Welcome to the inside of my head.

Posts tagged ‘career’

161. Working Life: The Sucky Truth.

So in that last post where I said I hoped to still keep up with my blog- yeah that didn’t happen. I can only apologise. I’m guilty. I chose sleep over blogging. Disgraceful.

So what the hell have I been doing? The daily grind covers it- the getting up, going to work, commuting home and collapsing in bed routine.

People ask me all the time how my job is going and I smile and say it’s good and that I’m being kept busy.

But here is what I really want to say.

I have caught myself questioning working life a hundred times over the past month.

The first, and it makes me sad to say this is, is this it? Is this what my life is going to be… 40 years of a daily 9-5  (let’s be honest 8.30-6) and catching up on sleep on the weekend. There’s got to be more, surely.

Then there’s WHAT I’m doing. I like that I’m being given responsibility and I’m doing something ‘real’ but I’m basically a glorified Excel person. Spreadsheets and Outlook are my two sidekicks.

Sometimes I feel like such a sellout. I picked such a ‘safe’, ‘stable’ career. I’ve been so busy being realistic about the future that I never sat down to actually ask myself what I wanted to do. I stumbled into this with my eyes closed and my fingers crossed and a mantra that it’ll work out. And you know what, it probably will. I just need to adjust and grab any opportunity to do non-standard stuff. But for now I’m going to moan because I bloody well want to.

I also worry about my time, more specifically the lack of it. What’s the point of earning money if you don’t have time to use it?  I am quickly beginning to realise that there are not enough hours in the day for me to do all the things I want, and this makes me feel bitter. I want to see my family, chat to my friends, keep up to date with all my tv shows, listen to all the new music and spend hours exploring YouTube and WordPress. But I can’t. And I think it sucks.

And the bit that shocks me is that I’m lucky. I can come home and my parents take such good care of me. How do people living alone function? When do they find the time to go food shopping or cook? How do parents drum up the energy to entertain their kids and keep up to date?

The way I see it…if you let it, work will suck you in and take over your life. I need to prioritise what is really important and do enough things in my personal life so that I don’t lose my identity.

I need to remind myself that I am so much more than just an employee.

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160. First Day of Work!

I’m at one of those funny stages in life where I KNOW that my life is going to completely change. No more can I be a scruffy student attending lectures and agonizing over maths problems… Nope now I’ve got to be a classy sociable consultant (such a fancy term for basically chatting to people). And there’s nothing quite like your first day at work for that to hit home. A part of me is very sad to leave the security and tight knit friendships formed at Imperial but another part of me is equal parts excited and scared out of my mind about what’s to come.

Considering I’d done an internship last Summer with the company I’m joining I should have been more relaxed, but there was so much I’d forgotten and so many new people to meet. We literally had information overload today and we have so many administrative to complete and pre-reading before our training next week. Day one and busy already! On a positive note however lots of people remembered me so that was nice!

The emails feel overwhelming. I remember feeling like this at the start of the internship. Every time I thought I had my inbox in control, I’d receive another bucket load of messages. However I got used to it. I’m hoping I’ll get used to it again…sooner rather than later. It’s weird having to balance so much stuff simultaneously when I’ve spent the last year completely focused on two or three modules. It looks like Outlook’s calender and task panel is going to be my new best friend.

But hey I survived my first day! Let’s see what tomorrow brings! It can only get better right?

What do you guys think of my new glasses?

What do you guys think of my new glasses?

Me and Shakira at reception!

Me and Shakira at reception!

On a semi related note, with work starting I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to dedicate to this blog. However I have every intention of keeping it going even if it means writing posts on the tube like I am right now!

Over and Out!

115. 20 things I wish I knew before I started my internship

1. Keep a pen and notepad with you at all times. You never know when someone will give you something to do.

2. If you’re stuck on something, give it a decent attempt. If you’re still struggling, note down your questions precisely as well as what you’ve already tried so you don’t have to keep pestering people.

3. Note down the names of people you’ve met eg Harry Potter and a memorable trait eg. lightning bolt scar. You don’t want to go through the awkward ‘erm what’s your name again’ conversation.

4. Respond to emails quickly. Often people are waiting for your response before they can move forward. Don’t keep them waiting too long.

