When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

Careers. Shall we discuss?

when-i-grow-up3

For some the end goal has always been in sight. From early aspirations to the necessary education, training, those first steps on to the ladder and the subsequent climb, there are those in the world who have known what they’ve wanted to do from an early age and have gone on to achieve it. Their career path has been an invariably straight and well thought-out line.

For others (dare I say the majority?), the path is considerably more wobbly. This group of people may go to university to study a subject they enjoy but don’t really know what they’re going to do with; they go on to take jobs that they didn’t necessarily expect to, and end up switching careers a number of times before settling on what they finally realise is their vocation.

And then there are those who don’t really have a career as such. I’m not talking about the unemployed or the work-shy, but those for whom ‘career’ is not the be all and end all. They work to live, earning what is necessary in order to do what they really want to be doing, be it raising a family, travelling or learning etc.

Why am I blathering on about this today? Well, in a couple of months I turn 30. THIRTY. That’s fully-fledged adulthood, a milestone birthday and a new phonetic to get my tongue around the next time I’m asked my age. I have to admit I’m one of those weirdos who has looked forward to turning 30 since I was old enough to count. I was a mildly precocious child, and believed that 30 was the Pinnacle of Life™. Now it’s nearly here I’m surprised to find myself pretty horrified at the prospect of leaving my 20s behind. (And at the two grey hairs Paul has recently plucked from my head in the last couple of months.) I’ve achieved much of what I’d hoped to have achieved at this age: I’m married to the love of my life, we own our own home and have a lovely, if perpetually obnoxious cat, I have a wide circle of brilliant, interesting friends and an active social life, I’m the slimmest I’ve been since I was 15 and I’m certainly the tallest I’m ever gonna get (5’4″ and a half, yes!). But there are also goals that haven’t quite been met and aspects of my life that I’ve perhaps spent too much of my twenties fretting and procrastinating about; my career being one of them.

I love meeting new people, but I’ve always dreaded the question ‘so what do you do then?’. If asked now I would start by simply saying, ‘I work in weddings‘. I imagine this would suffice for some people, but for those who are interested I could elaborate further: ‘I have a wedding planning business and I also work as a stylist in a rather nice bridal boutique’, for instance. I find it bemusing that I can look back at that sentence now and not feel remotely embarrassed, but ask me five years ago and the conversation would have been entirely different…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what do you do then?

Me: Erm… [lowering my voice so that none else can hear me]… I’m an actress.

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Mildly impressed] Oh right, been in anything good?

Me: Oh, bits of telly, nothing big…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Jokingly] You been in Eastenders?

Me: I have actually-

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: Have you?!

Me: Just one episode. It was ages ago, it wasn’t a big part…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what you doing now then?

Me: Er… just auditioning, you know. I’m not working at the minute.

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks disappointed.]

Me: …Well I am working but just in a call centre. To pay the bills. It’s for Weight Watchers actually, it’s quite interesting…

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks even more disappointed, verging on disgusted. Conversation ends.]

It’s not something I’ve ever really spoken in depth about before, but eagle-eyed readers may have spotted the ‘actress’ reference here and there. In truth it was my whole life and raison d’être from the age of 16 until about 26. A decade of working towards one career goal… until I started planning my hypothetical wedding, subsequently dipped my toe in to the wedding industry and my enthusiasm for the acting world inevitably began to wane. Of course, the fact that I was beginning to get less work and the elusive ‘big break’ was seemingly out of reach were major catalysts in this career evolution, but the move in to my late 20s certainly made me question where I was going with this acting lark, and whether a new career path could bring more success and better quality of life.

