Clean Home vs. Chemical Free Zone

Cleaning.

A chore for many and a hobby for some.

As sad as it might be to say cleaning is something I enjoy, you can’t argue that a clean, clutter-free environment is not a pleasant place to be.

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Maybe these thoughts are a foreign language to some. But if you can in any way appreciate this perspective, perhaps you’ll understand the joy that a visit to the cleaning product aisle in the supermarket brings (and maybe, you’ll have even experienced it yourself!)

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Or maybe, that’s the most ridiculous statement you’ve ever heard.

However you feel about it, I know that my feelings are no longer the same, for reasons I never considered to be an issue.

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After spending 7 months in the domestic cleaning industry I can no longer look at cleaning products with the same heartfelt appreciation I did once before

Besides that fact (without going into the details) that it is not an enjoyable part-time job

It’s certainly not something (as I ‘ve learnt from experience) that’s good for your health.

Physical activity every day ✅ (maybe that shouldn’t be considered the worst part)

Breaking your back trying to haul Henry the hoover in and out of homes/up & down stairs ✅

Breathing in harmful chemicals ✅

I would never have imagined that the amount of energy being exerted could be negatively affected by the toxic fumes exposed by every bottle

Maybe I missed the part where they educated me about this in my childhood.

Maybe I’ve just lost the plot entirely.

Yes, I know certain chemicals shouldn’t be mixed,

Yes, I know bleach should be kept far away from children,

Yes, I know that there are specific chemicals that should be used with precaution even in small, diluted quantities.

But when everyday cleaning products are used every day and they begin to have adverse effects on your health?

I’ll admit maybe when it’s your job you’re using them more often than the average human concerned with keeping their home smelling fresh and countertops bacteria free.

But still.

Google has a lot to say on these issues and you can check it out for yourself.

I just know that when I began to cut back on using cleaning products completely I found that water and equal elbow grease left the same impression.

Could it all be just a marketing ploy?

Do cleaning products really make a difference to the cleanliness of your home?

Or do they just pollute your environment with toxins to give you the impression of a clean home?

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You can argue with the experts.

I just know I’m no longer as eager to try out the newest scent in the Zoflora concentrated disinfectant range or Febreze’s newest collection of holiday scents for Christmas.

If you’re particularly keen, Pinterest is the best place to pick up natural cleaning hints and tips on how lemons and vinegar will do the same job at a fraction of the price.

Rachel Henry is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin at: Rachel Henry

“Buy it in bulk” – my mother

 

If you were to ask my mother at 19 what does her future hold? I’m sure her answer would have been that shed hope to become a nurse, have a house by the beach with someone tall dark and handsome and spend her days tending to tomato vines in her green house.

I guess no one knows what the future holds because my mum defiantly didn’t.

Fast forward 23 years later. She’s a Mother of 8 and a Grandmother of 19 and as you guessed it has no time for a green house. My names Jessica and I am 2nd youngest in a family of 10.

Coming from a big family does have its perks, the constant stream of hand me downs over the years and a lot of people to take the focus of you if you wanted to stay out that half hour longer. If anything, it prepared me a lot for the ‘student life’ with its constant noise stream that people are only subjected to in their first shared accommodation and with its bulky buffet style dinners I was able to adjust very quickly.

In fact, whenever I would come home to an empty student house I would miss the echoes of tell-taling and watching my mother take several attempts to remember some of our names.

Coming from a house of so many there are certain things you have to accept, you will never ever have a plate of left overs wrapped in tinfoil waiting in the oven for you waiting. If you want to go on any family activity you to ensure that you’re guaranteed a seat in the car as they gold dust and if you want to talk to your mother you have to schedule her in at least one week in advance.

I should have joined a debate team because I get plenty of practice arguing how just because I went to the kitchen should not mean I lose my seat in the living room, every day. Coming from a big family you have to learn how to fend for your self because your older siblings they can sense weakness.

Being constantly surrounded by nieces and nephews is however refreshing and their innocence’s is something to indulge in. luckily for us Santa and the tooth fairy has never missed a year.  So, it does have its perks, like when it’s your birthday and your flooded with gifts and cards. Unfortunately, it also means that its someone’s birthday every other week and I’ve tasted enough cream and jam sponge cakes to do me a life time.

I do sometimes wonder what the ‘only child’ does with their free time and what it would be like to have full power of the remote control 24/7. All I can hope for is to have half the patience my mother does and half the children.

