Category: Welcome to The Real World

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Switching Career Fields

  1. It’s a challenge: Considering the fact that I studied two Marketing modules in university and four different Marketing short courses, I was pretty confident that I would be able to grasp my new job easily. I was wrong. There were days- scratch that, there are still days when I struggle and wonder if switching career fields was worth it (I’m proud to say that recently though, whenever this thought pops in my mind, I answer “YES!!!” without having to think about it)
  2. The internet has resources for everything: As someone who lives on Google this was shocking to me. Yes, I knew that you can Google pretty much everything but I had no clue that the internet could EDUCATE YOU! My mind is blown away by the amount of resources I’ve found online. But also
  3. I will not know everything: This is hugely upsetting and something I struggled with in my first few months. Back in Customer Care, I knew ALOT! Of course I did. I spent three years there and besides some basic process changes, things remained mostly the same. In Marketing, not so much. There are always new Marketing trends, new data on consumers or spending habits. You have to keep reading and studying in order to keep yourself up to date. At first I found this disheartening. I wanted to know everything and I wanted to know it NOW! Over time however, I accepted that I will not know everything. But with a little hard work. I can learn a bit about most things.
  4. Speaking of trends, I wish I knew the importance of keeping up to date with important industry information: Previously, I did not pay attention to any additional information if it didn’t directly impact me or my life. Like when Huawei stopped making phones with Google. Which then led to countless customer queries about that. Now however, I read every email link, Hubspot report or social media survey that lands in my inbox.
  5. Failing is a thing…and that’s okay: Keeping in with my perfectionist tendencies, I did not expect to fail. I don’t like failing. I’ve mentioned before that failing is (was?) a foreign concept to me but when you’re in a new field, failing happens and honestly it’s just a part of life.
  6. Lastly and certainly not least, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable: Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. But when it’s the right field or the right job for you, you won’t even mind. There are certain days when my anxiety skyrockets and I get really uncomfortable with a task but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Did you change careers or start a new job? What was something that you were not expecting?

A Look Into Work PTSD

Blogger’s Note: The below blog post has been in progress since 2019. As of today, 17 April 2021, I will scheduling it to go live in May 2021 in honor of Mental Awareness Month.

Person lying on bed

I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the third time I broke down.

I was in the bathroom, dabbing at my eyes with a wet tissue to try to hide the swelling.

I had learnt the trick from walking in on a co-worker crying after she had been passed over for a promotion (for the second time in a month). She had been near hysterical and at that time I didn’t understand why.

(Turns out that she had been with the company for over five years so the disappointment was understandable).

Anyway so there I was teary and sobbing and I thought “this isn’t right”. It was my third breakdown since we restructured and got new managers.

I remember thinking that the amount of time I had spent crying in the bathroom was equal to, if not more than, someone in an abusive relationship.

Except I wasn’t physically abused. No, it was just emotional. But it was destroying me all the same.

That was when it hit me. My beloved workplace, the place I sacrificed everything for, was a toxic environment.

In my mind I played it back. All the arguments, the discrimination, the employees crying in the bathroom.

Would no one do anything about it?

Our managers were awful. Would no one step up?

Turns out that no one did. Within a few months, the new normal was accepted and we went from a company who respected and valued employee satisfaction to one that is only chasing the bottom line.

I was desperate to leave. But no one was hiring. There was an internal vacancy in a different department and I applied. Maybe it would be different in another department?

But then management stepped in and the role that was initially advertised internally was given to someone externally. I was speechless. Sure the rule was that we searched externally if no candidates were found to be successful internally. But I had been eavesdropping on cooler talk and I knew that job was supposed to be mine.

I stuck it out for another two years before I finally got an opportunity. It was in a field that I was interested in and it was a job role that I was interested in a while.

I placed my notice and against my better judgement, served those 30 days cautiously, convinced that management would find some reason to either fire me or worse, keep me forever. I knew the fear was irrational but I couldn’t stop it.

Eventually time came for me to leave. I literally said goodbye and walked out. No big drama. No big farewell speech. I thought that was it. I was wrong.

When I started in my new role, I struggled for the first few months. Not just because it was a completely new field but apparently I had mental wounds that still lingered.

I was too scared to leave my desk (in my previously role we weren’t allowed to). I didn’t even want to take lunch in the canteen downstairs for fear that my manager might need me and I wouldn’t be there. The first few times I asked for permission for stuff (can I drink my tea here? Am I allowed to stick up this photo? I didn’t know I was allowed to keep my phone on me) my coworkers found me funny. But as time went on, they came up with a phase for my experience- Work PTSD,

I hated it but it made sense. For so long, I had worked in an environment where I had not been allowed to do anything, this freedom- especially in a purely administrative role- was a novelty.

