actually wasn’t supposed to go to Sheffield – I just missed out on my offer at the University of Birmingham, and I decided against my insurance choice of Chester. I then essentially chose Sheffield at random, which was probably the best spur of the moment decision I ever made! I can’t imagine my life without the fantastic experiences I had there and the friends I made.

Amazing!
You’re now studying for a master’s degree in quite a different subject, right? Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate study?

My master’s definitely seems worlds away from my undergraduate degree, but Psychology actually offered me a lot of transferable skills which have come in really useful, so I don’t regret it. I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in Psychology by the end of my second year; my plan was to leave uni and get a job in theatre, another arts industry or a charity organisation. This was very much easier said than done, and I was continually told I didn’t have enough experience even though I was positive I could do the job well! My lack of formal experience (in similar roles) was really holding me back, and the highly competitive nature of these jobs meant my transferable skills just weren’t enough for them. Despite this, after a year of searching, I finally secured a salaried job in a London events agency but, just before I was due to start, the pandemic hit. I lost the job offer and was placed on furlough from my hospitality job. At this point, I felt hopeless about my future, as well as the future of the arts industry. After a lot of reflection during the first lockdown, I did some research into postgraduate study and found the Arts Policy and Management course at Birkbeck University of London which has the option of placement within the course, which really solidified my decision. I thought that going back to study and incorporating a placement would put me in great stead to get a role in the industry when it recovers. I can safely say I made a great decision; I’m really enjoying the course and the people I’ve met through it!

That’s’ great to hear!
You mentioned the pandemic which you’ve also been studying for your master’s during. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you as a student, and do you think it’ll pose further challenges for you as a graduate?

Remote study has been full of a lot of ups and downs. I can’t fault Birkbeck’s handling of the situation and being on furlough has given me luxurious amounts of time to complete my work which has been lovely. However, the course is very discussion-based, and it can definitely get wearing when you spend half a session checking that everyone can see or hear each other. I do feel lucky that I’m not someone who’s paying for accommodation that I can’t use, but I would have liked to access some more resources that I’m paying my fees for. I also feel like I’m missing out on the experience; I’ve never even been to my university, which feels strange to say. I’m looking forward to hopefully having some in-person teaching next year, and to be able to visit the library! The biggest challenge I think has been motivation; I was always someone who chose to work in a cafe or library because I struggle to focus at home, but I’ve gotten more used to it and try to motivate myself as much as I can – taking lots of short breaks is key! As a graduate, I’m really concerned about the arts and cultural industries because they’ve been largely neglected by the government since the start of the pandemic, and lack of funding is a historic problem for this sector. I know there will be a lot of people who have been unable to work in these industries so this, in combination with the lack of funding, is likely to create a surplus of candidates for every role. Therefore, I think it’s really important that people support the arts and cultural industries as much as they can when things can reopen and continue to pressure the government to recognise that these industries are a backbone of UK society.

As a theatre fanatic, I couldn’t agree more!
You recently embarked on a new adventure by launching your own platform called Creative Graduate! Tell us about Creative Graduate and how it came to be.

Creative Graduate in its current form started in January 2021, but I had the idea for the account over a year ago; it was just something I’d never gotten started with. I’ve always been a fan of student and graduate blogs and accounts such as Gals Who Graduate and Pretty Little Marketer and knew that I was really keen to share my own advice and experiences. My thinking behind the account was that I hadn’t seen many targeted at people in the creative industries and I thought, during this time in particular, it could be a really good thing to have a support network. Creative Graduate provides advice, tips, weekly Q&As with creative grads, blog posts and a job board for roles in the industry. The community has grown to over 700 followers on Instagram in just over a month which has blown me away! I’m very grateful to have everyone’s support and very pleased that CG is helping people. It’s something I’m really proud of and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future; I already have some plans and ideas in the pipeline.

You should be proud!
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

To my first-year self: stop comparing yourself to other people and do what makes you happy. All experience helps carve your future, and all of this experience is useful in one way or another. (Oh, and do some more work!)

Absolutely! Thank you for your time, Jess, and good luck with everything!

What a great chat! From Jess, we can learn several lessons: firstly, that – no matter the subject – your degree offers an array of skills that are invaluable to any industry; also, that the arts and cultural industries are integral to society (everyone loves to go to the cinema, the theatre or a concert outside of lockdown!); and last but not least, that hard work and perseverance pays off! For graduates, the job hunt is not only testing but also extremely competitive – especially in the current climate – so, like Jess, why not consider postgraduate study or create your own platform based on your niche to enhance your experience? Nevertheless, remember that you are not alone; as Jess mentions, the Gals Who Graduate, Pretty Little Marketer and now Creative Graduate platforms are great for us students, graduates and twentysomethings for advice, resources and even just to find others to talk to in similar situations. You can find Jess on Instagram @creativegraduate!

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

#LittleChats: with Zoe Wells

Hello and welcome to Episode 6 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 not to have your life figured out in your twenties! In this episode, I am delighted to chat with the one and only Zoe Wells, a 23-year-old Marketing Executive from Ashford, Surrey! Zoe and I graduated with our degrees in English Language and Linguistics in 2018 and, though I was confident we would remain friends after graduating, we have even more reason to stay in touch as I introduced her to my brother over two years ago… and the rest is history! In her spare time, Zoe likes to fulfil her passion for interior design following tips from the likes of Mrs Hinch on Instagram. In a more formal conversation than we would usually engage in, hear what Zoe has to say about life as a student, graduate and twentysomething…

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

Hey, Zoe! Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me! You were one of the very first friends I made at Roehampton through our degree and, not only are we still great friends, but you’re now living with my brother! Haha! So, why did you choose to study English Language and Linguistics?

No problem, thank you for asking me!  

I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to study at uni to start with. I studied English Language and Literature, History and Business at A level and knew I wanted to continue with English as it was the only topic I still really enjoyed, to be honest! 

I knew I wanted to stay at home during my studies, so I looked at courses that were provided by relatively local unis. I attended the odd talks about courses in Law, History and Social Care, but always went to talks about English. Having been to a few open days, there still wasn’t one course that I felt was right for me. When I attended the open day at Roehampton, the teacher was so passionate, and I found the examples of work so interesting. I remember we had a group discussion about the sentence “Buffy discovered a mole”.  It was almost like a lightbulb moment where I thought this is the area of English I want to study. 

That’s great! So, what did you enjoy most about university?

That’s a tricky one for meI think there is such an expectation that uni is the best time of your lifebut I didn’t find this. I didn’t leave with a large social circle and I definitely struggled with the stresses of studying, working and trying to have a life in general! 

I did make excellent friends that I speak to almost daily. For me, the content was the best part; I found all the areas I studied so fascinating. I enjoyed researching, reading and writing the essays so much so that I really didn’t find them a chore. Even two years on, I think about the topics I learnt. I also had great lecturers who were clearly passionate about their areas of study and were really approachable about anything.

It can be very stressful, but I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed your degree.
I know that after graduating, you went on to pursue marketing which we’ll talk more about in a moment. When you started university, did you have a career path in mind? If not, how were you hoping university would help you figure one?

I think I was just hoping that my degree would allow me to gain access to larger companies in a good role. I remember in an interview for my first role in admin, the interviewers said they either looked for a degree or a few years of relevant experience. After uni, I wanted a role that I didn’t have to worry too much about after all the stress from uni. I wanted to have solid experience on my CV and get a good reference. I think it’s really important to remember that your first job isn’t your last! 

That’s true! And now, you’re in marketing and even recently landed a new role! Tell us a bit about how you got into marketing and your journey so far.

After about a year in my admin role, I decided I needed a role where I could get back to my English roots and be more creative. I really missed writing contentso I looked for that in new roles. I don’t really remember how I came across marketing, but now it feels like a natural link with my passions. 

In my first marketing associate role, I got back to writing content like blogs and interviewing people (like you, Soph!) for case studies. There was more creative freedom, rather than set processes, to think of new ways to engage the audience. 

I have also been fortunate enough to work freelance. I made some good contacts that reached out to me with marketing work. It was a good leap of faith for me to be confident to be given a brief and execute it. I got a lot of exposure to new systems, web processes and tasks. I learnt so much in a short space of time and it helped me land my new role. 

I now work as a Marketing Executive with more responsibility and the ability to plan and execute my own marketing campaigns. It’s so nice to be back in a full-time role and have likeminded team members to support me and encourage my career development. I would love to gain a further qualification in marketing at some point. 

Amazing! What would you say to a current student or graduate who wants to get into marketing?

One of the best things about marketing is that there are so many different areas to explore. From content to social media to events, there are lots of opportunities. No marketing is the same; that’s why I decided I wanted a full-time role instead of freelancing so that I wasn’t limiting myself to certain tasks. It provides good opportunities to network, socialise and gain qualifications. It’s a great option for creatives who like teamwork and project management. 

Finally, as I ask every graduate: if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

I think I would recommend not to overcomplicate the experience. We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve and have the best time. My parents said “just try your best” and that’s something that’s stuck with me. It will be hard, but enjoy it because it will go by so quickly and then the real work begins!

I agree! Thank you so much, Zoe!

