Finding Your Own Career Path

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Does that reflect the career path you’ve followed since?

It’s a question I’ve considered a lot recently, and one that’s been brought into a lot of discussions (most probably at work because a lot of us have friends/family who are teachers and who have been lording half term over the rest of us poor workings struggling through the year with just 20 days annual leave!). If you could choose any job in the world, what would you choose to do to bring home the bacon?

Then why aren’t you?

It’s strange isn’t it, you learn to walk and talk, and then continue learning through primary school, counting bricks and doing spellings and grammar, trying to figure out a bit about the big wide world. Then secondary hits and you’re suddenly into specifics and spending your teenage years dreaming of adulthood and finally giving up endless exams and living the life as some high flying #girlboss after following your dream career path. But then it comes to choosing your A Levels and you panic as all the teachers are telling you these choices could affect your career decisions for the rest of your life, but heck, you haven’t a clue what you want to do and the prospect of wearing a suit every day and earning money Monday – Friday rather than at the Sunday shift in the local garden centre becomes very real.

Yet it doesn’t, you choose the subjects you think *may* lead you down that career path, but realistically are the ones you’re pretty good at and don’t just leave doodling all over your homework diary.

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Then what?

You may have chosen to go to university (in my case, it took a LOT of choosing, and if you’re interested in that long and fanciful tale, I’ve retold it here with the inclusion of a lot of ridiculous drunken fancy dress photos). But you also may not. Why are teenagers all pushed on from their A Levels straight into degrees. Is that why it’s so bloody hard to get a graduate job now, because a BA or a BSc don’t actually mean that much any more?

It very much rang true when I was talking to an apprentice I’ve been working with recently who’s biggest ambition is to take over his Dad’s farm. To him, that’s his ideal career path, and mapped out perfectly to get him exactly what he wants. In August, whilst we were both shovelling seaweed into a digester for a trial I was running (don’t ask!), we were casually chatting about his GCSE results he’d received that morning.

“Yep, I got what I wanted, and I’m happy with 4 Cs”

So why was I surprised?

This 16 year old has FAR superior knowledge than me about anything to do with machinery, farming and agriculture. He is an engineer, vet, biologist and labourer rolled into one, highly skilled and knowledgeable, yet I sit there with 13 A*s and 4 As under my belt, knowing full well at the time I was 16 I felt that my exam results meant I could conquer the world. Yet, when comparing us side by side in this specific situation, they mean nothing!

You might have always had a clear idea in your head about what career path you wanted, but maybe you haven’t.

I’m currently enjoying life as an environmental consultant, it interests and challenges me and has a nice balance of time outside, plus the bosses are pretty ace and we have a lot of perks. But will I be in this company forever? Who knows! Will I always be an environmental consultant? No idea! Just because this career path is right for me now, doesn’t mean it will always fit with my life.

I feel like there’s a huge amount of pressure on millennials to achieve and win at life continuously, always pushing to earn more money (if trying to tentatively step onto the housing ladder is anything to go by, it’s pretty necessary) and push the glass ceiling further. If that makes you happy, fantastic! Then again, just earning buckets of money or doing a job because you think you should isn’t likely to bring you much joy.

I know a whole host of people who quit uni because they realised it actually didn’t suit them. Who quit their jobs and jumped clean off their previous career path. Who had a bash at self-employment not quite knowing how or where it was going to take them. Some of these people are the most “successful” of anyone I know, people who love their jobs and their jump paid off. Not necessarily straight away mind, and I equally know a lot of people in amazing careers very firmly set by their previous life choices at school and university!

Jobs and careers don’t have to stay static, and if you love something, then why not give it a try? Just because an application states you have to have X experience or Y qualifications, doesn’t mean you won’t get it. Even if you don’t have either X or Y, you might have Z to offer them, and for all you know, they might not have even considered how valuable Z is!

I’m open to the fact I might choose to stay in the environmental sector forever, or, I may not. I’m a great believer in everything happening for a reason and opportunities coming your way at the right time in the right place, if only you keep your eyes open, be proactive and challenge yourself to never stop learning.

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Photos by RJG Media