Surprise! I Got A Job.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram it maybe it's such a surprise anymore that I have a new job. For those of you who only follow this bog maybe it's a bit more of one. For those of you who follow my illustration business maybe there's a bit of confusion.
It's been 4 weeks now since I started a big girls grown up office job and it's taken me about this long to find the right words, plus the time, to explain what I have done and why I have done it.
Before we get into it though, I'd just like to shout out to those of you who've messaged me congratulations, those of you who have said sweet things about my work wear and of course, the biggest declaration of love to my best blog squad pals who cheered me on throughout the whole process. ILY.
What I did before;
So let's start at the beginning then shall we? As a bit of background for those who haven't read much about my career path so far - I graduated in 2015 from Wrexham University North Wales School of Art & Design with a degree in Illustration, Children's Publishing and Graphic Novels. I moved out in the June and registered my own business in the August.
For the last three years I have been working as a freelance illustrator which eventually morphed to include blogging (hello, hi) and technological admin, like website management, newsletters, etc etc so on and so forth.
At the same time I started my business my niece was born and the two became my whole life. From 12 weeks old I became childcare two or three days a week for my niece, and more when it was required and when I wasn't doing that I was working for myself. I also in that time learnt to drive and bought a car, moved out, co inhabited with Jos' family and then moved out on our own and renovated a house.
It's been a busy time and growing a business ain't easy at the best of times when you can put 100% into it. I have been shortlisted for awards, I have worked on tiny projects and big projects, I have had friends as clients and well known companies as clients. I do my own taxes, I created my own websites, I spend half my life filing and I negotiated the GDPR changes successfully.
Why I had to get one;
So why, three years on have I seemingly given it up for the office life I know a lot of you are familiar with?
Money. Money is the short answer.
But I would hate people to think that's because I wasn't making enough of it. I am hideously proud of my business and what I made of it. Every penny I earned was self made, every expense I put out was calculated, every sale I made meant I had money to put food on the table or put petrol in my car. I am fierce in my defence of my work and 'lack' of money wasn't the be all and end all of what I ended up doing what I am doing now.
I met my other half at the tender age of 17 when we were both in school and after 4 years of higher education we both moved back home with our respective parents and whilst I tackled the world of self employment, he went into a job to gain experience. For two years Jos was a carer for the elderly and the ill, providing care so they could remain in their homes, working 6 days a week, getting up at 5.30am and coming home at 11pm. He earned less than minimum wage, worked himself sick, drove his car into the ground with the amount of miles he was covering all to make life brighter for those he cared for and gain the experience to gain a place on a masters degree to become a social worker.
And then last year, with no place on a masters course and the realisation that actually, maybe he couldn't overhaul the flawed care system in the UK single handily, he jacked it all in, took a break to return to normal life and health and then about 15 months ago he started work full time running a cider company. Jos' family have run a cider company for the past 4 or 5 years and we have helped out when we can but with the success the company was having, plus finding himself without a job he knuckled down, became co owner and turned his hand to self employment and absolutely smashed it out the park.
So a year on from there in April 2018 we found ourselves with the realisation that we'd muddled by for a year, we'd both been working self employed and just about got by with savings and tiny bill invoices and suddenly it was looking more and more likely that our expenses were going up. My parents have been able to loan me money when I have needed money for big things like car MOTs and broken mobile phones but that was never going to last forever and the cash flow to my bank account ran out and whilst I have always paid them back, that was becoming slower and slower the more and more I took on. And the bills are always getting bigger and bigger, the savings are basically non existent and something had to give.
And that my friends was sadly my time as a freelancer. I am fortunate enough that I have been able to carve a routine for myself that makes my business flexible. When I am quiet the evenings and weekends are enough for me to function, I have always been able to take time off for my niece or to go away mid week when it's cheaper and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as self employed. But because of the very nature of my business, it was mine that had to give not Jos'. I can shut mine down and pick it back up as and when I need to whilst his is requiring full time work from multiple people and demanding more and more of them year on year.
