Do you mind sorting my problems out for free and do it quickly please!

“Oh are so you are a lawyer? …I am going through a nasty divorce at the moment, what would you do if you were in my situation…….?”

“A nurse? Impressive! Would it be inappropriate if I showed you something?”

These are the types of questions people in certain professions may expect. The nurse one is even worded quite politely as people don’t necessary ask, they just show them their problem area… This can happen at dinner parties, social gatherings, through social media, random phone calls etc. etc.

I have friends in different professions, and they have told me it is unbelievable how people from the past pop up and expect help or even free guidance due to old time sakes when it suits them.

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This is something I didn’t expect to come with my education. I don’t know why but I just had never given it a thought.

I had interactions with an institution the other day that I have to communicate with quite a lot.

Their general communications are poor. There is a lot they want to achieve but they are definitely not meeting their objectives as they bombard people with messages. Through emails, texts and apps. One day I received 4 emails, 2 texts and messages through the app (it’s not an isolated thing but reoccurring, this just happened on the day I decided to actually count their messages). These different types of communications were not to get one really important message across but many different messages, some rather important, others not important at all.

What this institution has achieved with its invasive communication attempts is that people (including myself) don’t read their messages and therefore, sometimes miss important information.

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As I had a meeting with one of the managers of this institution the other day, I couldn’t help myself and pointed out the fact I was studying communications and as far as I was concerned, they were well  off mark in their attempts to reach their audience.

He was very interested and asked what I meant. I pointed out that for an example they had been raising money the other day (which I didn’t know) and then a week later they were still raising money and mentioned that NOTHING had been raised so far as no one had responded. I explained to him that was simply because they were drowning out their own voice.

He told me he liked what I was telling him and asked me what I would advise him. All of a sudden, I found myself on the spot. I realised I was being asked to come up with a quick solution to something I knew one should apply certain methods to and put thorough thought into. I told him that was something that required some thinking and that objectives needed to be clarified etc. He kept pushing me for a solution so I told him my first step would definitely be to reduce the amount of information they were sending out. Try to keep it in their weekly newsletter UNLESS it was something pressing. However, I pointed out he needed to inform the people on the receiving end so that they would actually read the newsletter and realise that was where most things were to be found from then on.

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He then told me about other people he wanted to reach and that he needed help to do so and what my advice would be in that regards.

I was gobsmacked. All of a sudden, I was the nurse and the lawyer I never imagined I would become. Being asked for professional advice on the spot. As if people go through years of university to be able to apply quick fixes to people’s problems.

I told him I couldn’t advise him more there and then as for a problem like that one needed to make a stakeholder map and have a clear idea of the objectives for each stakeholder group. I probably should have also told him that consultation like that should also cost money. However, I wouldn’t know what to charge, plus I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that yet as I feel like I need more experience to be able to justify a cheque for my advice.

He asked me if I could do graphics and whether I might want a role within the institution. A voluntary role, a prestige one, but I have the feeling he wants me in that role for easy access to answers to some of the questions he asked me while I had this short meeting with him (that was completely unrelated to this topic!).

Woman superhero cartoon character. Wonder woman with cape of superman. Confident business lady focused on success. Flat beautiful female super hero.

I told him I would finish my masters first and then bring a human being into this world. After that we could talk.

This was a wakeup call for me. Of course, we help out close friends and family to a certain extent. However, we shouldn’t give away our work and we should not expect others to do so. Neither should we expect that people that have gone through universities are walking encyclopedias of their trades and can therefore sort out any problem related to their profession on the spot in matter of minutes.

If your sister is a hairdresser pay her a little for cutting your hair and your mate that is an electrician doesn’t feed his family with a drink at the pub later. People should be respected and valued for their expertise and the work behind it should not be taken for granted.

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Being a PR student in the shadow of the professions questionable reputation

Oh, the controversy of Public Relations!

