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Home » What I Wish I’d Been Told About Work and Careers As A Teenager

What I Wish I’d Been Told About Work and Careers As A Teenager

    Figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life as a teenager is both hard, and sometimes slightly misguided. At school, the path outlined was always school > university > 9-5 job > marriage > buy a house > babies > try not to get divorced. Other routes were never discussed. No one ever reply talked about success as anything outside of this system. Becoming a “shelf stacker” or working at Mcdonald’s was an ultimate life failure. 

    I made a friend in my twenties who has worked hundreds of different jobs. He eventually settled on shift work for a train line, working either very early or incredibly late. Why? Because it enabled him to travel. He could use the batches of time or days where he wasn’t scheduled to go travelling, and if he timed it with holiday shifts he could be off for even longer without killing too much of his annual leave. The work isn’t particularly stimulating, but it allows him to do exactly what he wants to do. (His YouTube channel is pretty awesome by the way, check out XYZ to see what he gets up to). 

    I met him during my transition from the 9-5 mentality to where I am now, fighting to remain remote in my work life. Seeing a grown adult take a different path helped me a lot to see an alternative way of living. I then met my Mr, who is able to work completely remotely and still do very well financially. It completely flipped my view of life. Covid allowed a lot of people to work from home, at least for a while. To meet someone who had been working remotely for almost a decade was a shock to my slightly sheltered system. 

    My Career Journey

    I’ve worn a few hats in my various career paths. While I was at school, I used to spend any time I could get off between and around school doing runner, junior post-production editor, production secretary and any other role I could bag in the film & tv industry. It was exciting, I spent a lot of time in London with people much older than me from all kinds of backgrounds and with a variety of temperaments. It was a fantastic life experience, I was very lucky to have the opportunities I did, regardless of how hard I worked on the jobs. I couldn’t have done any of it without my parents supporting my choices. 

    My early twenties were devoted to a start-up business as an Executive Personal Assistant. This time in my life was very much focused on becoming the cliche, strong, corporate businesswoman with the intention of changing the world for the better. I learnt a lot about how to be organised, how to understand, plan and execute processes, as well as general life experiences that made me who I am today. 

    I moved on from that time in my life for various reasons and found that the thing I love to do most in this world is writing. Blogs, books, I write every day, and have done for the past 4 years now… My other love is travel. I was lucky enough to be in a position to take a work hiatus, allowing me time to decide my next moves. (This was a great example of why having savings can save your life.) 

    My Wishes and My Options

    I made the unfortunate discovery post-covid pandemic that the majority of companies no longer want to offer roles that are truly, or primarily remote anymore. Getting people back into their offices is a priority for many companies. 

    Many career paths allow for remote work, but mine was not one where this was often possible – especially if you wanted anything less than full-time hours. I came to the conclusion that Personal Assistants are more often than not expected to be available at all times. Although many state that they will keep to regular working hours, in my experience I was on the clock 24/7. A text in the evening or in the middle of the night, a call at stupid o’clock in the morning to make sure I brought something in for my early start, or asking me to stay in just an extra hour or so to help them finish a job they should have already done when you put it in front of them on the “urgent to do’s” pile… To them, they are simply asking me to remember things for them, or assist them as per your job description. 

    To never be able to switch off from work is, long-term, quite debilitating. I realised that I would much rather be putting that level of attention and energy into my family and loved ones, drawing a line under the career-focused part of my life. I absolutely understand what it is like to love that kind of work and seek that career-focused future. Being good at what you do and working hard to be the best at something is exhilarating. 

    My new aim was to work so I could live the life I wanted, not work and that be my life. I wanted a certain level of control over my working hours. I did not want to be paid less than the price of a cup of coffee per freelance role either (yes, I am referring to the people on Fiverr and Upwork who have the audacity to offer £3 for an hour’s work. Shame on you.) 