Why I didn't tell anyone;
Apart from my parents and brother and Jos and his parents, the only people I told about my life move was my blog squad. I'm not going to pretend for a moment I was happy the day it came to a head and the decision was made and I gave myself that whole week off to mope and cry about it before I got my game face on and started job hunting.
I intend to write a blog post all about what it's like jumping from self employment to full time office work because it's very much the opposite of the current move we see most people making these days. But talking about it made me sad, people's reactions made me sad and I just wasn't ready to tell anyone about it until it was all confirmed and I was sure I had something in place.
Oh boy don't let baby boomers tell you jobs are rife because I knew it was going to be tough, but even I wasn't prepared for how tough. I started job hunting in mid April and I got my job mid July. In that time I applied for 85 jobs and got an interview for two, the latter being the role I am in now.
Again, maybe I'll write a post about this one day because I have a lot to say on the matter but applying for jobs when you have been self employed for the last few years is not easy. The constant rejections, the amount of people who write you off without a second glance at your CV, the people who try and help you because 'you've been out of work for a while'. No Jill, I have been working for myself for a while.
Despite one of us needing a regular income in the house I knew if it were to be me there would be very strict rules on what I'd 'give up my job' for. I knew that I wanted to keep my business open and work on it in evenings and on weekends so routine and regular hours were important to me. I wanted to be local so my commute wouldn't eat too much time into my bizz hours, I didn't want to travel around in work hours, I wanted regular pay, regular office hours and I wanted to avoid shift work, bar work and retail like the plague. For me, shift work felt like time I could be working on my own business, because those hours were so out of the norm adding more shift into it wasn't going to fly and I knew I'd not give up my own work for that even if I came down to having no cash. And believe me it came close.
I'd given myself till the end of August until I absolutely had to just take anything and believe me when I say it came close.
What I do;
Onto the actual job. I was applying for mainly secretarial, admin assistant, receptionist roles (and my aim was like a doctors or a dentists which couldn't be further from what I do now lololol) and I found my current job on a whim when I was expanding my search further into just 'administrator' roles. I applied the second week of July, had my interview 3 days later, had my offer the following Monday and started work on the 24th and the rest, as they say, is history.
It's not hard to find out what company I work for in the days of the internet but I'd still rather not splash it around if I can help it. I don't want you to know where my car is parked all day if nothing else. But I work really locally to my house, my commute is a mere 9 minutes and I don't bother getting up till 7.45am. My job title is 'training administrator' and I work for a training co ordination company for the construction sector. I had zero experience, I have learnt more about piling than I ever expected to know in 4 weeks and I am actually loving it so far. I worked 9am - 5.30pm full time, I don't earn a lot but it's regular and it's paying for my car and my bills and that my friends is enough for now.
What happens to my biz;
The crux of it is, I am keeping my business open. I have done zero self promotion in the last month with all this craziness going on so I'm very quiet work wise but it's open, you can order from me, I will still send things out to you and now I am slowly working on my new home office, I might actually be able to get it all kicking again.
I intend to work in the evenings when I have time and on the weekends, making it as flexible as I can and working out a new routine for me with a full time job. I am hoping once I am 'settled' it will include things like finding time to schedule tweets in the morning having my breakfast and whacking out a blog post or doing a post office run with orders on my lunch break but we will have to see.
And finally, onto your questions. I put some Insta stories out for any burning Q's you wanted answering whilst I eluded to what I did and then didn't write this for a month. Lol soz. I won't be answering Mel's question about my life as 'working girl' but the rest, hopefully I can shed some light on.....
What's your new job?
So aside from the aforementioned job description and brief company profile above, I would say my day to day job is split into two different camps; general receptionist duties and training administrator. The company is very small in terms of the office (and very big in terms of it's reach) and there is no receptionist or front of house role but my desk is literally the first one as you walk through the door. My general admin duties include going through the incoming post, taking the outgoing post (which involves a v nice walk in the afternoon by the river), answering phones, logging everything, ordering stationery, maintaining the printer etc etc etc.
