Tuesday, 24 January 2017

LET'S TALK: Jobs and Careers

When you’re younger you always have in mind what you’d like to be when you grow up.

‘When I grow up I want to be a vet’
‘When I grow up I want to be a doctor’
As a toddler - ‘When I grow up I want to be a fireman’ – I loved Fireman Sam.
In my teens – ‘I want to be a journalist’
At university – ‘I want to go into children’s book publishing’.
The reality – you leave education and what do you do? Do you just get any job to save up, pay the bills? Do you carry on with education? GCSEs, A-Levels, Degree, Masters. Do you go off travelling? Do you pursue your career goals and do an internship?
It’s hard to know what is the right path to choose. But that’s the thing, I don’t think there is one right path. People get to different places in their life in different ways and at different times.
I went to a dinner for work, over a year ago now, that really inspired me. The guest speaker was the Sourcing Director of a world- renowned designer fashion brand. Like me, she’d done an English related degree – Language and Lingustics to be precise (mine was English Literature, Language and Creative Writing). She left University and gained a position on a graduate scheme with another world-renowned company, this time in footwear. She’d done various jobs, all for fantastic companies, later in life decided to go back to University to learn Chinese and find out all she could about business in China. Fast forward a few years, fantastic job offers left, right and centre and now she works in an unbelievable position for one of the most prestigious companies in the world.
Would you say that is a ‘typical’ route to finding the career you want? Probably not. But that’s my point – there isn’t one.
Individually we must create our own route to finding that job, that career. Maybe we don't even want a career.
Some of us might not be career driven and that really isn’t a bad thing.
Everybody is different.
I suppose my path so far has been fairly typical of many graduates, not just in the UK but around the world.
I attended school until I was 16, leaving with 12 A*-C ‘s. I left school and went to a sixth form college in the city, leaving with 3 A-B A-Levels and 1 AS. I went to University to study English Literature Language and Creative Writing – three years later, leaving with a 2:1.
I’ve worked since I was 15. First at a Toyota dealership as an Admin Assitant (with a bit of showroom hosting in there). I stuck that job out until I was 18 and  went off to Uni. I learned a lot about myself, my confidence blossomed and I think that was a stepping stone into making me the person I am today.
When I arrived as a fresh-faced 18 year old in Sheffield for what later will have been confirmed as the best three years of my life so far, I got a job at Topshop. Starting as a Christmas temp and soon becoming a permanent staff member.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the hours I wanted – my degree involved only 8-12 hours of actual time in University so I needed something to do other than read 5 books each week. I eventually rocked up at Costa for an interview, hungover from the night before but I was incredibly honest, I said I was thoroughly enjoying my first year at uni and I wanted a job with more hours, a customer facing job where I could rake in as many hours as possible and then go off home at the end without worrying about work.
I waited three months before hearing something, in the meantime returning back home for the summer and working every hour under the sun in a local village pub.
In September I got a call from Costa and was offered a Barista postion. Which eventually turned into a Supervisor postion and the coordinator of all charity related events at our store.
I loved that job. I loved making coffee, getting to know our customers, the team I worked with. It was a hard decision whether or not to leave.
Back in July 2015 I had an interview at Sheffield University for a marketing role. Coincidentally my interviewer was a customer at the Costa I worked at.
I was told I was great, there was little negative feedback other than that I needed to be less humble. But who likes to brag? I was pretty upset I didn’t get this role. It was my first interview for a full time role. And I’d always got jobs. I’d never been told no and I found that to be a little dent to my confidence.
But I’d graduated and Costa was still okay, I just needed more money. Shortly after I’d been interviewed for a job working for Jaguar as a Marketing Coordinator – a role I’d been near-harrassing them about getting back to me about for a while.
I got the job.
I left Costa in the August, had a couple of weeks off then began my new, full time role with Jaguar. My first ‘proper’ job, I suppose.
I have an amazing 12 months working for Jaguar, I loved the people I worked with and am still incredibly good friends with one or two of them.
I always knew that role wasn't forever. It was a branch level job with no real room for progression within the office.