5. Put your email sign off eg. Kind regards in your email signature. You will get tired of typing it.

6. Constantly inform people what you are doing. They like reassurance that you haven’t forgotten about their work. In fact you shouldn’t be alarmed if you spend more time informing people of this than actually working.

7. Always make a note of where you found any facts and figures. You will cry if they ask you to find it later and you’ve forgotten.

8. Implement checks in your work wherever possible. This will prevent follow through mistakes which are annoying to fix.

9. Say ‘yes’ to any work given to as long as you have enough time to do it… and even if you don’t. You’ll be surprised how much you can reshuffle to make time.

10. Make a comprehensive list of your tasks and how long you think they’ll take. But also keep a Post-It of immediate tasks in your direct eye line so you are constantly aware of what needs to be done.

11. People care a lot about the appearance of documents so make it look pretty. I got commended in my final review for adjusting the line spacing so that everything fit neatly onto one page.  Such a minor detail and it got noticed. Thank you OCD.

12. Ask people questions. It makes them feel knowledgeable so do so even if you know the answer. If you’re feeling brave, subtly mention the answer and they’ll think you’re clever.

13. Facebook stalk other people in the office and find out what they’re interested in. You’ll find it easier to talk to them.

14. If you can think of a better way of doing something, discuss it with the person who gave you the job. DON’T just jump into it. Some people are surprisingly touchy if you drift even a little from their instructions.

15. Wherever possible, get feedback on any work you’ve done. It’s a good way to learn and get more work as well building a rapport through the correspondence.

16. If you have the option to speak to someone rather than email them about something important, speak to them. Things are far less ambiguous when you talk directly.

17. Take regular breaks and stretch your legs. It’s good for your concentration. This doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time. Do the coffee round or plan your lunch and meetings in such a way that you’re not at your desk for hours and hours.

18. Food is the best way to butter up your colleagues. Cake always goes down a treat, especially if it’s homemade.

19. Do not let people get away with giving vague instructions. Pester them if you have to. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.

20. It’s always better to ask for help than to struggle in vain.

Over and Out!

114. I’m getting moneyyyy

Well actually I got a job offer. Same thing. I thought I would hear back from Towers Watson in early September so this came as a real shock. The first time they rang, I was in the shower. When I phoned back, they were busy. By the time they replied, I had lots of family around so I had to literally scream EVERYONE SHUT UP… please.

But yeah I got my first job offer on the back of my first internship which I got from my first assessment centre. That’s quite a statistic. I feel very lucky but at the same time I worry I have like no interview experience which might pose a problem in the future. But this isn’t the time to fret about that.

I should add I haven’t accepted yet. Thought I’d keep them waiting for once 😛 Nahhh I wanted to discuss it with my parents first and really process it so now I have until the end of the week to respond.

The pay is decent but not as high as I aspired. However there are quite a few perks with the job, the most important being that they’ll pay for my study package (I gotto take exams to become an actuary…) and I’ll get approximately one day a week off to revise. They’d also get me into their pension scheme, give me a free phone, private medical insurance..useful stuff.

So yeah. A job offer waiting for me after I graduate…a nice position to be in. I can do my best during my final year of uni and not worry about what’s coming next.

All the interns at my office. I hope they all come back!

All the interns at my office. I hope they all come back!

I was gonna talk about the fact that my project group won the prize for ‘Most Innovative Team’ for the videos we made and how awesome we were as a group (see post 111. Go Beyond!) but this news kinda trumps that. Oh well.

team fast forward

Team Fast Forward!

There you have it. The end of my internship but the start of my career at Towers Watson.

Over and Out!

[Note: The title and gif come from the song ‘Turn my swag on’ by Soulja Boy. Lol. ]

107. Constructive Criticism

Today I had my mid-internship feedback session. It was supposed to be informal but my blood pressure was elevated the entire time. I’m not sure why I was so nervous- maybe it’s because I’ve never had feedback like this before or maybe I was bracing myself for criticism.

My line manager said lots of nice stuff but of course it is the negatives that stick out and keep replaying in my mind. Though of course they weren’t negatives, they were ‘constructive criticism’. The biggest of these was how I wasn’t making the most of the social scene which is a toughie as far as criticism goes. It’s not something like ‘Aliya you need to be on time’- that’s very easily rectifiable. This is more like Aliya we think you need to be more outgoing- that kinda requires a personality transplant.

