It’s Okay To Not Do It All

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This summer has been a true awakening for me. I finally realised that I don’t have to do it all. I realised that it’s okay for me to take it slow and just stick to one thing. I don’t have to do everything I want to do all at once. There is no rush. Life shouldn’t be a rush. I now understand that just because I’m not doing something I want to do YET, that doesn’t make me a failure.

Years of being a workaholic, a hunger to succeed, driven by my eating disorder made me obsessive and even more depressed than I already was. Why? Because I was trying to do it all…at once!

Working at my previous job had a huge impact on my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored working there, dreams have come true whilst I was there and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. But, many many rejections for job promotions and not feeling like I belonged or appreciated in a team caused my mental health to deteriorate. I had to leave and see what else was out there. It was the hardest decision I made but I don’t regret it one bit.

I now work for ITN (ITV News/Channel 4 News) – so I am still in broadcast journalism, it’s full time, it’s one job and I feel like I am being praised and appreciated. I feel happier and most of all, I enjoy the job. It’s more responsibility too and I learn something new everyday. It has also given me huge amounts of confidence.

But at the beginning, I was still in the mindset that I need another job. This job was full time but I needed something else. I had an interview at Sky News as a Text Producer (driving on screen texts and graphics) and I got offered the job! I accepted the offer (it was freelance). But, as I started training at Sky, I realised that it was too much. I was feeling the pressure. Two demanding, equally exciting jobs in journalism. As much as I always had an ambition to work at Sky News, I turned down the offer because I am not superhuman and I cannot do it all and saying no was okay and did not mean I was a failure. I realised that I need to focus on one thing for now, on one job. I need to be and feel normal for once.

All these years, I listened to the voice of anorexia that told me I need to do it all at once otherwise I’d be a failure, but that is not true. Self care played a part in this realisation. Taking breaks was like a reward to myself after doing something well. I would feel guilty if I ever rested. This is what living with a cruel illness like anorexia can do to your mindset. It’s twisted and full of self destruction.

I admit, I still find it difficult to take breaks but it’s getting better. People/colleagues around me giving me a nudge to take a break helps so much too. I didn’t realise how reassuring that feels. Again, this isn’t good but having someone tell me to take a break is like having permission to do so. It shouldn’t be like that and I am working on it.

Sometimes, saying no to all the things you want to do means saying yes to offering the best you can, to relax and enjoy more of your journey, your path. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. It’s okay to not do it all.

People with mental illness are not unemployable

Employers need to give those who suffer from mental illnesses a chance. I get angry because as someone who struggles with mental illness, I find that in the workplace, in job interviews, I am seen as someone who is not up to the job because I am and have been ill. People at work know. They’ve seen my articles. They’ve read my blog. They know I’ve been in hospital.

But just because I struggle, don’t I deserve a chance to get ahead? Crippling anxiety can ruin job interviews for me because of extreme nerves and intrusive thoughts. The fact that I get interviews means they see something in me. I admit, I am so much better at writing than talking.

Maybe my anxiety, my mind blank, has ruined the interview. Maybe someone else showed that they’re so much more confident and assertive in the interview. They showed that they’re the “stronger” candidate? I’m not those things in interviews but I know I am those things in the job itself.

Why not give me a chance? Why not give someone who has struggled so much, has fought so many demons, has persevered through rejections after rejections in the workplace, why not give them a chance? Why not take a risk on them? Why not make them see that they’re not worthless? Why not make them see that they are valued? Why not make them see that they are good enough despite their illness? Because right now, I feel undervalued. I feel useless. I feel like I’m not good enough to take on a more higher role. I feel worthless. It’s driving me to hate myself more and more.

I’m not just talking about me. I want this discrimination towards people with mental health at work to end. We can do the job, we may need a bit of help, we may require a bit of time, but we can do the job. This needs to change.

I went to an International Women’s Day event at work today about careers and getting ahead in the workplace as a woman. The speaker said something about a ‘sponsor’ at work. I didn’t know that even existed. A sponsor is someone senior in the workplace who knows your struggles but also knows your strengths and achievements and will go out of his/her way to persuade someone to hire you and take a chance on you. That person is someone who sees potential in you but gives others a push to take a risk on you.