I have 10 siblings, in that group I have two siblings with a university degree. I come from a line of hardworking working-class people. From generation to generation I believe the elderly always hoped the younger ones would be able to make a better life for themselves. Not merely live from pay check to pay check, and sometimes not even that. Therefore, my grandparents and parents have tried their best to push us towards education. They want us to be able to enjoy the jobs we do as well as life.

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My brother holds a Bachelors degree and Masters degree. He’s 1 and half years younger than me and very close to me. He has always encouraged me to study. Understandably, when I made the decision to do my Bachelors he was the first one I called, for support you see.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m going back to school!”

Him: “Really? That’s great news!”

Me: “Yeah, I just enrolled this morning!”

Him: “Fantastic! I am so happy for you!!”

Me: “Thank you!”

Him: “So what is it in?”

Me: “Media and Public Relations”

….at this moment I got the feeling that if he would have stood in front of me, he would have spat in my face.

Him: “What the fxxx!! Bloody unprofessional bunch of people! Got no morals and are ready to say what ever as long as they get paid for it!!”

Me: “Hey, I’m still me and my ethics won’t change overnight….”

Him: “These people are spin doctors and twist the truth to serve their clients!!”

Me: “Well…I just wanted to share this with you. I’ll start next month…”

'Are we talking about political reality, media reality or the real reality?'

And that’s where we left it. I didn’t manage to tell him I was in it for the media side of it as I wanted to become a journalist or a news reporter. The public Relations side just came with the course. Once the news broke out within my family I continually met voices that echoed my brothers opinion and my standard answer was: “I’m in it for the media side”. Whenever Public Relations practitioners were working for corrupt politicians or companies with a bad reputation I would be poked and told that was going to me. As time passed I got to the Public Relations part of my studies and to my surprise I loved it! I liked the sound of the buzz around the occupation, the thought of meeting a lot of people, the fact the tasks can vary and so on. Therefore, it became harder to answer people when they told me I was a future spin doctor.

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In my Public Relations class we were told to tell the truth and tell it quick. That sounded pretty ethical and to me it felt like that’s how it should be done, but maybe not everyone practiced in that way.

Due to all this I decided to calm my own mind and shut up all these negative voices (hopefully) by writing my final dissertation on ethics in Public Relations. It was called “Ethics and Public Relations: where is the line?” This is the dissertations abstract:

“This dissertation covers the ethics of Icelandic professionals working in the field of public relations. It covers what kind of values they follow when facing ethical issues at work. It examines whether those values are formal or informal and whether they follow them when facing an ethical crisis. To achieve an answer to those questions in this dissertation it is based on theoretical content such as philosophy, peer-reviewed articles and other material that concluded my findings. Additionally, it is based on interviews with four professionals in the field of public relations and their attitudes towards ethics at work.

The findings indicate that public relations professionals in Iceland work by informal and personal values. It differs whether they actually follow through with those values when it comes to it as half of the participants said they would, while the other half either said the liability rests on the shoulders of their company directors or that when it comes down to it, ultimately the client pays for a certain service.”

In short, it varies. Some follow ethical guidelines, mostly their own, as there doesn’t seem to be many formal rules for the profession in Iceland. However, there is an association of Public Relations practitioners in Iceland but only two out of the four practitioners I spoke to knew of its existence. None of them knew that the association had a set of ethical rules. Two of them said they wouldn’t lie but they might not tell everything if it wasn’t necessary. They all agreed however, if you lie and practice spin you won’t survive in this profession for a long time. Especially not in a country as small as Iceland as news travels fast and as a Public Relations practitioner your reputation is everything.

When I told my family that I was going abroad for further studies in Public Relations I met with nothing but positivity and support. It’s a field that many do not understand and to be fair, Hollywood hasn’t done us any favours. My family now understands that the profession doesn’t make a person unethical and that it rests with the person itself as to how they practice.

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Motivation is the key to success!

