September 3, 2021, by Rosie Pinder
Conversations About Careers: My Experience and Advice
By Rosie Pinder, BA English second year
For many students and recent graduates, there is a looming pressure to figure out a career path and have a job lined up immediately after university. I have lost count of the number of times over the summer that I have been asked about my plans post-graduation. And I still have a year left of my course! So, I can only imagine how incessant it must be for the graduating class of 2021.
Of course, nearly all of the people asking this type of question mean well. They are genuinely interested in what your aspirations and plans might be. But, for me at least, these conversations often seem loaded with expectations. First, the expectation that you know exactly which field you want to go into. Also, that this field neatly relates to your degree and clearly justifies the student loan.
As an English student, this often coincides with the assumption that I will go on to become an English teacher as if that is the only suitable option. Obviously, teaching is a great career path, but it has never been something I have considered. Instead, I know that I am interested in journalism, editing, and publishing– but I still don’t have a specific job role or set of goals in mind.
Rather than explain all this though, most of the time I opt for the safe response of ‘I just don’t know yet.’ This is true but never seems to get a good reaction. People assume that I must be wasting my time, or just haven’t thought about it yet.
Recently, though, when people have asked, I have tried to be a bit more honest. Simply explaining your interests and some of the steps you are taking career-wise (even if they don’t lead to a full-time job) shows people that you are starting to think about life after university.
Most important, though, is to remember that you don’t have to justify yourself. Going to university is about a lot more than just being a platform from which to enter the job market. If you eventually end up in a job that doesn’t link to your course, it doesn’t mean that the degree was a wasted experience.
It is a bit of a cliché, but most people’s career paths are not a straight line. There are loads of different twists and turns and places where you have different options about which way to go.
Also, with the unique circumstances of the past couple of years, a lot of things have been made harder. So don’t let these conversations get you down – I expect most of the people asking weren’t sure about what they wanted to do at this point in their lives either. Also, older family and friends certainly didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of a global pandemic when they were establishing their careers.
Part of why I wanted to contribute to this blog over the past year was to force myself to figure out what I wanted to do for my career. I thought writing about careers would make me take steps and reflect on my options.
In reality, my plans have changed a lot along the way and I expect them to keep changing for a while yet. What I’ve learnt, from writing my own posts and from reading other people’s, is that so many different facets make up a ‘career.’ It isn’t about jumping straight from your degree to a job in London. It is about finding what you enjoy and are good at and adapting your skills from all aspects of life.
All of this is quite hard to explain when someone asks ‘what are you going to do with that degree?’ But it is worth trying; perhaps one of those difficult conversations will turn out to be quite helpful.
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