There are some jobs that sound so glamorous you’d give your arm to have a go at them.
Lawyer, actor, writer, model – they conjure images of successful people getting paid lots of money doing what they love and having the respect and admiration of their peers.
But is this really the case?
A survey that we recently conducted showed that only a third of those in the legal profession felt that their job had lived up to their expectations.
Often these glamorous jobs aren’t quite all they’re cracked up to be.
Here are six jobs that maybe aren’t as great as you think. See, your life is better than you thought!
Over half of those surveyed said they wished they had chosen another profession.
Many people admitted that the high salaries promised in the legal profession was one of the main draws, and others said it was the way they had seen lawyers represented in the media that attracted them to the job.
Some of those surveyed said that having a career in law was a ‘world away’ from what they had expected.
Christopher Stoakes, a former City lawyer and author of Is Law For You?, says “The reality of a legal career is less glamorous than people outside the industry generally tend to believe.
“It’s highly demanding and requires long hours and resilience, so it’s not for everyone. The most important thing when considering a career in the law is to be clear about your motives.”
He says that one in four city lawyers (surely the most glamorous area of law…think of those John Gresham novels) drop out in the first three years. “It’s largely a Generation Y thing,” he says, “as these young people think the job is glamorous but find that it involves far more hard work and hard reading than they expected. Many of them aren’t used to reading and law is particularly detailed in the information you have to sift through. It’s a really difficult job.”
It seems like commonsense yet it’s easy to be suckered in – you can’t choose a career based on how much you can earn alone, you need to have at least some passion for it.
As it happens, law is a pretty good start for other jobs. You don’t have to become a lawyer if you take a law degree. Among other things it’s a very good background for business people and politicians. Former lawyers include:
- Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways
- Chris Blackhurst, City Editor of The Standard and editor of The Independent
- Novelist John Grisham (of course)
- John Cleese (never actually practiced but did a law degree)
- Talk show host Jerry Springer
- Fidel Castro
- Nelson Mandela
So, if you leave to do something else, you’re in good company!
But is acting really that glamorous?
Well, I guess if you’re Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep then it probably is – but the majority of actors don’t live that lifestyle.
Struggling actors find it hard to get work and even when they do, it’s far more likely to be for a cheesy advert role than their big break.
Actors get work infrequently, are often paid poorly and even when they earn money they’ll have to split that with a manager and an agent. According to Equity only 9% of actors are in paid work (often very poorly paid) at any one time.
Acting isn’t cheap either – you’ll need to pay for transport to get you to your auditions and you’ll need to pay for multiple expensive headshots for different kinds of parts, as well as the fitness and beauty regimes to keep you attractive and young (and it’s not just the women that have that pressure).
It’s for this reason that actors often have to work a part-time job, such as a restaurant waiter, to continue to pursue their dream.
Even if you make the big time and land the dream stage job, you’ll be doing the same routine each day for eight weeks straight and could probably earn more by having a guest spot on a popular TV program.
In fact, even mega actors somewhat sell their soul and forsake the challenging roles they’re after to be a part of a special effects driven, money printing franchise – although they make millions doing it, so don’t feel too bad for them (and frankly, I’d pretend to be a superhero for free!)
Columnist in The Stage newspaper, John Byrne, says “the average working actor makes around £12,000 a year which is low by anyone’s standards. Certainly if they get a job on Eastenders or something they could make £3,000-4,000 a week but these jobs are few and far between and often only last a few weeks. The rest of the year they might not get anything at all.
“I always tell actors that they must have a side-earner that will keep the money coming in when they’re not acting. It’s not an option for any of them.”
John is running a half-day workshop for actors to create their own business plan on June 22nd at the Spotlight offices in London. It only costs £35 and will give you all the tools for setting up a successful and lucrative acting career. Not to be missed we think!
So… If you dream of being an actor and are willing to graft and take risks, then go for it! Go in with your eyes open and who knows where you might end up.
Journalists in movies are often cracking cases, working to tight deadlines but emerging heroes after their latest expose with just words as their weapons.
It certainly sounds like an exciting career but, as you expect, it’s not that easy.
For a start, journalism is highly competitive. Whether journalism is dying or simply changing and adapting to the modern world is still up for debate, but there’s no denying that print is in decline.
Ask yourself how much you read online compared to how much you read from a newspaper or magazine? Yeah, that’s why!
And of course you’re absolutely right to get information from the web – why pay for information you can get for free online, which will probably be more up-to-date.
The trouble is, the decline in printed press means the decline in jobs, making it ever more difficult to even get started.
Journalism is renowned for being one of the professions that requires starting as an intern, which means you could be working months, even years, of your life on the minimum wage or even for free (this is technically illegal, but all the while people are fighting to get in the industry, there’ll be talented people who’ll work for free.)
Even when you start getting paid, wages are often low – the average salary for a trainee reporter at a newspaper can be as low as £12,000-£15,000!
If you want to earn more or want to write for a magazine or website then you may well have to work for publications on very dry topics or subjects you’re not interested in – think ‘batteries weekly’ or something like that (great if you love batteries though!)
Equally many people think of journalism as just ‘writing’ but it’s a lot more than that. If you’re a reporter then you’re going to have to graft and travel to potential stories, and you’ll probably need to be able to write shorthand at one hundred words per minute as well (from personal experience, my shorthand classes were three hours, three days a week for three months).
