A FEW THINGS I'VE LEARNT FROM WORKING IN LA
Two and a half years ago, I moved to LA from my hometown of London. I didn't know anyone, didn't have a car, didn't have any work contacts (let alone friends!), didn't even have a permanent place to live. But I'm still here - older, a little bit wiser, and definitely feeling like a stronger version of my former self. Here are a few things I've learnt about work - and life - along the way.
Sometimes, You Need to Step Back to Move Forward
My life in London was pretty sweet. I had a lovely apartment, a steady flow of work, loads of great friends, and a growing professional network. But I knew I had to switch it up eventually; that I would never grow and develop in the ways I wanted to if I stayed in the same place all my life. Even though moving to LA at 24 meant starting anew with a career I'd been building for the best part of ten years (yep, I began interning at magazines when I was 13. What a little weirdo!) I felt it would be worth it. And it has been. The self-confidence that comes from making it work in another country is priceless. Even though there have been many, many wobbly moments over the past couple of years, I know that moving to LA is one of the most beneficial career choices I've ever made.
Location is Important (But Not Everything)
When I told people I was planning to continue my work as a freelance journalist in LA, they mostly looked at me like I was mad. Over and over again, people would gently 'remind' me that there's no real media industry in this city; that all the magazines and newspapers are based in New York. I had to gently remind them that they were missing the point.
Why? Firstly: less industry saturation = less competition for freelance jobs. Secondly: the Internet, which enables me to work (and network) from anywhere. Obviously, I wouldn't have been able to establish a freelance career here without my preexisting contacts in other cities, namely London. But I also have a job that I can do anywhere I can find a Wifi connection. Location-independent careers aren't easy to build or viable for everyone, but establishing one enables you to follow opportunities where they present themselves (or seem like they might).
A Sedentary Body Creates a Sedentary Mind
One thing I learnt hard and fast: When your body doesn't move, your mind won't either. LA's car culture is notorious for good reason - getting around means getting in a car, or facing a sad and boring walk along a traffic-jammed road. While I definitely have no issue with sitting still for extended periods of time, having a sedentary job in a sedentary city is a whole different thing.
Early on, I realised that I'd have to combat the brain-numbing effects of never using my legs by incorporating far more 'scheduled' exercise into my daily routine. I've always enjoyed working out, but in LA I have to do it - or else deal with the negative psychological fall-out.
When asked what I like about LA (sunshine and avocados aside), I always say that I love the city because it gave me a chance to breathe. After the craziness of growing up in the heart of London, moving here gave me the space and quiet I needed to really figure out what I want to do with my life. It also left me with a lot of free time on my hands, especially in the first few months. Early on, I began to implement mindfulness and meditation as a way of coping with the challenges of life in a new city, and make use of an unexpected abundance of quiet time. After a few years of riding an emotional and professional rollercoaster, I've learnt that you really can breathe yourself out of anything.
Networking is Not a Dirty Word
When you move to a new city, you have to meet new people - and there's no shame in that. There's a common perception that everyone in LA is fake and flakey, and there's certainly some truth in that stereotype. But there's also a refreshing candour in the way people approach new professional relationships. If you want to be a successful freelancer, you have to be good at making and keeping contacts. In LA (and the US generally), there's a lot less social awkwardness around networking: People are upfront about wanting to know what you can do for them, but that directness is nearly always reciprocated when you need to ask a favour in return. So long as you don't mistake your work friends for your real friends, this 'no bullshit' approach seems like the sensible way to go.
You Get Out What You Put In
For the first couple of years I lived in LA, I spent a lot of time complaining about the lack of community among creative professionals - especially women. Then I realised that maybe I should stop whining and try to do something about it, and so The WW Club was born. Through the initial pop-up in January and the weekly Work Party I've hosted since then, I've encountered some of the most talented, driven, and supportive working women I've met anywhere in the world. The bottom line? Instead of bitching about a problem, be the one to do something about it. You'll almost certainly reap the rewards.
Know When To Keep It Moving
I'm currently preparing to spend a few months away from LA; taking The WW Club on tour to New York, London, and maybe beyond! I'll certainly be returning to the west coast towards the end of the year, but right now I'm ready for some new challenges and a change of scenery. I've changed a lot over the past few years, and so has my work; whereas I once craved solitude and calm, right now feels like the time to cultivate connectivity in my professional (and personal) life. Living in LA has given me the self-awareness to know when my environment is inhibiting my development, and the resources and confidence to switch it up. Even though I'm only leaving for a few months, I'm excited about the possibilities for the next chapter of my working life.
On which note.
Always Take The Jump.