When I was in high school some 10 years ago, I always thought the only way to get a good career was to go to university, and the only way to get into university was through doing A Levels at sixth form or college. Now that I work at a technical college, however, my perceptions of what is a good qualification has certainly changed – and I have been introduced to at least three other ways in which someone wanting to go to university but not wanting to do A Levels can do so! But, that’s not solely what this post is about…
While I’ll be re-living the scary moment when I graduated from university and realised I had no career and I was suddenly unemployed and fending for myself entirely, I suppose if you’re fresh out of school at the age of 18, you could be experiencing the same things. In that case – whether you’re coming out of school, college, sixth form, university, or wherever – I hope this post of my experiences is some help and guidance.
“I couldn’t imagine being in full time employment…”
While many people don’t take the trip to university and go into work at the tender age of 18 or even younger, I certainly couldn’t imagine being in full-time work as soon as I’d left sixth form – cue the comments about my immaturity! I can’t even begin to imagine, having been at university for quite a while more than the majority of people, about getting a full-time job and thinking about paying rent and bills in any more sense than splitting them six ways in a mouldy university house share. I have, however, come to the conclusion that it’s not full-time work that I should have been afraid of, it’s the gap between completing your education and finding a job that will let you afford to live comfortably for the rest of your life. And more importantly, find something that you’re both good at and enjoy!
While the scene may look the same – laptops, reports, notes and cups of coffee strewn about the place, the feeling, the anticipation and the consequences are completely different. I have to admit, I do miss the days of being a university student. I think we all go through the same stages of life. When we are in primary school, we can’t wait to get into high school and start our teenage life. When we are in high school, we can’t wait to go to college or university and learn stuff we’re actually interested in. When we’re in further education, we can’t wait to utilise the skills we’ve learnt and start our adult lives with a career and independence.
And when we are at the end of our education, we wish we could go back to primary school and do it all over again. Because, despite how much we disliked teachers and school when we were in it, it’s a darn sight nicer to not have to worry about finding a job that will help us survive in this world and having to fend for ourselves. I certainly spoke the words “I can’t wait to leave school” through high school and university, but would give anything to be able to be an eternal student right now!
“There are plenty of jobs out there… but how many of them are careers?”
At the point in my life where I was when I left university (just over two years ago), looking for a career seems to be the hardest thing in the world. As one interviewer pointed out to me, there are thousands of people who have a job – but there are only a handful who can make that job into a career. Job? Career? What’s the difference?
I certainly leapt into a job when I first graduated – and moved 200 miles south! I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find anything else that would mean I was able to afford to stay in a much more expensive town than I had previously been in, and I didn’t want to be stuck in a minimum wage job straight off the bat. I wanted a career in the sector I wanted to be in… While money and a wage is an enticing part of any job, I certainly learned the hard way that the world of work after the part-time jobs of university students is very different and when you have to do something forty hours a week, you certainly need to make sure that it’s something you really enjoy!
“It’s not just the type of work you need to consider either, it’s the place and the people.”
That is certainly what put me off working any longer for the job I was in – which I had for a grand total of six weeks. While I loved the job and the clients, and I felt rather guilty for dropping out on them so quickly, I realised that if I wasn’t enjoying it I wouldn’t be doing as good a job as someone with a real passion for the role could. I was also expected in this role to do tasks which I wasn’t properly trained for, and which could have put others wellbeing in danger if I didn’t do them right – no matter how many times I asked for training. This was also a factor which disheartened me from the job quite a lot.
I honestly thought it could be a career when I started – but things don’t always work out. Not everyone knows exactly what they want to do, and no one falls into a career that’s a perfect fit for them straight away – so there’s no reason to feel bad about it!
After leaving that company, I realised I was in a position where I really needed to find a career, not just another job, and it was tough! Really tough. Months filled with assessment centres, and job roles that are asking for graduates but also want people who have experience… Experience you would only have if you had worked in that sector before – something you can’t have done unless someone would give you a job in that sector – something which they won’t do unless you have the experience – it’s a vicious circle (this is a whole different bug-bear)!
It’s also incredibly tough as there are so many graduates at the moment, so many people who went to university because of the ease at which you could get in in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s before the £9000 fee was introduced. Not that I agree with the change in fees – why limit the number of university places by who can afford it rather than just limit the number of places a university can offer and give much more freedom to universities in how they select their students. This would also give more opportunity to students from lower-income backgrounds to have more financial aid – but that’s a whole different kettle of fish!
“Finding something you really love is all anyone can ask from a career. Do you agree?”
Life after education is a tough time in anyone’s life, and finding a career that gives you all the needs and wants you have but is also something you thoroughly enjoy is very difficult to find, be it either y the number of jobs available or the number of people wanting that job. It’s difficult to shine and know what a company exactly wants, as there is so many different qualities that people look for.
This post has become more of a plea, I feel. A plea to say “don’t give up” and “keep trying”. If you work for it, you will get what you want out of life – put yourself out there, as scary as it may be. Good things will come.