Yes, if you were to tell her at 19 she wouldn’t become a nurse I’m sure she would be disappointed but only because she wasn’t made to become ‘just a nurse’ but also became a doctor, a teacher, the judge the jury and the driver. Tomato vines are over rated anyway.

 

Jessica Phillips is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

My first two years in university consisted of a very regimented routine. The Hatfield on a Sunday night, the Fly on a Monday night, the Bot on a Wednesday night, with some university squeezed in-between! There was also a lot of counting the pennies and praying there was enough in my bank account, for that next Maggie Mays or that late night pizza from Domino’s… Being a student in Belfast is harder than one would think, especially when you are used to home comforts. Paying rent, paying bills and a bit of partying with a measly student loan, is extremely difficult!

My third year was different. I was on placement year in Belfast, which meant getting paid! I found myself getting away from my usual university routine as I was now in full time work which meant I could not go to the Bot on a Wednesday night… Instead I found myself socialising in different places as I was with different company. It also helped that I was doing my placement within the drinks industry as it became very normal to go for a drink on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thu… only joking, just the occasional Thursday and Friday evening in Belfast. As well as this, working in Belfast City centre let me discover some of the best food places in the city.

So let me tell you about the best places, in my opinion, to eat and drink in Belfast city. (As the majority of my placement wage went towards this!)

 

The BEST cup of Coffee in Belfast city

On a Monday morning I would find myself eyeing up the clock waiting for my ten o’clock tea break which only meant one thing. Straight over to Home Restaurant for “a coffee & treat” for £2. A vanilla latte and blueberry & white chocolate scone on a Monday morning was like going to heaven without having to die!

Lunch in the city – a hidden gem

Being a typical student, I thought there could not be possibly anything that would compare to a Boojum until I tried a Cuban sandwich from the Cuban Sandwich Factory. My mouth is watering thinking about a sloppy joe…chilli mince, chorizo, cheese…. So much goodness. If you have not been here before, you have to go!

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Saturday Brunch

There are so many options in Belfast city centre right now it is really hard to pick one. The Gallery, Harlem and French village are all incredible but General Merchants blows them out of the water. You have not lived until you have tried the “Huevos Rotas”. This consists of crispy potatoes, chorizo, avocado and smashed eggs. Amazing. Their coffee would also give Home restaurant a run for their money!

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Dinner in Belfast..

If someone asked me right now where I would like to go for dinner in Belfast I would have huge difficulty picking, as there are so many great places to eat. But, I would have to say Three Levels! This relatively new restaurant in Belfast has a really cool concept. It has three floors of Asian inspired foods and provides mouth-watering food options. There is a huge entertainment focus here as you sit around and watch your chef spectacularly, interactively cook in front of you.

After work drinks

My favourite thing on a Friday evening after a long week of work was a half pint of Hop House 13 listening to the amazing live music in Sweet Afton. Their cocktails are absolutely amazing as well! Also on a nice summers evening it is only a stone’s throw to the Perch, the most amazing rooftop bar in Belfast.

The best Tuesday night out

The Comedy club in the Empire is absolutely hilarious. It takes place every Tuesday night from about 8-11. Its only £8 in to watch three seriously funny comedians perform all night. NOT that I would have promoted drinking a full bottle of wine on a Tuesday night with work the next morning…. But a bottle is only £12! £20 for a great night out. However, it is not for everyone. Especially if you take offence easily.

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A taste of home

Kelly’s Cellars is one of my favourite bars in Belfast. It’s warm, cosy atmosphere with the most amazing live traditional Irish music reminds me of the traditional pub I used to work in at home. Apparently it’s the best pub in Belfast for a pint of the black stuff!

The best place for a G&T?

Muriels. Hands down!

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So there you have it – my run down on the best places to eat and drink in Belfast, that had I not stayed in Belfast for my placement year, perhaps I would not have discovered. Now back to final year, with no disposable income and a scary overdraft, I find myself counting my pennies again wondering – will I have enough to go out tonight?

Helen McAleer is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on linkedin.com/in/helen-mcaleer-6b1221b4 and on Twitter: @Helen_McAleer30

Hush From Scratch

There’s something very satisfying about launching a new nightclub event. Especially in a small city like Belfast where the competitors witness your every move and try their best to trip you up at every hurdle. It’s a thrilling and hands-on process that brings great success, but it requires more work than you can imagine. However, the proud moment when you succeed makes the stress all that more rewarding.