Now a lot of things that make you ‘outgoing’ are things I don’t do. I don’t drink. I don’t club. That is not my lifestyle and it’s not something I’m prepared to compromise on. But I am guilty of not speaking to enough people when I have the opportunity. I mean I know the people around me pretty well but not so much people on the other floors outside of people I’ve worked for. But that’s what I’m like. I take time to warm to people and I prefer small intimate circles rather than big networks. It’s not that I’m scared of an awkward conversation- I just hate inane conversation. I like quirky. I’m not interested if you were out clubbing till 3am and that you’re still hung over but I am interested if you can click your fingers in 8 different ways.

So how did I take all of this?

Well obviously I didn’t love hearing it but I can’t dispute it either. All of her comments were fair and justified. I just need to decide what to do about it now.

I mean I could force myself into being more of a social butterfly but it would be temporary. What’s the point of faking it to get a graduate offer and then going back to my reclusive self? That’s IF I get one. I don’t think I will and in that situation it might for the best- I’d be better off at a smaller company.

Why have I been watching this for the last 5 minutes?

 

Over and Out!

106. My Internship

I’ve just finished my third week at Towers Watson as an intern (working in Retirement). This means I’ve actually reached half way! The time has seriously flown by, probably because I’ve been kept so busy.

aliya

Enjoying the sunshine

Settling Down

There are 8 of us altogether in the Westminster office in Retirement. One is me, the other is Shakira and one of the dudes actually went to my secondary school (though he was in the year below me). So that’s 2 more people than most people usually know at the start of their internship. On top of that it’s 6 girls and 2 boys which is pretty unusual but all of this combined has just made it easier for me to settle down.

The Work

There’s no point me detailing the kind of stuff I do because it won’t make much sense. All I can say is that to work in this area, you need to learn so many new words and acronyms that it might as well be a Rosetta Stone course. Also because of government rule changes over the years, doing simple tasks becomes hella annoying because you have to look at each time period separately, there’s Pre 88, Post 88, Pre 97, Post 97, and the occasional Post 06.  Why you make this so hard?!

Initially I was a bit annoyed about doing things I didn’t actually understand. For example I use a very clever spreadsheet called Caps and Floors which works out the right interest rate for stuff. Essentially all I do is input a few values and it spits out a number. I have no idea how it’s doing this and from the viewpoint of a mathematician, I find it wholly unsatisfying but I have grudgingly come to accept that I don’t have time to work through the Black Scholes equation. Additionally I had very little financial knowledge coming into this. I didn’t know how gilts work (I do now..sort of) or stuff about bond yields which was a hindrance.

I haven’t done much Maths besides basic arithmetic (I miss it) but the numerical judgement I’ve picked up during my degree (eg. does this figure look right?) has been invaluable. It means I’m efficient when sifting through documents trying to find the right information and also when reviewing calculations on Excel.

I have a buddy who’s supposed to make sure I always have work to do but he’s a bit slow and this week he’s gone on holiday. Basically I’ve been pestering the people around me and they’ve been happy (a little too happy on occasion) to oblige. In contrast, Shakira’s buddy Timone gives her annoying technical tasks with incomplete instructions but he’s very nice so we forgive him.

IT Skills

I thought I was decent using Microsoft Office. I’m not. I have learnt so many little tricks in my time here.  Many of them are specific to the the TW Toolbar but just small things like the ‘track changes’ features in Word and ‘record transitions’ feature in Powerpoint has been… life changing. However, the biggest shock was Microsoft Outlook. I had NO IDEA how powerful it was. I’d never given it much attention before but seriously it puts Hotmail and even Gmail to shame. Its capacity to book meetings, check out other people’s schedules and track tasks has been invaluable. I will never dismiss it again.

Socials

Towers Watson is a very friendly place. The office is open plan so you literally can walk up to anyone and just say hi. As the new interns, everyone was really eager to meet us and find out our capacity to do some work for them 😛 There is always some kind of social event on the horizon whether it’s Friday drinks, a lunch or a boat party like we had this week. The inconvenient thing about them is that they all involve drinking. It’s like they can’t do anything if there is no alcohol. Every time I tell someone that I don’t drink, they give me a confused look. I guess I didn’t realise how important a pint was in British culture. I do now. And my god, it’s not just one pint they have, it is several. Where is all this liquid going? How are they constantly not peeing?! It’s a mystery to me.

