Out of Reach

Deep Breath

I’m going to tell you about one of the toughest times in my professional (and personal life).

One year ago today, I took up a position at Reach PLC, publisher of (among other things), The Daily Express and The Daily Star.

I’ve kept relatively silent about my experiences since leaving, but with it being the first anniversary of my first day, I feel it’s worth a quick recap because I get plenty of questions about what happened.

Here’s the setup:

I’d been working as a freelancer for the Daily Star for about nine months, and had been working a weekly paid shift in conjunction with my current job.

My current job was working in local government, and in truth, I loved it there, mainly for the people. The job was secure, but at the age of 29, I decided it was now or never if I was going to make the leap to a full-time career in writing.

After much convincing of my fiancee (bearing in mind my son was only around two or three months old at the time), we agreed that I’d apply for a “Consumer Writer” position at Reach.

The interview went well, and I was offered the job. You can imagine my elation, moving to a job in the city, doing what I loved. I was going to be working alongside people that I’d been following for years, content-wise.

The first couple of months were great, as I got to work on creating content for both the Star and Express. After that, though, things took a turn.

I’d been hired to write content to sell things, and items were not selling. I took every piece of feedback to heart, rewriting entire articles and doing my best to impress the team I’d been placed with – a team that didn’t want or need a consumer writer, but were stuck with me nonetheless.

I should stop right there and point out that in my time at Reach, no one was anything other than nice to me. I could arguably have done with a little more support and communication, but everyone was, well, lovely.

Black Friday rolled around, and I was in the office at 5 AM (which involved me leaving home at 3 AM), and every day in the office I worked as much as I possibly could before starting the almost two-hour journey home.

But the numbers weren’t getting any better, the content wasn’t clicking. I began to sink lower with every misfire. Every article felt like another shovel full of dirt dropping onto me.

I took some time off over Christmas. Partially it was to enjoy my son’s first Christmas, but it was just as much about preserving some of my sanity. I’d been waking up early, working on the train, getting to the office, working all day with a figurative “Sword of Damacles” over my head, then working on the train home and continuing researching ways to improve.

After a trip to Paris where I spent more time than I’d like to admit negotiating job offers with much lower salaries, I returned to the office with a point to prove. I was going to straighten up, and power through. My probation ended at the end of February, and I promised myself it was going to get better.

It didn’t.

In January, it became clear that my time was coming to an end. I’d been told that the job was essentially a risk that hadn’t panned out for either party.

My first job in the industry, and I didn’t even make it to the end of my probationary period. I was crushed, on a level I’ve never been crushed professionally before. I offered to leave the company a month earlier in order to get my freelance business off the ground, and the company, perhaps out of pity, offered to pay my notice period without me needing to work it.

After a couple of days of negotiations, I said my goodbyes to the office and headed home. I didn’t even tell Frankie that I’d left, it was all such a blur. But you know what? Not once did she mention the doubts she had about the role that caused her so many sleepless nights. Instead, she was gutted for me, and we agreed that if the freelance didn’t pan out, I’d apply at every supermarket, bar, or restaurant I could (bear in mind this was just a month or so before COVID).

Now thirty, without a job and with a young family to support, I needed some good news. I left the office on Thursday, spoke to Gfinity on Friday, and started there on the Monday. Through sheer luck, me ending my contract early allowed me to get my start there, and I haven’t looked back.

I don’t know that there is a moral to this story, and I don’t know that there needs to be one. I think I just needed to look back on what was an incredibly tough point in my life (and not only due to my job), to be able to see how far I’ve come.

Hey, if nothing else, it was a hell of a journey.