August 18, 2016, by Helen Whitehead

Where am I #meanttobe? Why missing an A-level grade may not be the worst thing in the world

More years ago than I care to admit, I awaited my A-level results, with no doubt the same levels of anxiety as many young people this week. In my case, I missed my place at Medical School by one grade. Given that I had wanted to be a doctor since I was ten, and my life had been planned exclusively towards that end, I was very disappointed.

I ended up at a different University, doing a biochemistry degree. It became apparent that this was a much better choice than medicine would have been. What I wanted to do was medical research, and biological science was an excellent way to get into that. And I loved my second choice University.

Fast forward a couple of years, and while my essays were both enjoyable to write and gained good marks (we had an essay a week – in biochemistry!), I was all thumbs when it came to laboratory practicals. Another rethink was in order and I started working in scientific publishing disseminating the research rather than doing it.

It’s good to have a goal: but my experience is there are always options if one path gets too rocky. University taught me far more than biochemistry. It taught me how to learn, how to be responsible and organised, how to get on with people.  It prepared me for a working life that turned out very differently from what I expected.

I now work in a job that didn’t exist when I left University, let alone when I was planning what to apply for (I’m a learning technologist #meanttobe). This will increasingly be the case. Fewer and fewer of us work in the same job for longer than a few years: nowadays being flexible and able to adopt a lifelong learning attitude is vitally important. As is being ready to take on new challenges and adopt new career paths.

So whatever you think you’re going to do next, it probably isn’t what you’ll be doing in 5, 10 or 20 years: that subject you study at University may be important to you all your life – or it may not – but the skills you learn will be priceless.

Picture: CC BY NC SA Joey Doll 2007-10-27 13:24:31

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