How to get your dream job

 

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The other day I took part in an exchange on Twitter about bloggers, authenticity and how easy it is for bloggers to lose their ‘voice’ and uniqueness. It got me thinking about what the topics I blog about, and those that I don’t. I realised that one of the biggest and most important things in my life and that shapes me as a person is my job. For various reasons though I won’t talk too much about it on here, but it is my dream job (still) and one I’ve worked for since I was twelve. As so many people are just finishing up with their schooling and university courses, I thought that now might be an appropriate time to share the things I’ve learnt over the past 16 years and my advice on how to get your dream job.

I don’t profess to be an expert or to know anything about the more creative professions, but here is my advice:

1. Work out what you want to do

Easier said than done, right? Especially coming from someone who decided at the age of 12 what she wanted to do and pursued it relentlessly since then.

It may be that you know what it is you want to do (in which case, great, step 2 for you Glen Coco), it may be that you don’t, in which case there’s some work to be done and this may not be quick and it may not be easy. If you really have no idea then start by answering these questions:

  • What do you enjoy? Dealing with people? Working with children or animals? Do you like writing? Solving problems? Designing things?
  • How do you work best? In a team? On your own? Outdoors? Under pressure?
  • What are you good at? Numbers? Words? Science? Physical activity? Listening? Languages? Art?
  • What is important to you in a career? Helping others? Prestige? Flexibility? Challenges? Money? Work/life balance? Travel?

Once you have the answers to the above (and ideally after prioritising them), you then need to start considering what jobs would allow you to meet as many of the above as possible. Don’t limit yourself just yet. You might not have considered something before, but be open-minded. Cast your net wide by using google as your new best friend and try searches like ‘alternative jobs to ______’.

2. Consider what qualifications, skills or experience you need 

There is a certain amount of blagging and learning on the job in the vast majority of lines of work but while having knowledge of a specific kind of software might be something a company can train you on, some requirements will be set in stone, like having studied for a specific degree, being able to speak another language or having a certain amount of real life experience. Requirements will vary from job to job and company to company, but make sure you understand what is negotiable and what isn’t. If you haven’t got what you need, then do something about it

3. Do your research

Once you know what it is you want to do and you know that you can do it, then there is still a lot of research to do. Assuming you don’t want to go self-employed, the things to consider include things like which companies do what you want to do, which of them might have vacancies and how you would apply to them. Some companies will want a CV and covering letter, some will have very formal processes and some may only recruit at specific times in the year.

Also, companies can vary massively in terms of culture.  For example, large companies are often much more hierarchical and structured, whereas a smaller company is likely to offer more flexible career progression.

Although I am not a fan of nepotism (having never been able to be the beneficiary of it myself), if you know someone in your chosen profession then exploit that as much as possible. Ask questions, get help and even see if they can help you with some work experience. Which brings me on to my next point…

4. Get some experience

Not only does experience help you to confirm that your chosen job is in fact the ‘dream’ job, but it also demonstrates commitment when you apply for a vacancy.

If you can’t get direct experience in your job of choice then think about other experience you can get that will help. For example if you want to be a teacher or work with children in another job, then maybe consider volunteering at your local rainbow/brownie/guide/scout group.

5. Perfect your CV/portfolio and covering letter

What your CV looks like will depend very much on what sort of job you’re applying for. I imagine creative CVs are very different to the type of CV I’m used to writing (very boring, very black and white). But a few keys things apply to all CVs:

  • Make sure it is easy to read – use a nice clear font in a legible size
  • Make sure it is visually appealing – even if it’s a very formal traditional CV, the use of bullet points, white space, font and alignment can make a big difference
  • Highlight your skills – make sure the most important bits are easy to see (preferably on the front page), emphasise the transferable skills you have gained from everything you do and have done
  • PDF it – there’s nothing worse than opening up a CV to see red squiggles underlining words that Word doesn’t recognise as being words (even though they are), there are lots of online pdf converters that are free
  • Get a second pair of eyes on it – you can check it over a million times and use spellcheck but I can guarantee that it will only be after you send it off that you’ll notice that you typed ‘form’ instead of ‘from’

Although everyone approaches covering letters differently, mine always address my interest in the job vacancy, why I am applying to the company and why I think that I would be suitable for the job in question and what I have to offer. A good rule of thumb when either drafting a covering letter or application form is to look the company’s website, consider their values and what they say they want and address each of those things. So if they say that team working is important to them and that they want all-rounders, then tell them about how you have worked in a team to achieve a goal and emphasise how you balance work and extra-curricular interests.