I wish I had a sponsor at work who would do that for me. I would love for someone to champion me. I am not my illness. I am not my anxiety. Dealing with various mental illnesses in general is tough let alone having to worry about it holding you back in the workplace.

I want to be given a chance. I want to be challenged. I want to show them that I can do the job, on the job.

How did I get into the BBC?

Many people are interested in how I got to where I am today, career wise, so it is about time I reveal all. Especially because it is now exactly one year that I have been holding down a job at the BBC – so it seems rather relevant to be writing this now (as I have been thinking about writing something on this for months!).

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I don’t even know where to start to be honest. Many people ask me, how on earth did I manage to get into the BBC so very quickly at a very young age. Fresh out of university at the age of 21 and I get my first ever paid job on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which was literally a dream come true – considering the Today programme was one of my dream programme’s to work for.

But, lets rewind back to university. I was an undergraduate at City University London from 2011 – 2014. Being on a media/journalism based course, we were encouraged to take on as many work experience placements in the media as we can. Now, back in 2013, I wrote a piece on ‘Is work experience worth it?’ and ‘How to find work experience placements and internships’ – so do have a read.

Half way through my first year, I luckily got accepted on a month work experience at BBC Radio 4. Since then, I made contacts and shadowed BBC Radio’s 1, 2 and 6 Music. Bearing in mind, my passion back then was radio.

I kept seeking for more work experience. I didn’t mind if it was unpaid – I just wanted to get as much experience as I can so that it can benefit me after I leave university. Month after month, I emailed radio stations and production companies asking for work experience. Long story short, that same year, I did work experience at Absolute Radio, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio, Channel 4 and LBC. Not just that, I also got involved with the media team at uni. I took part in student radio and also became one of the editors of the university magazine.

During uni, I also had my own radio show at London’s youth station Roundhouse Radio, from the Roundhouse venue itself. The station matched me with a professional mentor to help me with my university to career transition (bearing in mind this was now my final year at uni) and luckily my mentor was from the Today programme – which I was honestly over the moon about. Big shout out to Steven (you know who you are, I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help!!).

Whilst being in the midst of writing my dissertation, I was also preparing for life after university. I was so terrified of being unemployed. I hear a lot of stories about people graduating and then failing to find a job. I was rather lucky to have a mentor, who did help me with my CV and covering letters and also recommended people I should speak to and most importantly reassured me that I have enough experience to get a job and not to worry.

One thing I mustn’t forget is getting my CV professionally done. Trust me, it is so worth it. I have never been so proud of my CV until I got it done by a rather amazing company so I do highly recommend it.

My mentor recommended I speak to someone at the Today programme so I sent my CV and a covering letter in an email. I got a reply back saying to come and have a chat with them and I was offered a two week trial period – which was basically shadowing someone for two weeks and then see where I go from there. I trained and after two weeks, I got myself a two month contract with the Today programme as a Broadcast Assistant, mainly handling Today’s website and social media. Of course, waking up at 4am every morning was incredibly difficult but I really didn’t mind, considering I was being made to wake up to work on a programme that I love.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 20.41.48After the Today programme, I went straight onto work for BBC News Online, for the Digital Video team (which I still do) and became a Broadcast Journalist (my current title). Then lots of other opportunities came up as I approached some of my favourite programmes including The Andrew Marr Show and Daily & Sunday Politics (current programmes I work for). As my background is within online, I look after their website and social media presence.

One of my highlights of working for the BBC is playing a huge role for BBC’s coverage of the 2015 General Election. During the campaign leading up to polling day, I covered a lot for BBC Politics (online) and worked closely with the Daily Politics debates. I was a Results Inputter on results night/day, inputting the results which went straight on-air.

At work, I have met the most amazing people/colleagues. I met rather big people including Prime Minister David Cameron and lots of others. Never thought things like that would happen to me.

