Striving for SUCCESS in Your 20’s

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Hi everyone :)

This blog post actually came about after two separate conversations I had with two very close friends. Both conversations were very similar so it struck a chord with me and made me think. We leave school and we want to just party, enjoy college and have fun times with our friends. Before you know it, you’re in your final year in college and you are in the big bad world. Leaving college you obviously want to secure yourself the BEST JOB with the BEST MONEY and at that moment in time, it’s all you want. You’ve worked for 3-4 years busting it, doing your degree and you deserve the big high paying job. BUT…..then you realise well actually I have to work my way up (in most cases). There are other cases where Daddy knows someone who can ‘get you a job’ but anyway for the rest of us it’s about working your way up the chain.

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So here’s my story…..

When we leave school most of us are 17 or 18 and quite a lot of us (not all and that’s ok) go on to do college. College let me say isn’t for everyone and there are SO many hugely successful people out there who’ve never done one day in college. I first went to college full-time aged 18 before realising very quickly that it just wasn’t for me. There was so much pressure between everyone talking about what they wanted to do after college and what path you were going to take etc. I decided to take up my role as an assistant manager full-time in a shop instead and dropped out of college. I remember my dad was so disgusted at me as I didn’t tell him for about 4 weeks. I was just gone 19 and a college drop out but I didn’t care. I decided to do a makeup course part-time and got my first job as a makeup artist in Dublin Airport. I decided to go back to college at 20 and whilst working in the airport I done an Honours Degree in Marketing with Event Management part-time at night. I worked in the airport for 3 years before a lovely lady Louise approached me and asked me would I be interested in a role in Brown Thomas working as a manager in the shoe department. This was where I got my first taste of wanting to work my way up the ladder in an organisation. This was the job that made me strive for more.

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After all the interviews, I got the job and before I knew it I was working in Dundrum and living in Sandyford. I dedicated so much time to that job as I knew it was the beginning of something exciting. I worked my ass off, stayed back late and put in my all. The other managers were all older than me, I was the youngest and I was managing people the same age as me. After a year and a half in that role, I said to the area manager I want something more. I wanted progression, I wanted a bigger job managing more people. I was so eager at the time I remember. A bigger role became available in the main store in Brown Thomas so I went for it and got it. The team was WAY bigger and it was the whole womens shoe level I was going to be managing. I just loved working there. I was surrounded by luxury fashion, shoes, beauty and it was such a beautiful store to work in. I had a new area manager who I really loved and we worked really well together. She knew I loved my job and I learned so much from her. I was working alongside the Brown Thomas managers too so I was exposed to a lot of very important people in the organisation on a daily/weekly basis.

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At this stage I was 23 and I knew I was finishing college in a year. My mind starting going over and over about what to do, do I stay in Ireland or do I leave to travel abroad like I always wanted to do? I was so so torn. My nana passed away in the May which broke me and between the May – December I was debating what to do. I absolutely loved my job and the role I was in but I knew they weren’t going to give me the promotion I wanted because I was so young. So one rainy day in December of 2013, I booked a one way ticket to Oz on my own. I was doing it! I was so scared but I knew I had to do it for me. My boyfriend at the time didn’t want to come but it was always something I wanted so I was going. I knew Brown Thomas would be there when I came home so I worked until the following May and left in the June all on good terms for the land of kangaroos and sunshine. I remember one of the managers telling me ‘Aoibhe go sell flip flops on the beach and live the life’ which was the plan but that sooooo didn’t happen. I got a job working in Harvey Norman (like a lot of Irish people in Oz, I took any job at the time to get me off the ground) and I was working in the furniture department. The furniture department was as boring as watching paint dry. I went from working surrounded by fashion and all things fabulous to polishing the same table every single day. I was so bored but I knew I couldn’t leave it. I applied for a few jobs in fashion and heard nothing….until one day I got a phone call ‘Hi Aoibhe, this is Laura calling from Prada in Sydney’ and I nearly died. Prada of all companies, I was so happy. I went for a number of interviews and BOOM got the job as ‘Store Manager in Training’ for their new Miu Miu store which would open in Perth later that summer. I was on really great money, much more than back in Ireland and I literally couldn’t believe my luck. I loved working there so much and learned so much about opening a new store etc. 6 months go by, 8 months go by……..10 months go by and I need to go home. It’s a long story but I needed to go back to Ireland.  My boyfriend at the time had come out to me and we both decided to leave. It was a very rash decision at the time and one I remember regretting so so much but it was the right decision at that moment in time. I had loved working there so so much and a couple of the girls were amazing who I worked with. I took a lot from that job when I look back.

