Thursday 7 September 2017

What to do when a dream opportunity turns into a nightmare

Four years ago I landed what I thought would be a dream opportunity; work experience at my favourite magazine on their fashion team. I'd sent the application off, assuming that it was a once in a lifetime kind of daydream and I'd probably never hear anything from them again. When I got the phone call to say I'd landed a placement I was honestly over the moon and in a drowse of disbelief. I called my boyfriend who sweetly brought me back some red roses to celebrate. I felt on cloud nine. Although it was only work experience and only for a week, it still seemed like a totally amazing opportunity that would help me realise what I wanted out of life, or at least, give me more of an idea of how to go about working within the fashion industry. 
As the days drew nearer my anxiety kicked in and what had felt like a dream come true started to feel like a nightmare. I said to Graham "I'm starting to worry about it now, it's becoming a bad thing instead of good". It was Bonfire Night and three days before I was due to start the placement. We always watch the fireworks with hotdogs and tea and it's usually such a special night for us but that year I felt sick to the stomach with worry. My biggest fear was London, a place I'd had plenty of panic attacks in throughout my life. I avoided it like the plague usually, but taking on this opportunity meant there was no choice. Commuting on my own terrified me and luckily Graham came with me most days in the morning, meaning I only had to face the commute on my own once a day instead of twice. There was also the fear that I'd fail, end up being thought of as stupid and useless or get worked up and lose all my confidence, like I had done during all my previous jobs in offices and in the working environment. I hoped that this time would be different and I'd have the courage that had evaded me before. I hoped it would be different too, because it was my favourite magazine and seemed like such a dream come true. 
Sadly the whole week was awful from start to finish. I'd tried to prepare myself for what to expect and had gauged a few things from what people had written online about similar placements. Most people seemed genuinely happy with their experience and had nothing but praise for similar placements so I tried to stay hopeful. But it was an isolating, deflating experience and no one seemed to be remotely friendly. There were three other girls doing work experience that week and the phone kept ringing in our section. "Can you get the phone Sophie?" One member of staff kept demanding, in front of me and all the others (who hadn't once raised a hand to answer any one of the many phones ringing). I felt like I was being singled out because I'd happily do anything I was asked, yet the others probably would have made a fuss. I was sent out twice on two separate occasions to pick up and return some items and in a panic got lost. My plans for staying calm and being confident had shattered as soon as the first day passed. I ended up ringing my mum in a state and Graham, but because I was having panic attacks in the middle of London on my own, it was hard for them to give me directions as much as they were trying to help. I ended up finding the Zara store after about an hour, then getting lost again and winding my way back to the office in a state of embarrassment while they asked me where I'd been. During lunch times the other girls went out to lunch while I sat in a nearby park and felt lost and totally alone. 
Part of me longed to just end the placement but my pride wouldn't let me. I wanted to carry it through and because it had been such a big dream I didn't want to give up. The most destroying part was when I sat in with the rest of the fashion team to discuss future ideas to put in the fashion section of the magazine in a meeting room. I hadn't been told we had to bring print outs and ideas with us, so went in there totally lost while everyone else had bits of paper. They all went round the room asking what ideas we had while I sat there feeling sick, waiting for it to be my turn and wondering what the hell to say. I tried to come up with a few ideas and was greeted with a few bitchy looks and a sarcastic "That's er, really helpful Sophie. Thanks". I honestly just wanted the ground to open up. Another time I couldn't get a door open and needed a code, and when I had to ask the head of the fashion department (think Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada, really) what the code was, she said it through gritted teeth to me across the room, as though I was a complete nuisance and totally stupid. I felt so deflated and wondered why it was all going so wrong. Anger rushed through me and I thought it was a total joke, here I was, as nice as anything, doing everything with a willing heart and being treated like trash. I was shaking so hard, and nearly said something then and there but my confidence and courage that week had been shattered and I couldn't say anything, I just let it all play out. There were a few nice people; one girl who always gave me a genuine smile whenever she saw me and another who helped me with my travel claims, but other than that everyone was completely oblivious to uttering even a 'hello'.