I decided to leave to travel. I wanted to see more of the world.
I’d had a horrible break up. I needed to find my place in the world, as cliché as that sounds! But, that gave me the kick up the bum I needed to book a one way flight and have no real plan.
Whilst travelling I worked as a babysitter in Perth and in a café as a barista and focaccia goddess (self proclaimed, of course). I love working in hospitality. In those laidback, barista/café environments. I definitely wouldn’t have coped with restaurant work, I’m too clumsy.
I travelled for around a year, seeing South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. When I left Australia to return home, I panicked.
I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do. But looking back, that was okay. Our minds can be changed in so many ways, so it’s easy to accept a job we once wanted to pursue isn’t right for us anymore. I’d started looking into jobs in publishing, mostly children’s book publishing. The best route? Internships. Mostly unpaid or for no more than £500. All in London.
I’d just come back from a year travelling around the world. I had zero money. How could I live in London with zero money on £500 or £0 a month. It wouldn’t even cover any rent.
Was it worth taking the leap to basically live a life I wasn't sure I wanted? At the time I thought no, it certainly wasn’t.
Of course, I was upset that, at that time, I couldn’t go down the path of the career I thought I wanted but sometimes it’s all about timing, isn’t it? I got a temping job as a Quality Control Administrator for an educational suppliers company. The position was for 8 weeks.
I hated it. So much.
Nobody was that friendly, apart from another one of the temps but we didn’t always see one another outside of lunch. Even then, he wasn’t always at the same site.
I was DESPERATE to get out.
Luckily the time went fairly quickly and I managed to save a fair amount. And, at the time, the money coming in was the important thing. It was also a role that didn't need to be thought about outside of office hours. Although, I did. I felt stressed about having to go everyday. Moral of the story? Having money and enjoying what you do day to day don't always go hand in hand.
At that point my ex and I were still together so I’d become applying for jobs in Northampton. We'd met whilst travelling, he didn't drive and I was back and forth to Northampton every weekend. It wasn't a long drive but it was tiring and, to be honest, I missed spending time at home.
I had an interview at Northampton College for a marketing position. Two positions actually. One more of an assistant role, one more of a managerial role.
I was told they had no negative feedback – for one role I was far too overqualified. For the other the chosen new employee had worked in education before.
I had a few recruitment meetings, all of those I met being pretty unhelpful. None of them understood the kind of role I wanted. None of them, I believe, really saw my ‘worth’. I was even told by one that it was unrealistic to anticipate getting a really good role at my age.
What’s age got to do with it? Yes, it’s about experience but it’s also about you as an individual. It's about personality, having life skills that can be adapted to learning a new role.
Anyway, one day I was in Nottingham after having a weekend in Northampton with then-boyfriend. And I was a wreck. I was questioning our relationship, I was scared to move away from home and in with him when I didn’t have a job and I'd pretty much confirmed then that he wasn't what I wanted in a boyfriend and I was pretty adamant I didn't particularly even like him as a person (but that's another story!) I had convinced myself nothing would ever be good for me and that I'd made the worst mistake coming home from my glorious nomadic life.
This was the day I had an interview with Marks & Spencer for a Marketing Executive role for their food side of the business. I cancelled the interview. I was a mess, I decided it wasn’t the right role for me anyway (London based – oh how I wished a year on for London based job!)
Then the phone rang. It was Donna from a recruitment company. They’d seen my CV online and she thought I was perfect for a role. A marketing assistant role, not great pay but with travel sometimes, great networking opportunities etc etc. But I felt so rubbish.
“I’m actually in Nottingham, is there any way I could come for an interview tomorrow?” I asked.
“Well no actually, the interviewers aren’t office based and are only there today until 5pm” Donna said.
My Mum looked at me when I got off the phone.
“It’s a sign. This is the job you’ve been waiting for.” She’d said.
It probably all sounds very silly and overdramatic, but she was right.
I hadn’t even heard of the company. I didn’t know what they did.
“I won’t get this. What's the point?” I cried.