The training administrator side of it is v different and not at all what I envisaged myself doing. The company basically provides training in house (inside other companies) or open course where individuals join to get more training or qualifications. My job is to assist both teams and when a course is booked, I get in touch with the tutors and then edit their presentations, print off all their notes, complete all the paperwork, create the files and ship them off 4 days a week around the UK.
Are you doing a design job?
Not strictly no. I knew from the off the chances of me getting a 'design' job as a graphic designer or illustrator, or working in a studio was very slim as I have been working for myself for so long. These jobs are also few and far between so yeah, I knew I wasn't heading for one of them almost immediately.
I suppose though, as office desk based jobs go and especially one so heavily based in admin, this is the most designy I am going to get. I edit the presentations on powerpoint, I format everything so it's all in line with our branding and I physically make up the paperwork and the files so yeah, as admin work goes this one is as design based as I think you could get.
What has always been your dream job?
Working for myself as a freelance illustrator -insert sobbing emojis here- . If we're talking DREAM jobs it's always been to be a published children's book illustrator but actually, my three years in self employment taught me I had plenty of other dreams like being a card designer that I would have been more than happy in.
How is your new job going?
Actually really really well. I was almost excited to start this job once I knew I had it because it if I was going to force myself into working life, this was definitely a role I didn't expect to land and I was thrilled. It's so bloody convenient to my life in terms of location and timings and the job is actually super interesting.
I found the first two days really overwhelming with loads to learn but my 'mentor' if you want to call her that only works part time so I was left to my own devices on the Thursday and Friday of my first week. Of course I had other staff I could call on for help and I have had to ask a million questions daily ever since but those first two days working on the job 'alone' pushed me to learn quick and I have been working away successfully ever since.
Has it been hard adjusting to a new routine?
I have actually slotted into it freakishly well. I have berated my lack of a good sleeping routine for years now but have very quickly found myself going to sleep at 11.15 prompt and waking at 7.45 with my alarm. I thought the days would feel really long and with my perfectly honed routine at home working for myself I thought I'd really struggle but I think I left myself no choice but to get on with it.
I have been insanely busy since I started my job. My life is busy anyway, crazily so and I think since starting 4 weeks ago I have had just two evenings where I came home straight from work without going somewhere else first. I have crammed so much in I have given myself no other option than to crack on and get on with it but lord I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to this upcoming bank holiday weekend.
How have you found adjusting your routine to a 9-5?
I kept this question in because it's worded slightly differently to the one above and feels more about how I have fitted my pre existing routine into a 9-5 (or 5.30 in my case) rather than how I have fitted MYSELF into the working routine.
My routine when working for myself was honed to perfection and that included getting more and more motivated throughout the day. I have always been a night owl when it comes to motivation and work and that's not changed when I was full time freelance, starting with menial tasks in the morning and getting onto the really creative stuff at night and that's not something I have changed.
I mean sure I have to work hard all the time now with no let up or pause to let my inspiration catch up but I always start the day easy with a to do list, my emails and the post or something that doesn't take up as much brain power. I leave the editing till before lunch and the boxing up for shipments till the afternoon and by the time I get home my brain is ready to go with all the ideas for my own creative business.
What's the hardest thing you've found in the transition into an office job?
Undoubtedly time with my niece. I wish I could put into words my relationship with that little girl because I feel like it'll be written off as 'just an auntie' but she has been raised by so many people and I am lucky enough to be one of them. She is three now, she is as old as my business and in September she starts nursery in a school. Since she was 3 months old I have been her childcare. I have not 'babysat' or hung out with her. I have been her childcare in the same way a day care or childminder would be. I have rocked her to sleep, I have spoon fed her, I have changed her nappies, potty trained her, picked her up, cuddled her, taught her, played with her and loved her for three years and the realisation that was coming to an end really took it's toll on me.