I went for a job interview the other day where I had to fill out a form. On the form was a question that read: How do you motivate yourself? Underneath the question was a really small box where I could hardly fit my name let alone all the ways I use to motivate myself.

After the interview the question kept coming back to me as I had never really thought about what keeps me going or what I do to keep focused.

As I lead a varied, even sometimes a hectic life where I have to juggle many balls at once I can often hit a wall. The wall can seem so big that is can seem impossible to get over it with everything that is going on. There are, however, a few things I do to overcome these hurdles.

Number one:

Plan, plan, plan and plan. It may sound dull but once I have things mapped out I can see that they are do-able. It helps me unclutter and prioritise. As I have a fairly big family to run there are many things that need to be considered. For this I use a few methods:

The Huge Calendar:

I put things the whole family needs to know on this. When people are coming to visit, when the older kids go to see their dads, football practices, my big school assignments and to remember to get money out for the kids’ school bus (We use to forget this and have to rush last minute every week to get the money out). I put the Huge Calendar up on a wall where the whole family can see it and the kids take turns in crossing out the days as they pass. I always hang up the current month and below it I put the coming month as nothing is worse than realizing last minute something is about to happen. This way we always have an overview of the coming weeks and everyone in the home knows what is happening and when. Each person even has their own colour!

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My Diary:

My diary contains most of the things that are on the Huge Calendar. It also has all the reading I have to do and assignments, small and big. It also has all the personal “mummy stuff” in it like: Renew passports for such and such, book trains etc. I highlight each thing I have finished. I LOVE highlighting stuff! It gives me such pleasure to be able to tick things off!

Menus:

A busy home means little time. When you have many mouths to feed you start dreading the daily question of: “What’s for dinner?”. I solved this by sitting the family down and getting everyone to brainstorm what to have for dinner for the next 2 weeks. This way everyone gets something they like, and I always know what’s for dinner and it spares me headache and angst! It also saves a lot of money as one doesn’t have to go to the store as often. Sometimes we reuse old menus and sometimes I get my cooking books out to get some new, fresh ideas as it is easy to get stuck in a rut regarding this.

The Envelopes:

Due to security, I am told this is not something one does in the UK, so we have worked out a safer way of doing this over here. In Iceland we used an envelope system. This system was applied to our finances. We were both working low paid jobs and didn’t have much left at the end of each month. By using this system, we managed to do things we wouldn’t have dreamt off before. We had envelopes marked “Week 1”, “Week 2”, “Week 3” and “Week 4”. In each one we put money for grocery shopping for the relevant week, usually a big shop in the first week, smaller in 2 and 3 and then a fairly big in week 4. We also had separate envelopes for “Petrol”, “Bits and bobs” (when we had to nip to the shop for a loaf of bread or milk etc.). Last but not least the envelope called “Live a little” in which we put a little bit aside to be able to go to the movies with the kids, go out as a couple for a meal etc. It is really important to budget for some fun as well, other wise the whole system goes out of the window as it is easy to give up when budgeting if there is no fun involved.

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Goals:

As planning the mundane and day to day stuff is not fun on its own I also make a list of things I want to achieve that year (usually based around the academic year as I have gotten use to working around that in the last three years). One of the years this list had things like: Try out all the swimming pools in the Reykjavík area (I did not get to check that one out as there were more of them than I realized), go to Tenerife (we managed that, even saved up for it using the envelopes!), cook new food once a week (mostly achieved), travel around Iceland (we did it in 27 hours and therefore didn’t stop much, but still, around we went!) and so on! Making that list was fun. Having to think of fun things to do throughout the year, for me and my fiancé, for all of us as a family and for myself. It is so important when life is busy and feels like all you do is eat, sleep, work to have things to look forward to and to have goals, even though they are not bigger than trying out new swimming pools or cooking something you haven’t cooked before.