What a great story. Zoe reminds us that the university experience is not the same for everyone – some leave with lots of friends while others leave with a few, some find it more stressful than others and some might not enjoy their course of study as much as they hoped – and that’s okay. There is so much to look forward to after university; the freedom to discover more hobbies, interests and passions, the opportunity to build relationships and the possibility to gain more qualifications to name a few. As Zoe said, it goes by so quickly, so try to make the most of the experience and translate that into graduate life! 

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

#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 Mia Ustun

Hello and welcome to Episode 4 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 fourth guest, 23-year-old master’s student from Luton, Mia Ustun! Mia graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018 and is currently working towards her MSc in Speech and Language Therapy at City University of London. Alongside her studies, Mia works as a part-time Pharmacy Advisor, and is working towards “30 before 30”: visiting thirty different countries before turning thirty. On that note, let’s hear what Mia has to say about life as a student, graduate and twentysomething in 2020…

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

Hey, Mia! Firstly, thank you so much for chatting with me. As I’ve mentioned to you many times before, you were the first person I spoke to on our English Language and Linguistics course, and I’m so grateful we’re still friends! Why did you choose this course of study?

Hi Soph! So happy to be taking part in Little Pav’s Little Chats.

During my time in sixth form, I wanted to study Psychology further, but really didn’t want to let go of my first love: language. I racked my brain, spoke to tutors and careers advisors, searched the internet until eventually coming across Speech and Language Therapy. I knew eventually this is what I would end up doing but, at only 17, I did not feel ready to embark on this particular journey. That’s when English Language and Linguistics caught my attention. I absolutely fell in love with the course and its content and believe it prepared me perfectly for my future endeavours!

That’s lovely! And now, you’re pursuing Speech and Language Therapy through a master’s degree! How big would you say the leap is from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

I am! I started Year 2 in September ‘20. I personally think it’s completely different from my undergraduate degree. My master’s course, however, is not typical; it’s essentially a four-year undergraduate course squashed into two. I went from being at university 2-3 days a week to 3-4 days plus a placement depending on where we’re at in the term. The workload is much heavier, and the content is challenging. I think this is because we have to cover so many areas, from biomedical science to acoustic phonetics, to augmentative and alternative communication. The list goes on… and on… and on. Overall, it was – and still is – quite a leap from undergrad life.

I agree that it’s a very big leap! So, why did you choose to study for a master’s degree? Is it expected of someone interested in Speech and Language Therapy?

So, in order to be a Speech and Language Therapist in the UK, you have to obtain an SLT qualification from a recognised course. Here are the routes you can take:

a) Four-year undergraduate degree

b) Two-year postgraduate degree

I’ve heard some people speculate the possibility of an apprenticeship in the future, but this is just hearsay. The master’s degree fits nicely with my educational development and gives me another bunch of letters after my name, so why not?

That’s true! You also took a gap year between your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Was this intentional? How did you spend your gap year?

Originally, I wanted to go straight into my master’s; I even started the application processes. Unfortunately, I had a number of bereavements within my family which meant I wasn’t in the correct headspace to embark on a master’s. Every cloud has its silver lining though, and, during my year off, I was able to volunteer and get some really solid experience for my future career. I trained as a conversation partner and even managed to qualify as a Pharmacy Assistant; it’s impossible for me to stay away from education, even during a gap year.

As well as volunteering and saving up, I tried to travel as much as I possibly could. I love exploring different cities and learning about different cultures. I fell in love with Venice and cannot wait till it’s safe to travel again.

Every cloud has a silver lining indeed!
You’re currently completing your master’s degree in the midst of a pandemic. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you as a student in 2020?

Oh my goodness, it has been a challenge. I think the biggest challenge has to be going from travelling into City and being in lectures or placement every day, to sitting at my desk, in my house, on Zoom calls every day. Since all my family members are at work or school, it’s just me in the house. It was nice to have the quiet at first, but now I’m a bit lonely. It’s a big adjustment, but I am so grateful to be where I am today. I’ve always tried to highlight to my little sisters just how privileged we are to have such a fantastic education and just how many opportunities life will give us because of it! I guess the take home message here is: remember, in times of struggle or when faced with adversity, how blessed you are.

That’s such a sweet message to your little sisters!
To finish off, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Live in the moment more and stop worrying about ‘what’s next’. This is something I’m still working on – but I really do try to practise it.

Soph, thank you so much for this interview!

No, thank you, Mia! Best of luck with the rest of your master’s!

How lovely! From Mia’s story, we can learn that there are so many ways you can find the right university course for you – be it through tutors, careers advisors and research – and how that course can prepare you for your desired career path. What’s more, Mia highlights that taking a gap year – intentionally or unintentionally – can offer many opportunities, from gaining work experience to travelling. So, if you are unsure what you want to do at university or how to spend your gap year, consider Mia’s footsteps!

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

#LittleChats: with Natasha Hill

Hello and welcome to Episode 3 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. In this episode of Little Chats, I am very excited to chat with 23-year-old Surveyor Natasha Hill from Woking, Surrey! Natasha graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Roehampton in 2018 and an MSc in Real Estate Development from the University of Westminster in 2020 and is particularly interested in interior design. Her postgraduate degree is quite different from that of her undergraduate, so I’m most excited to hear how she pursued this route! When Natasha’s not nosing around people’s houses (as part of her profession, that is), you can find her re-watching her favourite EastEnders episodes which she has loved since it aired… well, since she was born because it aired before then! With that, let’s hear Natasha’s story…

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

Hey, Natasha! Thank you so much for chatting with me. Like Hannah, you and I became great friends through the completion of our English Language and Linguistics degrees. As I asked her, what made you choose this course of study?

Hey beautiful! No problem at all, I love reading your blogs, the pleasure is all mine!

I chose to study English Language and Linguistics because I thoroughly enjoyed English at school, at GCSE and at A level. I realised I loved analysing things, from literature to speech and, well, everything really! The course at Roehampton gave me the most freedom to analyse different topics in different ways, whereas most of the other courses where English is involved only really focus on creative writing, so Roey was the one for me!

That’s what I loved about Roehampton, too! When you started your degree, did you have a career path in mind?

When I started, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Different pathways became clearer later on, but in the beginning, I was so stuck on where I wanted to go. All I knew is that I wanted to do something which I enjoyed, and as far as work goes… that’s not a lot (lol)! Originally, I thought English is a good base subject that would benefit many careers. As I love organising and analysing things, I thought anything managerial would be great. As I got deeper into first year, Speech Therapy stood out the most as I really enjoyed the module Phonetics and Phonology (the study of sounds). The following year, I studied a module called Forensic Linguistics and decided I wanted to go into analysing people’s speech in law, but it turned out I wasn’t that good at that module, so I went against that… but how cool would that be?! In the last year, I took a work placement module where I took an internship at a Chartered Surveyors, mainly focusing on the social media aspects as well as writing up some of the reports from a colleague’s dictation. I was asked to stay on because it turns out I know a thing or two about buildings having been brought up with a family in construction and, bam, I have a job!

That’s amazing! So, after your undergraduate degree, you went on to do a postgraduate degree in Real Estate Development and now you’re a Surveyor, right?

Yes, so I undertook a master’s degree in Real Estate Development because, to be able to progress to a Chartered Surveyor (rather than *just* a Surveyor), I needed a degree relevant to property as well as the fact that it fast-tracks me for the professional qualification. I’m focusing on the pathway to become a Valuation Surveyor, but I also cover the work for many other things such as building surveys, planning applications and advice, party wall and building control!

Wow! So, are you enjoying your current role?

Yes, I love my job now because I am constantly analysing things. Plus, I get to nose around people’s houses which is super fun!

That does sound fun!
Do you think your undergraduate degree in English Language and Linguistics has been useful in this profession?

Yes, though it’s building related, I am still using my skillset of English Language and Linguistics because I write big reports and analyse many things including the property market, laws, documentations and how properties are made. My job is also very social which is another thing I love about it!

Yes, Linguistics really does offer so many transferrable skills!
Finally, if you could give a first-year student any piece of advice, what would it be?

Ooh… my advice for a first-year student is to push yourself out of your comfort zone, chat and meet people, go out, and don’t be afraid. I know it’s easier said than done, but everyone is in the same boat: it’s all new and a bit scary. Getting chatting to as many people as you can helps you to make friends quicker (some of which may be friends for life, eh, Soph 😉) and may provide a base of contacts which you may rely on later in life. This will help bring you some confidence, which will be really beneficial for things such as presentations in lectures and perhaps your future career!

That’s so true! Thank you, Natasha, and best of luck in your endeavours!

What a great chat! Not only does Natasha’s story illustrate that you don’t need to have a career path set in stone when you begin your studies, but also that your degree can be useful in any profession! As graduates, we’re often made to feel that we must secure a position directly related to our degrees however, the reality is that any subject can offer an array of transferrable skills – skills that might differentiate us from other candidates!

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

#LittleChats: with Megan Warren-Figgess

Hello and welcome to Episode 2 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! Today, I’m so excited to chat with Megan Warren-Figgess, a 21-year-old Support Worker and Dance Teacher from Sutton, London! Earlier this year, Megan founded her own small company, IN MY FEELS, which focuses on dancing in high heels and embracing body confidence. Unlike many of my upcoming guests on Little Chats, Megan didn’t go to university, which is why I’m especially excited to chat with her about how she pursued her business! Hear Megan’s story below.