You may be surprised to know that despite the sombre note, my acting career was actually reasonably successful. It’s a tough old business, the acting one. Many fall at the first hurdle (securing a decent agent), and only very few go on to make a real career of it. Following a drama degree and then drama school, I did manage to bag myself a decent agent, and I had a slow but promising start with roles on Eastenders, Doctors, The Impressions Show and Being Human, to name a few. The latter was my closest to a ‘break’- a semi-regular part in the very first series which led to me receiving fan mail (yes really) and being invited to sign autographs alongside Patrick Stewart at the UK’s largest sci-fi convention. (Ok, I wasn’t actually sat alongside Patrick Stewart; I was at one end of the stadium at Milton Keynes while he was at the other, more popular end, but he was there. As were a multitude of daleks and jedi knights.)

Doing my acting thang in Being Human Series 1.

Doing my acting thang and looking an absolute treat in Being Human Series 1.

The highs of being a working actress are brilliant and- particularly in TV- undeniably glamorous (anyone claiming otherwise is a liar), but the lows are stupendously low. Rejection is tough and something you have to become immune to, and the periods of silence and waiting for the phone to ring are long and thoroughly miserable. Looking back over the four years I truly considered myself a ‘working actress’, I probably only physically ‘worked’ approximately 28 days out of 1460. That’s excluding the countless auditions, letter-writing and free bits of theatre I did here and there, but for me it simply wasn’t enough. I was 27 years old, approaching the end of my twenties quicker than I could say ‘Welcome to Weight Watchers, Sama speaking‘, and I wasn’t anywhere near achieving the kind of success I’d aspired to. I loved performing (and always will) but perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t the career for me.

My retirement from acting was long and drawn out, and played out through a series of small but defining steps. The first was leaving the call-centre for a job at Blackburn Bridal at the beginning of 2011. The second was undertaking a wedding planning course with the UKAWP at the end of that year. The third was obtaining my first client and the launch of Utterly Wow in 2013. The fourth was reaching my target of summer 2014 bookings. And the last, most momentous and finite step was the email to my agent to call it an end a mere two months ago. My heart was no longer full for acting and I wanted to begin my thirties with one career goal, not two. I cried hot, hard tears for days once my decision had been made, but the subsequent relief and freedom I felt was palpable.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

I’m immeasurably proud of what I achieved as an actress, but funnily enough I’m actually more proud of what I’ve achieved so far with Utterly Wow. I may not be earning the kind of money I hoped to aged 29 and 9 months, but I know that Utterly Wow will get bigger and better, and I have lots of plans up my sleeve within this industry that I hope will see this little business of mine grow and flourish for years to come.

The moral of the story? Well, there isn’t one really, except that a career path doesn’t have to be straight in order to bring success. And that 30 is most definitely not the Pinnacle of Life™ when it comes to a vocation. When I eventually have children I will tell them that whilst going to university is an experience that is brilliant beyond words, the subject they take and the subsequent degree they achieve is not the be all and end all. Oh, and to ignore their school ‘Career Advisor’- they haven’t got a clue. It can take an awfully long time to work out what you want to do with your life, and perhaps there are those of you reading who still don’t really know, but ultimately I believe that if you can find your passion, identify your strengths and work hard to merge the two, your vocation will eventually find you.

So now I’d love to hand over to you. I know we all like our anonymity in this blogosphere of ours but I’m fascinated to know what you lot do, and indeed if you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing 10 years ago? How long did it take you to forge a career, and are any of you about to embark on a new one? What’s the dream??

Go on, it’s good to talk…

Sama xxx

 

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14 thoughts on “When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

  1. Loved reading this Sama and completely relate on many things. You are going to make Utterly Wow an even bigger success than it already is! Congrats on following your dreams! Xx

  2. Well this certainly hit a note with me, as I sit reading just 2 hours before I head off to yet another job interview. 10 years ago I was convinced that I would work my way up to be Head of Wardrobe for the RSC. Now, I sit at a computer and enjoy (yes, enjoy) working on spreadsheets. I still answer the dreaded ‘what is it you do’ question with the hideous ‘just’ prefix. “Oh I’m ‘just’ an administrator, it’s really boring”. But truth be told, I like my job. I’m am moving in a week, and have the opportunity to take a new career path, but have chosen to persist in the world of administration, and hopefully one day in the not too distant future be an office manager or a PA. (I secretly hope to be your PA when Utterly Wow becomes ridiculously successful, thus combining my love of weddings and spreadsheets). Great post Sama, apologies for the essay length reply! x

