One of the major things I’ve learned over the course of my grad scheme so far is how big of a difference one person can make in your career development. Whether that’s the one person who champions you at an interview, the one person who invites you to lunch and makes you feel welcome, or the one person who takes it upon themselves to show you the ropes. Today I want to talk a little bit about finding the last person on that list, a mentor.

A mentor is a completely invaluable resource when you’re just starting, and throughout your career. Having someone you can go to for guidance, and who will help steer you in the right direction can give you so much confidence and really help you develop. You will never know everything, especially if you’ve just started, which is why having a mentor who can either share their experience or act as a sounding board to help you find an answer is so so important.

I’ve had a few mentors through my rotations, some have worked better for me than others. I’ve learned that a good mentor has to be someone you can trust and speak openly with, who you get on with, who actively wants to be involved in helping you develop, and who has enough life and business experience that they can help you grow in more than one way. Now what that person looks like for everyone will be different, and perhaps some of the mentors I’ve loved wouldn’t be right for you and vice versa. It might take a little bit of time, and maybes finding what doesn’t work, until you find someone to guide you, but that’s pretty normal.

So how do you find this mentor?

In some cases, you might be assigned a mentor, which can be a great thing. But even if you’re assigned a mentor, you’re not limited to only turning to that person for advice. What has worked for me is looking to the people who are a few rungs higher than me in jobs I would like to be doing. If you’ve worked with them on a project, and like their style, even better. Then I’ve asked to pick their brains on something, often over coffee, and seen how we get on. I will say that this has been made much easy by the fact that I’m on a grad scheme and I’m kind of expected to reach out to people and try and learn about what they do. The best mentors I’ve had this discussion has happened pretty much unprompted though, once we’ve got chatting, and I’ve asked a few questions, they’ve been more than happy to share their wisdom. Look for people who want to get you involved in projects (or lunch) and are excited about their job and you can’t go far wrong.

Once you’ve found your mentor, here are a few ideas of things you should be working with them on or asking about:

  • Most importantly, how can you improve? What does good look like in your industry?
  • Where can you skill up?
  • Where do they see your business going (if they’re high up enough) or where they see the industry going? It’s useful to know what the future might hold so you can be ready for it
  • What projects can you get involved in?
  • How should you approach salaries and negotiations?
  • How did they deal with any problems you’re facing now when they were starting?
  • How to branch out and make yourself more employable and rounded
  • Any advice they have for dealing with certain people, or ways of working in your office
  • What has their career path been like?
  • Help with working on your soft skills like people management
  • Ask them to take you along to meetings that are a little above your grade where possible to see what those higher-level conversations sound like
  • How can you help them? Make sure you’re giving back too

So, in short, find yourself a mentor and make the most of them by asking all of the questions. Do you have any mentorship advice? Have you had any great mentors? Awful ones?

I think one of my favourite things about getting into blogging is the number of badass ladies I have come across. Honestly, there is nothing more empowering, for me at least, than having so many of the people I admire professionally be women who have defined their careers on their own terms. There are so many women in my various social feeds just absolutely killing it right now, and really inspiring me to do better and to believe that I can, I will and I deserve to achieve the things I work my butt off for. They’re not all designers or makers but they are all “beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful, musk-oxes” (compliment credit: Leslie Knope). Here’s a short list of just a few of those women and little bit on why they’re inspiring me:

ANNE T DONAHUE

If you read my favourite newsletters post (which of course you have) you will know that I’m a little bit in love with Anne’s writing. Okay, so, it’s more than a little bit. I look forward to her weekly emails like it’s my birthday every Tuesday, and my inbox is filled with birthday peach flan. It makes me smile. It makes me feel better. It inspires me to be better. Anne has made me want to write better, and to have a bolder more distinct voice. She has also helped inspire me to own the bits of pop culture I love, and not be ashamed of being the person that gets the Kardashians questions right in a pub quiz – all points are important points guys!

EMMA GANNON

You know I love Emma’s podcast. I love her book too. She’s a great writer and has really made something wonderful about the shared experience many of us had as the first generation to really grow up online. But for me, what’s most inspiring about Emma is the way she seems to have built such a supportive and collaborative community of ace women around her, turning what could have been a solo freelance project in the form of her book into a community based on sharing and inspiring through her podcast. She comes across as the kind of lady you’d want to be friends with, that you know would cheerlead for you but also give you some straight-talking advice. She’s inspired me to build better networks, reach out a little more, and, yes, attempt to be a bit more upbeat.

