Learning To Say No

"Weighing Things Up"

After leaving University, I thought I had it sorted. I’d managed to line up a job trial to start straight after, I’d done well in my studies and I thought I was going to be on the creative job ladder and moving. However, the experience of leaving uni and starting a new job was a huge reality check for me. In this blog post, I will explain why turning down opportunities can sometimes be a good thing and why trusting your gut can often mean the difference between making a good decision or a bad one.

Leaving University, I believe I was under a lot of false impressions about what working in ‘the real world’ would be like. I knew that University was essentially a ‘go for and learn’ experience. And I did. I learned so much in those three years- new techniques, how to be a better communicator, learning to work for myself, learning to work for clients, learning about the history of my practice and my place in it… the list goes on. So, I began my job trial with every expectation that I knew what I was doing and it would be a good start for me. I thought I would flourish but, in reality, I struggled.

I would hope that it was many young professional’s experience that they too found working life far more difficult than they thought it would be. Coming from University where projects are steady and always a support system to help if needed, to fending for yourself and adapting to a new work environment was a huge shock. It certainly left me questioning everything. On paper, I knew I should have the skills to be able to ace the job but actually putting those skills into practice in a work environment was entirely different.

Now, for me, it was a combination of things- moving away from home, being isolated from friends and family... they all played a part. But, in the end, it was a choice between sticking at a job I was struggling with and hoping it got better or living at home, unemployed and unsure about what the future would hold. The safer option seemed to be to stay with it and will it to work but, eventually, I had to face that it wasn’t going to happen that way. I eventually had to say no.

Nevertheless, I don’t regret taking on the job trial. I learned so much, met some amazing people but that doesn't mean it was right for me. Since then, I’ve had the time to work on the things; to push my boundaries and learn new skills, to be self-motivated and to take risks but also to know when to trust my gut. It even pushed me to start up as a freelancer.

I’m not sure if it was during University or otherwise but at some point it was instilled in me that I should jump at any opportunity, be it big or small, paid or unpaid (especially when it comes to internships and freelance work) and that’s stayed with me for a while. Don't get me wrong, I still struggle to weigh up whether an opportunity is right for me, even if there are big warning signs that say otherwise. But, since I've started to say no, I’ve had so many great opportunities come my way that wouldn’t have otherwise. Many things were better suited for me and I’ve grown so much stronger because of it. It really was that old saying of 'one door closes, another one opens' and in this case it was an even better door.

Now, on paper and in reality, I have more experience and I’ve realised that it’s okay to fail sometimes, just as long as you learn from it and get back up again. I didn’t have it all worked out after University like I thought I would but I don’t know anyone else who did. I probably won’t have it fully worked out for a long time yet and that’s okay.

So, I suppose, the moral of the story is to trust your gut and to not worry if you’re struggling in your current situation. As cliché as it might sound, it should work out for the better. But also, no matter how much you might tell yourself something’s a great opportunity and you should feel lucky to have it- if you’re unhappy, it’s probably not right for you.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my usual rants and ramblings. Please let me know your take on the subject in the comments below or feel free to drop me an email! Have you ever turned down something you thought should’ve been an amazing opportunity?

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Alice L Clark Illustration © 2020