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

Hey, Megan! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I am so excited to hear about your business. Before we talk more about that, though, my first question for you is: were you ever made to feel like you must go to university in order to succeed, be it through teachers, friends or societal pressure?

Yes! All throughout college it felt like the only option afterwards was uni. As we had lessons spent filling out UCAS forms, and as I studied Performing Arts, we had lessons especially for auditioning for schools and universities. I also found myself surrounded by friends who were already at uni or were applying to unis which added to the pressure of me feeling like I had to go. However, I was even unsure myself if university is truly what I wanted.

University seems like the only option to many, but — as you exemplify — that’s not the case. Before your business, what did you go on to do after your college studies?

I did end up auditioning for drama and musical theatre schools which I got into, but as they were ridiculously expensive to accept, I had to turn them down. However, for me that ended up being the best choice and I’m so happy I didn’t go. The first few months after college were hard and I almost felt a bit lost as to what I wanted to do or my next steps. For the time being, I found myself in a care job where I cared for young disabled children. I ended up doing that for a few months, but I eventually found myself auditioning for my first acting job which I got. The people I was working with were all 25+, went to drama schools and universities and had agents. But this is a great example that you don’t need all that as I auditioned without an agent and without drama school training and I got that job – which was a paid acting job – all by myself, which was one of the best things I have ever done and it taught me so much.

That is a great example! And now, you now run an amazing small company called IN MY FEELS Dance! Tell us a bit about IN MY FEELS and how it came to be.

So, since I was doing my acting job in 2019, I stopped dancing as I didn’t have time. Then in January 2020, I started going to some dance classes on my own. Then the idea came to me about running my own classes that were not only about learning a routine, but I wanted to find a way to teach others about feeling confident and sexy. For me, I’ve always struggled with my body appearance and feeling confident in my body, but the times I feel my most confident and sexiest within myself is actually when I’m in heels and dancing! So, I put the two together and had an idea in February 2020 to teach high heels classes for all abilities about working on and embracing body confidence! I first started off by drafting some social media ideas and then did a post on Instagram to see if anyone would be interested to which I got an amazing response. Then, a few weeks after getting everything in place, I started up my classes. IN MY FEELS Dance has become such a passion and love of mine, and one day I would love to make it full-time and expand it. I feel so proud of myself for doing everything on my own, from finding and hiring a studio and choreographing, to running and editing my own social media posts, and interacting with the people who come. I have gone from never studying how to run a business to learning for myself which I’ve enjoyed so much.

Wow, you should be proud! Do you think that university would have been helpful in pursuing your business, or rather are you happy without having gone to university?

For me, I’m happy with my choices and that I didn’t go to university. I think about how, if I went, I wouldn’t have been offered the amazing opportunities I have in the space of the time I would have been at uni. I have also found that, from two years ago to now, my mind has changed completely as to what I want to do for a career; when I was applying to universities, I was applying to study to be an actress and performer whereas, after college, that changed completely as my passion now is running my own classes and my own business, which I hope one day can become a full-time thing. Also, I have now got myself a job where I am a support worker for young people with ranging needs from mental health to homelessness, which I now have a passion to be in work which works towards helping others in mental health. I think, if I did go to university, I wouldn’t have found these new passions of mine, so I look back and I don’t regret at all not going to university.

That’s really refreshing to hear. What advice would you give to a current sixth form or college student who isn’t sure whether to, or doesn’t want to, go to university?

Only you can decide what you truly want to go on to do. Although parents, teachers and friends can give you advice, at the end of the day, it’s about what you want to do and not what anyone else thinks. If you are unsure about whether you want to go to uni or not, or feel like you are only going because you don’t know what else to do, my advice would be to look for opportunities and what else there is. Until I looked, I didn’t realise all the amazing opportunities there are.

That’s absolutely true. On that note, if you could give your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t feel pressured to decide what you want to do for a career. That will come when the time’s right; there’s no rush to find that perfect job. You’ll end up having to go through some bad ones to find the good one. Although it’s hard and can feel pressured with social expectations, at the end of the day, the only person you truly need to listen to is yourself!

I love that! Megan, thank you so much!

How inspiring! While university is right for many, Megan proves that it’s not the only option when you turn 18. If – like Megan was – you’re unsure whether university is for you, that’s okay; navigate other options, explore your passions and – most importantly – take your time. There’s no rush and, through the plentiful other options you can pursue, you might just discover or start something wonderful!

Did you enjoy Megan’s story? Stay tuned for more inspiring chats with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Megan 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!

My favourites on Instagram: Enhancing the Instagram experience

Instagram. Us millennials and centennials are all guilty of spending hours on end scrolling through the app, consecutively double-tapping on aesthetically pleasing images that comprise our feeds as a signal of our liking, even if we haven’t read their captions entirely. The platform is renowned for its toxicity in encouraging users – particularly young people – to compare their lifestyles to that of how others present their “best lives” in tiny squares. While I have – fortunately – never encountered such an issue, what did occur to me some years back was that the platform would eventually become a monotony to me after engaging in such platitudinous scrolls. Hence, in recent years, I’ve personally made the conscious effort to continuously improve my Instagram experience, forming my now-perception of the platform as a “personalised digital magazine” by following plentiful accounts that pique my interest. With all the imaginative, insightful and inspiring content out there, rest assured there are Instagram creators for everyone which – once you discover and follow them – will satiate your feed not with toxicity, but delight. Perhaps this view of Instagram is somewhat business-oriented, influenced by the completion of my marketing-based master’s degree which often involved the exploration of Instagram as a marketing tool, but believe me: once you shape your feed to the kind of content that interests you by following brands, celebrities and influencers that you like, you will too begin to see Instagram in a whole new light.

Image description: An iPhone with a heart, a comment and a profile icon above

Hopefully, after that introduction, you’re now convinced to alter your Instagram habits and work to enhance your experience of the platform. If you’ve never engaged in such an activity, however, it’s probable that you have one burning question: how? The first step to personalising your Instagram feed is to conduct a cleanse of the toxicity; namely, unfollow those already on your “following” list who induce nothing but apathy. Then, you can begin to embark on your exciting follow spree. The spree should be exactly that: exciting! Still, if you’re unsure as to who or what you want to follow, first ask yourself what’s relevant to you, where your interests lie and what you’re passionate about. For instance: if you’re a student or graduate, a graduate page like Gals Who Graduate would be relevant to you; if you’re interested in blogging, a lifestyle blogger like Chloe Plumstead might further your interest; and, if you have a passion for beauty, an industry expert like Caroline Hirons can inspire you. If you know me or have been following my blog for a while, you might have figured that I implicitly used myself as an example there: a recent graduate interested in blogging with a passion for beauty. With that, below are my current top ten favourites on Instagram and why.

1. Caroline Hirons (@carolinehirons)

Again, if you know me or have read my blogs about my love for skincare and my favourites from Caroline Hirons’ Summer Kit (if you know, you know), this one might have been obvious. In her bio, Caroline defines herself as an “Advanced Aesthetician and Brand Consultant”, and many in the beauty industry refer to her as the “powerhouse” of skincare. Not only do I enjoy Caroline’s expert advice, honest reviews and detailed how-tos, but also her fearlessness as to calling out those that are dishonest, misleading and immoral; brands, celebrities, even the government (especially during the pandemic) to name a few. Whether you’re desperate to start a skincare routine proper or simply seeking a powerful voice to empower your feed, then Caroline is the influencer for you.

2. Lisa Potter-Dixon (@lisapotterdixon)

One of the first blogs I ever wrote drew on my realisation that I’ve always had a passion for makeup, but I didn’t know it until I discovered the joy that is Lisa Potter-Dixon and listened to her and Hannah Martin’s podcast Life and Lipstick. Previously the Head Makeup Artist at Benefit Cosmetics, Lisa is a freelance makeup artist as well as an author of three bestselling books, a lifestyle and beauty blogger and – most recently – the co-host of Five Faves of The Week, a podcast inspired by her “five faves of the week” on Instagram Stories whereby she reviews five of her favourite products each week. When I’m not on the shopfloor, my coworkers can find me in the staff kitchen enjoying Lisa’s IGTV beauty tutorials, PR unboxings and product comparisons whilst I devour my lunch.

3. Ateh Jewel (@atehjewel)

I discovered Ateh during one of Caroline’s infamous lockdown Instagram Lives in which they engaged in an important conversation regarding how we can all move forward following the horrific incident involving George Floyd back in May, where Ateh also reflected on her own encounter with a white woman who told her that black women can’t wear pink. Let that sink in. (If that doesn’t anger you like it does me, I don’t know what to say.) Ever since, I have been an avid follower of Ateh, an award-winning journalist and diversity advocate; from her enlightening blogs and her fun Wednesday Chat Clubs to the development of her FUchsia blusher (to say a big “F U” to said white woman) and Ateh Jewel Beauty which celebrates women of colour, her pink-heavy content is nothing short of delightful.