  3. This is really interesting :-)

    I have ended up going down the very standard route of A-levels, degree in a subject I didn’t hate (Chemistry), deciding I didn’t care what I did but I didn’t want a job in Chemistry…. graduated and worked my way through The Times Top 100 employers (which quite frankly, I now think is very dangerous and totally destroys people’s dreams! how many auditors do we really need in the world, and genuinely how many people actually like being an auditor?) and have somehow ended up as a chartered accountant and tax advisor.

    Along with lots of my peers, I have ended up on a very good salary but wondering how the hell I got here and how I can possibly maintain the momentum with something that I find quite so irreverent and frustrating. The hours are long and the work extremely stressful and I have so many days when I JUST DON’T CARE.

    I have been lucky in that I’ve managed to tailor my specialisms to the parts that I do find genuinely interesting, but now with a baby on the way, I know I won’t be able to work the hours I used to and being very ambitious, I know I’m going to find that extremely frustrating (which is ironic, but more down to personal pride in my work rather than love of the job!). As a result, I desperately now trying to find plan B. I’m currently thinking about somehow setting up my own accounts and tax business so that I can work from home and fit my hours around looking after the little one but I’ll be honest, it absolutely terrifies me. I would also love to sew or teach sewing, or something similar on the side as I have never enjoyed anything as much as I do that. BUT saying goodbye to a good, steady salary is very scary, and I’d feel extremely guilty about having to rely on Tom for money and the fact that that would limit the career decisions that he was able to make.

    Basically, what I think I’m trying to say is that I think you should be very proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved. I am absolutely convinced that people should do what they love and believe in, and should not be pushed down a corporate route because that’s seen as being the ‘right thing to do’. I think so much of the time it’s equally demoralising, very difficult to get out of. and makes you miss so much of the important things in life Think how much happier everyone would be if they earned enough to buy the things they wanted but also earned it doing things they enjoyed and spent time with the people they love.

    Wowzer, that was a bit of an essay, sorry!

    x

    • A beautiful essay though Emily! That is so interesting that you are a chartered accountant and tax advisor- and I mean that! You absolutely should go solo I reckon- the lady who does my tax return works from home and she seems to be doing really well! (I’m making gross judgments here though seeing as we’ve never actually met and I’m simply going by the fact her house has a posh name.) Seriously though, you clearly know your field and must have the relevant contacts now to gain clients and get referrals etc… It may be a pay cut at first but I’m sure being a mum will soon take over in that respect anyhow?! And keep sewing. You never know what can happen with a passion… Thank you for commenting! xxx

  4. I’m just a PA – that’s how I always answer the dreaded ‘what do you do’ question!
    Even worse is when people ask what I did at uni – Drama & then go on to ask what I do now – swallow me up now please!!!

    Having now turned the dreaded 30 – I spend a lot of time wondering what went wrong!
    Becoming a PA for a big corporate supply chain company was never really the dream….in fact I used to vow that I would never let myself end up just being in admin! Ooops!

    I would LOVE to be making a living doing something I actually love, but I’m too pragmatic – ie. when people tell me I should be making cakes I tell them that there are too many cake shops already so why would I set another one up?!!!
    When really, if I’m completely honest, I have no real basis for this statement and it is really more a case of not having the confidence to give up a salary.
    Especially so soon after the wedding (those things aren’t cheap! oops!).

