It’s been over four years now since I joined the Department for Education in September 2014. I’m now 23 and it feels like such a long time since I was making a decision on my future career. I’ve gone from doing A-Levels, eating pizza on my sofa and completing qualifications as an apprentice and writing blogs about it to being a fully-fledged civil servant working on high-profile and exciting work that I’m truly proud to be a part of.
When I heard about the apprenticeship though, I was still in what I’m sure many students feel – a time of limbo really. “Will I survive Uni? Will an apprenticeship actually help me start a career? Do all students really just live off Tesco meal deals?” I was a little biased from the start, which is because I just wanted to get out there and do something. But I was always sure to keep my options open as you never know what you might find.
I learnt a lot from how I approached my options, for some of it I feel like my friends helped, my teachers and career advisors too. At other times I had my mother (nagging is sometimes support in its own way) and for a lot of my decision, I think sheer dumb luck helped me out a lot. What I learnt though, is you don’t have to rely on luck. As well as all the other things I mentioned above, there’s one other key element: You.
Now I can’t be the only one who takes the entire evening to decide what to eat for dinner, so making a decision that is a thousand-fold more life changing is daunting, but I’ve narrowed down below some of the ‘you’ things that helped me make my decision of where to go and what to do in life.
Talk to people. Whether it’s your parents, friends or the postman, sharing your thoughts is a great way to test if you really want to do what you’re saying. I considered doing American Studies or English Language at University but the more I told people, the less enthusiastic I became. People would say ‘ah interesting, why do you want to do that?’ and my response ended up as ‘I don’t really know, I guess it’s interesting?’
Listen to people. Career advisers, older siblings, neighbours or anyone who’s recently started a career knows what they had to do to get where they are now. They can all give you the inside-out of how the experience was. Career advisers are especially helpful here, because after you’ve listened you can ask ‘how do I, do that?’ and they can give you materials or information that can show you how.
You do you. This, at the end of the day, will be your career and your life. Being one of the people on Suits sounds great, if you’re interested in law. Being a Marine Biologist sounds like it would be a great party piece, if you have a passion for biology and the sea. But if what you want to do more than anything else, is advance your passion for baking and make the best macaroons in town, you do you. As someone who has been there and done the whole career choice thing, it’s only worth it if you like it. It’s never really easy, but if you’re interested and you enjoy it then it certainly feels both easier and more fulfilling.
Ask. When you think you have some options narrowed down, don’t be afraid to ask everyone you can find related to that career what they recommend you do. At some point, you will find it the answer that is right for you. Whether it’s a university course, an apprenticeship or anything else. If you’ve reached this stage with a more solid idea of what you want to do too, it’s worth saying it to any career advisor you can find as well as talking to people in the career of your passion.
Following my tips (even if a little by accident) I’m now enjoying life, progressing in my career and never looking back. Every day continues to be a school day and there are always new opportunities to take, but the only right answer is following what you really want to do.
For anyone interested, on how my life has progressed from the blog I linked above, nowadays I eat less pizza and get creative with homemade dishes and baking, my cat Layla is still causing mischief at home and I’m still a massive Marvel fan, counting down the days until Avengers: Endgame.
Good luck to everyone about to embark on your careers. Remember to have fun.