I got in the shower as my mum read sections of their website to me. I got ready, drove down there within 2 hours, parked up and arrived, totally flustered.
I sat down, chatted to them. Well, rambled basically.
I used a lot of the material I’d read up on for M&S. Maybe it was relevant, maybe it wasn’t.
I spoke about my blogging, my travelling, my love of meeting new people and being in social situations.
They seemed really interested in what I was saying.
I thanked them for the opportunity and for seeing me at such short notice and left. Not thinking anything of it. 10 minutes later Donna from the recruitment place rang me and offered me the job officially. The pay wasn’t what I wanted but MAN, the job.
Travel, meeting so many new people, so many other things I can’t even begin to list.
I took it and I started a week later. Working from home initially on their website and then in the office the following week.

The start of my job there was rocky. I didn't always feel in control of what I was doing.
Even so, I still was enjoying myself. In February I had my first trip to Milan, which was great. Then I got back and the current Events Manager handed her notice in.

I was called into a meeting and, despite my lack of experience, offered the chance to have a go at the role. Of course, I said yes - ALL that travel and my first solo trip all the way to Shanghai in a couple of weeks time. Why wouldn't I say yes?

Fast forward to the end of 2015 and I'd clocked 30 flights, 10 new places and some very permanent bags under my eyes. Would I change any of it? Not at all. I love what I do, the people I work with, the places I go, the opportunities I've been given and the opportunities I may be met with in the future.

2016 begun and I was into the swing of things - booking the tradeshows, seeing new companies coming through, travelling on an almost-monthly basis. Yes, it is brilliant but it can be incredibly tiring and contrary to popular opinion, I do work while I'm there - long days and long evenings.

So why are you telling me this? I can hear you asking. Well, I had no idea where my career would begin or where my degree would take me. I had no idea where I'd have to move to, the friends I would make. So much is uncertain in life, let alone in jobs and careers. Sometimes you are given an opportunity. Sometimes you think you'll never get your big break, then one day, BAM - it's handed to you or all of that hard work you've been putting in leads opens a door. There is no shame in not knowing what you want to do with your future, or not knowing where you want to work, what you want to do or not being where you want to be at the moment. If you work hard and believe in yourself, it's true what they say, ANYTHING is possible.

I would love to go travelling again, I want to see the world with that backpack on, with my harem pants on, my messy accidental-dreaded hair, my freckled nose from too much sunshine. I want to get married and have my fairytale woodland wedding (with a kettledrum, non-negotiable), I'll have children (at least two, being an only child is lonely!) I hope to do all of the things I want to do, I have no fear in admitting that.  But I'll also kick ass in my job, in my career - whatever the next step is. One day, maybe my CV will read Louboutin or Mulberry, maybe it won't. But that's my point, you never know what's around the corner - it might be everything you've ever wanted, it might be everything you didn't know you wanted or it could be an experience to provide a stepping stone in the right direction.

One thing I will say - don't ever doubt that you can achieve the things you want or that you don't deserve the things you are able to achieve.

Friday, 20 January 2017

ATE AT: 5 of my favourite places to eat in Riva Del Garda, Italy

I will never, ever tire of visiting Riva del Garda.

I'm lucky enough to travel there twice a year (January and June) for work for a footwear tradeshow and I wanted to tell you my go-to restaurants. As you'd expect from a place like Riva del Garda, the bulk of its restaurants are Italian restaurants. In the last year or so, a few other places have popped up (a sushi restaurant, for example) but in pretty much every restaurant you should expect to see menus full of cheeses, meats, pizza, pasta, fish dishes etc.
I'm a creature of habit and tend to go to the same restaurants these days, mostly out of convenience as they're close to my hotel or in the town.