4. Chloe Plumstead (@chloeplumstead)

Chloe was one of the first bloggers I followed some years back now and my love for her content has remained. She is an extremely eloquent writer who covers petite styling (perfect for little 4’9” me), sex and relationships and life in your twenties. I can’t stress just how eloquently she puts the everyday occurrences in twenty-something life into words; her blogs, captions and stories alike read like effortless poetry. What’s more, her photos and videos exemplify the “aesthetically pleasing” content I referred to at the onset, but that which radiates only positive vibes. But don’t let her eloquence fool you; you might just feel obliged to purchase every product she wears, shares and endorses.

5. The Megan Edit (@themeganedit)

It’s not often I use the “discover” feature on Instagram now that I’m following an abundance of accounts to my liking, but one time I did during Lockdown 1.0, I came across the wonder that is The Megan Edit. I remember when I followed her, her follower count read “14k”; now, it’s no surprise that she has surpassed the 35k mark, with her smiley, mind-and-body-positive content which is guaranteed to brighten your day. From weight and mental health to fashion and food, Megan’s touches upon topics every twenty-something can relate to, and in an extremely refreshing manner. Oh, and – as a Musical Theatre graduate – she’s a bloody amazing singer.

6. Emily Clare Skinner (@emilyclareskinner)

I could genuinely look at Emily’s feed all day. Her current preset is a dream. The moody tones are stunning; yummy, almost. As a Fashion Blogger and Content Creator, Emily will bless your feed with on-trend fashion inspo, more recently through the new reel feature such as for her Pinterest-inspired looks and TikTok famous “outfit roulette”, and bedroom envy after her recent bedroom makeover. It goes without saying that she might also make your day as she did mine; after I voted on a poll on her stories, she sent me a DM to follow up on how I was – how sweet!

7. Bang on Style (@bangonstyle)

I’m awful at DIY; predominantly because I’ve never tried it. Debbie – the creator behind Bang on Style – however, is quite the opposite of awful at DIY; she is incredible at it. I always find myself in awe of her creativity as she upcycles almost anything, from a simple bedside table which now embraces gorgeous gold accents to a broken mirror which now serves a new purpose as a fantastic outdoor feature, and creates gorgeous décor like her recent leopard-print-patterned pumpkin. Debbie also shares her experiences of dating as well as funny tales aplenty which you can find on her highlights; the portaloo story cracked me up especially!

8. Das Penman (@das.penman)

Like me, I’m sure many started following Das after a couple of posts she created, again following the death of George Floyd, went viral. Nonetheless, succeeding these posts, Das shared an IGTV explaining that her account is not the go-to for learning more about racism and that those posts were the extent of her knowledge in the area. Even now, she encourages her followers to conduct research into such topics themselves. I follow her still not only because I enjoy her creative content around the areas she admits she is more up to speed with, such as mental health, but also because she serves as a reminder that we can all do better in our day-to-day lives in continuing to educate ourselves on matters like racism.

9. Lucy Mountain (@lucymountain)

Now, I’m no fitness guru like Lucy, and that’s the beauty of her content: you don’t have to enjoy fitness like she does to enjoy her content. I actually followed Lucy after The Megan Edit shared a post of hers which highlighted that cellulite is formed by fat cells contained by a different internal structure for males and females and that no amount of creams can change the appearance of such. Since, I have enjoyed Lucy’s informative and humorous content which, as she puts it, “passive-aggressively calls out the bs” related to fitness, diet culture and body image through photos and videos alike. What’s more, she recently homed an adorable cat called Stan – what more could you ask for?

10. Gals Who Graduate (@galswhograduate)

If you’re a student or graduate, I urge you to follow Gals Who Graduate. The page is an incredible support system for students and graduates, sharing stories from students both past and present covering the likes of internship experiences, the tediousness of job seeking post-graduation and graduating in the midst of a pandemic. They also have a Facebook page where members can ask almost anything and offer advice from experience to others. Gals Who Graduate reassures you that you are not alone in dealing with the struggles that come with student and graduate life and reminds you that you are part of a wonderful community.

Particularly in the current climate, it’s so important that we try to make light of every situation, especially social media as those of us on furlough or in similar situations are probably using it much more than usual and we know that it can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing without even realising. With that, I hope you’re feeling inspired to enhance your Instagram experience by following those like the above to satiate your feeds with delight. If you’re not already following these accounts, are you going to follow any now? If so, who and why? And, based on my reviews, who would you recommend that I follow? Let’s talk Instagram in the comments below!

Now, go – unfollow those you might have known years back but induce nothing but apathy now, and embark on a follow spree of joy for the better.

How to: write a good essay

Essays. The bane of every student’s existence, one might agree. Me? I beg to differ… to some extent. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the essay-writing aspect of both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; not only am I a passionate writer, but I was – and am still – deeply passionate about my courses of study, which made the processes of learning about, conducting research into and producing pieces of work based on such a hell of a lot easier. Throughout my studies, I saw every essay, fieldwork study and report – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis, as lengthy (albeit interesting) as it was – as an opportunity to develop my written communication skills; writing is a craft which becomes more easily attainable to master with every piece. Don’t get me wrong: like many students, I often lacked motivation to begin, continue and complete an essay; procrastinated some to the night before (and, in a couple of cases, the day of) its due date; and fought the very real urge to frustratedly throw my laptop at my bedroom wall – believe me. Nonetheless, my best pieces of work – on the basis of their grades and my satisfaction upon completing such – were those that I’d invested ample time into. As a student, it is only inevitable that you might not feel as motivated to produce some essays than others, but for when you are motivated, here are some tips on how to produce a great essay.

Image description: A laptop, a coffee and a notebook on a bed

Do your research

What good is an essay if you haven’t done your research? The point of an essay is to execute your argument in response to a question or statement posed by your professor in a clear and competent manner, and to acknowledge alternative perspectives to clarify the validity of your argument. Whatever the topic, make sure you do your research; investigate past literature on the subject by various scholars, identify gaps in the literature and consider how the literature can assist in explaining your argument.

Plan the structure

I can ~almost~ guarantee that every good essay ever written was planned. Hell, it was only possible that I achieved a first on the essays I started the night before because I had a plan; without a plan, I would’ve been screwed. Planning doesn’t have to be over-complicated; I planned most of my essays by creating sections and bullet-pointing under each section header the points I wanted to communicate. Be it a list, a mind map or a detailed proposal, whatever works for you – make sure you plan your essay.

Allocate enough time

Again, in my experience, my best essays were those that I spent the most time on. I know, I know – it can be hard to fathom how to best prioritise your assignments. But, once you do, I can assure you that you can make the time to write your essay. As I recommend in my blog about how to be more organised at university, invest in a diary, download a countdown app or even create your own study timetable to not only keep track of your deadlines, but to plan your time around producing your essay.

Proofread it all

When planning your time to produce your essay, it’s so important to incorporate enough time to proofread your essay. I’ve already written a blog on how to successfully proofread your work but, in sum, proofreading is a vital step in the essay-writing process because it enables you to not only identify any errors or mistakes you might have made as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, but also to ensure that you’ve covered everything you intended to. As per my proofreading blog, you can proofread your essay in a variety of ways.

Submit a draft

Most of the time, your professors will offer you the opportunity to submit a draft of your essay and, if they haven’t vocalised it, they will probably accept one if you ask. In any case, take the opportunity to submit a draft to your professors (provided you submit it approximately a week before the deadline) so they can provide feedback on the work you’ve already produced and perhaps offer some suggestions on how to make it even better. From that one draft, your essay could gain just a few more marks which can make a great difference.

Whether you’re heading into sixth form, your first, second or final year of university or your first year of postgraduate study, I hope these tips were helpful on how to produce a good essay!

As usual, I welcome all comments and questions in the comment section below or via the form on my contact page.

Happy writing!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

How to: proofread (essays, dissertations, theses)

Finally! At long last, you’ve reached the end of that seemingly endless assignment – the one that you’ve been working on day and night for the last 5 days straight, the one that you’ve been dreading most of all, the one that you deemed almost impossible – so, that’s it! Done! Finished! Complete! Right? Unfortunately, wrong; it doesn’t quite end there. After such hard work, there is one final – and vital – step that must be taken in producing a high-quality piece of work: proofreading. Whatever the assignment, be it an essay, a report or a dissertation, it is imperative to proofread it to identify any errors, mistakes or issues as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, clarity and overall presentation. Proofreading provides an opportunity to refine your work; of course, no assignment can be perfect, but proofreading can absolutely assist in boosting an assignment’s grade from a 2:2 to a 2:1 or a 2:1 to a first. Nonetheless, it is completely understandable that you might struggle to find the motivation to proofread your work after putting so much time and energy into producing it. As someone who loves to proofread (call me crazy, but it’s true; I even run my own freelance proofreading business), I wanted to share some tips for students on how to effectively proofread and when it is best to do so.

Image description: A flatlay of a laptop, a coffee and a notebook

1.    Allocate some time to proofread

I get it. When you have so many assignments to do on top of one another, it’s hard to try to complete them all before their deadlines with some time to spare for proofreading. However, this is a really important step in the process of completing your assignment for the reasons given in the introduction. Not only should you make a note of all your deadline dates (as I suggest in my blog about how to be more organised at university), but you should also set yourself personal deadlines to complete your assignments at least a couple of days before the official due date. That way, once you’ve finished the writing up of the assignment, you can close it, call it a day and proofread it with a fresh mind the following morning. It is also important to give yourself a break in between completing and proofreading the assignment so as to not fry your brain!