TALLULAH FONTAINE

Tallulah Fontaine is one of my biggest illustration inspirations, so I couldn’t write this list without including her. While my style, visually, is quite different to hers, I’m really striving to incorporate more of the sensitivity, emotion, and storytelling her work exudes. Her characters are so simple, but I feel like I know them and can relate to and feel for them after just seeing one frame. I also love how distinctive the details in her style are, whether she’s working commercially or on her own stuff you can always tell that it can come from her.

KATHERINE ORMEROD

I mentioned Work Work Work in my recent rundown of my favourite blogs. It’s an anti-perfectionism platform which Katherine launched “to talk about the graft it takes to make it and the strife that even the most glamorous women encounter along the way”. It’s about being real and realising that we’re all human and that we shouldn’t attach moral judgements on how we look in selfies or whether we really want a new pair of shoes. I love what she has done with it, and the way that it never preaches. There’s no real women don’t wear make-up or falsehoods around the fact that people, including Katherine herself, still like to post glossy pictures on Instagram. It’s properly real. I love her frankness, I love her writing, and I love that she’s a (fellow) short girl who rocks so many amazing outfits on Instagram.

SOPHIE DAVIES

Sophie Davies of The Private Life of a Girl has inspired me to be more minimalist in my approach not just to buying but to work. I’m more selective in the things I take in and carry around with me whether that’s clothes or jobs, or worries and that’s in part due to reading her blog. As well as being a great advocate for living a simpler life in a way that is actually achievable because it’s personal, Sophie is also a badass business woman and jewellery maker. Her commitment to making quality pieces is so admirable, and I can personally account for how lovely her arch earrings are – I wish I hadn’t lost one of mine. As someone who has been thinking about starting to sell some of my work, I’m hoping to take a leaf out of her book and just make good work and aim to create a business that represents the values I hold dearest.

LEANDRA M COHEN

Man Repeller is one of my favourite places on the internet, without a doubt. It’s the sassy home of all things bright and fun and female centred that I need in my life so often. The way that Leandra had something to say, and realised that it would resonate with a whole bunch of other badass ladies, and then turned it into a hugely popular platform filled with colour and humour and real feelings and the occasional lobster earrings is why she’s such a hero. She also has the most incredible sense of her own style. While I probably can’t rock many of her outfits to the office, she has inspired me to be a little more unashamedly myself and to express the brighter (and more sarcastic) parts of my identity in what I wear and I what I do.

ELLA MASTERS

Not only do I love Ella’s work, I also love her honesty. In a world of super slick lifestyle and fashion blogs, she produces incredible content that still feels real and that’s such a rarity, and it’s definitely something that inspires me. As I said, her work is amazing. Her recent product launches, have really given me a push to actually make more. Her vases were stunning and heartfelt, and probably a little bit of a risk (that paid off hugely). Her commitment to making what she wants to make, and doing it so well, is definitely going to be guiding me through the next few months, if not years.

RUBY TANDOH

Ruby Tandoh is up there with Nigel Slater on my list of favourite foodies, who just get it. I love eating and cooking, but food is about so much more than just what’s on your plate. Her books really reflect the way that feeding your body is an emotional and personal act, and that you should eat what makes you feel good. She says what she believes, and she puts that into action, and I have so much respect for that.  She also recently co-created a zine called Do What You Want all about mental health, filled with stories and advice from a vast and incredible array of people. It’s currently on my bedside table and it’s the perfect companion for dipping in and out of, and obviously, the recipes are delicious. It’s such a great project that gives a voice to so many people with stories to share and says so many much-needed things on a topic that’s only just starting to get the time it deserves.

 

Who is inspiring you right now?

Today’s post is a little bit different. I just wanted to talk about a few of my favourite things, because they make me happy, and just why not. I feel like I spend a lot of time on this blog trying to improve and make things better, and not enough time just appreciating the things I love just as they are, right now. So that’s what we’re doing today, a list of just 10 things that make me happy.

A FRESH TO DO LIST

Writing out a nice, new to do list never fails to make me feel like I’m in control and on top of the world. It’s a list of possibilities. It’s also an excuse to make something pretty with my hands.

CLEAN SHEETS

Clean sheet night is a hallowed event in my house – not because it doesn’t happen often, I promise! I love feeling really tightly tucked into crisp, fresh sheets. Not only do they smell heavenly, they also make me feel really special and taken care of because it reminds me of being little and my mum making sure my sheets were as tucked as the 7could possibly be.

HANDWRITTEN LETTERS

I love coming home to a letter sat waiting for me on the stairs. They usually come as surprises, little pick me ups at the end of the day, and they’re just the best. It’s such a lovely feeling to know that someone has taken the time to write to you and that a letter has physically travelled from their hands to yours.

