The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It
I thought I would take the time to share some of my professional experiences so far in my career (I know I should calm down because I’ve only been working for about four years now since leaving uni) but in those four years I have seen a lot and experienced a great deal of the so called “corporate life,” and chiiild, no one can prepare you for this life.
When I first started, like many of us do, I had big dreamy eyes about how the working life would be and how I would go about my Public Relations (PR) career. I made a list of all the PR agencies I wanted to work for and emailed them looking for work experience while I was still studying. Many of them didn’t get back to me apart from one who opened their doors and let me in, a PR boutique agency called KDPR -they lowkey kinda had to because it was part of my uni course.
This was my first real taste of what it actually meant to sit in an office for eight WHOLE hours, participate in meetings, contribute any ideas and crafting targeted media lists for specific PR campaigns -I was loving it. I interned once or twice a week for this PR agency and it was a great introductory into how demanding agency work can be and also how cut throat the industry is sometimes.
After I graduated I struggled to get a job in PR. I sent my resume to just about any and everyone I knew in my personal contacts and emailed a bunch of agencies. Working in Public Relations can take you down a few paths with the two main ones being agency and in-house. When I first started I didn’t know much about the in-house side of things so I kept my eyes peeled on pursuing the agency roles -because that seemed to be the cool thing to do. There weren’t many job openings but nonetheless I would spend hours researching PR firms and emailing CEO’s/Directors expressing my interest for any entry level PR roles.
It got dark pretty quickly because I felt I had invested so much time and effort not only studying but putting myself out there in the real world by interning and attending a range of events + networking but somehow, I still came up short and I had nothing to show for it. In that moment I felt the words of Beyonce truly resonate with what I was experiencing and going through at the time.
In one of the many Beyonce documentary videos I watch whenever I need a bit of inspiration (see the clip below), Beyonce shared her first encounter with failure as a kid and how that made her feel and realize that sometimes in life you can work super hard and give everything you have and STILL lose, this was the best message for her and it would soon become something I would understand and slowly learn to accept as part of life.
So here I was in the early stages of trying to get my foot in the PR industry and I was losing despite having done everything I knew how to the best of my ability at the time.
Time was moving and I still had no job, I had outgrown my retail job at Levi’s working as a sales assistant for 5 years. It was time to move on but I wasn’t as enthused about where I was moving on to. After I left my retail job, I worked a call centre job for about three months which honestly felt like death. The money was GREAT and paid waaaay more than what any entry or even mid-entry PR position was paying at the time but in that moment (and if it wasn’t for my bills of course) I would have worked in a PR role for free (that’s how bad I wanted it).
As time went by God must have heard my prayers and been like, “if I don’t sort this girl out with something in PR she is going to lose it.” And so it finally happened at a time when I had definitely given up and thought a call centre job was where I would be for a while. One of the many PR agencies I had bombarded with a copy of my portfolio and resume during my final year of uni wanted to meet with me regarding a job opening that was coming up soon (I honestly had to pinch myself to make sure this was real). The job description was perfect but the salary was significantly lower (by a milestone) than what I was earning at my call centre job, but in that moment none of that mattered to me. After meeting with the Directors and doing a few writing exercises, I was offered a job as a PR Executive and finally I felt like I was winning or at least starting to win.
My biggest mistake though was thinking, just because you’ve scored your so called dream job -you are exempt from losing or any kind of pain that comes along with it. I REPEAT and a little differently this time, just because you are wining doesn’t mean you still can’t lose.
This was a lesson I would learn very quickly and brutally. The job itself was everything I had ever dreamed of doing and how I saw myself as a young PR professional. I got to work on photo-shoots, content for social media, press releases for clients and so much more. Another cool part of this job was that from time to time we would have a masseuse come in and massage us, you could get your eyebrows/lashes done and they had wine and cheese every Friday an hour before close of business. The perks were great, but part of adulting means you also start to feel the strain of a really low wage job and once the excitement of all the cool stuff you get to do settles down you start to reevaluate things and come to learn very quickly that rarely do people or companies care about you as an individual.
I left the PR agency (bittersweet) and packed all my belongings and moved to the Gold Coast where I took on different PR positions. The Gold Coast is where I met two very special bosses (both who I will forever cherish and respect) because they actually cared about individuals and took the time to mentor and guide me.
The lessons from the first PR job I landed remained relevant and to this day and I am still grateful for that job because it opened up more doors for me and through the process of doors being opened, it allowed me to think beyond the surface things when it comes to making solid career decisions and how to spot red flags about a company. That’s not to say I have all the answers and have a formula that works because I still make mistakes and sometimes my judgement can be a little off.
There is one lesson though that I try to remind myself of everyday. It is something Oprah Winfrey said a while back which is -you can have it all but just NOT all at once. And maybe there are some of you reading this right now who don’t agree with that statement because you may in actual fact HAVE had it all AND at the same time. But when I look at my life from the moment I was brought into this world till now, I have had it all too -just NOT at the same time! How this relates to my career though is that I have had amazing bosses but a different variable such as the office being too far or not wanting to move (for valid reasons) or the salary being too low have been a barrier. On the flip side I have had some not so great bosses where perhaps everything was perfect and every other variable was fine but the boss or work environment was majorly toxic.
With that said I personally think YOU as a person have to then lay down the law and identify your non-negotiable’s are when it comes to your career or job. I have come to learn and understand that my number 1 non-negotiable is my mental health. I cannot and WILL NOT compromise on that. Of course I had to learn this hard way but I also had to get out of my feelings and learn how to be strategic to cater both my emotions and life because let’s be honest, in the real world you can’t just wake up one morning and be like - yea nah fxck it, this isn’t good for my mental health so I am not doing it or I am going to quit or I am not going to put in the effort. You STILL have to show up, give it 110% but WHILE YOU ARE SHOWING UP, plan an exit strategy that has been vetted FULLY, taking all sides into consideration because the grass is only greener where you water it!