When the week finally came to an end (it felt like an eternity), it was a massive relief to be out of there. I only told one close friend how I really felt, but now I feel enough time has passed to share my story on here, too. I'm sharing it because I told myself time and time again that week (as I have done so many other times in my life throughout various jobs) that I was hopeless, useless, worthless and that yet again I was a failure and ruined everything for myself. Now I know I am none of those things. I am strong, talented, powerful and kind. I didn't deserve to be treated like that, but it is not a reflection of who I am, it's a reflection of what was a bad situation. I am writing this for anyone who has been in a similar situation, because as much as you might feel so, you are not alone.  

I want to be honest and open on this blog because throughout my life there have been so many moments when I've felt alone and useless, and now it's the time to speak up and out. So many times when I've wanted to know it wasn't just me, that other people have felt the same way. So it isn't just me and it isn't just you. I want to make people realise they are not alone, that we all go through horrible experiences, we all feel worthless, useless, like failures and fuck-ups. It's OK to feel that way, but it's also OK to realise and recognise that you are NONE OF THE ABOVE. 


You are incredible, talented and powerful. If something goes wrong we have the tendency to blame ourselves and fill our souls with self-doubt. Do the opposite; remind yourself how much you've got going for you. Remind yourself that no matter what you've tried and that's enough.

I was gutted at the time, but I was also chasing something that wasn't there. I thought I wanted to work in fashion but now I can see I was on the wrong track. Would I like a job in fashion? Not really, not in that kind of atmosphere, anyway. I love fashion, it's one of my biggest passions, but working in London in a buzzy office is not for me whatsoever. I had my blog, was writing my book, but assumed I needed a 'proper career' in the fashion industry when I didn't. I am an introvert, a free spirit and I like working on my own and doing my own thing. I went to fashion talks that left me cold. It just wasn't me. Aside from my blog and book I have a dozen other ideas and dreams, maybe they'll come to fruition, maybe they won't. That's the beauty of life, right? The silver lining for me is that it taught me I don't want to work in a place like that, that it isn't a dream after all. It was a bad experience that has made me stronger, not weaker.

So it didn't work out the way you wanted. But you're a bloody amazing person today just like you were yesterday and the day before that. You have tons of talent to offer the world, but if something isn't right, it's more likely than not pushing you in a better direction. Rise above, however hard, Keep following your hopes and dreams and destinies. Because they're all waiting, sometimes the route's just a little ramshackled with a more poignant plan. 

If people are dicks, people are dicks. It doesn't matter how kind or sweet or willing or nice you are. If someone is a horrible person, they'll no doubt broadcast that horribleness onto you. You can't change those people or situations when you have to be around them. But you can acknowledge it's nothing personal. "It always happens to me", I used to say. "It happens to everyone", my mum would always reply. "Just everyone thinks it always happens to them". The brilliant thing about blogging is we are realising we are less and less alone. We can talk about what's been unsaid for so long. We can relate.

I'd love to know if anyone has had any similar experiences! 
I hope this post is helpful + uplifting if you've been there 



  1. Babe thanks so much for sharing your story. We often read so many things about these so-called dream internships and work experience placements but we never hear about the darker side of it. I agree that the fashion world is totally bitchy and I hate that the fashion editor was rude to you- who the eff does she think she is? You should be really proud of yourself for sticking with the whole week and not giving up- that takes a lot of courage.

    Rachel xx

  2. So sorry you had an experience like this at what could have been such a great opportunity! I get so anxious and terrified of experiences like this and that's why I'm struggling to push myself to find a new job. You should be so proud that you stuck it out for the full week and that you're helping others now by sharing your story x

  3. I'm sorry for what you had to go through. It's such a disappointing feeling when something you wanted so bad and dreamed about turns out exactly the opposite. But I'm glad you went through with it and had this experience, you came out stronger than before. Glad you shared this so that people can relate more to these type of situations when we don't get exactly what we wanted and it's okay because we get a life lesson instead and have a better path to move on to.

