Let me set the scene. For years I had dreamed of becoming a speech and language therapist and then one day some exam grades dropped through the door and that dream was torn to pieces. A couple of letters on a piece of paper meant that I could no longer pursue the career I had thought I would for more than a decade.
I’m not the only person who has found myself in this situation – in fact it’s happening to heaps of teenagers ever single year.
Every single year.
What happens next is a mad dash to re-evaluate your entire life. Your entire existence has become meaningless because of one sheet of paper and you know that in a week or two you’re going to have to go back to school and be expected to know what you’re going to do with your future as if nothing has happened.
I spent the next year trying to find an alternative route into my dream career, yet it looked impossible. I volunteered with various youth groups and people kept telling me that I should work with kids. I was desperate, so it stuck. I started looking into becoming a teacher and for the first time in months the future didn’t look bleak.
I ended up applying for teaching courses but in the end I ended up going to college to study Early Education and Childcare (exams have never done anything but ruin my career plans and I fully support not being assessed through exams).
Here’s the thing, I didn’t really know if I wanted to go into childcare/teaching, but I did it because people told me I should and I thought I couldn’t leave school without a plan. I want to let you all know, that it is okay to leave without a plan. Don’t let people pressure you into doing the wrong thing.
People also told me that I couldn’t write for a living. That was what I wanted to do, but I had spent so many years being told that it wasn’t possible that I just believed it without question. Now I’m a newspaper reporter who writes for a living.
Anyway, while I enjoyed childcare there was something that was missing. I just couldn’t see myself doing it in the long term, I was only in a nursery classroom two days a week and sometimes even that was too much. I needed more, I just didn’t know what.
So since I’ve been through all the struggles, I thought I would share some of the things that helped me to find the right course for me in the end…
- Think about what you enjoy. This might seem really obvious, but it’s not something I had really done. What do you enjoy? What specifically is it that you like? Why do you enjoy it? How can you adapt that into a practical and professional application?
- If you think you’ve found a course or a career path that interests you, speak to somebody who does that as a living. Ask them tell you more about what they do. Ask about the hours they work. Ask them what the pros and cons are. Tell them a bit about yourself and ask them if they think that could be the job for you.
- If somebody tells you that you can’t, challenge them. I spent years not questioning it when people told me that I couldn’t earn money by writing because they were people that I trusted and respected. I don’t hold many regrets, but I certainly regret not asking them to explain themselves when they said I couldn’t do it or when they laughed at my dreams. Sure, I’m maybe not a best-selling author (yet) but I make my money by writing. Sometimes it’s just about finding an appropriate application and having the guts to go against everyone else.
- Follow your heart. I’m a great believer in a bit of fate. That day that I signed up to study media communication I had actually gone to find out about the childcare course (I thought I would try again) and the tourism courses. Yet something inside me said that I should go and find out about this other course and it was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.
- Don’t rush. Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to have your life sussed at 16, you don’t have to leave school and go straight to college or university to study for the thing that you’re going to do for the rest of your life. If you need some time, take the time. Get a job to earn some money in the interim and it might help you discover your passion (or what you passionately hate). People study at all ages now, it’s not longer a young persons thing to do. In fact, I would even be as bold as to say that there are a number of benefits to NOT going into further or higher study straight from school – life experience is priceless.