2.    Read it to a friend or family member

Sometimes, the best way to decipher the clarity of your work is to read it aloud to a friend or family member. Even though your work will most likely require specific terminology related to your field of study to demonstrate your understanding of such, a great way to think about how to produce a clear and concise piece of work is this: “if a lay person were to read it, would they understand it?”. That’s not to say that your piece can’t be articulate and/or include highbrow vocabulary but, particularly for a fieldwork study or dissertation, think of it as a recipe: if somebody – anybody – were to read your study, they could replicate it. Reading your work to a friend or family member that hasn’t studied your course will help you determine the clarity of your work. Likewise, you can ask them to read it to themselves and provide feedback on anything that was unclear (or not – it could be entirely positive!).

3.    If you don’t want to read, listen

Want to know something amazing? Microsoft Word has a function whereby it can actually read your work to you! What’s more, you can alter the reading speed and voice to your preference! It’s like listening to an audiobook of your work. Like I said: amazing, right? When I discovered this function, I didn’t stop using it to proofread my assignments. In listening to your work, it can be even easier to spot errors or mistakes – especially spelling ones as you can hear the word being said incorrectly (Word doesn’t always detect spelling errors or mistakes, particularly if it still spells a real word). It also provides some time away from the screen; while it highlights each word as it is being read aloud, you can stick your headphones in, close your eyes and just listen. This was my favourite method of proofreading throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

4.    If you don’t want to listen, print

Another great method for proofreading your work is to print it out. After spending so much time in front of the screen to type up your assignment, it can be difficult to spot any errors or mistakes on said screen when you come to proofreading it. However, if you print the assignment, it can be easier to identify such errors or mistakes because the printout is larger and thus sometimes clearer. Again, it also means that you can spend some time away from the screen and read it more peacefully. The best part about printing drafts, in my opinion, is that you can annotate all over them – you can cross elements out, add some words or sentences in and draw on any missing punctuation – and use such annotations for reference when you go back to editing it on your computer.

5.    Send a draft to your professor

If you’ve completed your assignment at least a week before the deadline, your module professor will likely be happy to read a draft and provide some comments either by using the comment function on Word, writing some overall comments in an email or sharing them in person. After all, it is often your professor who provisionally marks your work before it is sent to be examined externally, so there is no better person to read it than the person who runs the module! In my experience, my professors always told us when they were accepting drafts and, when I provided them, they were as helpful as they could be; unfortunately, they can’t tell you whether it’s fulfilled the criteria (they usually tell you that upon your final submission), but they can definitely guide you.

Overall, it is vital to proofread an academic piece of work for a variety of reasons. It demonstrates that you can communicate in a clear and competent manner, that you pay attention to detail and that you take pride in the presentation of your work; skills that professors and examiners seek.

As usual, I hope you found these tips useful and I welcome all questions and queries in the comment section below or via social media or email (you can find my contact details here). Alternatively, if you’d like more assistance from me with proofreading, you can visit my proofreading business website PavProofed.

Happy proofreading!

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 ♡

How to: be more organised at university

Anyone who knows me knows that I am really (and, sometimes, annoyingly) well-organised. After my distinctively short height (which I recently evaluated in another blog), I’d say it’s one of the first characteristics that others notice about me. Just a couple of years back, I remember one of my (many) aunties explaining to me that she remembers how – when I was really young – I used to place everything on my desk at home in a very particular manner, like ornaments facing certain directions and sitting specific distances from one another; still, everything sits symmetrically, orderly and well-aligned on my current dressing table (I could just be mad; I haven’t quite figured it out yet). There is no doubt that I adopted my organisation skills – or madness – from my wonderful yet hyper-organised mother who insists that the beds be made as soon as we leave them, that the washing be put away as soon as it comes off the line and that the kitchen worktops be cleaned twenty-four-seven (all of which, due to having lived with her my whole life, I too have adopted and agree with!). Nonetheless, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I realised that organisation is something that many people find difficult to grasp; it’s so imperative to my everyday life that I forgot that it’s not a trait of everyone. This blog is the first of a forthcoming series on how to be more organised in an array of life situations and is aimed at prospective and current students on how to be organised during their university studies.

Image description: A bullet journal that reads “January”

Being organised at university

To me, being organised at university was critical to my overall success in my degrees. It allowed me stay on top of my module requirements (which is important when undertaking multiple modules at once), keep track of deadlines (which is vital as assignments are often due in close proximities), and manage a healthy study-work-life balance (which is crucial to stabilise your mental health throughout your studies). I’m not saying that organisation alone will guarantee that first- or second-class honours as many other factors contribute to such, including appropriate studying of your course, the quality of your assignment submissions and your enjoyment of the course overall, but it does play a huge part. For which reason, I have offered a few tips on how to be more organised during your studies below.

1.      Folders, folders and more folders

Again, if you know me, you know that I love a folder. Folders are joy; folders are life (O.K., I might be getting a little too excited, now). The amazing thing about folders is that you can put everything you need in one little place. If I’ve lost you by this point, hear me out: for every subject module I took, I created a folder. In both my second and third years of my undergraduate degree, I took three modules per semester (twelve modules overall); over the course of my postgraduate degree, I took four modules in the autumn and spring semesters and completed my 16,000-word thesis during the summer semester (nine modules overall). That’s a lot of modules. How many modules you take – or can take – depends on your course of study however, everybody I know that didn’t study BA (Hons) English Language and Linguistics or MSc Global Marketing like me had to take many modules too since your overall degree classification is often determined by the culmination of your module and dissertation results. I organised my module folders like so: there are usually twelve weeks in one semester, ten of which are teaching weeks (as one week is usually a “reading” or “independent study” week and the final week is usually designed as a recap or discussion week), so I divided the folder using ten tabs for each teaching week. Under each week’s tab, I would place my lecture notes from that week’s lecture, any handouts that were provided either during the lecture or online that would assist in the completion of my assignments, and any further notes I’d made from relevant readings to that week’s topic.

Remember, these are just tips. I’m not saying that if you want to use folders, you must organise them like this. The beauty of folders is that you can organise them however you like and however works best for you. You could organise them by placing all your lecture notes in consecutive order under one tab and all other bits and bobs under another. Or, if you’d rather use one huge arch-lever folder for all your course’s resources, you could simply divide the folder by each module that you take throughout your degree. However, on my university’s online portal, everything was organised by week under each module tab on there also, so my folders corresponded with the portal whenever I needed to refer to a particular module and week.

2.      Folders… again?

If you’re not old-school when it comes to stationery like me and are completely down with technology, you don’t have to use physical folders to keep your work organised; you can create folders on your computer, too! On top of my physical folders (because I’m that organisation-mad), I created folders on my laptop which made it much easier for me to navigate my typed-up lecture notes, assignment drafts and any PDFs of readings I could save. For my master’s degree, for example, I created folders called “Autumn”, “Spring” and “Summer” for each semester (hella creative) and, within those folders, I created sub-folders for each module i.e. in the “Spring” folder were sub-folders titled “Global Brand Management”, “Financial Performance Management” and “Leadership and Change Management”. However, you don’t have to go so far as to making folders upon folders; you could simply create one folder for all your assignments and another for all your readings if that works for you, too.

3.      Use a diary

Ah, diaries. Another key to my heart. Diaries are ~ almost ~ just as brilliant as folders because, similarly, you can keep track of everything in one place: deadlines, meetings and any social events to name a few. If you’re not too fussed about presentation, you can merely jot these down under their dates; if you’re a little more creative, you can use different-coloured pens or highlighters for each event – for instance, red for deadlines (because they are ~ serious ~), blue for meetings and green for personal activities. Or, if you’re – again – anything like me, you might want to buy separate diaries: one for your university-related events and another for your social life. From my experience, the best places that provide excellent diaries for students are TK Maxx and The Works; I had one from TK Maxx that highly resembled my high school planner, and my current ones (yes, I have two for the very reason I suggested, except one is now for work as opposed to university) from The Works beautifully present the day- and week-to-view formats. Again, however, if you’d rather use the calendar on your phone or computer to note key dates, that’s a perfectly practical option, too.

4.      Download a countdown app

Now, not everybody gets on board with these because they can be quite scary when approaching deadlines and it occurs to you that you only have so many days to finish (or, in some cases, start and finish) your assignments. However, for me, a countdown app was really helpful in that it acted as a reminder of my upcoming deadlines as well as a clear representation of the order in which deadlines were due. Throughout my studies, I used an app from the iPhone App Store called Event Countdown where you can customise each event by assigning a relevant icon, colour and description to the event. I used it for both university and personal purposes as the reminder that I had a holiday, birthday or other exciting event coming up motivated me even more.

5.      Regularly check your university’s online portal

As I mentioned earlier, my university had its own portal whereby professors would share resources under each module, such as PowerPoint presentations of every lecture each week, handouts and important dates. It’s extremely important – and, ultimately, your responsibility – to regularly check your online portal as deadline dates, lecture and seminar times and professors’ office hours, for instance, are all subject to change. More often than not, your professors will remind you of such in your lectures and seminars or via email however, in some cases, you will only be notified on this platform (especially if you miss a lecture for whatever reason). It’s a good idea to ‘favourite’ the link of your university’s portal on your internet browser so that you can easily access it when necessary. Or, your university might even have an app version of your online portal which, for us millennials, is even easier.