Here is a little insight to how we developed HUSH, a successful Saturday night brand that was located in the city centre. HUSH was introduced to the renowned Belfast nightlife scene following a strategic 6-week launch campaign similar to any PR campaign you would see from our beloved duo, Grunig and Hunt.

First was the long and draining planning stage. It was crucial for the basis of the brand. We brainstormed the initial fundamentals of any club night; gaps in the market, where we wanted to position, the target demographic, brand names, artwork design for online and print, the music policy and things of that nature.

We sent off different brand ideas to our graphic designer who came up variations of logos in terms of font, style and colour. It was exciting seeing all our ideas slowly but surely coming to life. These variations were pitched to focus groups consisting of staff and our target market. The final call was then made. We now had a brand and a logo, it was time to get this show on the road!

Next was the implementation stage. This involved increasing brand awareness by getting as many ‘eyes’ as possible on our new brand, creating a buzz amongst our customers and giving them a taste of what’s to come. This was completed using both traditional methods and more contemporary digitalised methods.

The process involved a lot of questions and answers. “What are the best channels to reach our target audience?” It’s apparent that social media is leaps and bounds above other platforms. We discovered Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are a club promoter’s dream. You can interact instantly with your consumers 24/7 for relatively no costs. Cheap, cheerful and easy, just the way it should be.

According to McGaritty, P. (2017), “Facebook is dominant social media platform with over 65% of adults using it in Northern Ireland.” Building the HUSH Facebook ‘business page’ was our main focus, as this was by far our most important asset. This page was our customers first point of contact where they could message us with any questions or booking requests. This is where we created events for every Saturday, uploaded photo albums, constructed a ‘guest list’ and booked in tables.

Content on the page varied, however it was designed to be interactive, relatable and relevant. This increased the likelihood of customers sharing the content from their own personal profiles and ‘tagging’ other friends. They would soon become brand evangelists and advocates! Content could be anything at all; drinks deals, funny videos or ‘memes’, DJ graphics, entry prices or generic promotional posts.

It was important to build the likes, reach and interaction amongst customers and ultimately drive all traffic through this platform. We used many tricks of the trade such as competition give-aways and a few promoter wizardry skills that need to be kept HUSH HUSH…The first video we posted was an interactive competition for the launch night to win free entry, a reserved table and drinks. To enter this, we asked customers to ‘like’ the Facebook page, share the video to their own profile and tag 5 friends. This technique caused the video to spread like wildfire and it reached 37,978 people, 16.2k views, 349 likes and 306 comments.

We did not forget about the traditional methods for our PR campaign. We smartly used our contacts to our advantage to save on major costs. The club GM was personal friends with an executive from The Belfast Telegraph and we luckily secured a press release about the launch into the paper. This was also published by ‘The Tab’ – an online newsletter for students and on Belfast Live’s website and Facebook page. One of our DJs was also a radio DJ for Blast 106. He hooked us up with a 30 second radio ad for a fraction of the price and promoted the brand every day between 6-9pm. These were great additions to our campaign and increased the awareness dramatically.

The last stage was the launch. This was Judgment Day for us. Would the long hours of tedious work be worth it? It was the most exciting day, adrenaline was flowing around the air and there was a special buzz which cannot be easily replicated. It was the time to ensure that everything was in place and making sure staff knew their roles. Knowing all the tables were sold out and seeing the guest-list numbers get higher and higher was a sign that success was on the horizon. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous counting down the hours before we opened our doors for the first time.

There is no better feeling than coming up with something from scratch, building it up, utilising all methods, pulling it off and becoming a success. You know it has all been worth it after witnessing the happy customers having a great time and wanting to come back. We were a full house on our launch night and the event has continued to attract steady numbers ever since. Success for the not so HUSH!
If you want to know more about the experience, please feel free to contact me.

 

Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account

Video Link:

 

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References:

McGaritty, P.  (2017). Social Media Use in Northern Ireland.

The joys of Retail

Through coming into contact with the general public more than most other jobs, those who have worked in retail know it can be one of the most irritating and trying jobs. But let’s try and put a bit of humour behind it.

Watching something you have just tidied get destroyed

Sometimes I think people do it on purpose. I’m working away putting everything in size order and keeping the floor tidy. But no go ahead and make it far worse than it was before.

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“Can I speak to your manager?”