Then all you have to do is sit back and wait and hope you get called for an interview.

Remember

  • Always be professional and polite – even if someone can’t help you right now, you never know what opportunities will come up in the future and people will remember you. First impressions count
  • Know your worth
  • Never give up – if you really want it, go for it. My employer rejected me the first time I applied, I went away and worked to improve my CV and to make myself more attractive, the second time around they let me in for work experience and then kept me on, so don’t take rejection too hard, get feedback and use it as a learning experience

I hope that helps, do let me know if there’s anything from your experience that you would add to the above.

 

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Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf

Have you visited the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie yet? After eagerly anticipating its opening I found it to be less garden, more cruise ship lobby. Some people loved it. I really didn’t. If you were also left disappointed by the Sky ‘Garden’ then I’ve got a great new urban garden for you – Crossrail Place Roof Garden in Canary Wharf.

Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture

Across London small pockets of development are in place, building for the upcoming arrival of Crossrail, which should be in operation from 2018 and which will cut across London offering a high speed connection from Reading to Abbey Wood and Shenfield via the centre of London. One of the stations will be in Canary Wharf and its hub is now open and features various shops and eateries (including a third branch of The Big Easy) along with a roof garden. In preparation for my exam I needed to go into work to print some stuff off and so to get some fresh air I decided to take a little diversion and spend some time outside in Canary Wharf to see if Crossrail Place could restore my faith in urban green spaces (and keep my hopes up for the Garden Bridge).

Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture

The nearest station is Canary Wharf DLR station. Visible from there and only a few minutes’ walk away, Crossrail Place looks like the sort of space age structure you saw in science fiction films from the 1970s or 1980s. That first impression isn’t helped by the walkway up to it which looks like it could have come straight out of Star Wars.

Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture

But once you ascend an escalator you find yourself in a little oasis below the glass towers of Canary Wharf.

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Unlike the Sky Garden, the garden at Crossrail Place actually is a garden, rather than a border. Paths wind through the space and benches are dotted here there and everywhere. As there’s no need to pre-book several days in advance and it’s free, it means that the Roof Garden (even though it’s just opened) is actually being used as a truly public space with people in suits tapping away on phones and laptops and young families alike enjoying the tranquility.

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The plants are bedding in and have been chosen to reflect an East/West theme that references not only the upcoming Crossrail line but also the history of the area and the countries frequented by the trading ships that used the docks in the area. It’s well thought out and there are information boards which explain some of the history, lending a more educational and accessible air to it than the corporate slickness of the Walkie Talkie.

Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture plant flower Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architectureCrossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture

Designed by Foster and Partners, the lattice roof bears the hallmark of many of their other designs. I love their work (see a post a wrote a while ago on an architectural tour I took of the Gherkin) and this was no exception. It’s more natural than their other city designs and is partially open to the elements, which allows for rain to water the garden and also for it to not feel too much like a greenhouse.

Crossrail Place Roof Garden Canary Wharf Foster and Partners urban architecture

I loved it and it made me wish I worked in Canary Wharf again. A few years ago I was seconded there for six months but in the winter. Canary Wharf is pretty much made for the winter because so much of it is underground. From leaving the DLR I would head downstairs into the underground shopping centre and from there could take an escalator straight into my office building. I never had to step foot outside, perfect when it’s freezing cold. However, at the moment I can imagine nothing better than a summer lunch break sat in the Crossrail Place Roof Garden.

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Pandas in Chengdu

One of the most amazing holidays I’ve been on was a trip to China in 2011. China had been at the top of my travel wishlist for ages and despite trying to persuade my grandad for years that China would be a phenomenal place for a family holiday, they weren’t convinced. When my job was deferred for a year due to the crash I was paid £5,000 and so I decided to upgrade my DSLR and also take a trip to China with my mum.

I found a trip that would take in the main places I wanted to see whilst still only taking two weeks of annual leave – Beijing and the Forbidden City, Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors, Chengdu and the pandas, a boat trip down the Yangtze and Shanghai (we also visited other places like Leshan and Suzhou but the others were my must-sees before booking).

As I’m still in the dying stages of revision and so don’t have time at the moment to edit any new photos for a post, I thought I’d share a few photos from my China trip and specifically Chengdu, because, who doesn’t love a panda? They’re the most useless creatures, but adorable nonetheless.

