When I was 14 I was asked by my school to start thinking about which "options" I wanted to choose for my GCSEs. Did I want to do History or Geography? Did I want to do IT or Business? Did I want to do something exam based or essay based? What sort of learning appealed to me more? Now let's be honest- which 14 year old girl or boy really has any sort of informed grasp upon what they want to be doing when they're 25 or 35 or 50? I picked my GCSE options mainly based on the teachers that I liked and the subjects that my friends were doing. Because I was 14.
A Levels rolled around and by this time I was 16 and completely and utterly dedicated to my career in ERP Software Sales. NAHHHHHT. I still had no idea, because I was 16 and went to a school that once recommended "Clothing" to me as a career choice. Clothing. Is that a job? I've since been reliably informed that "Clothing" is not a job role. In my free time I was watching Americas Next Top Model and 'MSN-ing' whoever I fancied that day, and in school I was making decisions that affected my entire life. This time around I chose subjects that I thought would most easily get me some top grades, largely based on how naturally I was able to understand the subject and whether the subject was essay based or exam based; I suck at essays but exams are a breeze for me.
Before I knew it, the degree decision rolled around. I knew that I wanted to do a degree because I wanted to move out; I drastically needed to put some space between myself and the 'Little Village Bubble' I had managed to create for myself. I also knew that there were pretty much zero jobs in the deep south of Wales. I decided that I would pick IT and do that in University. Yes, it included a bit of C++ coding and a bit of network configuration bullsh*t here and there but there were also modules on business and entrepreneurship that I liked the look of. I hated University, but I got my degree and the rest is history.
For a minute, let's imagine that I picked English instead of IT as my degree subject. I loved English and I was pretty good at it. What would I be doing now? Would I be a journalist that travels the world? The answer is blazingly obviously a resounding NO. The reality is that I would be exactly, EXACTLY where I am today. My first graduate job in IT was a recommendation from a family friend. This company hired people from any background as long as they had a degree. It didn't matter whether it was a First in Marine Biology or a Third in Spider Studies. The hiring process involved absolutely no technical questions and absolutely nothing that pertained to IT or Sales. They hired based on the sort of person you were (which is exactly how a company hiring graduates should hire, rather than on experience) and you learned on the job. In reality, I would have still had that recommendation from a friend and would have ended up in exactly the same place as the Sian who did the IT degree.
I'm rambling. I know I am. The point that I am trying to make here is as follows: KEEP MOVING. It's all well and good to stay calm, and to consider your options, and to remain positive, but in my experience none of those things will get you into your personal happy place. It's very easy to take up an interim job somewhere that is easy and familiar and to stay there despite the fact it's not what you want to "Do" with your life. I know that a common objection to this would be that you don't know what you want to do yet, but how will you ever know if you sit where you are? Keep moving. What To Do When You Don't Know What You Want To Do in Life:
- Use your connections: A lot of great things can come simply from talking to family & friends about your situation. You may find that your Aunt is looking for someone to do admin in her office, or that your friends mother wants to find someone to take her kids to school and help them with their homework. Next thing you know, you're a registered childminder working from home with the flexibility to work the hours you want. Be vocal and be honest about the fact that you're unhappy where you currently are. Let people help you.
- Be prepared to work hard: No, you can't start at a wedding planning firm as Head of Ceremony Decoration because you've been to loads of weddings and you like that bit the most. You have to be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. A friend of mine started as an admin assistant in an office on £15k a year. She's now Executive Personal Assistant to the Director of Services at my current company. She's currently in Paris on business and just bought her first house. Get stuck in, show that you're a hard worker and it will pay off extremely quickly.
- Do a TEFL: A TEFL qualification is a great way to keep moving. It enables you to Teach English as a Foreign Language and you can do 95% of the course from home online in 2 or 3 months if you're super dedicated. They don't cost a huge amount (I paid less than £1000 but I can't remember how much less) and they very easily open doors into travel. You can teach in Thailand, Goa, Indonesia, China, or even at home in the UK at Summer Camps for international kids. Many companies who offer the TEFL qualification will personally help you to find a job abroad. You don't need to have done a degree to do a TEFL and so this is a great way for school leavers to see more of the world, even if you're just biding time and working out your next steps.
- Use technology: We are so fortunate as a generation to have such easy access to so many platforms. Are you crafty? Do you like making things? You can very easily get online and use Etsy to get your trinkets out to people all around the world. Do you like photography? Get on Instagram and start a photography blog. It's so easy to publicise yourself these days and if you can harness these platforms you could get a business ticking over in a matter of weeks with some hard work. It's never been easier to turn a passion into a career.
- Save Up: I'm aware that this comes across as a huge juxtaposition to my 'Keep Moving' mantra, but it really isn't. If you find yourself in that filler job then commit to saving up some money along the way. You might be stuck in a complete rut, but you also might have been saving £100 a month for the past year. You now have £1200 in the bank ; if you're saving up you are moving, and you are putting a safety net behind you. It might turn out to be a deposit on a flat rental or a car to get to the dream job in the middle of nowhere.
- Put yourself out there: It can be scary to try new things. It's scary to take up a new hobby on your own, and it's equally scary to promote yourself if you're trying to start something from the ground up. It's never too late to explore other avenues even if you've been stuck doing the same job for years. One of my all time favourite quotes is by Earl Nightingale: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” If you want to book yourself onto a cake decorating class, do it. If you want to start writing a book, do it. Don't be afraid to try new things and to shout about your successes. It feels daunting when you're 20 because you think that everybody will judge you, and they will. I put off sharing my blog content for 2 years because of what people might think but I get so much enjoyment out of doing it that I wouldn't change the decision I made, even in spite of the occasional ribbing from the girls on a Friday night. You could turn a passion for doodling into a career as a graphic designer. Who knows?!