Day 1... the grumbles of a commuter virgin

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

I survived. First day done.Commuting heaven

I am still sat on the train home whilst typing this at 8pm, (signal failures caused half an hour delay… NOT amused).

I have calculated that door to door, my commute each day is a minimum of three hours each way, probably three and a half on average, four if my bad luck with signalling/chavs stealing copper continues. That is commitment. After day one however, I have a great feeling this job is definitely going to be worth the 14 hour days.

I found a route which means I only need to get on one tube which is a bonus, but after realising the Circle Line is in fact a proper trek through the maze that is Paddington Station have come to the conclusion that my nice new work heals will only be brought out on special occasions. That teamed with the 15 minute walk from Farringdon Tube Station to Fleet Street does not do my feet any good. In addition to the fact that none of the other girls I work with were wearing heals, so it seems my secret indulgent purchase of a pretty new pair of ’smart’ ballet pumps (bargain, haggled from £20 to a fiver!) was not at all in vain nor purposeless. That’s the thing with being the new girl, you always slightly over dress on the first day just to make sure you are not thought of as the scruff of the office, and then sigh with relief when you realise the televised stereotype of a female London commuter isn’t all heals and skirt suits but can be just as smart and sexy in pumps and a pretty dress.

The main problem with the wardrobe of a commuter is that you leave the house at an hour of the day and an area that is rural; to enter one of the most densely populated cities, and public transport lines on earth. It’s a toss-up between freezing whilst waiting for the bus that takes you to wait for the train, or sweating and fainting all over hard-core Londoners who are more prepared in their fashion. Today I decided that the former is a better option, that I shall trial tomorrow, being cold may actual help one wake up at such an unearthly hour…

My body clock had better adjust quickly, anyone who knows me knows that I am a 10 hour a night girl now plunged into 6 or seven if I’m lucky. I haven’t slept before 12 or been up before nine (10… 11…) in many years and now have to train myself to be up at five thirty and asleep by 10, one and a half hours after I walk through my front door, *note to self: better train the bf to cook ;). I jest.

Everyone knows the tube is an interesting little microcosm of a community, all the usual stereotyping of people not talking, staring at their books/papers and now Kindles… (other models apparently available) I wonder what the theft rate is for Kindles on the tube; I bet it’s higher than books, another good reason to resist the technological boom. This is still in part true, however I think the younger generation are changing it, I had some rather pleasant college girls chat to me, and at least five smile off of stranger, yes FIVE. Not perverted/stalker-ish/whatever you may imagine looking types either, just normal people. You do however get the suitable dressed for the scene Londoners and/or long time commuters sort of glaring at you in a sense that they know you are new to their little elite club as you stand their dripping, out of breath and slightly concerned about the lack of personal space. I wonder how long it will take for me to be part of that club. I’ve got nine months to find out!

There is also the HUGE temptation to where a tight top, breath out as you step onto a reasonably packed carriage, and pretend to be pregnant just to get a seat (especially on the days you choose heals and no socks). I may have to try this once just for giggles, but keeping a straight face may be somewhat of an issue. Or if a non-fake pregnant woman gets on at the next stop, then you would just feel bad. It could even escalate into a ‘boy cried wolf’ situation, where when one day (at least three years down the line for me) you find yourself actually pregnant, and get on the stop after a faker that stole your idea from this very blog. Yeah, um, bad idea.

Today the tube did provide me with a giggle or two, as in one carriage I could read over the shoulder of at least four women, all reading the internet overnight sensation ’50 Shades of Grey’. Definitely don’t need to buy it now, have read pages 20, 21, 118, 119, 225 and 226 and have made it my own little commuting mission to fill in the gaps without actually ever owning a copy. This is also funny as friends of mine who have had to buy their own have told me it is more ‘Literotica’ than anything, from which I gathered by today’s snippets. Therefore my humour was not at the sheer popularity of this book in a world of millions of fabulous offerings (half of which are on my bookshelf), but at the fact the author may be cashing in on the state of the working women. Too exhausted for actual physical intimacy after a hard day at the office, and so have taken to getting their thrills in front of hundreds of onlookers on the underground… kinky exhibitionists.