    So what is a girl to do?
    Who knows really!
    Find a new PA job, one in an industry I’m interested in! Practice my cake making. Get ridiculously crafty. Blog writing. Learn to garden. These are all on my list of things to explore in 2014 – so fingers, toes, everything crossed one of these helps me find my way!
    Wish me luck! Eeek
    xxx

    ps. congrats on reaching your summer target, that is amazing news! :-)

    • Ahhh, a fellow Drama graduate! So you’re confident, engaging, disciplined, affable… all highly employable skills and one that makes you a brilliant PA I’m sure! Don’t knock yourself for not doing something ‘dramatic’. You clearly create in other ways. I think you should definitely pursue that creative side in some way or another… start a cake and crafting blog and send me the link, I’ll read it :)
      Thank you for commenting lovely lady xx

  5. Another brilliant post Sama – didn’t expect to see my face!!

    My default answer to the dreaded work question is “boring insurance” – that pretty much puts an end to any conversations about work!

    I went to equestrian college and I always thought (*dreamed) that I’d end up running my own livery yard. I actually managed to bag myself a great job working for a well known equestrian magazine in graphic design (how I talked my way into that I don’t know!). Unfortunately the hours were long and they pay was low and I found my need for a good salary outweighed my dreams. Its funny how, at 18, my priorities were completely different. Now, at 27, I wish I could go back in time and give myself a good talking to.

    As with many people, I am now in that trap of being reliant on a good salary to maintain my lifestyle. Yes I could take a leap of faith and follow a different, probably more fulfilling career, but it would be at the cost of the things I enjoy outside of work. As it stands, I feel that I am quite lucky…I don’t hate my job, I get to work from home and, although tedious at times, I like to think I’m doing something that makes a small difference to people’s lives.

    For the time being my creative side will have to be limited to living vicariously through blogs and making the most of the time I have away from work with friends and family.

    xxx

    • The salary trap is the thing that I’m sure prevents the majority of people from chasing their dreams. That and fear of failure. I was fortunate that as a occasionally working actress/call centre worker, the only way was up financially! It was just the fear I had to conquer… I have no doubt you’ll be doing something creative in the future. Can we combine the wedding venue/livery yard dream?? xx

  6. Sama what can I say another brilliant post and a very interesting read! My career path journey was slightly different in respects that I kind of done everything backwards but in doing so I ultimately found my passion and my vocation in life. What I mean by that is I left school after GCSEs and went on to do a 1 year apprenticeship in business administration earning a small salary whilst gaining my qualification at the same time. At the age of 17/18 I wanted to earn money and at the time university really didn’t appeal to me nor did I even really consider it as an option. I went on to work in various administration roles for the next few years. As time went on I became uninterested and hated being stuck in an office environment and had a harboring to do something more creative.

    I left my office job and enrolled on a years long course in Fashion Marketing at the London College of Communication, I thoroughly enjoyed the course and after I completed it I gained a temp position working in the Heal’s head office on their Ecommerce department. At first I was unsure if I had made the right decision as my early days consisted of working on the customer service department, however as the weeks went on I was asked to be more involved in the product side of the department. Gathering information from the buyers and assisting the in-house photographer with the product shots, and this is where the creativity started. Unfortunately though I new that it was only a temporary position so shortly after Christmas I needed to look for another job and I couldn’t believe my luck when I gained a job in the River Island head office working on the Ecommerce department as a product co-ordinator, it was at that moment I thought I was going to start living the dream but I was wrong. To cut a long story short it turns out that the fashion world wasn’t for me, you have to have a certain kind of mind set and an incredibly thick skin which just isn’t me (being I am so blooming emotional sometimes!). Alas I was offered a permanent job back at Heal’s as their content co-ordinator where I stayed happily for three years. However my adventures side got the better of me & I decided to go travelling through Central America for six months. One of the best things I have ever done, if anyone has the opportunity to travel my advice would be to grab it with both hands! Without meaning to sound corny or cheesy not only did I have some of the best times of my life I also found myself and realised at the more mature age of 24 I wanted to go to university and study something creative (this is what I mean by my career path being backwards). I originally enrolled to do a foundation degree in Visual Merchandise but destiny threw me a card as the course was discontinued so I looked at the list of potential courses and saw ‘Floral Design and Event Management’ and thought that sounds good! The rest as they say is history, it was the best decision I ever made and I had finally found what it is I am meant to do.