A CUP OF TEA

There’s a ritual involved in making a cup of tea that’s just so calming. Standing by the kettle is a time to reset for me. In the office, the act of getting up, walking across, and waiting for the bag to stipe is my time to myself. It’s a moment away from the screen just to be. At home, my tea is an act of self-care. It’s the warming feeling of just holding the mug between two hands. A cup of tea is so much more than just a hot drink. It has so much personal history and so much around its everyday ritual. This piece by the incredible Ruby Tandoh says so much more so much better than I ever could.

MY NIGHT-TIME JUMPER

I have a jumper that I only wear at night. In fact, I only wear it at night, after my shower, once I’m in my pyjamas. When I put that jumper on it’s a sign that says I’m cosy and relaxed and ready to get snuggle up. It’s also the softest loveliest grey jumper, even with its holes from being so well worn.

PEACHES

Peaches are on my mind because they’re my summer fruit. I work my way through at least one family pack a week. They just make me think of sunshine and good times. And they’re so damn tasty.

WRAPPING PAPER

I’m one of those people who love wrapping gifts. It might be frustrating at times, darn you tricky shaped gifts. But I just love it. I love the physical act of wrapping. I love that wrapping is a chance to put a little bit extra effort into something for someone you love. I also just love nice stationery.

MY PHOTO ALBUMS

I made photo albums for the first-time last year, and I’m so glad I did. They bring back so many good memories. This reminds me that I really need to get better at taking photos and making more albums.

NAIL VARNISH

Painting my nails is a little indulgence that I love (and am slowly getting better at doing). It just makes me feel a bit fancy and forces me to sit still and not doing anything else but watch TV for 15 minutes while it dries properly.

MY DOG

He’s not a thing, but no list of things that bring me joy could be without Toffie. That grumpy little pooch is my whole world, and getting to go home to see him and seeing how happy he is to see me is a feeling that can’t be beaten. Whether that’s seeing his little “you’re home!!!” dance, or getting to smoosh his face, or, in quieter moments, time spent curled up together in front of the fire.

I am a big believer in treating yo self, and not just because I love Parks & Rec. I genuinely believe that treating yo self is good for you, and it’s something that I practise absolutely shamelessly (as you should too). So, before we get on with the rest of this post, here are 5 good reasons you should treat yo self, right now (if you want to):

  1. You deserve it – you’ve made it through today. You’re doing well. Just keeping on can be hard. You deserve something that will make you feel good.
  2. It will pick you up – who would have thought that getting something that you want leaves you feeling good?
  3. It’s a little bit of self-care – treating yo self is a little way to show yourself some kindness and reaffirm your own value, whether that’s that you’re worthy of sometime off, getting to read that book, or a little bit of ice cream
  4. It can motivate you – either having a treat waiting for you when you achieve your goal, or just to reaffirm you’re on track feeling good about yourself and a project can make you more keen to get on with it
  5. When you treat yo self you’re better able to treat those around you – if you’re in a good place and you know how to value (and spoil) yourself, you feel much more secure and positive and so you’re much better able to take care of those around you without needing something in return

SO JUST TREAT YO SELF TO A COOKIE

The first and most important rule is that if you want a cookie, you can have a cookie. You’re a gosh darn grown up.

Treat yo self just because you can. If it makes you happy, just do it. Sometimes you just need to take a moment to go, yes, I am doing a good job, or yes, I have survived this awful day, week, year, and I deserve something nice. Those new shoes will put a pep in my step. I’ll come back to the office rejuvenated if I take myself out on a long lunch. I’ve been using the same old set of pencils for so long and I’ve improved so much that my work deserves a step up in quality.

You deserve to look after yourself, and feel a little bit special from time to time.

It’s also so nice to schedule in things to look forward to, because sometimes even grown ups need bribes. For me, that comes in the form of Friday morning cocopops. During the week at work I have a healthy breakfast, but when it comes to Friday I am allowed to have some cocopops and it marks the end of the week as a joyous time. It also gives me something to focus on Monday through Thursday.

Yes, a lot of my treats are food orientated, my dog and I have a lot in common starting with the fact that you can get us to do anything for a snack.

BUT REMEMBER COOKIE IS A SOMETIME FOOD (copyright Elmo)

While Oprah says that a treat isn’t something that must be earned or justified. If you have a treat every day, it stops being a treat. For example, Christmas is great. But if you had Christmas all year round it wouldn’t be a special occasion any more, and you’d probably end up hating Wizzard. And I’m saying that as someone who LOVES Christmas.