As usual, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Prospective and current students, I wish you all the best in your studies, and… happy organising!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Living at home for university? Here are some tips from a previous off-campus student

University. When you think about it, what comes to mind? Living away from home, gaining a wealth of independence and having the time of your life as that independent young adult? While that is the traditional notion, living away for university is not for everybody, even when you think it might be (I lived away during my first year and, after encountering an unfortunate experience, moved back home and continued my studies from there). That’s not to say that living away for university is a brilliant experience for many; most of my friends did and loved it. This blog is predominantly intended for prospective students who will be living at home during their university studies and are worried about “missing out” on the true university experience. From somebody who lived at home for three years (second year, third year and master’s) and enjoyed every bit of their experience as an off-campus student, here are 5 tips on how to make the most of university life whilst living at home.

1. Make a day of your days on campus

What I mean by this is: if, for example, you have only one lecture or seminar on a Tuesday, be it in the morning, afternoon or early evening, try to make a day of it. If the lecture or seminar is in the morning, stay for some time afterwards to study in the library, explore the campus or socialise with friends; if they’re in the afternoon or evening, head to university a little earlier to grab yourself a coffee or a bite, complete some pre-lecture work or meet up with friends beforehand. Likewise, if you have several lectures and seminars in one day, like one in the morning and one in the afternoon, be sure to make the most of the time in between (without forgetting to take a break, of course). While the idea of enjoying a lie-in or leaving early from uni seems bliss (and is acceptable at times as a hard-working student), it’s important to get yourself both in the right frame of mind before entering a lecture or seminar where you’ll be listening to and absorbing a vast amount of information, and used to studying in the library where you’ll be spending a lot of your time when approaching deadlines and working on larger projects.

2.    Join or create a society

Towards the end of our second year, my friends and I collaboratively decided to create our university’s Linguistics Society. Joining or creating a society has so many benefits: if you’re simply joining one as a member, it provides a great pastime and distraction from your studies when you need it; if you’re establishing or joining one as a committee member, it provides an excellent experience to add to your CV. These were the premises to founding this society with my friends: we would all have a reason to meet up at least once a week outside of lectures and seminars as well as another role to further develop our portfolios (I held the positions of Treasurer in my third year and Social Media Manager during my master’s when my undergraduate friends were no longer with me *cries*). If you’re worried that it might take up too much time, know that you really don’t have to commit to much: my friends and I hosted a “study session” once a week where both second and third year linguistics students would gather to help each other with assignments, arranged a “film night” once a month playing a linguistic-related movie, and had the pleasure of occupying our own stall at our university’s Fresher’s Fair. I’m sure we’d all agree that these regular meetups were vital for our mental health during the completion of our degrees.

Image description: The Roehampton Linguistics Society founders after winning “Best Academic Society of The Year”!

3. Manage a healthy study-work balance

Undoubtedly, this can take some time to figure out, and what works for somebody else might not work for you as we are all different and have our own ways of managing our time. If you have or a looking for a part-time job alongside your studies but are struggling to decipher a good study-work balance, my suggestion is this: work as little hours as possible for your employer in the beginning, then discuss the possibility of increasing your hours once you feel more comfortable and have discovered your limits. During my first and second year, I worked on a 0-hour contract as a Crew Trainer at McDonald’s where I agreed with my manager that I would work only in the holidays (Christmas, Easter and summer); during my third year, I worked on an 8-hour Saturday contract as a Sales Advisor at Dune London; and, alongside my postgraduate studies, I started on a 4-hour contract as a Sales Assistant at FatFace, which increased to 8 hours a couple of months in, then 16 hours as I was promoted to part-time Operations Supervisor once my lectures had finished and I had only my 16,000-word thesis to work on. Further, make sure your employer is fully aware of your situation; I’m not saying you need to provide a copy of your study timetable to them, but kindly remind them of important upcoming deadlines and politely decline overtime when you feel unable to handle it. If you have to book time off around deadlines as holiday, do; at the end of the day, your studies at this point in your life come first and, if your employer can’t understand that, then maybe they’re not the right employer to work for.

4. Create a suitable workspace at home

A lot of the time, you will find yourself completing assignments from home; whether it’s the night before a deadline and you’re frantically typing away to complete it in time if you haven’t already, or it’s just a day off and you’re not required to attend university, your home will inevitably become a study place. In which case, it’s important to create a suitable workspace to complete your work. If you have a desk in your bedroom or another room in the house that is ideal for working on, be sure to make ample room on it for your laptop or desktop, books or excerpts from readings and your lecture notes (and, of course, the all-important glass of water!). If you don’t have such space accessible, or you’re like me and cannot completely concentrate or accomplish your best work from home (except for those said late nights when you’re on your laptop in bed and you absolutely have to by the following day’s deadline), why not journey to your local coffee shop with your study necessities and complete some work from there? I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in my nearby Costas, Caffè Neros and Starbucks’ (the Wimbledon branch being my absolute fave; the atmosphere on the second floor, involving an ambient combination of grey walls, subtle lighting and individual tables accompanied by a delicious soya latte was perfect whilst completing my larger projects), as well as in my lesser-known locals.

5. Make the most of your university’s facilities

There is so much to do on a university campus, and you certainly don’t have to live on campus to make the most of such. Spare some time to enjoy your Student’s Union; mine in particular had a food hall, its own Starbucks café and a bar, where you can enjoy both time alone for lunch or to give yourself a breather, or time with your friends to grab a bite together or enjoy regular pub quizzes. Use your university’s library; it is there for the benefit of your learning. It will have plenty of study spaces to study alone or with your friends, a plethora of books related to your course of study which your professors will more than likely recommend and direct you to, and – like mine – it will probably have a little café where you can comfortably take a quick coffee break (I realise I’ve mentioned coffee a lot in this blog; I am a tea- and hot-chocolate-lover too, I just can’t function without my coffee during the day!). Arrange meetings with your professors during their office hours; they are there to help you! And, if their office hours don’t work for you, you can always arrange another time or a phone call with them via email. Finally, embrace your campus’ surroundings. I attended Roehampton, London’s campus university, which possesses the most beautiful scenery and wildlife; it was perfect for exploring during a hard-earned break. Every now and then, take a walk around your campus and embrace the university that you chose. If it’s not a campus university, there are bound to be local parks and towns you can visit during your breaks. Especially if you’re spending an entire day at university like I said you could in the beginning, this time to embrace your university is crucial to your success and happiness there overall.

If you’re a prospective stay-at-home student and have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask below or contact me on social media or via email (you can find my contact details here). I hope these tips were helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your studies!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

I didn’t realise how into makeup I am until I listened to Life and Lipstick

Before I began studying for my master’s in Global Marketing in 2018, I had the slightest clue about business and marketing. The only understanding I had of the subjects before then derived from my 12-week marketing internship in London three summers ago which I sought as an opportunity to spruce up my CV, incognizant to the fact that it would later become a subject of interest and – better yet – a desired career path. Therefore, in order to prepare myself for a year of strenuous knowledge acquisition and intense research into an area I lacked such in, I tried to immerse myself into as much business-and-marketing related content around me as possible. The modules I would be taking covered the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management, so the answer to my wondering “what can I do to gain a better insight into marketing and brands now?” was a simple one in this day and age: social media. “On social media, follow all the brands that you like, and discover as many influencers that you relate to,” I considered. The best platform to do this on? Instagram.

I realised that, on Instagram, I was only following a minimal number of brands. I was predominantly following people I know from school, university and other walks of life. The only brands I were following were those that I’d either worked for or that would pop up under ‘people to follow’ that made me think “oh yeah, I like that brand”. I realised that I probably wasn’t receiving the full extent of the Instagram experience that was available, which is so imperative to marketing these days. So, after gathering all the brands I’ve ever liked or encountered in my mind, I went on an extremely large follow spree. I gazed around me as I sat cross-legged on my bed with the Instagram app open on my phone for inspiration; “a Dunelm duvet? Let’s follow Dunelm. A Cath Kidston moisturiser? Let’s follow Cath Kidston. A Fjallraven Kanken rucksack? Let’s follow Fjallraven”. And the bout continued. The most significant following of all, however, was Benefit Cosmetics. Soon after said following spree, I would notice that they would often appear on Instagram Live; on Tuesdays, in particular. At the time, Lisa Potter-Dixon, a long-time professional makeup artist, best-selling author and glitter enthusiast was Benefit Cosmetic UK’s Head Makeup Artist and, every Tuesday night, she would conduct a “Tip Tuesday” Live on their Instagram. Thus, every Tuesday night, the “@benefitcosmetics is now live” notification would emerge at the top of my screen. Little did I know that, from the first time I tapped on that notification and would watch the live video, I would become addicted.

“This woman is incredible!”, I thought, as I watched Lisa enthusiastically present her favourite Benefit products and expertly apply them to her flawless skin whilst amicably speaking to her live audience; “why have I not seen these before?”. By the time I’d engaged in these Instagram Lives a few times, the teaching for my master’s had started. And, when told in our E-Marketing module that, for our summative assessment, we were required to write a report that critically evaluated the digital marketing strategies adopted by an organisation of our choice on a social media platform of our choice… Boom! Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram came straight to my head. (I loved that about both my degrees; being given the ability to research into topics, contexts and brands of our choosing made the completion process so much easier.) My thinking as to following as many brands on Instagram as I could turned out very, very well.