    I absolutely love working with flowers and literally could not imagine doing anything else, Joanne Truby Floral Design will be two this year and the business is just going from strength to strength. It might have took me a little longer with a few diversions (well quite a lot) along the way but I couldn’t be happier doing my dream job.

    Another essay, sorry Sama but thank you for letting me share my story.

    Joanne xx

  7. What a great post. I loved reading everyone’s comments too. I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I would like to do. I have recently taken voluntary redundancy and am now thinking this would be great opportunity to take some time out to figure out what I want to do(or so my husband keeps telling me). However, being a mum of 2, not very confident and indecisive, this may be a struggle….lol
    Your comment “Find your passion and identify your strengths and merge the two”, has now left me thinking….. I need to be brave and bite the bullet and think about completing that wedding planning course of been thinking of doing fot the last few years or some sort of creative course. Thank you for the great post.

  8. Fab post! and love ready everyone else’s comments too, Very inspiring! I remember when I was at school, the class was asked to take part in one of these “new” (at the time – it was 1996 people) psychometric career tests. My results suggested floristry as a career, so off i popped home that day to tell my mum and dad that i was not going to university and instead was going to work in a flower shop. My parents marched me straight back down to school (crrrringe!) and asked the guidance teacher why on earth he supported my decision not to go to univeristy. To them, it was not really up for discussion. To me, I just didn’t have a clue! I was just happy that the career test was a way to help me “decide what to do after school”. Afterall, I was only 15. Anyway, long story short I did end up going to university and came out with a first class degree in International Hospitality Management. I studied Japanese as part of the course and ended up working in Japan for a while. I came home when I was 25 thinking i needed to get a “real job” and have been in my current job for 7 years – great salary, great people, great company. Certainly nothing to do with hospitality, or even management, but I still get to travel to Asia once or twice a year. Another plus is a very generous maternity package, but the major downfall of this fantastic sounding job… the complete lack of flexibility when it comes to working part time (post generous maternity package!). Just no. Not an option. So, this has left me feeling a little confused as to what next. If i’m honest, I don’t LOVE my job. When i tell people what i do, I keep it vague and am a fan of the “just a…” prefix. You will laugh at this next sentence… the only thing that pops up in mind when i think about what i would actually LOVE to do, is FLORISTRY. I know, right? The irony! Loving the sound of Joanne’s Floral Design and Event Management course… if only Mr Guidance Teacher had known about a course like that 17 years ago! xxx

  9. Hello!

    I know I am really late to this party but I got married on Saturday…can you forgive me? I am now on a blog catch up whilst cosying up in a cottage on Skye! (And will write you an essay to make up for it)

    I have found myself turning 24 with in a month and I am embarrassed to say I work in an M&S cafe, a job I enjoy so much more than the better paying, soul destroying, ones everyone was proud of me doing because they would be stepping stones in to the business world and similar jobs to my whole family. I even found myself tempted by a life in an office due to the money even though the one thing I have always been insistant onn is not wanting a job in from of a computer like my whole family. But I am still embarrassed even though it is more like the type of job I always said I wanted…in some ways.

    I never knew what I wanted, except a family, and I knew my career would support my family rather than be my focus. I did a degree in divinity, not divination from Harry potter, but a degree about Christianity; mainly church history for me: the whole time knowing it wasn’t going to get me a job. When I graduated I wanted to be a midwife and really think I would have liked the job but I couldn’t face another 3years at uni and certainly not the antisocial working, taking me away from my family.

    I now have my eye on a youth worker role but is still can’t help but feel like a failure when my parents have me every opportunity in life and sent me to a private schools and university, I loved every minute of it but knew high flying success and money was never for me.

    So I intend to sit my new husband down whilst it is just me and him in our remote cottage and make a plan for the next 6/8 years when we will both be 30 and see what we want to achieve :)

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