One of my issues with my first job is that I didn’t make the effort to learn more about the company and it’s culture. I was not going to make that same mistake again. I made an effort to get to know how things and people worked in this new role and focused on unlearning the new habits that I had from my previous workplace.

It took time and I thought I was fine. Until a friend and I made plans for lunch and I dropped by my old workplace to pick her up. I walked in to Reception and there they were. The UNholy trinity as I had nicknamed them. My former boss, her boss and his boss. Three levels of toxic management who were always seen together laughing and talking or altenatively meeting with staff and making them cry.

Instinctively I felt my shoulders hunch over in an attempt to protect me from their attention. “Please, please don’t see me”, I begged mentally.

Desperate, I turned away and started examining the stack of brochures on the receptionist’s desks, my hunched shoulders to them. Once I heard their laughter died down, I relaxed. The receptionist, who I had known from my time there, offered me a small sympathetic smile.

I waited for my friend to come downstairs and we went out to lunch. But I never made plans to hang out with her again during the workweek. I had felt like I was finally getting better but I couldn’t see them. I was still too fragile for that but maybe one day.

6 Ideas for Selfcare Sunday

So Selfcare Sunday is by no means a new idea however it is something new for me.

I usually wait until I am close to tears before I decide “That’s it. I need a break.”

By picking a specific day, I know I am going to actually make time for me and I swear it makes the work week easier. Here are 6 ideas on what you can do to carve out some time for yourself. Also side note- it might say Sunday but you can (and should) always make time for YOU!

  1. Enjoy a warm beverage- For me this is either hot chocolate or a second cup of tea/coffee. Nothing brings me more comfort than the feel of a warm mug in my hands. (Often I end up drinking lukewarm tea because I was too busy using the mug to warm my hands).
  2. Journalling- Get out all your thoughts before the week begins so you can start the new week clearheaded and free. Bonus points for writing out your to-do list for the week so when the morning rolls around, you know exactly what it is that you need to do.
  3. Coloring- Coloring is an excellent destresser and a great way to calm your mind.
  4. Have a spa day- Whether it’s just a face mask and moisturizer or a full-on facial, take the time to treat your skin. It’ll feel amazing AND your face will be glowing by the end.
  5. Go all out for breakfast- Treat Yo self. And your tummy. You deserve to be spoiled and what better way that to start your day and your week with a breakfast that you’ll love.
  6. Escape into a book or TV show- Now this is something you all know I love. Watch some Netflix or catch up on your reading. You can escape reality without even leaving your couch.

Do you participate in Selfcare Sundays? What are your Sunday selfcare tips? I’d love to know below.

Luck and Stuff

I hate talking about my job. Both on this blog and in real life. I know it sounds weird considering I spent months complaining about my lack of success at finding a position in my field. However everytime I’m asked about my job, I get a wide goofy smile on my face and I have to mentally slap myself (“You’re a professional! Act like it dammit”).

That being said there are several days when I can’t believe my luck at finally getting the job.

And that, my friends, is where the problem starts. I keep telling myself how lucky I was to get the marketing internship especially since our company hasn’t had any internal positions in the entire three years that I’ve been there.

While several marketing internships have administrative tasks only, I get to learn new things everyday while also actively learning about paid media.

So yes, in that case I was really lucky. And I really do appreciate it. Except I forgot a vital part of the story up until I overheard a conversation between my mum and aunt.

My aunt was telling my mother how excited she was for my new job and how I was “so lucky”. My mother agreed and then said I worked hard for it.

At this I was mildly confused. Sure I worked hard at my Customer Care job but it wasn’t a tough job. But then my mother continued, “She was always studying and doing things online. She really wanted that job.”

I felt like she was speaking about someone else. I had forgotten about that. I had spent early mornings, late nights, lunchbreaks at work and even a few leave days working on Digital Marketing courses and assignments. It seemed like in the few months that I had the job, I had forgotten what exactly it took to get me there. The months of saving to pay for those courses (my father had paid for my university degree and I wouldn’t let him pay for more studies since there was no guarantee it would pan out), the times with friends that I sacrificed and even the one week leave I took to ensure I had adequate time to complete assignments.