This is not a 9-5 job. Some days I am up at 4am for a 6am start. Sometimes I start around 2pm and finish at midnight. Sometimes I am even working overnight. It is not easy and it is not structured, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

Without knowing the right people and getting as much experience as I could beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to get those jobs. Contacts is key in this industry. You will get rejected. I was rejected many time before I got into the BBC but I persevered. I never gave up because this was my dream. This is my dream. I am determined to do more, experience more, learn more – so this is the beginning of an amazing journey. 
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IWD2015: British Muslim Women + Breaking Gender Cultural Norms

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I wouldn’t say I am a feminist but I do think strongly about the rights of women in the Islamic/South Asian culture. I am a young Muslim/Asian women from the UK, who appreciates her cultural roots but also has a western way of thinking. As a South Asian women living in the UK, I am expected to live the ‘traditional’ way – such as not working outside the domestic space, not studying to degree level, expected to get married as early as possible, expected to act rather ‘fragile’ ‘timid’ and hide away from men and never ever stay out late, just because I am a women.

From a young age, I always had a passion for the creative arts. But working in a field like that is ‘wrong’ for Asian/Muslim women. I realised there were not enough ethnic minorities working in the media. Why was that? Because of the culture issue. I wanted to change that. So despite all the criticism I got; that I should either get a “real job” like a doctor, lawyer or not work altogether, get married and become a housewife – well, I decided to go against that and pursue my dream and inspire others like myself to try and do the same.

I think a lot of Asian women, do feel oppressed but do not like to admit it due to fear. I can admit that I did feel oppressed at certain times of my life. I feared that if I did something rather ‘westernised’ I would get looked down on. And of course, I have been criticised but my whole point is that – going against your cultural norms does not mean you are disobeying your culture or your religion. Of course not.

Regarding education, I studied what I wanted to study and not what is expected of me due my culture, like I have seen others do because they were scared. Going through college and university was hard. Not only did I get little support for the course I chose to study, but also going through depression, social anxiety and an eating disorder and being in hospital at the same time. It was incredibly hard indeed.

Finishing my degree and getting my dream job at the BBC was the icing on the cake. It was like all the criticisms I faced was so worth it. I got a job, I am earning and the family are proud – despite their lack of support and trust whilst I was studying. Did I just prove them wrong? I think I did.

Breaking cultural norms is one of the hardest things you could ever do but I did it. People used to sneer at me when I would say ‘I want to work in the media.’ Now? Well, they are shocked that I made it and surprisingly inspired just because I am women. If I was a man, this would not be a big deal at all.

My message to all young women, especially within the Asian/Islamic culture – if you have a passion to do something in life that perhaps is ridiculed by family due to cultural norms – please do pursue that passion and prove to them that just because you are going against that aspect of your culture, does not mean you are going against the culture itself.

I fought my way through this and made it happen.

Make equality happen. 

Celebrating small achievements with anxiety

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It has been a while since I last blogged so I thought it is about time I write.  I have been inspired to write about recognising and celebrating small achievements when you have anxiety because I don’t think people understand how even little successes matter. It is great if you have big dreams and want to focus on the main long term goal. Looking to the future and having big goals is a motivator to achieve them. But, without small achievements, you cannot get to the big ones. As the saying goes “You can’t run before you can walk.”

We all have bad memories when we may have failed something but when you think about it, there have still been many successes along the way. Have you really given yourself credit for the little things?

For me, I learnt to be proud of little things that I pushed myself to do within the last few months. I started a new job and slowly started trying to face up to my fears along the way.

For example…

  • Making small talk with a colleague: This might not seem like a big deal but my anxiety can make this difficult but whenever I go out of my way to talk to someone, to actually talk, even just saying hello…I feel like I accomplished something.
  • Answering the telephone
  • Offering to make tea for colleagues
  • Asking for a little help
  • Smiling at a stranger
  • Being honest
  • Managing to get out of bed and face the day when it is the last thing you want to do
  • Joining in a conversation rather than isolating oneself
  • Managing to find the time to workout within a busy schedule (even if it just a short walk)

There is so much to be proud of. A lot of people just focus on the negative and beat themselves up. Of course, there are times I still do that myself but there is always something to be proud of no matter how big or small they are. Even the mistakes you made or failed something, you still can be proud that you didn’t give up. Instead, you keep trying. Focus on what you can learn from the mistake and how it can motivate you to do better next time.

My University Experience

I went to City University London to study a Foundation Degree (two years) and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industries.