If you’re working for a website then you’ll probably be expected to use social media and other means to bring in more traffic – loads of people will write for free, so you’re going to need to bring something else to the table.
A former journalist says…
Kate Bendix, a former TV producer and writer, left journalism a few years ago and started her own business, Myitchydog.co.uk. She says:
“If you think eating a Burger King meal on a Friday night at a services on the M6 is glam then this is the job for you. It’s a flippin’ hard job, you’re in competition with everyone else and it’s only your self motivation, drive and personality that will get you through. If you want to be a nice person be a factual, feature journo. If you want to work in news be prepared, people will marmalise you for a good story!
“I left because I was burnt out. Totally exhausted. But I’ve now come to my own writing which I do periodically and with the same rules of journalism so I’m not doing it all the time.”
But…With the changes in journalism comes an exciting new world with fresh opportunities – you only have to take a look at a site like BuzzFeed to see what modern writing might look like. If your heart is set on journalism just be realistic and work really, really hard!
Although few people dream of being an accountant when they’re nine years old, as you begin to see the value of money the idea becomes appealing.
Work in a bustling city, smartly dressed and make lots of money – isn’t that the capitalist dream?
But remember, these are high pressure jobs that are going to be at least 9-5, if not more.
Once boredom, stress and monotony kick in, will that big paycheck really make it all worth while?
It might for the first few years, but could you imagine spending 40 years in the same position?
It’s for this reason that sites like Escape The City exist, for people who get tired of being caught in the rat race and instead opt for something a little different and more personally satisfying.
Humphrey Bowles was a city accountant, who shared his story on Escape the City.
He says “I knew I needed a change as each morning I woke up dreading going into work, knowing that I was not using my brain to its full potential – stuck in an office staring at a computer screen all day, in a really restrictive and uncreative environment.
“I never felt like I fitted into the dull, grey (supposedly blue-sky) corporate dung pile.”
Thankfully Humphrey managed to escape and is now working for a property startup called onefinestay.
But…If you genuinely enjoy number crunching and work well in high pressure environments then you might well excel in this career.
A former City person says…
Serial entrepreneur, Emma Sinclair, who started her career in the City says: “Personally speaking I worked long hours in the City but I had the most phenomenal learning experience, worked with some of the finest minds – many of whom I still consider friends and mentors – met interesting clients and advisors and had an opportunity to understand how it is critical to our economy and our economic prominence in the global marketplace. I loved it!”
After leaving the City Emma set up her own business, Target Parking, and now runs Enterprisejungle.com in London.
She says that running your own business certainly isn’t an easier option than being in the City but at least you have a bit more control over your time.
“I know people who have left to build businesses and have plenty of colleagues still in the same departments at the same companies who have climbed the career ladder that way too” she says. “I do know that the older we get, the more we have demands on our time and therefore being able to manage your own time is a huge bonus. There is a slight misconception that owing a business means you have more not less time. I’d argue that that is rarely the case!”
Sure, there are the supermodels who earn a fortune for a photo shoot but they’re like the Hollywood actors of the modelling world, most models do not enjoy that lifestyle.
To get into the business the chances are you’ll have to do a lot of photo shoots for free – which means you’ll need to work to support yourself through this period.
Even when you start getting paid to do photo shoots they’re often infrequent, so you’ll still have to find another way to make money.
Plus you’ll need a thick skin, you’ll have to get used to being turned down and critiqued on every aspect of your appearance. Basically, you’re going to need a lot of body confidence to stand your own.
On top of that you may have to deal with the shadier side of the modelling industry such as creepy photographers trying to persuade you a topless shoot would be best.
And, of course, there are the horror stories of how models have to stay really, really thin and what it does to their bodies and their minds.
But…If you’re sure you’ve got the confidence and modelling is your dream, then give it a go. Just remember you’ll probably need to do something else on the side to support yourself.
Whether it’s the idea of being the front man of a rock band or the thought of living a bohemian life with just you and your instrument, there’s something deeply appealing about the life of a musician.
But, as with acting and modelling, it’s very difficult to earn a living playing music – you’ll almost certainly have to support yourself with another job.
Plus being a musician can be very expensive, instruments are often costly and if you do land a gig you’ll be responsible for transporting your equipment to and from the venue.
If you play an instrument then one way you could make money is by tutoring others to play. It might take a while to get enough students to support yourself but at least it means music is still the key way you’re making money.
In fact I recently went to see a well known band (I won’t say who, but let’s just say I’m not their demographic) and the support act, who are further in the business than many, were completely unable to gain the support of the audience – in fact it was quite uncomfortable.
Imagine how much more difficult it might be in a smaller venue with less of a barrier between you and the audience. To succeed you’re going to need a thick skin.
You’re also going to need to practice all the time, either alone or with your band. If you’re expecting people to pay you then you need to make sure you’re worth the price.
The harsh reality is that the vast majority of aspiring bands and musicians don’t go on to have a career in music, and even most who do aren’t world famous rock stars.
For example, you’re much more likely to earn regular money as a wedding performer than you are as an original recording artist.
There’s no shame in that, in fact for someone who loves performing it may well be an ideal job, but if you’re in it for the glamour and fame…think again!
But…If you’re truly passionate about making money as a musician there are paths you can take. Just don’t go in expecting to be the next Foo Fighters and be prepared to graft.
Has this changed your mind on any of the jobs? Maybe you disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know in the comments section below – we love hearing from you.