Calling all final-year students! Graduation is looming and we all know graduate job hunting is a nightmare that we could really do without. Right now a summer of binging on Netflix and eating one’s weight in chocolate sounds rather more appealing than entering the real world of professionalism. But there’s no need to gaze toward impending graduation with dread of a life beyond the bubble that is university, Quench has the answer to your career woes. No longer will we have to gaze upon our double-chinned faces looking like over-engorged goldfish, hopelessly gaping at the black screen in between episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Abandon the guppy goldfish reflection, don some shells and glitter and become a more elegant creature of the ocean. Now it’s your chance to embrace life as a professional mermaid. Yes, you read that right… a mermaid.
For the most part, our childhood dreams are washed away by the conventions society pushes upon us, and the educational system is designed to encourage us to conform to fixed patterns. We go to school, we go to university, get a grad job, and then we work in an office from 9 to 5 and take a holiday a year to the Costa del Sol, before re-entering the cycle of adult mundanity and predictability. Departing from this sequence that is so ingrained and normalised within everyday life is not an easy task, but those who do break the mould and embark on a more whimsical path have some advice for any third year pondering over what to do with the rest of their lives.
This month, Quench had a chat with Mairead, part-time mermaid and co-founder of the Cambridge-based company, Merlesque. Throwing inhibitions into the wind (or ocean) and turning a fairy tale into a reality may sound like a poorly planned pipe dream, but in light of our fascination with all things mythical, the concept of embracing The Little Mermaid as viable career path was too hard to ignore. And it seems that being a mermaid doesn’t just involve putting on a fancy tail and swimming around for a few hours. According to Mariead, mermaids are actually in high demand.
‘We perform in land and water and mostly do children’s parties, festivals, corporate events, modelling and aquarium swimming.’
Mermaids are characteristically associated with exotic hot climates, white sand beaches and coral reefs, so how, we asked, did three girls from Cambridge decide that forming a mermaid company in the middle of a not-so-tropical country was a feasible plan of action?
‘My business partner Demi suggested ‘mermaiding’, which she found out about whilst doing an art degree. Her final project was on mermaids and she found out about professional mermaids in nice warm countries like Australia, but there wasn’t really anyone else doing it in the UK at the time, so we sort of found a gap in the market.’
‘We talked about it for a long time – it was about a year before we were eventually offered our first gig as mermaids – that was the tipping point as to whether we really wanted to move forward with this, and we decided that we definitely did. It was a big decision.’
As students, we are pushed through an education system that causes us to abandon childhood spontaneity and creative flare and replace it with worry and stress of real life. Life has become about passing tests, and doing a job that you’re good at or pays well rather than for enjoyment. We are taught that at the end of the day, impressive CV’s and a truckload of work experience will ultimately get us a top notch job that will pay off our mortgages. Yet a degree in Engineering, English, or Sociology does not define who you are or what you can do. The creators of Merlesque took their passion for performing and fairy tales to life and made it reality with a viable business plan.
‘I had absolutely no business experience. All you really need to do is take that first step and work on it and build it up slowly, and I think people are put off by thing of a ‘company’ as something multi-national like Google or Amazon, which is so far away from you are sitting in your bedroom with a laptop.’ If you’re passionate enough about something and ready to push yourself out of your tightly woven comfort zone, doing something you love and making it into a business need not be a dangerous path. ‘It seems like something you can’t achieve but if you break it down into small steps it’s completely doable and it’s something you can do alongside your job or alongside studying, you don’t have to wait to finish university – start working on it as a side project.’
Let’s face it, not all of us are going to be using our specific degree subjects in our career. Plenty of Humanities graduates have ended up in finance, as Mairead tells us, ‘I studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic at Cambridge. I’m now a chartered public finance accountant and I work as an Internal Audit Manager.’
Don’t be restrained by the repressive influences of our education. We follow the system out of fear of failure and a lifetime of student debt and hesitate to nurture our creative ideas and control our own futures. Yet turning a whacky hobby or something you love into a sustainable business is not in itself a mythical and unachievable concept.
‘Don’t undersell yourself – turning your hobby and something you’re passionate about into a business is the best thing! It’s definitely impacted my life positively.’
Life is too short to be pushing paper in an office for the rest of their lives; it’s not fun and it really is not healthy!
‘I had a tumour on my pituitary gland called a pituitary adenoma. I actually started mermaiding around the time of my first surgery and I’ve found that it’s been a great distraction, something to put my energy into, it’s been really good after both my surgeries because it’s been a goal to get my fitness back up. I always think: you could be hit by a bus tomorrow, and you’d have spent the past few years doing something you didn’t enjoy! Why wait? Maybe it’s because I have had a lot of health problems, but I really do believe in seizing the day.’
If you feel like seizing the day in a mermaiding way, check out Quench’s top 5 tips to becoming a mermaid. (Yes, Merlesque are actually recruiting, we checked!)
- ‘All mermaids (and mermen) will need to provide their own high-quality full mermaid costume and accessories.’ Get your sewing kit out, invest in some glitter and fabric and make yourself a swanky tail.
- ‘We will accept applications for mermaids who perform on land only; if you’re applying to be a water-based performer as well, you must be extremely comfortable in the water, have a good level of fitness, and be experienced at swimming in a mermaid tail for long periods of time.’ Hit the pool and channel your inner mermaid. Now that you look like a mermaid, you must become the mermaid.
- What’s in a name? Get yourself a cool mermaid name! Mairead’s is ‘Mermaid Odine’.
- Mermaids are fun-loving, creative and confident creatures so channel your inner mythical being and don’t be shy – mermaids get a lot of attention!
- You must be friendly, great with kids and be able to deal with unexpected questions like “where do mermaids sleep?” and “I bet you’re not a real mermaid!” – As mermaids are rare creatures, people often have a lot of questions about life in the ocean. Be prepared to be the object of fascination (we can think of worse things)!
Keep an eye out for mermaid opportunities at:
So if you’re up for a challenge and ready for some glitter-fuelled fun, give mermaiding a go! So whether you want to be a mermaid or embark on your own creative passion we say, forget whatever you think you know about the world of work, and go for it!
Emily Jones and Emma Riches