    Although “Virtual Assistant” is an existing job role, the pay is often tuppence. I looked at a lot of different job roles that I could fulfil, both employed and as a freelancer, that would allow for remote work (even better if part-time was an option). As you can imagine my options were scarce. I never attended university for these reasons. The lack of a degree did limit me further, but it never made me change my mind about not wanting to attend university. 

    My work situation was made even more complex by my desire to move away from my area. I lived in the southeast; my boyfriend was in the north. Getting a waitressing job was less pay for a daily commitment that tied me to an area. The rare part-time work available involved being in an office either half a day every day, or 3 days a week from dawn till dusk. 

    I needed another way. My books weren’t likely to help resolve the situation. Traditional Publishing is often a 5+ year journey and self-publishing is a huge undertaking that requires either a lone or self-funding. 

    How I Moved Forward

    I am taking up bookkeeping (a stable and strangely satisfying job) to keep me afloat. Then I can focus all of my energy on working on what I really wanted to do with my life; writing. I am still on the journey to becoming a published author, and I am very proud of this blog. I am still on the path, and it feels excellent. 

    If you dream of running your own business or being the master of your own time, find a job or train as something stable that enables you to do what you truly want to do until the point where your passion is paying the bills. It sounds incredibly boring and frustrating, BUT, that stable job will allow you to be independent. It could enable you to go backpacking for 6 months or to buy that very expensive tickets to a festival, or put a roof over your head when you are late checking in to your campsite and need somewhere to stay (been there, done that). A stable job funds your passions and gives you a solid step to then help you rise to becoming who you want to be and doing exactly what you want to do. I discuss all sides and aspects of this particular subject here, but for now, just know that life often involves steps. It isn’t always possible to do what you want to do straight away; working up to it is part of your story. 

    What I learnt from these experiences

    You can be whatever you want to be 

    Pretty much anything you can think of is a job somewhere in the world. I have seen people in Thailand who water plant beds all day, every day, for hotel construction sites. In Madeira, I met a couple who run paragliding sessions from their cliff-side backyard. You can train to work with any animal under the sun. You can make money as a bird-watching specialist. You can do absolutely anything for a job. There will be a country in the world that does what you want to do and will allow you to become who you want to be. 

    There will always be a way to make something possible

    Fundamentally, if you really want something, you will make it work. You will find a way, even if you have to go down roads that do not suit your current desires. You may want to instantly have money in your bank account and to be able to travel right now, but if you do not have the money; you need to find a way to make it to do what you want to do. Maybe you take a job at a cafe or work three jobs at once for a year so you can be away for a year. You could teach yourself a skill, walk people’s dogs all hours of the day, then babysit in the evening. Where there is a will, there is a way. Another one of my favourite sayings is; “I will either find a way or make one.”

    Learn to be organised

    I have written a whole blog on why. No one ever explained to me a genuinely good set of reasons why I should be organised, tidy, and thoughtful about my actions and habits. So here it is for you. 

    Health is wealth

    I have made myself ill on many an occasion from overextending myself. It ends up being counter-productive as you need time to recover from overdoing it. I could have simply taken it slower and been kind to myself. 

    Your mind can greatly limit you

    There is a phenomenon that too-much choice can leave you too overwhelmed to make a choice. I didn’t comprehend as a teenager that I could do anything in life. I could dedicate my life to becoming an astronaut. I could live on a farm with hundreds of cats. I could make chocolate for a living. I could build and run hotels, design wedding dresses, open my own bakery, become a food taster or wine connoisseur or move from hostel to hostel around the world working local jobs wherever I went until I felt ready to move on… Don’t limit yourself to a one-size-fits-all life. If you enjoy something, and you want to do it all the time, find a way to make money from it. Put it this way: chicken-cam exists. Someone, somewhere, makes money by life-streaming chickens. I rest my case. 

    I wish someone had truly explained to me what the words “you can be whatever you want to be” actually means. Everything can be broken down into steps towards a goal; anything is possible. Explore. Ask questions. Make quantifiable plans and hold yourself accountable. You never know how far you’ll go until you shoot for the moon. 

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