I used to stay at the Parc Du Lac but this January stayed at the Savoy Palace Hotel. The Du Lac is incredible! The gardens are unbelievable and as you make your way through them, you are brought out straight onto the lake. Whilst it is a fantastic place to stay, for the amount of time I'm in the hotel during the days for my work trips, I decided to try somewhere cheaper for this trip. One of the British companies that attends the tradeshow I attend stays at the Savoy Palace and recommended it to me last year. I must admit, although not as modern as the Du Lac, the place is great. The staff are lovely and, I found, you get a lot more of a personal welcome at the Savoy than at the Du Lac. The breakfast is good, the rooms are typically Italian but very spacious, have balconies with great views of the mountains and surrounding area. Also, the beds are VERY comfy, which is a complete rarity in Italy as the matresses are usually really hard and the pillows are even harder.
Anyway, back to the food. I'm always open to trying to places in Garda as there are SO many restaurants to try. Both times are visit are slightly out of season, especially in January. A lot of places are closed but the main ones stay open whilst the tradeshow is on.

So, here are my five favourites:

The Pizzeria @ Residence Centro Vela - Viale Rovereto 101.
This is probably the place I've eaten at the most when staying in Riva del Garda. The menu is enormous, hosting everything from your typical pizza, pasta and antipasti dishes to the salmon trout that is famous in Garda. The staff are always very helpful and the food is always great.  

Hotel Bellavista - via Franz Kafta
Another place I've eaten a few times, Hotel Bellavista has some seriously good food. My favourites are the Tomahawk steak (which is definitely a sharing main!), lobster tagilatellie (SO good but a very big first course!!) and the salmon trout is cooked perfectly. The staff are so lovely and the service is really good.

Hotel Gardesana - via Monte Brione 1
The sister hotel to Hotel Bellavista, Gardesensa has the same chef and the food is equally as fantastic. All it doesn't have is the beautiful view of the lake...and the menu is more restricted.

Surfer's Grill, Torbole
A 5 minute drive from Riva del Garda, Torbole is home to the lovely Surfer's Grill. The staff friendliness is slightly lacking but the food is delicious. I've only been the once and had the mushroom, soft ricotta and beetroot tortellini and it was delicious!

Al Volt - via Fiume 73
Renowned for being one of the best places to eat in Riva del Garda, the Volt has never disappointed. I've probably eaten there three of four times now. Another place you really do need to book as it gets busy. Al Volt is Michelin listed and has the most quaint architecture inside. A must try is the fruit sorbet dessert - frozen sorbet inside the skins of the fruit...whilst sounds a bit weird but the sorbet is delicious. I've had a number of the dishes there, including pastas and the meat dishes - all lovely!

Have you got any favourite places to eat in the area? Please let me know in the comments if so.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

MADE: Pea & Ham Soup

There's nothing I love more than a warming bowl of soup during the colder weather and this hearty recipe is perfect for filling you up at lunch or with a bit of crusty bread in the evenings.Over Christmas I made a delicious cola cooked ham with a maple and mustard glaze using this recipe.

I had it on the 27th using the leftover Christmas day veggies to make a bubble & squeak (which was perfect for soaking up the alcohol that resulted in my whiskey induced hangover) and also made a delicious brunch of smashed avocado on rye with chilli flakes, a coconut oil fried egg and some of the delicious ham.
The soup was made to use up the final bits of the ham and it made quite a bit so I've still got a couple of containers in the freezer.

For the cola cooked ham recipe I used a 1.5kg ham but stuck to the measures of ingredients listed in the BBC Good Food recipe. For the soup, there was probably around half of the ham left. It doesn't matter too much (in my opinion) how much ham you use but I probably wouldn't recommend anymore than 1/3 or 1/2 of the ham.
I loosely stuck to this recipe from James Martin, making a few adjustments like replacing the cream with Oatly crème fraiche so my dairy intolerant tum could handle the soup without me feeling a bit lousy afterwards. I swear by the Oatly products. Their oat milk is something I drink everyday in coffee, use on cereal or have with porridge.

To make around 10-12 portions of soups:
Leftovers of your cola cooked ham (or whatever recipe you choose to use) - around 1/3 or 1/2 of the ham
400g frozen peas
1 large bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
Half a tub of Oatly crème fraiche - you can also use cream (150ml) or another dairy free alternative
1 pint and a half vegetable stock - I use Kallo
Salt and pepper, to season
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
A knob of butter

So, let's get started...

1. Grab a large saucepan or soup pan and add your EVOO and knob of butter. Heat on a low heat and add your sliced onions. Stir occasionally so they do not stick.