I felt proud of myself but also a bit disappointed. It wasn’t luck. I worked hard and the right opportunity presented itself to me.

I am still so grateful for my job but the one thing I’m taking out of that conversation between my aunt and mother is that no matter what studying further IS important. You never know when the right opportunity would come your way.

We Need to Talk About Toxic Work Environments

Why does no one talk about toxic work environments? We need to talk about the feeling of dread and despair in the bottom of your stomach when you realize it’s time to return to work.

That feeling of being so exhausted no matter how much sleep you try to get. Eight, nine, ten hours…it’s no use. You’re still drained. Emotionally, mentally, physically. Sleep. Diet. Exercise. Nothing seems to help.

You don’t have the energy to do anything but no matter how much you try to “rest”, your body is still exhausted. It’s like your body decided one day to just give up.

We need to talk about that feeling of walking on eggshells, of working constantly and hoping that nothing you do or say will get you in trouble. That feeling of being watched, that feeling that someone is waiting for you to make a mistake so they can pounce on you.

That feeling of hoping that with all the hours you put in, all the exhaustion you’re feeling, you DON’T make a mistake because if you do that could cost you your job.

We need to talk about watching our friends and colleagues being forced out of jobs and fired. That feeling of heartbreak for them and their families. And then wondering, is it better to be forced out? Is it better to be left without an income but with your mental health scarred but not totally damaged. No, not yet. Or is it better to have money and watch as your mental health declines and slowly by slowly you lose all sense of self?

That feeling of seeing friends leaving jobs they’ve held for years and years just because your job has turned toxic. That hurt in your heart knowing that it was not supposed to be like this. That something somewhere has gone terribly gone.

But you don’t know what the issue is or how to fix it. So you sit quietly and you drag yourself to work. You walk on your eggshells and you hope for the best. That something someday will change.

Welcome to The Real World 4: The Interview that Never Was

The 4th interview was for a Human Resources position at a call center. Apparently they some sort of database at the university and they had picked up my information from there. I don’t know how true that story was but it made absolutely no sense for them to call me.

I had completed a single Human Resources module. I was not qualified for the job. I knew it. And if they had read my CV, they should have known that as well.

The company’s offices were a mere five minutes away from my house. So I got dressed immediately and went in for an interview.

They had me fill out a form and asked me to wait. I agreed. I waited an hour. Then another. I watched as the receptionist called someone who they had previously offered a job to. They had found someone who was a better fit so they called him to let him know that he didn’t need to report to work the next Monday.

My heart fell for him. Imagine thinking you’re going to start a new job and all of a sudden you have to learn that “we’re found someone else, sorry.”

After three hours of waiting, I was finally shown to a room with a frenzied lady who was in the phone of a phone call.

She asked me a couple of quick questions about my background in Human Resources and looked surprised when I pointed out that I had just graduated. She was even more surprised when she learnt that I had no knowledge of Excel. Apparently they were unable to hire me but they would keep my curriculum vitae on file.

I was stunned. They had made me wait for THREE HOURS? For something that could have been confirmed by simply looking at my CV or via phone call.

The receptionist took down my details and my list of skills but I highly doubted they would call me again (I was right. They didn’t).

I went home incredibly annoyed and tired. I had missed my nap because of a job interview I didn’t even have.

Happy Two Year Work Anniversary

Today marks exactly two years since I started working in Customer Care. Fun fact, I will be moving to a different department soon and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT.

But what I want to talk about is my move to Customer Care two years ago. Basically my manager at the time had me assisting the Inbound Customer Care line and when an opening came up, I immediately asked to apply.

However originally when I started my career, there was nothing more terrifying to me than speaking to customers on the phone.

In fact that was the main reason why I didn’t want a job in the call center. But my manager who knew that I was scared of the phone pushed me and eventually it became one of my favorite things.

It may not be my dream job but when time comes for me to leave, I will definitely cry like a baby.

Moving to Customer Care was one of the best decisions in my life and so I leave you with this quote which should be words to live by:

25 Life Lessons I’ve Learnt in 25 Years

On the 1st of July 2020, I unfortunately turned 25. I saw it coming but it was still a shock. When I imagined 25, I saw my life in a completely different direction. Nonetheless here we are. The damage has been done. The 25 years may not be what I expected but it has been a great learning experience.

Here are 25 life lessons that I learnt:

1) DO NOT tie your identity to your job

2) Money is important but it is not the MOST important

3) Surround yourself with those that you love

4) Network. You never know where it may take you

5) Also- always try something new. You never know where that might take you

6) Always carry a spare tire in your car

7) Ensure you have savings- for a rainy day, for retirement. Just make sure you have money available.