The most frustrating part of London Learning has to be something us ruralites take for granted… bins. There are not any anywhere! Ok yes, they may be a perceived ‘terrorist threat’ but surely post boxes make for better kindling than half eaten McDonalds. No wonder parts of London are such a dump. I actually had to go into a coffee shop and use their bin, and was scared in case someone came and told me off for depositing waste in their trash can which was not purchased from said shop. Luckily I escaped that time, but instead of doing the usual when starting a new job and scouting out your nearest bank/convenience store/Costa, this week it is my mission to build up a mental map of bin locations between Farringdon Station and Fleet Street.

Good humoured grumble over. Now to the job, this for starters is on Fleet Street, the iconic home of the industry I long to be a part of. Just walking down it sends shivers down my spine; I almost took a picture of the street sign but then thought better than to look like a standard tourist so close to my new place of work. My desk is ideally situated next to all the people I will need to communicate with most, and with a great view down my favourite road in London, even if it is a shadow of its former journalistic glory.

To the actual work, I am glad to report it seems as wonderful as I was anticipating. The people are lovely and welcoming, unlike many offices where as the newbie intern you feel ostracised for a good few weeks. I was particularly excited when my boss informed me he would try and arrange for me to spend a day with a relevant national publication, or at least an industry specific one, and also that I would be spending some time with the PR agency the company use.

I will be starting in Marketing and concentrating on upcoming awards ceremony organisation and then will get involved with the more charitable side of the company of which I have great interest. I was even so bold today as to ask if I could enter myself for an award based on essay writing which I started to mind map a plan for in my lunch break, thinking I could do it about the ‘Inquiry into Inquiries’, project on which at interview I was told I would be working only to learn that sadly current employees can’t enter. Damn my enthusiasm. The Inquiry may be ending sooner than expected, which at first I thought was a shame as it was a part I was extremely excited about. After hearing about other on-going projects however I realised there is lots of interesting things going on in that department that I feel I could make a good contribution to that are a bit more outside my comfort zone, ergo more of a challenge which to be fair is why I am here, to be challenged.

Office etiquette has always amused me, in previous similar situations it has taken a lot of guts to go to the loo any time other than lunch time, or to the kitchenette alone. Today I did both of those things, and I feel grown already. One question remains though which I would be grateful of some advice for… when can one sit cross legged in one’s desk chair? It’s far comfier but far less professional. Do I wait a week, a month, or just go for it?

There are the usual moments of unease, such as trying to remember names, and picking your moment to drop in a witty comment. Today I was introduced to over 30 people, most of whom I had stalked a little (oops I mean researched) beforehand, and so far I can remember most of my ‘unit’ (corner of the office) and the big important bosses. I got a few laughs but probably over-talked as usual, but that’s me.

Then there was all the usual paperwork, and my first section meeting where the people in the comms department told me what they are working on currently, which was really interesting, cannot wait to get stuck in. The group I will work closest with are really down to earth and a right laugh which was highly refreshing as before I imagined London office being somewhat stale and muted. This one however is wonderfully dynamic.

By far the most enthralling, yet hardest, part of today’s little introduction was learning a few trade secrets. Unfortunately they made me sign one of those little confidentiality forms (standard practice for most organisations) as some of the cases their mediators deal with include companies who wish to remain unknown for a plethora of reasons, some of whom are absolutely breathtaking. Although this vow of silence goes against every journalistic bone in my body, which I’m sure they realised as it was the first piece of paperwork to be signed, it is exciting enough just to be in the loop. I know something you don’t know, and probably never will! It was an honour, especially with my areas of interest.

What was interesting was how a delegation of people from the East (see that’s me being non-descript keeping to my end of the bargain, don’t want to get fired/sued in my first week now do I!) lavished a gift upon the company, of cultural significance and probably an extremely high market value after disclosing to the company that they are searching for someone to take on an extremely high profile case that would certainly attract a lot of media attention. My ears certainly pricked up! But like I said, just knowing is satisfaction enough, as when some brilliant investigative journalist reveals the story five or 10 years down the line, I can sit smug in the satisfaction that I knew before them.

Most of the day included reading and researching things I had already touched on during my own research last week. To be expected on the first day. It was a great introduction to a wonderful company, and I can’t wait to go back and see what they have in stall for me tomorrow!

K x


Why variety is important

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

I have one day left of bumming around and then I will be plunged into the world of a London working commuter.

Well, when I say bumming around, I mean researching my job, updating my blogs, social networking sites etc. I thought having a month break would nearly kill me but as it turns out after exams, before starting a job, and with moving house... I damn well needed the time to re-group, re-think and in general get myself together after a hell of a year and ready for another. In which as well as my placements, I plan to finally learn Teeline shorthand, make a start on a business idea and become a regular contributor to a website concerned with African politics.