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Number two:

As you can see above visual motivation in the form of crossing things out of lists gives me pleasure. At one point in my studies life was quite hard. I had a big load of assignments at school, my fiancé was battling severe depression and anxiety, I was working a lot and the kids were a little more demanding than usual (as they seem to be when everything else is). I was about to throw in the towel and quit school. I thought I could not do it and it seemed to be such a big task. Thankfully, I took some time and thought about it and rather than giving up I found way to motivate myself.

Sort of a list but not really:

I printed out a list of all the courses I had to finish to get my bachelor’s degree. I put each term separately into an Excel sheet. This included the name of each course and how many credits I would get for it. Some I had already finished. Then I took a highlighting pen (as I love that pen!) and highlighted what I had finished already, which was about one term and then some. It was so empowering to see the courses I HAD finished, the credits I had already earned, and no one could take them away from me. It made me want to keep going. I had this on a wall above my desk and every time I sighed or thought about giving up I looked up and thought “No, you can do this, you can’t give up now, just see how far you have come!”. Every time I finished a course I highlighted it until all of a sudden it was all done!

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Inspirational quotes:

I decided I needed something more to inspire me. I looked online and through an ocean of quotes and eventually I found 3 quotes that suited me. There were many good ones and many that made me feel all warm inside, smile or giggle but after a bit of research I choose the following: ,,If you can dream it, you can do it”, “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough” and “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t”. Here I was working on my self-doubt as previously discussed, and as I am a big dreamer, I can get a little lost in my dreams but then disregard them as just that, dream. I needed to remind myself that in fact I could and would make them a reality.

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Number three:

On top of all that I kept reminding me how far I had come and why (which you know all about due to the blog I posted last time, if not, click here).

I have gone through so much in my life and I had to grow up quickly. I have often had to rely on myself and just pull through. I was only 17 years old when I decided not to let other people or events define me. Things happened that were out of my control, but when I turned 17 I decided to take control of my life and from then on be responsible for where it would take me. I did loads of very spontaneous things in the years to come and many stupid things, but I don’t regret any of them as they shaped the person I am today. Even after difficult times I have gained some experience and usually had some fun along the way.

The hurt little girl, rejected teenager, the single mum, the divorcée etc. has come out on the other side and will only keep climbing that wall, even though it is cliché: The sky is the limit!

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The path to here

Do I ever wonder why I am here and whether I am good enough? Whether it will all be worth it in the end and wonder if it will be the investment I told myself it would be?

Yes, yes, yes and yes!

I can be a master of self-doubt and criticism. My plan, however, is to become a Master in Corporate Communication, Marketing and Public Relations. Whenever I am in self-doubt I remind myself why I am here, how I got here and where I am going.

The why part is easy. I became a mum at the age of 23, I had no education, I had been stuck in dead end jobs that didn’t even cover the bills and I had ambitions and believed life held more for me than this. When I became a mum I also felt this huge wave of responsibility hit me. I could do more, I had to do more. I had to show my little girl how beautiful the world was, live life to the fullest and be a good role model for her.

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At the age of 25 however I still didn’t have an education, no flashy nor well paid job BUT I did have one more child and worries as I was a single mum of two and stuck in a rut.

In panic mode I called an aunt of mine, older and wiser. She told me to get back to school. She said she knew that was what I wanted to do and that no matter how well paid the job would be if one had this urge to study it would always be there nagging away in the background. She also pointed out that while studying I could get student loans and they would cover anything me and the kids would need. To a single mum of two in desperation and loads of bills to pay that sounded like a great plan.

So that’s what I did! I completed the Icelandic equivalent of A levels in a year (it should take 3-4 years), as by then I was already a mature student!

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As I graduated with a very high average I took the only rational step and enrolled into law studies! My only advise here is, don’t do something because it seems rational, do it because you have a passion! As my heart was not in it and I didn’t enjoy it I left university about a month later. I still had to pay the tuition fees and told myself I wasn’t cut out to study at a prestige institution like a university.

At that point I took a break, got married and moved to the Middle East where I lived for about 10 months.