So here I am back in Ireland a year later, not really having planned to return so quick and as happy as I am to be home, I’ve no job. Remember I’m after coming from a job with a really high salary so I’ve been working my way up and I obviously want a job with the equivalent money here in Ireland. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. I struggled for a while but finally after many interviews I got a job. It was a job with even BETTER money than I was on in Australia plus a company car with paid diesel/insurance/tax and private health insurance. I was absolutely sorted….well so I thought. The job was working as an Area Manager for a supermarket chain managing 4 of their stores. It wasn’t exactly what I had pictured doing but it was gaining me invaluable experience. So I’m delighted with myself and my new job but I soon realise that the money didn’t even matter as I was working 13-15 hour days, I wasn’t seeing my friends and I was constantly exhausted. I was 16 weeks in and I just knew it wasn’t for me, my family thought I was crazy. I had wanted the big job so much, why would I give up so soon? It was the job with the big money, why wouldn’t I be happy? I soon realised, it wasn’t a job for me. I remember it was early December once again (seems I make all my mad decisions in Dec) but I was at a training in my new job and the below Steve Jobs quote came up on the slide at the end of the day. I slammed my wrist on the table after reading it and said NO! I totally forgot there were people around me. So my boss at the time came into all of us at the end of the day and asked some of us for a chat about how we were getting on. Into the room I went and I had no intention of handing in my notice at all. We chatted about the role and how I was getting on, before I just said sorry I’ll have to stop you there. This guy was quite high up in the company but a wave of confidence just came over me and I told me how it was. I told him I was so unhappy, I was being overworked, I had no life, I barely saw my friends……I was 26 years of age and this was not the life I wanted. I asked him how he thought working us this much was ok and he didn’t know what to say. I told him that his company car with the big salary wasn’t enough for me if I wasn’t happy personally. He asked me to stay naturally and give it a chance but that was it I was ready to go. The big money job just wasn’t for me anymore. I left that day and I never felt so happy, my boss thought I was mad but I knew I was doing the right thing. He applauded me on my confidence and bravery for doing what I was doing as I had no job to go to next. I stuck up for myself and he knew my decision was final.

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I spent the next few weeks shopping and getting ready for Christmas until one day I got a phone call from Brown Thomas asking was I interested in a managers role in their store on Grafton St. It wasn’t actually starting until mid- January but they wanted me to come in and have a chat with them. It all happened before Christmas and so fast. Before I knew it, I was given my start date and I had the job. It was working under the Store Manager in BT2 on Grafton St which I was so thrilled about.  This was a massive step up from my previous role there before I left for Australia so I was delighted. Although I was going down slightly in money, I didn’t care as I was back in a role that I knew I would be happy in. Fast forward three months, I went for a job interview for cabin crew to see how I would get on. I was still loving my new managerial role but thought I would go to the interview. I hadn’t heard anything back so I presumed I didn’t get the job. I was commuting nearly 3hrs a day from Drogheda into town for the job in Brown Thomas and after 5 months it started to really take it’s toll. I loved being there but it was really hard on the body mentally and physically. I felt like I wasn’t give my all to the job like I did before Australia. There was also an announcement that Victoria’s Secret were set to take over the store so we would all be relocated. This played on my mind for a long time but thankfully one day in May, the airline company called me congratulating me on getting the cabin crew role. I was shocked as it was a few months later at this stage. I panicked and asked could I call them back. I called them later that day and accepted the position. I knew it was the right one for me at the time and was just faith as I wouldn’t know where Brown Thomas were going to end up putting me. I took this role and started the following month. I’ve genuinely never looked back. I can firmly say it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I have never in my life had such a work/life balance and work doing something I can say hands down, I actually really enjoy. Rewind only one year remember….I was on a really high salary, doing a big managerial role and managing 4 stores. Fast forward one year and I was no longer managing a team, had a big salary or had the massive stresses/worries that came with the old job. I was happy to go in, do my job, do it well and go home. In one year, I went from being on nearly 70K to dropping to a lot less than that.