But as Monday approaches, the excitement (and nerves) are building. Whilst researching my job I have realised it is far more interesting and relevant than I first thought. Many of my nearest and dearest when asking what I shall be doing for the next twelve months have questioned this particular placement’s relevance to my chosen vocation. This in turn made me do the same thing.

The thing with journalism is, you need a little bit of everything, as you never know where you will be placed or what area you will work in before getting to the ultimate; foreign reporting. I have heard stories across my times at various ‘insight’ days and courses that everyone starts with the big dream of breaking the big stories, from the deepest darkest corners of the earth, which in turn alter public opinion and hopefully policy. True investigative work such as that of John Pilger, Nick Davies and the late Marie Colvin is what the majority of start up journalists want to do, but many have to start where they have no interest at all, Sport, Fashion, Gossip etc.

Therefore me doing a law based placement is certainly no bad thing. Especially when at college the first time around Law was my favourite subject, and in particular the topic of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which is one of the few things I can remember thanks to a wonderful teacher called Louise who was an almost Matilda Miss Honey like character. I will have a political aspect to my work in looking at how Public Inquiries can be improved. A journalistic aspect by making contacts and liaising with a broad spectrum of professionals that I may otherwise would never have had the pleasure to meet. I will also gain marketing and PR knowledge through my work on social marketing; which after all is the future (if not already the present) to every industry.

This placement will solidify my professionalism, and let me enhance the skills I already have in an office situation close to that of a newsroom. I will have deadlines, and expectations placed upon me. I will be required to undertake a certain amount of independent research and be given the chance to explore areas of more interest.

I really can’t wait until Monday, better figure out what I am going to wear...



Placement year... why???

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

And so it has dawned on me that I am about to embark on quite possibly the most important transitional step of my career so far. 

You would think that after buggering up college the first time, going back as a ‘mature student’ and giving it a million per cent to ensure my dream of becoming a journalist could be realised, all the while working 40hrs plus a week at my beloved pub, and much to my teacher’s disgruntlement still managed to stay top of the class... that I would be prepared. I am not.

Well I am. I have this tendency to completely underestimate myself at important turning points in my life, as most of the time I seem to forget how the hell I managed to get this far. But no one else did it, I did.

Since I decided to turn my life around in going back to college, I have ensured that my CV is stuffed full of extracurricular goodness, both political and journalistic, charitable and actual work. Most of my life since I was 13 I have held two jobs at the very least, and usually three. I work best on all systems go. All of these jobs have taught me the key qualities needed in a work environment; those which students usually take on a placement to acquire. So why am I doing it?

I often think to myself, that already going into University three years ‘late’ so to speak I may have been better off opting for the three year version of my course. But then I think although the skills learnt as a farm hand, bar maid, waitress, wedding dress shop manager, hardware store assistant manager, etc. etc. are transferable... customer service, working with others, all the skills which are rammed down your throat as imperative from secondary school, they don’t necessary teach you the style and etiquette expected of you in your projected and desired work environment. 

Politics and journalism are undeniably about who you know as well as what you know, and pulling pints may have taught me how to handle myself in many a tricky situation, but that isn’t exactly going to help me when I need to address the Home Affairs Minister about some nation threatening incident. 

Yes my telephone manner was developed whilst dealing with highly demanding, emotional brides, and yes the stakes were as high for them as getting all the facts right in a story is now for me now and will be in my future... but working on a shop floor to your own tune, is different to being in a bustling office, with other peoples agendas and deadlines.

So this is why I have decided to undertake a placement. My first at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) as a Communications Intern, where I will play a key role in the ‘Inquiry into Inquiries’ as well as dabbling in event management, PR and social marketing. The second is at which whilst unpaid, will give me ample experience in political journalism and teach me the tricks of the trade I long to be a part of. My third will be at Marcom PR in Bath, which will give me a better insight into Marketing and the better side of PR. Therefore I cover all bases; legal, political, journalistic, communications and marketing. 

London learning is where it is at; the experience is going to be metaphorically priceless even though it may cripple the bank balance for now. The two hour each way commute per day may kill me, but I have certainly done longer stints elsewhere before, so I am going to grin and bear it for the greater good. Sincerely looking forward to sinking my teeth into some meaty and meaningful work...

Wish me luck!

K x