2. Once your onions have sautéed a little, add your crushed garlic cloves. Stir occasionally.

3. While your onions and garlic are cooking, shred your leftover ham. Add your parsley. Also boil the kettle and add the boiled water to a measuring jug with your stock cube.

4. Add your peas and stock. Bring to a simmer then stir in your Oatly crème fraiche or similar product and stir.

5. After a couple of minutes add your shredded ham hock. I left the soup simmering for around half an hour.

6. Use a Nutribullet, hand blender or similar appliance to pulse to form a puree. You may want to add more water if the soup is a little too thick for you.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

LIFE: The Month Ahead - January

Haaaappy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic break and are not finding the first working week of the year a total struggle like I am.

Question: when do we actually stop having to say Happy New Year to people? What if I've not seen somebody throughout January...can I still say it in February?

So, a while back now I did my 'Monthly Goals' and I found it really motivating. I can't really remember why I stopped. Maybe it got a bit stale? But I've decided to bring it back, well, a version of it.

Inspired by the lovely Laura of Superlatively Rude, I want to look back at the previous month and think about the month ahead. Kinda contradicting my view of disliking reflecting on the previous year once a new year hits but this is more about improving my day to day motivation throughout the month - looking forward, rather than looking back, but the reflection is in a positive way. Does that make sense? 

I don't know about you, but I've been finding it SO tough since the beginning of December to feel active, awake and motivated. I'm totally blaming winter as I'm 99% I'm a SAD sufferer but I think we can often make all of the excuses under the sun and it only makes us worse.

With this in mind, my new monthly 'series' is being born. I'm going to loosely stick to Laura's Monthly Reflections (and her newer 'version' for the new year) and add 3 goals for the month. By doing this, I feel it'll help me stay on track and feel more motivated.

I turn 26 this year (which means I'm 27 next year and that terrifies me) and think last year I lost a bit of focus on the smaller goals. Recently I've been in a bit of a period of thinking 'am I having a quarter life crisis?'...rather than remembering that everybody moves at a different pace and where they are doesn't have to be where I am. Also, last year taught me that it's okay not to have a plan because even if you have one, it might not all happen how you thought.

This month won't be the typical format for 'The Month Ahead' as I'm going to reflect on my previous month starting from February so that I'm leaving 2016 behind.

From February, I'll be looking back over the month just gone by and some of Laura's headers: proud of, grateful for, letting go of, obsessed with, committing to, excited about.
These made change over time depending how I find reflecting on these things each month but I think this is a good way for me to get into the swing of things.

The second part will go as follows...

Looking forward to January (starting today)...

Action steps and thought provoking questions:
1. Are my 2017 goals realistic? Last year's were slightly optimistic but are this year's achievable
2. I am having a quiet month to get back the balance with my finances. Can I manage to make minimal plans until payday?
3. I want to do a minimum of 3 work outs each week - will I do this? Looking back to my efforts last year, will I find the motivation to do this?

Aims for the month:
1. Stay hydrated - I've definitely not been drinking enough water these past few months. So for January I want to up my water intake to at least 2 litres per day.
2. Read a book - I want to start reading a book a month. After uni, I stopped reading so much. I was reading 4-6 books each week (on average) during the 3 years of my course and it was TIRING! I want to get back to enjoying reading.
3. Have at least one meat free day each week - I hardly used to eat meat, apart from when I went out or when H came around but now, most of my evening meals have some form of meat. It leaves me feeling really lethargic so I want to make it a goal for the month to see if the non-meat days make a difference. 

Also. A goal I want to try and have every month is to save £20 per week. If I can do this, I'll have saved nearly £1000 by the end of the year. WOAH. As I'm nearing 26, I need to start building my savings. Whether it's towards my house deposit, towards a new car, or towards something special.

JANUARY MOTTO: Work hard, relax just as hard. One day at a time.

Let's see how I get on with the month. Hopefully this content isn't too dull for you.
Are you doing anything similar for the new year like setting monthly goals or even quarterly goals?

Let me know in the comments below or on twitter.