When I returned I was not only a single mum of two but a divorcé! Just that word made me cringe and I always felt the need to justify it. I had nowhere to live nor a job. Well done Heiða!

Quickly I sorted out a nice little flat in central Reykjavík and got a sales job which I knew nothing about and was not sure I had the confidence for. My then boyfriend (now fiancé) thought the world of me and believed in me more than anyone ever had in my life. He knew sales and told me the do’s and don’ts. I LOVED that job! I loved walking into different businesses every day and talking to different people. For the first time I woke up and looked forward to going to work. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay the bills. Therefore, I took a job in a store where I stacked the shelves and sold cleaning products and stationary. I worked long days and had no passion for the job whatsoever.

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When I browsed through Facebook I kept getting this ad on my feed, staring me in the eye, poking my subconscious and daring me to click on it. Facebooks algorithm found me! It was an advert from a university. It was an expensive privately-run university. It was a BA in Media and Public Relations. For a long time I resisted the urge to click on the link, I had tried university, it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t good enough and when I would (not if) quit I would still have to pay high amounts of school fees and God knew I couldn’t afford that!

I didn’t share these thoughts with anyone. Eventually though, the algorithm got the best of me, I clicked the advert and read about this degree. It sounded wonderful! It sounded like something I would actually enjoy! I might be able to get an education and a job I actually like and live up to those dreams and goals I set up with when I first became a mum.

I called my boyfriend and told him about this crazy idea of mine. As before he believed in me and when I mentioned the fact we would be even worse off debt wise if I couldn’t do it he wouldn’t hear any off it. He told me I was brilliant and could do anything I wanted. We would make this work.

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I enrolled and did my bachelors through distance learning.

The next two and a half year flew by. They were incredibly challenging, difficult, hectic, sleepless, tiring and manic. I had to plan every day carefully, so the kids would get to where they needed to be and that there would be someone to take them there, feed them, get them to sleep etc. as both me and my boyfriend had full time jobs. I worked shifts, 12 hours a day approximately 4 days a week and he worked night shifts every other week. I also had to plan when to study. I also had to make allowance for going to the school every 6 weeks for lectures and seminars over a period of 3-4 days as my school was in the countryside. Sometimes it worked out fine, sometimes I simply had to take the kids with me. I changed jobs two times and added a second job on during my last term. I miscarried 4 times. We moved houses two times. During my last term of course work I was finally pregnant (heavily), doing two jobs and studying full time. When I look back I am not sure how I did it. But having great support goes a long way. Being organised, passionate and stubborn gets you the rest.

Once that term had finished I gave birth to my third child. Six weeks later I was doing an internship at a production company and writing my dissertation.

When I was approaching the end of my studies I realized I knew loads of different theories, but I didn’t know how to apply them. I didn’t feel the confidence I had imagined I would feel after all this reading and studying. Therefore, I decided to do further studies.

I am from Iceland. The group I graduated with was the first one with a PR education from an Icelandic university. Therefore, I knew I would have to look outside my home country to chase my passion and my dreams. I did loads of research and applied to two universities in the UK. I got into both of them and today I am a student of Leeds University.

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I believe that once I have finished my degree here I can achieve anything. I will be able to live those dreams I had as a 23 year old mum. I will be a good role model to my children, I will have a job that pays the bills (and hopefully then some), I will be able to manage my time more than I could in my previous jobs and I will be waking up in the morning (or if it’s up to me around lunch time) and going to a job I enjoy and am passionate about! We spend too much time of our lives at work not to enjoy what we are doing!

This path has not been easy, it has not been straight, but I firmly believe it will be worth it!

And in a way it already has been as I have made friends for a lifetime, I have pushed myself beyond my limits (quite a few times), I already have an education that no one can take away from me, I have learnt a lot about myself, I have gone out of my comfort zone many times and I have gained life experience that is impossible to put a price tag on.

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