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People always ask me why? And the answer is so simple…..To be happy. I was able to see my friends more, work on my blog more and travel the world. I didn’t regret my decision one bit nor will I ever. Striving for success in your 20’s can be so hard. There’s so much pressure in your 20’s I feel. It’s a constant battle between wanting to work your way up but still wanting to have a life, wanting to travel but being afraid you’ll never be able to afford a house. You are constantly torn between it all. When you finish college there is (well there was when I finished) a certain pressure to go and secure the best job you possibly can and god forbid it wasn’t the right one. There’s a level of pressure from parents and your peers. This isn’t the way for everyone I know that. I’ve two examples….My boyfriend knew he wanted to be a pilot from the get go. He done the training, got the job and never looked back. It was his dream and that’s what he done. Another guy I know wanted to be a fireman. He done all the relevant qualifications and works as a fireman. He’s happy as larry, couldn’t care what amount of money he’s on because he’s happy and content in the job. But we all aren’t as lucky as them. We sometimes need time to figure out our situations. That’s what I mean about being totally torn in your 20’s. You want to be successful but you want to actually have a life and enjoy it at the same time too. A friend of mine had a similar situation where she was in a big job role, mid 20’s, earning a decent amount and just hated it so much. She didn’t like anything about it, constantly upset and stressed, working on her days off and one day she decided NO and left. She’s never looked back and now working doing something she adores and is doing so well. She’s earning less money but came to the realisation that big job means nothing if you aren’t happy.

I asked my friend Kate to write a piece for this post as her situation in her mid 20’s was very similar.

Everyone has a dream 5 year plan, am I right? Well what happens when you hit 25 and have completed absolutely everything you wanted from that 5 year plan?! As I ticked off the last item on my list I realised that I had achieved everything I had wanted career wise but I still felt like I wanted more, something different than what I was currently doing. I had the big big job and I loved it but at 25 I realised that I wanted something different, I wanted more flexibility. I didn’t want to climb the ladder and work longer hours, I was already giving my job every hour of my life and I just couldn’t give it anymore. The month of January this year my mind was in overdrive and I just thought you know what, this isn’t what I want anymore so I decided to hand in my notice. Scary because I hadn’t actually decided what I wanted to do next so I booked a few trips away on my own and really enjoyed the time off. Before I set off on my travels I casually got talking to a few business people about the work I had been doing and they asked could they hire me as a consultant. Light bulb moment, I can still do the work that I love and not be committed to just one brand so I decided to start my own PR & Digital company while also setting off to Central America. I worked while I travelled but I didn’t mind because I was working for myself. Travelling solo made me feel great about myself and I knew that I could do anything once I was passionate about it! 5 months in from going out on my own and I actually couldn’t be happier! Happiness is everything and you’ll always find ways to make money or save money if you have to! Life doesn’t always go to plan so just take it as it comes and don’t stress about the ‘what if’!

My whole point of the post is to explain to people that it’s ok to not know exactly what you want to do even in your mid 20’s. That’s fine….. Don’t take the job with the big money just because you think you’ll be happier because you might not be. Find a job you love and are passionate about. Find a job that when you wake up you aren’t dreading your work day EVERY DAY. Find a job that makes you happy. It sounds so sad but as someone who’s went through it all, that is my advice. Leaving luxury retail and going into the airline industry was a massive career change for me. I was in my late 20’s and so unsure but as I said I won’t ever look back. I’ll never regret my years in my old jobs because they thought me so much. I have all that experience plus my degree to fall back on if I ever didn’t want to continue with what I currently do (I know that would never happen). If you are in a job you hate, leave. If you dream of travelling, book the flight. If you want to go back to college and think it’s too late, I assure you it’s never too late. Striving for success doesn’t always have to be, having the big job with the big money. It can literally be something as simple as just being happy and content doing the job you do.

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Even when you are so scared of doing something, do it anyway. I don’t believe in regrets, I believe in lessons learned. Maybe someday you’ll thank me for giving you the courage to just do it 😉

Love Aoibhe xxx

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