October 20, 2017, by Carla

What Happens If You Change Your Mind About Your Career?

By Charlotte Owen, BSc Hons Psychology (2011)

Where do you want to be in five years?

A common career question that five years ago would have had me shaking in my boots. I was in the midst of recovering from a serious head injury – thanks to a poorly designed classroom and an innocent, but angry teenager.  I had made the decision to leave Teach First and felt utterly lost as to where I’d be in five years. 

After a few months of Unitemps temping and wondering what an earth to do if it wasn’t teaching,  I found the management graduate trainee scheme at the University of Nottingham, where I’ve now spent four gloriously-varied years.

I’m writing this, partly to mark five years, but mostly hoping it will provide strength and motivation to you students or alumni who feel that a change in direction is upon you, whether that be from choice or circumstance. I guess I wish I’d known all these things then.

1. Life can take a different direction and still work out wonderfully

Don’t be too rigidly set on your dream career if it doesn’t feel right anymore. There are other wonderful adventures waiting for you if your direction changes; for me that included work trips to China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, presenting at a national conference, a house purchase and meeting my brilliant fiancé. Without my head injury none of this would have happened.

2. Resilience and flexibility are skills we should value as highly as spelling and counting

We need to teach young people that it’s okay to fail. We need to build resilience into the curriculum. On paper I was successful; I had a job lined up when I graduated and was hitting all the grades, but my grades didn’t equip me with the knowledge of how to respond resiliently and flexibly to a huge change.

3. Even when it looks like you’ve reached a career dead end, you haven’t, not if you ‘make your own luck’

Find mentors, coaches and take lots of people for coffee to learn about them and their career. I’ve had incredible role models and mentors – inside my family and within my work context. They’ve shaped my direction and although it took a few years, they’ve made me believe I hadn’t actually quit; I had made a positive step in a different direction.

4. Being a student at the University of Nottingham builds you, then catches you when you fall

It’s there to re-build you when you lose your way with all its opportunities: the grad scheme, postgraduate study, the Careers and Employability Service. You’ll always be a University of Nottingham member and I’ve experienced how inspiring that is.

5. Be kind, always

My head injury showed me life is so delicate and precious and can be changed in an instant. I’ll forever be thankful for the kindness Teach First provided. The love and support my family and friends gave during that horrid time was quite simply incredible.

6. We should learn because we love it, we don’t need any other excuse

And that’s why five years later I’m often registering for professional development courses, attending seminars, engaging in MOOCs, and listening to Radio 4 or podcasts on my walk into work.

So, Charlotte of five years ago, did you think all this would have happened? No way. But I couldn’t have wished for a better unplanned adventure.

Have you changed your mind about what you want to do like Charlotte? Our Careers experts are here to help. See how we can help through My Career now. 

Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your Career