2011 – 2014.

First year

The first year was rather scary because it was new. The transition from sixth form to university is such a big change and I found it rather overwhelming at first, especially because I still lived at home. Making friends was really difficult. During the first few months, I felt like university wasn’t for me and I was actually thinking about dropping out. I don’t drink, I don’t party and the whole university stereotype is basically drinking and partying and I felt like I did not fit in. After talking to a lot of people about thinking of dropping out, I decided to stick at it for a few months and see how it goes. I didn’t make a good set of friends until I was 5 months into the course and this is when I started to enjoy university. I started getting involved with the media team at university and did a bit of reporting for my student radio station.

With regards to the course itself, the first year was very practical and I enjoyed most of the practical modules. I got a lot of 2:1’s and 1st. Because university essays are rather different to school and college essays, I found that difficult and during the first year, my essay grades were not that great. I found referencing really difficult and I found the structure really difficult too. Also, I did not attend any seminars because during my first year, my social anxiety was rather awful and participating in class seemed terrifying. I got a bit more confident after completing my work placement at the BBC and when I went back to university after that, I really quite enjoyed it and felt really confident and was very excited for the next two years. I finished that year with a 2:1, which I was happy about.

Second Year

The second year was so much better. In fact, out of the three years, I felt like the second year I came out of my shell a bit more (which impacted my third year). My course was part music events management course and we got to manage and organize a music gig in the Roundhouse in Camden. I was into music a lot before but during my second year that kind of died down. I developed a passion for news, broadcasting and journalism so for that gig, I decided to join the broadcast team and challenge my filming and visual mixing skills, which I absolutely loved.

During my second year, I decided to write for the student magazine CityOnTopic. I wrote a few articles for the Politics section and it was rather lovely seeing my writing published in print.

My second year grades were absolutely amazing. I got a lot of 1st‘s and high 2:1’s as I did work very hard indeed. Again, I did enjoy the practical modules more than the academic ones. At the end of this year, I officially completed my foundation degree and achieved a high 2:1…and graduated!

Third Year

We had a choice whether we wanted to go onto the third year or not. I wanted a full degree so I decided to go ahead with the third year. This year was crucial and so much more difficult than the other two years. Starting third year was so overwhelming because I soon realized how much work I needed to do. In fact, it did make my anxiety rather worse but I realized I needed to work hard if I wanted to get a decent grade. I am such a perfectionist and study every single day for hours until I am happy with what I have studied.

We got to choose which modules we wanted to do focusing on our career paths – I chose the journalism route and did most of the journalistic modules, which I did enjoy very much so. Compared to other degrees, my course had to do two 6000-word dissertations. When I look back, that was quite scary but I actually quite enjoyed writing them both. My first dissertation was about ‘The Future and Management of British Newspapers’ and my second dissertation was about ‘How Citizen’s Perceive Press Coverage of Political Scandals’. There is a pattern. Both were about news and politics – something that I have a passion for. This is why I enjoyed writing them because I had a passion for the topic. In both of them, I got really good 2:1’s.

Basically, all my other essays were about news too. I got Firsts in all my third year essays, which I am so happy with. I love writing essays a lot, mainly because I love writing in general. I also did a full year Media Law & Ethics module and I honestly loved that module, despite it being so difficult, it was so worth it. In order to become a good journalist, you must know the law. I have no idea how many times I have written about defamation in my third year essays. Law certainly did have an influence on me during my final year. Coming out of university and going straight into working for BBC News – I realised how crucial Media Law was, so it was definitely worth studying it.

Because this was my last year, I applied to be a section Editor for the student magazine to increase my journalism skills. I got chosen to be the Health and Fitness Editor due to my passion for this area. I must say, I challenged myself a lot with this role and learnt so much about leadership and assertiveness as well as writing good articles.

Graduation was enjoyable and a very proud day for me and my family.

After three tough years, a lot of struggle – being in and out of hospital for my eating disorder, in the end, I achieved a very high 2:1, which I am so happy with.

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Going to university was the best decision of my life to be honest. It gave me so much confidence in myself and I developed a lot of skills for my career. Here I am now at the BBC. Dream job? Thank you university.

Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.