    -Girl Conquers World

  4. Thank you for sharing this! I was actually relating to this so much whilst I was reading. I did a placement too and when I first started I felt the exact same, the other girls didn't really make an effort with me. Luckily, I started talking to some of the older people who were really nice to me and made some friends down the line. I think it is very true that you can be the nicest person, but some people will still treat you like rubbish! I'm so glad that you can see that you're worth a lot more than that, and I think it's more of a reflection on those people that they think it's ok to treat people like that :( x

    Velvet Blush

  5. Bless you I can only imagine the feeling. Very good advise on how to handle these kind of situations.

  6. So glad you shared this, it can be so deflating and lonely when something like that happens but it can help your realise your true calling in life. I thought I wanted a job in london but after far too many heart breaking interviews I changed direction and I found my dream job up north, now I wouldnt change it for the world.

    You are such a star sophie, I love your blog and cant wait to read more.


  7. I was so looking forward to reading this post when I saw it on Twitter! Work places can be so bitchy and mean & it's great that you stuck it out till the end, I've been in a similar position where someone I worked with was so horrible to me I lit would cry everyday but I wouldn't allow myself to quit because why should I? Your in a better place now and you learn from these experiences x

    S x

  8. This post was such a great and eye openeing read!! I have been in that kind of position before and it's so isolating. I am so happy you made it through and you can just look back at it as experience. I loved reading your tips, and I'll be sure to use them as I'll be starting my new job next month! EEK! xx
    LAURA ­| Laura Thinks About

  9. I'm so sorry that the people working there were so mean to you! Sometimes people are just horrible and there's nothing you can do but try and rise above it, which you did! <3 I'm happy that you have found your true calling now, and at least you gave it a go and discovered that it wasn't really for you, otherwise you might have always been wondering about it! You are so talented, your writing is beautiful! <3 <3 <3

  10. Don't take it personally is probably some of the best advice I've ever heard! ���� It's hard to remember that sometimes when you're being mistreated. Great post!

  11. wow, this is a powerful read because it takes a lot of courage to write about something like that. Letting it out like this is not only extremely helpful for the readers but also a healing process for you :)

    I am glad this hasnt permanently let you down and you know that 'dicks will be dicks' ! Some people are just bad, sometimes due to their own personal issues and insecurities that they then unleash on other people wrongly.

    Always have your head help up high!

  12. literally all of this, i get this constantly from job to job :( Thanks for having the courage to write this, I often feel really alone about this sorta stuff as I just don't fit in anywhere but its really good to know that others experience the same thing x

  13. This was a brilliant read and that experience at the magazine place sounds awful! But my god I have had many experiences where I've just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole as well, you're not alone there by any means.

    I agree that sometimes people can just be assholes and it's hard to not take that personally, but it's like you said, if someone is an ass and that's how they are then how they treat people , you, anyone, is bound to not be nice.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

  14. That sounds very disappointing and totally like the movie Devil Wears Prada! I can imagine what it felt like. I was in an office position a long time ago where my boss was the most miserable man in the world. He would stand behind me and watch what I was working on, act condescending towards me, basically micro-manage what I was doing. It was nerve racking. It got to the point where I could not handle it anymore, and typed up a note resigning my position. I left without having another job lined up, and went back to school. It was so tough but so glad I didn't stay to be talked down to anymore. I'm glad you got through it Sophie, and for that I'm sure you are a much stronger person now. More power to us positive hard working women!


  15. Loved your post!! I had a similar experience... It wasn't the job of my dreams but it was something I thought was pretty good for me. I was so sure that I had another job opportunity that I declined.

    It was such an awful experience. A bad boss, bad coworkers and very low paid. It only lasted 10 days

    What I regret the most is that I wasn't brave enough to just leave. I tried to change the situation and they probably thought that I wasn't what they needed because I wouldn't just accept their poor working conditions. So they fired me.

    And yes, I blamed myself A LOT. But you're right, it wasn't my fault, I deserved much more than that. And you too <3