8) No matter your best intentions, life rarely ever goes as planned

9) Do NOT make decisions when you are emotional (unless those decisions are food-related like what to buy to make yourself feel better)

10) Also, do not make purchasing decisions when you are emotional

11) Leave work at work. There’s a reason you have “working hours”. And leave the office on time

12) If it doesn’t affect your pay, don’t let it affect your day

13) No, you do not need more books (but buying a few more doesn’t hurt anyone)

14) You don’t go to the gym to go to the gym. You go to the gym for the feeling you get after the gym

15) Take time out for yourself no matter how busy life gets

16) Keep moving forward (thank you, Disney)

17) Tea is always a good idea. So is any warm beverage

18) Live within your means. Live below your means if possible. This is especially relevant in the Corona era

19) Time is the most valuable resource and it’s one you can never get back. Use it wisely

20) Stressing about something accomplishes nothing (though in my case, it keeps my brain occupied so I allow it within reason).

21) It is always a good idea to learn a new skill be it work-related or personal

22) Not everyone is going to like you. You are not R100. Some people don’t even like R100 (I am one of these people. R100 disappears too quickly. R1000 is a good amount).

24) A car is a deprecating asset (and a damn expensive one) so there’s no need to pay a ton of money on an expensive model especially if you don’t have that money.

25) Spend more on quality in the first place so you don’t end up having to pay more to replace something cheap (like when it comes to repairs for the above deprecating asset)

What lessons have you learnt in your time on Earth? I’d love to know below!

Learn to Give Yourself a Break

Back when I was a young, naïve college student I wrote a blog post about the importance of taking a mental health day. It’s funny because looking back, I was under the impression that all jobs allowed a mental health day. After all how could you be expected to function at a job if you’re not at your best? However, this is the real world and sometimes mental health days are just not an option.

Girl with headache
Real life depiction of the position I am in as I type this

A few days ago (a week to be accurate), I came home from work with a headache. This wasn’t unusual as I normally have headaches during the weekend (it’s my blog/study/writing time).

However by the time Monday rolled around, I didn’t feel any better. Plus I had my sinus acting up. By Wednesday, the pain was too bad and I eventually started crying before begging to be taken to the doctor.

I had a feeling I knew what the cause was but I hoped he could help. Nope. He decided it was a tension headache. From what little I knew, I knew tension headaches were stress-related. I didn’t know how not to stress. But I was in horrible pain and I was already behind on my studying.

I took medication and went to sleep, hoping to return to work on Thursday. No such luck. I woke up with an awful sore throat and my head still hurt. I dosed myself with large quantities of flu medication, home remedies and spent most of the day asleep. In fact I was only awake for 4 hours.

I felt horribly guilty and ashamed. I was behind on all of my work all because of a stupid headache.

I managed to rest enough that it was fine for me to return to work on Friday.

My head still occasionally hurts like hell but I’m trying to make a concentrated effort to remain calm and not stress (a difficult feat for someone with anxiety).

So the point of me sharing this story is simple. Learn to take a break. You don’t want your body deciding all of a sudden that it needs a break. Because trust me, your body will definitely pick the most inconvenient time possible/

5 Useful Skills You Pick Up as an English Major

English majors are always portrayed as struggling to find a job. While majoring in English may not be the best idea financially (especially in South Africa and especially now), there are some handy skills you pick up that you are able to make use of in any job.

Graduation
  1. Reading (and actually understanding what was read)- This sounds like something so simple but you would be surprised at how many people cannot read. It’s not that they never learnt or lack the ability. Their minds are incapable of reading and making sense of what it is. As someone who works in Customer Care, this drives me crazy and leads to lots of (unnecessary) back and forth emails. Another perk related to reading is that as an English major you probably developed the skill of speed-reading. Yay you!
  2. Research Skills- Always necessary in any field whether you’re looking for information that is academic in nature or even just information on basic skills such as Microsoft Office.
  3. Effective communication- As an English major, you learn how to communicate effectively via both verbal and written communication.
  4. Working with deadlines- Being an English major means learning how to manage large chunks of work in a short amount of time. Since graduating uni, I always say that deadlines are not a thing for me. It’s now a habit for me to get things done before deadlines.
  5. Understanding other’s point of view or opinion- As an English major you learn that 1) there is never one correct answer and 2) how to see things from other people’s point of view.
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