Discover more from The Cardigan Brigade
There's no such thing as a dream job
Careers are a mixture, not a 'one-destination' journey...
Did you always want to be ‘something’ when you were growing up? Did you have a dream job, a dream thing you’d do? (And if I asked the same question now, is the answer much different…?)
When I was little, super little, I wanted to be a nurse. Then, as I got older, I knew somehow my job would be about writing.
As I discovered magazines, I knew in my heart it was about being ‘the girl in the magazine’. I wanted to write about myself (yeah, I know, no surprise there) but in a way that I read other women writing about themselves.
I wanted to be able to share what I thought, felt, and experienced, and for other women to say ‘Oh, I’m so glad Jenny wrote that’.
And it seems on the surface, that’s come true, right?
But I’m saying I wanted to be a columnist - like Caitlin Moran. Actually making money from writing down my thoughts each week, talking, writing books. Penning a sit com on the side.
That’s how it appears, doesn’t it? That she just sits down and writes, and gets paid. I’m sure there’s a bit more to it.
Second to being that kind of writer, I longed to write books.
For me, Dream Career focused around words, being known for my words, and being paid for sharing my words.
Jenny, you’ve done that for 20 odd years, I hear you say.
But have I?
You see, the reality of working in magazines wasn’t quite what teenage Just17, Mizz, Cosmo, More!-reading me expected.
I found myself in a world of sales, really. After working on a local newspaper, I moved to a news and features agency, and, while it was about getting our stories in magazines, it was about selling them to magazines. It was about finding case studies, or people to speak exclusively about their life or an experience, and then selling it to a publication. Often having to compete with other agencies.
I HATED IT, and lasted a short sharp 7 months before I secured a job on a women’s weekly magazine called That’s Life!
This was it! I was off to London, to write in a magazine. DREAM JOB AHOY!
Only… while there were no more sales tactics, but there was a whole world of in-depth interviews. I’d never known anything like it.
My job was to write people’s stories in the most detailed way you’ve ever imagined, to strict word counts and deadlines. I had to ask the most intimate, personal questions you could ever imagine. Like what someone was wearing when they were assaulted. Not just wearing, but the colour, material, the pattern. Or how it felt to have their nose bitten off. Women who were ill, had lost children, had been dumped, injured (one interview was a woman who was run over by her own caravan), had travelled the world, found Mr Right.. or hoovered up the family hamster (true story).
It was mentally exhausting. And I have no idea how it must have felt for them.
I moved onto a mag called Woman, which had more of a lifestyle element that I sought, but it was often still about the ‘real life’ stories. Any journo reading this will wince in recognition of the words ‘We could do with one more case study…’
Being freelance was the next dream.
I wanted to break away from all those confines of having a boss, of being told what to do, of working to rule. Yep, even on magazines that’s how it goes. It’s not all Press Gang and Carrie Bradshaw at a window, you know.
I went freelance with great fanfare, like I was the first person to ever do it (you do feel that way). I freelanced for quite a few years, shifting at mags. I loved it as, while I had to search for those case studies, I could always leave or switch mags when I wanted to.
I worked at Bella, LOOK, Pick me Up!, the Press Association, to name a few.
Then, curve ball. I took a job on a magazine called Practical Parenting & Pregnancy. The method in my possible madness was I hoped it’d bridge the gap between weekly mags and the monthlies I wanted to work on. DREAM JOB ANTENNA ON! The goal was writing for mags like Red, and Easy Living.
No such luck. Although I now know a lot more than I ever thought I would about potty training. And I got to meet Supernanny Jo Frost.
A career break with travelling and ski seasons brought me back to freelancing. I pitched more and more first-person pieces, sharing my experiences.
And then, November 2014: Metro newspaper. A job on the features desk. I loved it, and this was the closest I ever got to being ‘the girl in the feature’.
I wrote a dating column! The DREAM HAD COME TRUE!
(Or had it?)
April 2017: Redundancy, back to freelancing. Not quite the joyous shift-tastic land it had been in the past. Same day rates, much more demands from editors I pitched to. Some editors would send a brief then, on seeing the written copy, change things around, ask for different experts or case studies. Moving goalposts, and, rather than being my own boss, I felt like I had many.
With the pandemic, I did remote shifts, and decided to train as a coach. I launched Freelance Feels, a platform for the self-employed, created a podcast and community. It was hard. I burned out. I wanted back in to the ‘real job’ world.
I love coaching and found a new direction with it - but I missed writing.
And that leaps us to today. Today I am three months into a ‘real job’, a staff role, as a features editor, which I am really enjoying. It’s a happy mix of business and writing, and I am meeting some amazing new connections. I get to write opinion pieces, which ticks the ‘Jenny opinion…’ box.
If you’d told young(er) me about this, I’d have said ‘that’s not my dream job’. To me, writing about business would have seemed a total snooze-fest.
But that’s the thing - letting go of the exact ideal of your dream job opens up new opportunities. It takes off the blinkers.
I know I’ll never be Caitlin. I’ll never just write about my life and be paid for it. And actually, I’m not sure that is my dream career.
You see, it’s about a mixture, a blend, a smorgasbord of career goals, dreams and achievements.
Substack has given me an amazing outlet for my words in a way I always dreamed journalism would, too. I’m enjoying seeing this platform and my audience grow on my terms, not those of an editor I’ve never met.
The current job and coaching give me a feeling of success and achievement, of being ‘someone’. I think that’s what I craved more than anything.
We don’t need our jobs to provide that feeling, though - that’s something we all need to remember. It’s nice when they do but, much like a partner or a friend, we can’t rely on them to do it all the time.
We need to find that feeling elsewhere, too. Like in writing a Substack, or creating a podcast. Sewing, gardening, singing, dancing, reading…
What is or was your dream career, or job, and how’s that story going for you? I’d love to know - share in the comments.
Thanks for reading The Cardigan Brigade! Subscribe for free to receive new posts all about work and careers
COME SAY HI ON INSTAGRAM!