Eventually, there was no way I could wait every Tuesday to partake in Tip Tuesday (such a millennial with a thirst for instant gratification, huh?), so I followed Lisa’s personal account on Instagram where I would discover even more delight; her “5 Faves of The Week” where she offers honest reviews of a multitude of products not just relating to makeup, but also fashion, beauty and lifestyle, her fabulous nails which I would often use as inspiration when I get my own done at the salon once a month (outside of lockdown, of course), and her incredible thigh-high vibrant pink boots which she pulls off so naturally to name a few. Then, one day (over a year ago now!), she announced that she would be co-hosting a new podcast with another stunner, expert and inspiration of a makeup artist, Hannah Martin, called Life and Lipstick. I’d been longing for a podcast that I could listen to with interest and not cut it short and turn back to my music (again, talk about a social-media-influenced short attention span), and this was it. Of course, I also started to follow Hannah who I developed as much admiration for upon learning that she once held the role of Pro Makeup Artist at Bobbi Brown, listening to her also honest and wholehearted product reviews and watching her excel at life as a busy mama of two, and my commute to uni for the foreseeable was sorted: listen to Life and Lipstick!

Episode 1 - Life And Lipstick | Podcast on Spotify
Image description: A photo of Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin, hosts of Life and Lipstick

After listening to their first episode, which was an introduction to their crazy but lovely selves and the podcast overall, I was sold. I adored listening to their stories about how they became makeup artists which shared wonderful similarities and differences; for both of them, it wasn’t something they particularly intended to pursue, similarly to the story that I shared in my previous blog about how I changed my mind from wanting to pursue teaching to wanting to pursue marketing. That’s what I loved about this podcast from the onset: it’s so relatable even if you’re not a makeup artist yourself. As the episode progressed, Hannah shared that her grandmother influenced her love for makeup and, likewise, Lisa explained how much her model mother inspired her when she was younger. It really made me reflect on my makeup influences; something I’d never taken the time to reflect on so profoundly before. It made me realise that, like Lisa especially, my mum has greatly influenced my makeup habits, too.

When I was in Year 6 – around about 11 years of age – I started to break out in clusters of spots on my forehead and chin. The thought of going to school with these uninvited, irritable lumps on my face was daunting. At the time, my mum used Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which she would also use to apply an ever so light coat to my face once I’d got ready for school in the mornings after I broke out and, my god, it worked a charm. A simple light coat of foundation to disguise the redness and unevenness across my face made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. When I wore it, I had no worries about feeling ugly, being picked on or feeling low, which wouldn’t stop consuming me when walking around in my bare-faced, acne-prone skin. As I progressed into high school, my acne gradually became worse and worse and I would rely on that foundation to make me feel better about myself. Of course, I couldn’t always use my mum’s as she wanted to use it for herself, so she kindly bought me my own Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation at the age of 12 not as a birthday or Christmas or any sort of occasion gift, but as a treat because she could see how much happier I was in myself when I wore it (thanks, mummy!). That foundation, then, was unknowingly the start to my impending makeup collection.

As a young teenager in high school, I inexorably developed a desire to play around more with makeup. Throughout my high school career, I woke up at 6:00am every morning, even though school didn’t start till 8:30; likewise, my mum woke up at this early hour every day even though she didn’t start work till 8:30, too. My mum always likes to ensure that she has enough time to wake up, get herself ready and complete some household chores before she leaves for work and I adopted this mentality from her whilst I was at school; I still like to be ready as early as possible for any event like work, a social outing or a date night. So, when I’d get ready for school and still have time in my morning to spare, I’d sometimes watch my mum apply her makeup and imitate her routine. I’d watch her apply her Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation gently with her clear-tailed Clinique foundation brush, apply her Clinique Lash Power Mascara (can you tell she likes Clinique?) flutteringly to her eyelashes and stroke her neon blue Bourjois pencil eyeliner carefully below her eyes. Obviously, I couldn’t wear blue eyeliner to school – or any makeup for that matter, but I ~ rebelliously ~ did every single day anyway (thinking about it, I can only recall having one makeup-related detention after trying on a super orange-tinted powder foundation a friend bought for me; either I did my no-makeup makeup look really well or my teachers loved me that much) – but I replicated many of my mum’s makeup habits when applying my own. Also, I couldn’t own as many high-end makeup products as my mum because I was only in high school – I wasn’t earning my own money – so I would buy most of my other makeup products like mascara, blusher and lipstick from brands available in Boots (I mean, their 3 for 2 deal has always been a winner) including the likes of Rimmel, Maybelline and Collection with either birthday, Christmas or pocket money (although my mum continued to kindly renew my Clinique foundation every time I’d run out – isn’t she amazing?).

Echoing my earlier statement, only after I’d listened to the first Life and Lipstick episode and reflected on my own makeup influences did I realise how much my mum’s makeup habits had shaped my own. Again, as I said, I’d never thought about it before; I merely saw makeup application as an essential part of my mundane getting-ready routine. Then, when my skin finally started to clear up by the time I was 16 and I no longer needed an “anti-blemish” foundation, I was eager – after 5 whole years – to try a new foundation. The summer I turned 16, I went to Brighton with my mum and walked into their Mac store – a brand I’d heard a hell of a lot about through word-of-mouth, but never experimented myself – and each of us had a lovely lady apply numerous foundations to our faces until we found the right ones for us. I can’t remember which one I purchased exactly, but I used Mac foundation for about three-to-four years until, for some reason, it began to disagree with me. That’s when I turned to Benefit, thanks to Lisa Potter-Dixon. After watching her use Benefit Cosmetics’ Hello Happy Foundation on a Tip Tuesday soon after it launched, I thought “I need to get my hands on this baby”. And so, one day after work in Kingston-upon-Thames, I headed to the Bentalls Centre and straight for the Benefit Cosmetics counter. The sweet Sales Consultant on shift applied it all over my face and, honestly, I felt rejuvenated. It was exactly what I was looking for; all I needed was a light coverage to conceal my acne scars. I don’t like the feeling of full-coverage, heavy foundations on my face, perhaps from my experience of using a light coat of anti-blemish foundation to cover my acne spots and adhering to a no-makeup makeup look for so long, and this foundation is anything but heavy. I’ve tried a couple of other foundations since, like Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Flawless Foundation (yes, it’s different – notice the word ‘flawless’), but I still use Hello Happy at present because it works so well for me.

The entire Life and Lipstick series was such a pleasure to listen to, especially the latter two seasons where they talk with an array of big names in the beauty industry including the powerful Caroline Hirons, the inspirational Zoe Boikou and the one and only Bobbi Brown; not only did it make me appreciate and develop an everlasting respect for the beauty industry, but it also made me realise how impactful makeup has been in my own life. Thanks to Lisa and Hannah (and the aforementioned Zoe Boikou from the very emotional episode in which she is featured), I now use the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used (from Zoe’s brand Zoeva Cosmetics; they specialise in high-quality makeup brushes which are INCREDIBLE), I can create the ~ almost ~ perfect feathered natural brow (which I receive compliments on so often) and I have discovered a plethora of inspiring women to follow on Instagram and engage in their Instagram Lives, Instagram TVs (IGTVs) and merely enjoy their content during my evening social media scrolls. So, Lisa and Hannah (if you were to ever read this), thank you!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

How I learned that it’s O.K. to change your mind about your career prospects

From the ages of thirteen to nineteen, I was so sure I wanted to be a high school teacher. Certain, in fact. I was so sure, I was doing everything I could to gain as much teaching experience as possible alongside my GCSE, A level and university studies to add to my CV. Six years is a really long time to be certain about the career path you intend to pursue – so long, the plan inevitably became like a comfort blanket for me. The notion of “knowing” what I wanted to do in the future made the journey there seem a hell of a lot easier. When it came to choosing my A levels, I didn’t need to think twice; I knew I loved English, Spanish and Dance, so those subjects I chose. I developed such a passion for English Language during my A level studies, I confirmed that’s what I wanted to study at university. In order to be a high school teacher, I knew I had to complete a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) upon completion of my bachelor’s. Basically, I had my life all figured out. Sweet. Done. Easy. Or, so I thought.

During my second year of university, I started to have my doubts and change my mind as to whether I still wanted to pursue teaching and, honestly, I didn’t know how to handle or respond to my thoughts. “I was so sure teaching was the career for me – why am I changing my mind now?” “Is it normal to start changing my mind so suddenly?” “Is it too late?” Because. Yes. No. They are the short answers to those three questions in consecutive order. The long answers? One: I was changing my mind then because I had been studying for my degree for almost two years up to that point, and I had learnt so much not only about my course of study, but also about life as a student, essential life skills and friendships to name a few; I continuously found myself inspired by my surroundings and was therefore growing as an individual. Two: it was normal to change my mind so suddenly as the plan to become a teacher remained subconsciously in my mind whilst I was letting my surroundings sink in; when the doubts found an opportunity, they hit like a ton of bricks. And three: it definitely wasn’t too late to start changing my mind because I still had a whole year to complete my degree, arrange meetings with my academic advisor and conduct some research into my growing interests; and, most shockingly of all, I was only nineteen. Of course, I hadn’t realised all this at the time; I was extremely confused and most certainly couldn’t find a solution alone. But, before I go on to explain how I approached my thoughts and accepted that I no longer wanted to be a teacher, let’s backtrack a little. You’re probably wondering why I was so certain that high school teaching was the career for me from such a young age. Here’s the story.