I wrote a little while about practising patience, how to do it and why it’s worthwhile, and one of the big morals of that story is the cookie will taste better if you wait for it. I have actual first hand knowledge of this now, I used to have an evening treat every night with my cup of tea – a biscuit or some chocolate, just something sweet and lovely. But now, I only have those things on weekends (and sometimes Friday if it’s been a tough week), and let me tell you I appreciate them so much more.

I’m trying to practice this even more with big treats, and actively save up for them. This is in part so that I don’t spend as much, and in part so that it feels way more exciting when I get them. For example, I have been coveting a Monica Vinader pendant for the longest time, and I’m just waiting until I really feel like it’s a big treat yo self moment.

Remember when Donna and Tom celebrate treat yo self day, it’s the best day of the year, not every day of the year.

In Praise of Rubbish TV

I was a TV-show binger before binging was cool. I distinctly remember recording as many (out of order) episodes of House as I possibly could to spend my 12th birthday devouring. That was 2006 and my love for TV has not dissipated. I do, unfortunately, watch a lot less of it though.

I’ve had to cut down my viewing schedule, but the shows that have made the cut aren’t necessarily the best and brightest of small screen entertainment. The shows I can’t give up are the easiest, trashiest, and most familiar. I’m talking detective shows where I know who the bad guy is going to be in the first 5 minutes. Superhero series where they recap the past 5 seasons in the opening credits. Comedies whose laughter tracks tell me exactly when I’m meant to be having a good time. Period dramas where I can get carried away by completely unrealistic romanticism.

And, yes, I have watched and enjoyed the Kardashians.

I like to think I have good taste generally, that I can seek out quality. But I love trashy TV like I love pop music and anything with a picture of a puppy on it. I love it because it makes me feel happy, because it makes me stop thinking.

As much as I’ve called the TV I love trashy, I don’t think it’s bad. It’s very good at doing what it does (until it gets into the 14th season and the writers have clearly run out of storylines, NCIS my old friend I’m looking at you). They’re perfectly crafted pieces of pop tv. The characters are just interesting enough that you invest, but not too complicated. The story lines are easily digested, and quite often guessable, whilst still being pretty engaging. They have moments of darkness to give some contrast to their generally light humour.

The average shot length on these shows is something like 5 seconds. The literally tell you what to look at. You don’t even need to make that decision for yourself. You just have to sit back, relax and lose yourself.

They’re vanilla ice-cream but my gosh is vanilla ice cream damn tasty.

I mean what more could you want when you’re tired and frazzled than something that promises to replace your worries with those of a man who claims to be the fastest man in the world try and stop another guy who runs a bit faster and has a silly name like Zoom? How bad can life be if there’s not a man who can run fast enough to go back in time after you? How can you think about how busy you are when you’re watching them battle it out?

I’m someone who works hard, and stresses out even harder on top of generally just being pretty anxious. Very few things calm me down as much as 45minutes of escapism courtesy of the latest episode of one of my shows.

It’s not just the shows themselves it’s the rituals I’ve built around them now. The rotation they’re on that always leaves me with something to look forward to. The process of getting cosy in my pyjamas with a cup of tea before settling down at the end of the day. The way they always used to bring me and my mum together on school nights rather than me just being holed up doing homework.

I know some people will complain that I’m part of an over stimulated generation who can’t relax without being entertained. That I would be better off with a book, or meditating, or at least watch something “better”. Perhaps they’re right. But I do all of those things, and rubbish TV still has a huge part in my day because there’s something that only it can do.  It’s an audio visual comfort blanket and I’m not quite ready to give it up.

So, thank you to House for getting through the angst of being a teenager. Thank you to Instant Star (yes I said it) of introducing me to fandoms and a community that supported me without even knowing it. Thank you to the Gilmore Girls for my GCSEs. Thank you to Criminal Minds for my IB Results. Thank you to Suits and New Girl for that awkward period before I started Uni. Thank you to The Good Wife and Scandal for getting me through some of the tough patches of the first years of uni. Thank you to Pretty Little Liars and the Kardashians for curing summer holiday loneliness. Thank you to Arrow and Flash, I sometimes mock you but you’ve helped hold me together these last two years. Thank you to the NCISs, CSIs, Hawaii Five 0, and all of the procedural dramas for being there for me for way too long.

Thank you to all of the shows I haven’t listed here.

The next time someone asks me what I’ve been watching I won’t be embarrassed to tell them the truth. Trashy TV is a big part of my life and I genuinely think it has helped me more than it was designed to.