I don’t think there is any better feeling than a customer confronting you about an issue, getting an explanation, demanding to speak to your manager, and your manager repeats exactly what you said in the first place. I think the smugness is too much and satisfying to hide.

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“Do you work here?”

No sorry I actually don’t work here. I just like to come into the shop in a shirt and tie with a name badge on and love to spend my spare time sticking out women’s clothes. Also happens when I walk into other shops which is even more annoying. A couple of occasions I have just pointed people in the complete opposite direction in Sainsburys for a laugh. Not sure maybe I just have a retail look about me.

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Telling a customer their card has been declined

I think everyone who works in retail has a special sort of face saved for when this happens. Awkward enough.

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The customer is always right = MYTH

From our first shift in retail you are always told, “the customer is always right”. I think everyone bar most customers knows that this really isn’t true. But to keep everyone happy I usually just go with the flow and agree with everything. Apart from the time a customer complained about me calling him ‘Mate’. That wasn’t cool.

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When you’re about to go on your break and a customer asks for help

The part of the day you’ve been waiting for since you started your shift. Customers have other plans. I’ve never seen some people move so fast.

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Customers telling you about the vouchers they left at the house

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Parents letting their kids run riot

Fair enough I understand shopping is boring for kids, but at least pretend to act like you don’t want me to suffer.

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When a customer forgets their receipt

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The last minute “Oh here I have the 10p”

Once everything has been put through the till all GCSE Maths goes out the window and I have literally no idea what change I’m supposed to give you.

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You’re closed in 10 minutes? Plenty of time!

For some reason these are always the ones who want you to do the most. Checking the stockrooms, ordering clothes, changing their mind and restarting again, leaving things down in wrong places. Please just let me go home.

 

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Sales

Not much to say here. People are maniacs.

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5p for a bag? Are you mad!

Somehow it’s my fault that bags are 5p now. Then you get the rant about how it’s a disgrace and that we are probably pocketing it ourselves.

 

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Reading down through this it really looks like I hate my life when I’m working but I’m actually an absolute delight to be served by if I don’t say so myself!

All joking aside there are actually a lot of positives I have taken out of my 5 years working in retail. It’s a great way to meet and socialise with new people and 100% improves your interpersonal and communication skills. It has helped me experience how to keep my cool in stressful situations like sales or when complaints are put in (there’s only been a couple I swear).

Sure it can be frustrating and labourious but isn’t that the same for every job?

Oh yeah and the discount isn’t bad either!

Daniel McGrenaghan is a Final Year Public Relations student at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. He can be found on Twitter @danielmcg132

Writing a CV to sell yourself

When it comes to searching for a job the excitement can quickly subside when you consider the state that your severely neglected CV is in. Yes, the application process for some companies can be very extensive and seem unnecessary but you need to get on with it because there will always be someone out there who is willing to put in the effort that you are lacking. I am here to help, by putting together some useful hints and tips, however major disclaimer: I am in no way an expert in this field and therefore not guaranteeing a 100% success rate but have a read and hopefully you will pick up something useful.

General tips

You need to put yourself in the mind of the company who will be reading your application. If you were a recruiter what would you want to know about yourself? What would matter the most? What qualities would you be looking for?

Most of you will be applying for a job/placement in Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Advertising or any hybrid of the above. You need to understand that communication will be a critical part of your role and therefore if you can’t write a CV and cover letter without a grammar mistake then in the words of DJ Khalid:

However, I do understand that your brain can work against you when rereading by running on autopilot, overlooking missed words and grammar mistakes. There are a few steps you can take to weed out the mistakes:

1. Printing it off- This may seem so old school but you are more likely to spot some mistakes with pen and paper.

2. Giving it to someone to read over- a fresh set of eyes can sometimes spot the mistakes you missed.

3. Using an online spell checker- I do recommend Grammarly and SpellCheckPlus although these websites may only pick up spelling mistakes instead of poor grammar so do be careful not to rely on them too much.

CV

It’s common knowledge that a recruiter will take less than 15 seconds to look at your CV, in other words, you have 15 seconds to let the employer know that you are exactly what they’re looking for and more!

Design

Use design to create a simple, clean, and clear CV. If your design doesn’t add to the simplicity of the document then you’ve missed the mark here.

Length

The more concise the CV, the more of it that will get read within the 15-second time frame so get rid of any waffle and stick to punchy bullet points. I suggest trying to fit it on one page if possible.