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Based just outside of Chengdu (apparently a city congealing the power of law – one of the best examples of Chinglish I saw there), the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was set up in the late 1980s in order to artificially increase the population of Giant Panda, they will then be attempting to repopulate the wild panda population in China.

I particularly loved the rules on a sign at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I did wonder how there would be pornography involved in a panda centre, although maybe given the tactics they employ to try and get them to mate naturally, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The one about photos with tourists also made me smile as I felt like a minor celebrity in China with loads of Chinese girls wanting a photo with me. All very odd.

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The breeding centre is very sensitively done, the landscape is designed to simulate the natural environment of pandas combined with apparatus that allows pandas to climb and entertain themselves. There are reminders throughout the centre reminding visitors to keep noise to a minimum to avoid disturbing the pandas. The result is unbelievably calming and with lots of greenery and lush bamboo lining all of the paths it’s a beautiful place to spend time, the only disturbance being the sound of pandas chomping bamboo (you can definitely hear them before you see them).

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In addition to Giant Pandas, they also have Red Pandas. I have probably spent hours watching Youtube videos of Red Pandas generally being the cutest things only and so seeing them in real life being all pouncy and cute is the best thing ever. If they ever domesticate Red Pandas, I’ll be the first on the waiting list for one. Just look at how cute they are!

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Within the Breeding Centre is a large lake, Swan Lake, lined with trees and flowers and walkways and used by all sorts of waterfowl, including black swans, the first ones I’ve ever seen in real life. There’s also a little stand where you can buy food to feed the fish. Chucking a few bits in leads to a total fish frenzy as all of the koi carp, and sometimes the ducks and swans, vie for some lunch.

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If you plan on going to see the Chengdu pandas I’d advise setting aside a whole day to visit them, we had a good few hours there but I really could have stayed for much longer. The creatures themselves are amazing to see and the whole place was so peaceful and calming.

To learn more about the panda conservation work, visit the Research Base website.

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Hamburgés at Big Fernand

A little while ago word reached me of a new burger import, not from America, but from Paris – Big Fernand. I followed them on Twitter and awaited news of their opening. In their renovation of the restaurant they found an old safe and ran a competition to guess what was in the safe. I guessed at Shroedinger’s cat and, although I didn’t win, did end up as a runner up which meant that I was sent a voucher for a free drink and fries. Opened in early March, it’s taken me a while to get there but last week I finally did, deciding to go for a burger before my Tuesday evening German class.

Located on Percy Street I entered to be greeted with a very enthusiastic welcome from several French men (yes, they really are French or at the very least can do a very convincing accent) bedecked in stripy shirts and flat caps.

I was handed a menu and it was explained to me that I could choose either one of several options or I could create my own burger. I chose to keep it simple by ordering The Bartholome (a beef patty, raclette cheese, pork bacon, caramelised onions, chives and their homemade barbecue sauce), cooked to order. Medium for me but they have the whole range of options from blue to well done.

I settled myself down on a bench (check out their stools with added French phrases) and didn’t have to wait long at all for my burger, I’d barely had time to check in on Zomato before it was in front of me.

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Although you can’t tell from the above photo, hidden inside is a real treat. Beautiful beef combined with the nuttiness from the cheese, the crisp bacon and the slight sweetness from the barbecue sauce all swaddled in a soft sesame bun comes together to form an excellent burger.

The fries are sprinkled with their own home seasoning, a slightly spicy coating. They reminded me a little of the chilli fries from DF Mexico, I hadn’t been super keen on the chilli salt fries there, preferring the regular ones and although the fries were fine at Big Fernand, the burger is what you’d come here for. Although ‘Law 3′ (see next photo) of their constitution allows you to stage your own French revolution, without the bloodshed of course, and have them changed.

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The restaurant itself is definitely one of two halves, downstairs is dark, industrial and minimalist.

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But if you ascend the spiral staircase, upstairs is a cosy living room space which is completely unexpected for a burger restaurant (or at least any burger restaurant I’ve ever been to).

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If you’re in Fitzrovia or Soho and fancy a great burger, then I can recommend the hamburgés at Big Fernand. I can guarantee you won’t have a better welcome anywhere else, or a cosier place to have a burger (if you sit upstairs, which you definitely should).

Find out more on the Big Fernand website.

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