Being a graduate is hard.
Whilst at university, you’re told to think about your career but there’s so much else to do. Whether that’s your 10,000 word dissertation, your upcoming exams or just trying to get the work/life balance right.
I must admit I wish I had thought more about my career and also feel that compulsory work placements should be a part of all degree courses. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of career advice available if you wanted it, but if, like me, you don’t actually know what it is you want to do at all – it can be tricky.
How I chose my career path.
Throughout my childhood I had a few career paths in mind; the first was a nurse, this was mainly down to being an avid fan of Casualty from a very young age, I still am today. That was replaced with what I still wish was a plausible career choice, a professional reader. I have been a book-worm since I can remember and if somebody paid me to read fiction all day I would jump at the chance. Hand in hand with this is writing; I loved creative writing as a child and still have so many ideas that I will get down on paper one day, but as is so often the case life gets in the way. Therefore, writing is the one career that has been a constant in my life and English has always been my favourite subject.
I also love History which led me to do a joint honours degree in both subjects (along with professional reader, I would love to be the female Indiana Jones – so if you know of any positions going for a historical adventurer, do let me know!). I could never choose between the two and I don’t regret my degree choice for a moment.
Naturally journalism often popped up as a suggested path by teachers, parents and careers advisors. I did for a while truly consider this, but one of my biggest weaknesses is that I am an introvert and can be incredibly shy. The thought of interviewing strangers, let alone anyone vaguely famous or important, terrifies me so that’s why I opted for an academic subject rather than a more vocational career focused degree.
The graduate job-hunt…
I graduated in July 2013 and actually had a graduate teaching job interview the day after my graduation. I didn’t get the job and for a while that was the end of my graduate job hunt. It got to the stage where I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and just needed any job so I started my first proper role at my local supermarket in the September. I worked there part-time for three years and at the same time was a library assistant for a year.
In different ways I loved both jobs so much but it got to the stage where, firstly, I knew I couldn’t be there forever and, secondly, I needed a full-time job for fiscal reasons. I am getting married this year and the thought of moving in with my fiancé while still only working 20 odd hours a week, in what I didn’t consider to be my career, did get me down.
Finding good old fashioned work experience.
While working these jobs I did try my hardest to get work experience in any kind of writing and started to think that magazines, particularly in subjects such as history, was an area in which I would love to work. I did three placements in one year which was pretty challenging when juggling two jobs but I really enjoyed the placements and this inspired me to apply for every editorial assistant role I saw.
What was so disheartening was being rejected at the first stage. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels like if you could just spend a day in the role, you could prove yourself far better than your CV ever would. Although I obviously enjoy writing it’s difficult to sell yourself in words when there’s pressure to impress and prove that you really want the job (and you’re good at it).
Time to up-skill and get additional qualifications?
I started a journalism distance-learning course as many magazines want this even if it’s not particularly the journalistic side you are interested in, as is the case with me. However, in September 2016, I applied for a role that I had seen multiple times. I’d set up one of those job alerts that would email me every time a job with the word ‘writer’ came up.
So many legal roles such as bid or will writer would appear which I was not qualified or interested in and occasionally copy-writing would appear. Now, I had no idea what a copy-writer did and still now I am explaining to people what it is I do. For three months now, I have been one of three digital copy-writers in a successful marketing company in the south-west, Purplex. The majority of my writing is for clients in the window and door industry which is not something I had any knowledge of, or imagined I would be writing about. However, I must say, I’m really enjoying myself and even though I’m anonymous, just knowing that my writing is being published is a bit of a thrill.
Basically, this is my long-winded way of reassuring you that you will get there. It may feel like you’re being rejected constantly but you have to remain positive and maybe also broaden your searches. Start looking for roles that are related to the digital marketing position you want or try to work sideways through a company. Maybe SEO is where your heart lies but if you’re a gifted writer why not try copy-writing or online PR? Getting your foot in the door is a great way to start and maybe even find a path for yourself you hadn’t considered.