However I’ve still been going to as many of the socials as I can. A highlight was the boat party. Great fun! I’m sure it was supposed to be used as an opportunity for (more) networking but there was a roulette table and I pretty much spent the whole evening there (no real money was involved before someone starts shouting at me for gambling during Ramadan- talking of Ramadan… Ramadan Mubarak!).

roulette

I’m feeling lucky….

Intern Project

Alongside all the work we do in the office, we also have an intern project. I’m in a group of 8 across three different offices and we have to co-ordinate making new videos for graduate recruitment. Other groups are making games to help prospective applicants decide what line of business they should go for and another is setting up TW’s Facebook and Twitter page. The project has been really fun so far and I really like my group, particularly a dude called Robert who is our project leader and also happens to have beautiful chiselled cheekbones 😛 Now originally we thought that we’d be interviewing people in the office… turns out we’re starring in them. That’s right we’re going to be immortalised on the TW website, saying cringey things like ‘open the door to your career at Towers Watson!’ *fistpump*.

reigate

This is where we’re going to be filming… the Reigate office (not my usual Westminster one)

Dress Code

I’m going to be honest- half the reason I was excited about this internship was because I’d get to dress up in nice formal wear. However that gets old real quick. First of all dresses and skirts are really annoying when you’re climbing stairs. Mine don’t have huge slits so my pace length is restricted and unless I hike the hem up, I definitely can’t run for my train. Trousers for the win! Furthermore, if I’m not wearing trousers I wear opaque tights and in this weather it is DISGUSTING. I can feel my legs continuously getting sweaty and drying. Actually gross. Oh and shoes! Both my flats and my heels hurt my feet if I wear them for too long. University has spoiled me- the only shoes that don’t hurt are trainers.

Thankfully we have dress down Fridays where I can chillax and wear my jeans and converses to work. Hoorah!

Okay this is getting really long now. I’ll leave it at that- don’t want to bore all of you!

Over and Out!

62. This makes my blood boil.

So Aliya, you’re next! *wink*. Aliya, when are you getting hitched? Hey Aliya, have you thought about your wedding? You know what, I got asked all of these questions today and it’s not the first time. I keep getting asked these questions, particularly since I hit 21. It is just relentless.

Of course I want to get married, of course I want a family but I want to finish my degree first. Every time I say that, some of the aunties give me this look of disdain… oh you’re one of those ‘career minded’ women. They say it like it’s a dirty word. I’m sorry I actually want to use the education I worked so hard to get. I am sorry my ambition isn’t solely linked to finding a husband. Today an aunty said to me, haw you’re 21 and you can’t even make kheer (Indian dessert). Fine, it’s true. I can’t make kheer off the top of my head but I can prove S5 is an insoluble group and if I can do that, I sure as hell can follow a recipe and make some bloody kheer. Do you notice how the reverse argument doesn’t hold? Being able to make kheer doesn’t mean you can prove S5 is an insoluble group. But did I say that? No- because aunties get a free pass to be condescending but any retaliation from me makes me a ‘gustaak larki’ (ill mannered girl).

My mum is like the community agony aunt and being her daughter, I have heard all sorts of stuff about marriage problems and I have learnt a lot. I’mma speak some hard truths today because I am supremely pissed off. If you are a woman and you work, your marriage will be fairer. You know why? Because you put money on the table and guys might not respect you but they sure as hell respect money. There, I said it. If you don’t work, you can bet that when you go shopping, for every two things you put in the trolley, he will take one thing out and justify it with ‘but I pay the bills’. He won’t do that if you’re paying.

You know what aunties… I’mma get a real good job, buy a nice house and a nice car and if I want to buy new shoes, I’mma buy them because I can afford it.

Disclaimer: If this sounds like man hate, I apologise. If you are offended at my generalising, I apologise. I know there are exceptions to every rule but everything I’ve mentioned, I’ve observed firsthand. If you haven’t, then you’re very lucky.

Over and Out.