Relevancy

Keep it current so that means the volunteering you did 6 years ago at your local animal rescue shelter, although very commendable, is not necessary to include.

Adapt

Every company is different and is looking for different things so you can’t afford to be lazy. The more that you can tailor your CV to the company, the more ticks in boxes you get from the employer.

On a final note, do be careful when you are exporting your CV to a PDF as this has a tendency to disrupt the layout and structuring of the document. Make sure to open the exported version to check for any changes before you send it off.

Cover letter 

When there is an option to include a cover letter, ALWAYS INCLUDE A COVER LETTER! Use this as an opportunity to fill in the blank spaces between you and the role your applying for. You need to show the recruiter how everything that you’ve said on your CV will actually be of benefit to them and the position they are trying to fill. You can’t expect them to put 2 and 2 together, you must do this for them.

Do your research! This seems so cliche and is usually the most tedious part but trust me, it can really set you apart. Don’t just stop at the ‘About us’ page on their website, take a look at any recent news articles mentioning the company and their successes.

Do avoid waffling and restrain yourself from using sweeping yet hollow phrases stating that you are ‘a very determined individual’ without telling them how. You need to back up every statement that you make with a relevant example to prove this. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Before you start your cover letter, grab a notebook and make 2 lists;

In the first list make a note of the skills required for the position. For example, these will include ‘excellent written communicative skills’. The second will outline the individual qualities that the company is looking for in you. These 2 lists create a checklist to make sure that you’re addressed and answered their requirements. It’s not important to address every single requirement but obviously the more the better.

Finally and most importantly, sell yourself! I don’t doubt that you are extremely talented and have done some impressive things so don’t be afraid to tell them.

The only thing left to do now is to send it…

Megan Rea is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-rea-a52437111/

Student Life: Expectation V. Reality

As a nostalgic final year, I have reminisced on my brilliant university experience over the past 4 years. It has led me to remember what expectations I, and many others presumably had, as a first year beginning University.

 

Expectation: I’m rich!

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The student loan is a source of excitement particularly for prospective young fresher’s who imagine all the endless possibilities of their newly acquired ‘wealth’.  But whilst the loan may be the most money you’ve had enter your current account, it certainly doesn’t stay there very long. Once you factor in rent, food, clothes and alcohol, you really don’t have much left for those not quite as essential items such as electric, gas, and toilet roll…

Expectation: Hey MTV, welcome to my crib!

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Whilst you may expect to live in a nice house, the chances of that happening (especially in the Holylands) are pretty narrow. The slick pad you envisioned sharing with your friends will probably include mismatched furniture from the 80s, a shower with the force of a leaking tap, and a bedroom considerably disproportionate in size to the rest of the bedrooms – AKA “the box room”.

Suddenly, your home house feels like a palace in comparison, filled with luxuries such as in-date food, television, heat, and clean clothes! Which leads to the next expectation…

Expectation: I’m a strong independent university student.

Expecting to live self-sufficiently in your student house without regular visits home is a commonly misplaced expectation of university life. The reality is so, so different. Friday’s are typically when you go ‘home home’ to your family house, as opposed to ‘home’ which is your student house – get it? And if you’re lucky and have no classes on Fridays there is no doubt that you will be straight up the motorway on a Thursday evening. This is probably when you will beg kindly ask for money to get you through the following week when the loan has officially run its course… Whilst simultaneously raiding the cupboards for food to bring back to Belfast with you.

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Expectation: Party every night woo!

The hopes of going out every single night are usually short-lived and by Thursday you’re more than ready to head home for a weekend of comforts.

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Expectation: I’m going to cook all the time!

All the simple student cookbooks in the world will not encourage you to cook more than a maximum of 10 home-made meals in the duration of your first year. Instead you will have a vested interest in trying every takeaway available to you (provided they deliver – obviously). If you do decide to venture into the unknown that is cooking then you will probably whip up something like pasta, after sufficiently googling how to make it, of course.

 

E5Expectation: I will never miss a class.

Most of us probably told ourselves this at the beginning of University life, but in reality, it rarely happens. There will almost certainly be a day where you chose Netflix or drinks with your friends over class, and as a first year, no one can blame you for it!

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Whilst university may not be entirely as you first expected, most would agree that it’s a brilliant, unforgettable experience that goes by in the blink of an eye. So embrace student life and enjoy it whilst you can, because the real world *shudders* is just around the corner!

 

Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_