Let them say it

Marianna Michael

“Back in my day…” Surely you’ve heard that one? There are a variety of similar phrases we’ve become accustomed to hearing. Our parents heard them too, perhaps even our grandparents. And the thing is, every generation is different because so much changes in-between. You could call it modern evolution. 

I like this ‘era’. I have friends working in the studios of some of London’s greatest fashion designers, starting up small-scale businesses, doing shifts as baristas on the side of studying, working full-time jobs with no other plans, or going through a multitude of internships and apprenticeships, not knowing where they will end up. Many are just struggling. 

Today, every job requires a CV, cover letter, samples of work, several tests and an interview – if not something more. It’s not as easy to talk to someone and come in on a Monday for a chat or a trial without the occasional barricade in-between. Our work is often exploited, as is our time. They tell us we can’t hold down a job, even though we’re often given set-contracts. We’re being told that we’re dating too much, or too little. We’re told that we’re directionless or running out of time (I’ve actually had someone tell me this!) We’ll never be able to afford a house, even though no one asked us if we wanted to. I know for me, the ability to rent apartments that I can afford, or rooms, or frankly even a cupboard space in someone’s home is alright with me. It means having the opportunity to live in different places. To get to experience new cities, towns, following a career or culture. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

The list of stereotypes and misunderstandings is endless, and sometimes it can really get you down. But it is fascinating because we should be embracing our opportunities. We aren’t living in the times of our parents. Everything we do has changed. When I go to the supermarket, I spend more time stuck in an altercation with the self-service checkout than with any human-being in any given week. 

Of course our parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins twice-removed mean us no harm, we just have to stand up for ourselves and ride the generation train to success. Perhaps we need to start realising that not everyone else will understand and that’s what we need to fight for, or not let it get to us. We’re not that bad of a generation. I’m more informed about global news than ever before because I read my news alerts and read articles on sites that show me the news stories that I’d miss elsewhere.

So what do we need to remember? 


  • The economy isn’t our fault

I certainly don’t remember ruining the economy, do you?


  • We have free courses and a multitude of resources at our fingertips. Consume them

The majority of my studies after my ‘formal education’ has been taken online, via seminars, webinars and anything else I have been able to get my hands on. It’s the best thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to study many things, and pick and choose specific courses to fill in the gaps or increase my knowledge in particular areas. I’ve also taken courses and seminars in things completely unrelated because why not learn something interesting if you can. And who knows how it will benefit you?! As for resources, there are online newspaper archives, online libraries, YouTube videos… the world is your knowledge oyster! 


  • Need to work for free for a short while? Do it. Gain the experience

Unfortunately free work is handed out more frequently than paid work. Although frustrating, this isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a step into getting the experience you need. Use the free work to your advantage and learn when it becomes exploitation or time for you to get paid. Some of the best companies and brands offer unpaid work but having their knowledge, teachings and name on your CV can be ten times more advantageous than certain paid work. Some of this work can lead to full-time paid work too. Be the best you can be at these roles and develop your skills. Have work to show to your future employers and investors. Make a name for yourself. 


  • There’s A LOT of competition out there, you just have to persevere 

On my first day of art-school I remember looking at everyone and thinking, ‘why did this place even let me in?!’. 

The reality is that there is a lot of competition around us. People from a wide variety of backgrounds, educational paths, jobs and experiences, all fighting for the same things. The other reality is that everyone is different and everyone has something unique to offer. Master your own craft. Find your weaknesses but play on your strengths. Be the best you can be at what it is you want to do and shine! 


  • Take a break. Surround yourself with things apart from work 

In the past six months I have been to two nature-reserves, the seaside, four forests, a few new towns, two new skyline views of London, several parks and I’ve been birdwatching – yes, I’ve been birdwatching. They’ve been the best things I could have done. Having time outdoors, having new experiences and having great days out. It’s what the soul needs, it’s what the brain needs. We need time away from an all-consuming work-fuelled life. It’s also a way to get new stories, new ideas and to find new angles and perspectives.  

As Chris Baréz-Brown said: “Beware of being too busy. It dilutes you.”


  • Inform the people around you – break those misconceptions 

Sometimes it’s tiring to hear the same old questions and yes, sometimes I’m tired of trying to explain myself. Why aren’t you getting paid? When will you have a ‘proper’ job? When will you live in your own place? Bored of hearing it? Inform people. Have discussions with said people. Tell people what it’s like. Explain your situation, or what it is you go through on a daily basis. People will understand if you take the time. 


  • Keep trying new things 

Did I mention birdwatching? Trying new things expands the mind. It keeps us active. It’s also a great way to help mix up the day especially if you’re working freelance, or sat behind a laptop 24/7.  


  • Don’t give up

Take a break, go on holiday, take your weekends off but don’t give up on the dream.


  • Give it time 

I don’t think success happens overnight. If it does, I’ve been waiting many nights! Whenever I’ve spoken to someone ‘successful’ – the people who are doing exactly what they want or those who are exactly where they want to be in life – none of them have told me it was a quick process. I always hear about the stress, the highs and lows, the length of time it’s taken. 


  • Enjoy the journey 

Work at a new coffee shop everyday. Take your laptop to the park (unless you need the Wifi). Look up on the tube. Ear-wig on the bus. Take a new walk during your commute. Make it your duty to enjoy the moments along the way. 


Banner image: Ian Fisher

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