Image description: A road out of focus

Before thirteen, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what I wanted to do in life, but I had an idea; “something in English or performing arts” was my thinking. As I’ve said a few times on my blog now, writing has always been a passion of mine. Likewise, when I was younger, I was extremely passionate about performing arts; I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London every Saturday from the ages of about nine to fifteen and, as I’ve also mentioned before, I have always enjoyed writing songs. Then, when I started high school, I began to develop an ever-growing passion for contemporary dance. I found not only dancing myself, but also the professional choreographers and works that we studied exciting, intriguing and thrilling. When it came to choosing my GCSEs then, along with the core English, Maths and Science and mandatory foreign language (as my school specialised in languages), I went for the triple threat: Drama, Music and Dance. During our first year of working towards our GCSEs in these three subjects, we also completed work towards a smaller award called the Bronze Arts Award (which, for some reason, they stretched across one whole academic year when it could have easily been completed in one half-term). The requirements to complete this award for each subject were similar: for all of them, I remember that we had to give a presentation based on a person who inspires us in that area. For Dance, however, I specifically remember that we had to lead our own lesson, either individually or in pairs, which would be recorded to send to the examination board.

The lesson had to include the following: a pulse-raiser, a mobiliser for the knees and a physical game. We were required to create a lesson plan and write a script to provide to the examiners, too. I remember rehearsing my butt off for this lesson like my life depended on it. I had just begun my GCSEs; life was gettin’ serious, K? The night before, I read over my script again and again and again until I was somewhat satisfied. The day of, I was shitting myself. I walked into the dance studio feeling sick to my stomach. I was “number four” of thirty-odd in the class to approach the task, and the first to do it alone. I remember my teacher pointing the tiny camcorder (yep, that’s what was used back in 2011) toward me as I stood facing my classmates in front of the mirror-covered wall. I was holding my script shakily. “Ready?”, my teacher smiled. “Yep”, I responded hesitantly. Beep! The recording, and thus my lesson, begun.

To cut an already long story short: my lesson went really well. As soon as I heard the ‘beep’, I instinctively dropped my script to the floor beside me. It felt like it had just removed itself from my hands. I didn’t need it; I’d rehearsed enough, I guess. Beep! As the recording stopped, my teacher slowly brought the hand in which she was holding up the camera back down to her hip and blurted “how good was that?” to the rest of the class. Commotion. Everybody in the class was crying “Sophie, that was so good!”, “wow, have you taught before?”. Even those in my class who bullied me outside of class were saying nice things – I mean, what is that about? “You’ve got a career in teaching”, my teacher continued; “that was incredible”. At the age of thirteen, hearing that “you’ve got a career” in something feels pretty amazing; it provides a sense of confidence, achievement and direction. And so, from that day, it was decided: “I’m going to be a teacher!”. From that day, as I said in the beginning, I did everything I could to build my teaching portfolio: I ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club when I was in Year 10, I was nominated to be a tutor for a Year 11 English student when I was in Year 12 and I opted to complete the Volunteering In School’s Award (VISA) by helping my Dance teacher in her Year 9 lessons also whilst I was in Year 12.

Further, just before I started my degree in English Language and Linguistics, we were given the opportunity to elect one subject module per semester in our first year; the others were compulsory. Or, in place of a different elective module per semester, we also had the option to study Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) – another qualification which enables you to do as the title says upon completion – which would continue into our second year and thus take over a couple of elective module blocks in that year, too. “A teaching module? Tick.” When the teaching of that module – or qualification – began, I really enjoyed the first few lessons, predominantly because they focused on the recapping of English grammar, syntax, morphology, etymology, phonology; the nitty-gritty of the English language, which I’m an utter nerd for. However, when we began to learn how to teach this nitty-gritty content to a second-language learner, I didn’t enjoy it so much. “That rules out teaching English as a second language, then”, I thought. That was the extent of my thoughts. Notwithstanding, the unfulfillment of this module directed me to contact someone at the university about the possibility of discontinuing the qualification (and therefore merely gaining the amount of credits equivalent to that of one module) and choosing a different module to study in the spring semester, which was fine. Instead of the second part to TESOL, then, I elected a module called Language, Mind and Brain. “Now, this is what I’m talking about; this is what I came to study.” It was basically psycholinguistics, a branch of linguistics which is just SO cool, and it’s true; I came to university to study English Language and Linguistics, and this module was one awesome aspect of that. The other compulsory modules across the year covered semantics, phonology, grammar and discourse, which all contribute to what linguistics is about, too.

So, teaching English as a foreign language was a no-go. “Fine. No worries, I’ll just stick to teaching curriculum English.” Following this discovery, I decided to continue as I finally figured in my first year through to my second year; to choose modules that concentrated on the elements of linguistics that I was genuinely interested in, rather than bothering so much about choosing modules that partly aligned with my teaching plans. I intended to study for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s which would qualify me to teach anyway, so I decided to enjoy my course’s content while I could. Then, during one of my Forensic Linguistics lectures in the spring semester of second year, two third-year girls were invited into our lecture to discuss the opportunities my university offered to gain work experience over the summer through their internship scheme. “It’s so easy to sign up”, one said, “you just have to go to the website, create a profile, and when you see an internship post that sounds interesting to you, you just upload your CV and wait for a member of the internship scheme team to contact you!”. That does sound easy, right? So, when I got home, I entered the URL in my laptop, signed up, and on the home screen of the website popped up a plethora of internship roles in London which, once you clicked on them, had a job description and a “send my CV” button appear. It really was easy. Although I couldn’t find one teaching-related internship, I thought I’d try my luck and send my CV to any role which sounding interesting to me; incidentally, they were all related to social media marketing. Whilst I was studying, I was also working as a part-time Crew Trainer at McDonald’s, so it inadvertently became an opportunity for to develop my professional portfolio as opposed to my teaching one.

The next day, and I mean not even twenty-four hours after I’d sent my CV to various places, I received a call from a recruiter who worked for the internship scheme at my university. “Four of the employers would like to meet you tomorrow!” he cried. I was in a state of shock. What was it about my CV that made me appear an ideal candidate for marketing? The fact that I have a good command of the English language? That’s all I could think of. Anyway, the recruiter and I agreed that meeting all four employers in various places in London in one day was a bit absurd, so we’d arranged a date for two and would get back in touch to arrange the other two. The first interview I’d attended was for a twelve-week internship as a PR & Marketing Assistant for a luxury baby-and-children’s furniture brand. Again, long story short: the interview went really well, and the day after that, the recruiter told me the job was mine if I wanted it. “That’s great!”, I said excitedly, “but what about the other interviews?” It turned out that all the other internships were only intended to last between two-to-four weeks, so I cancelled the pending interviews, accepted the role as PR & Marketing Assistant in Central London and consequently, after almost three-and-a-half years, quit my part-time job at McDonald’s to focus on the internship (I wasn’t too worried about not finding another job during my final year; I was quite confident that, after this internship, I’d have ample experience).

Throughout my twelve weeks in this role, I’d gained experience and skills aplenty. I’d learned everything I needed to know about social media marketing for a small business; I learned how to use specific marketing tools such as WordPress (hence why I’m here!), Buffer and MailChimp, I created three-to-four social media posts daily for their social media and wrote blogs and newsletters weekly for their website. However, when I was offered an extension of the internship (namely, the opportunity to continue to work for them remotely or in store on the weekends alongside my final-year studies), I safely declined. My bachelor’s degree was very research-and-written heavy and, truthfully, I didn’t want to commit myself to having to write blogs when I had an abundance of assignments to complete. Nevertheless, when I’d started my final year, I’d arranged a meeting with my academic advisor and positively told her all about my internship experience. “Now I’m really confused as to what I want to do in life”, I said. “Do marketing”, she replied abruptly. “Marketing. You enjoyed that internship, right? That’s just a taster.” She was right; everything I did during that internship was just a microcosm of what a career in marketing holds. “I could do marketing, I guess.” And so, after a long, well-needed chat with my academic advisor, I’d decided that instead of studying for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s degree, I’d study for a master’s in Global Marketing Management.

I realise now that the reason I didn’t know how to handle my thoughts as to why I was changing my mind about what I wanted to do in life was because, as I said near the start, I was comfortable. I knew what I wanted, where I was going and pursuing my goals seemed pretty easy. Then, when I started to consider other avenues, I didn’t enjoy the feeling of escaping of my comfort zone and exploring something new. It’s like I almost believed that teaching was destined for me and that I shouldn’t even allow any other career prospect to enter my mind. Well, I was wrong. Studying for a marketing-based master’s degree was the best decision I’ve ever made; not only did it open my eyes to the business world and enable me to recognise the impact of brands on our everyday lives, but it also taught me an array of life skills that are essential in every workplace, something that teaching might have lacked. If you’re changing your mind about what you want to do in life, just know that it’s O.K.; I did, and it worked out wonderfully.