I have been coping with it really well. My Mum is an angel and picked up where I left off and has taken on the role of nursery drop off (which I had been navigating alone since April) and has made it so much easier for me because I know my niece is fine. But I miss her and she misses me and it's the latter part I bloody hate. I now just get to visit her or spend a Sunday with her and it's not the same, she seems older every time I see her and I worry we'll lose the bond we have if I am not around as much and I am stopping now because I am crying lololol.
What's it like having colleagues working with you in the same space? Do you find it motivating or distracting?
This was one of the questions in my interview after so many years of solitary working. I was in a very small studio when I was in uni and loooved having my besties there, but I also like freelance work and not having to rely on anyone, but it was incredibly lonely at times.
The office work I find completely separate from anything I have known before, not least because I literally couldn't do the job without colleagues. Like I mentioned above the office is tiny with only 7 of us when we're working at full capacity and most of my colleagues are part time anyway. It's an all female office and everyone works in 'teams' of 3 expect me who bridges both teams and I am actually loving it. I like having people to chat to, people to ask questions to, the snacks, the cups of tea, the giggles, the gossip and of course the half hour break we get for cake on someone's birthday.
How do you introduce yourself to new colleagues?
Bit of a tricky one for me to answer because I have not had to introduce myself to a single person because lol we're all in one room and were forced into pleasantries. I think in a bigger office it's more difficult to stop and say hi to everyone but I think if you make yourself known to those you have to interact with immediately and then kinda branch out then you've got a good starting point.
The thing I have really noticed and taken a great benefit from is remembering things. My colleagues have all worked together for a number of years so they refer to their kids/partners/neighbours/dogs with first names and it's a good idea to try and remember them so you know who you're talking about. Also if someone says they're off camping for the weekend or have a birthday coming up always remember to ask how it went. Little things make the biggest difference.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
How convenient it is for me has been a game changer. I live very very rural and working in a town has been a right novelty. Being about to pop out on my lunch break for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread when normally that would be an actual outing in the car has been a joy. See also the ease at which I can pop to the doctors or the dentist and be back in time for the next boil of the kettle. My commute is tiny, I can leave it till 8.52 and still be at work when the phones come on. My friends live in that town and we can meet for lunch. I can come home in a lunch break if I need to. And it's 15 minutes from my Mum's and 20 from my brother and 25 from my Nan and I didn't quite realise how much I'd appreciate being home so quickly after clocking off for the day.
What have you been taking for lunch?
A girl after my own heart. On the first day I went to Costa and spent such an obscene amount of money on a toastie and a drink I vowed to take my own lunch every day since. I try and make a bit extra of something if I can when I am making my tea so I've had mac and cheese one day, leftover fajitas another, potato salad, cold sausages etc etc. But if I haven't made a leftovers appropriate meal I try and make something in the morning like a sandwich or put wraps and fillings in my bag and make them up there. Every day I also take a bottle of water, we have tea at work (as well as biscuits and chocolate) and I try and make up a pot of fruit as a mid afternoon snack.
How the hell did I miss this?
I had a LOT of messages like this, particularly from life long friends who found out via Instagram. Sorry for the lies I told.
Where would you like to be a year from now?
A good one to end on I thought? When I first started job hunting I placated myself that this was a temporary move, that I'd be able to go back to full time freelancing again in about two years when all our bills have stabilised and yes, eventually that is still the dream. But maybe not as soon as I initially thought.
I know it's early days, I know I am only 4 weeks in but having seen how flexible my business can be and having seen how my colleagues have fitted their jobs into their lives, maybe I am more open to staying in full time employment than I first thought. The women that work part time, the women that have returned after having their first and second child, the opportunity to have a regular income and still do what I love is looking all the more appealing.
So a year from now I'd like to see myself in the same job I have now, happy, working hard and feeling the rewards in my savings account.