If you’ve found yourself here, you’re probably feeling lost, looking for some advice or a little nudge in the right direction. You might have recently graduated and not have a clue what you want to do with your life or you may have reached a crossroads in your career and are looking for someone to give you some answers.
The truth is, I don’t really have any.
I believe that figuring out ‘what you want to do with your life’ might be something you’ll be trying to answer for the next ten, maybe even twenty years or it could even be a puzzle you might never solve. If I’m honest, I’m pretty sure people – aside from doctors, lawyers and the like – rarely ever do.
In 2011, a month or two out of university, after achieving a solid 2.1 from Exeter, I was interviewed for a PA role at Penguin that I was ridiculously underqualified for. Three years later, I was being interviewed for marketing assistant roles at the same publishing house. I didn’t get any of those jobs but I did land an internship there. Prior to that, I was teaching – something I sort of knew I’d probably always end up doing – so when I quit, I began to realise that I didn’t have all the answers and it freaked me out. My safety profession proved wrong for me, so what next?
After quitting and coming out the other side of a bad break up and general shit time, I took a job – still in a school setting – that cured me in a way I never thought it could. I had spent so many years searching for the perfect job and turning down ones that ‘weren’t quite right’, that when this dead-end one gave me more answers than any of the fabulous ones I’ve had, I was surprised and confused. I began to realise that, actually, your job doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Sure, doing what you love is what we’re all aiming for, but working the shit jobs before being able to do that? They really are worth your while, even though it might not feel like it at the time. With every career move we make, we are learning something and it will generally turn out to be worthwhile.
It is learning this valuable life lesson that has led me to writing this post today.
Five years since graduating from university, I had decided that, although I had a huge urge to learn more about SEO and digital marketing, I’d left it too late to start. I convinced myself that employers only wanted to recruit people fresh off the back of university and no one would want me.
In actual fact, I was sort of right. I was underqualified for even junior roles in the industry and, although I was confident in my knowledge that I had acquired from previous social media roles and managing my blog for six years, my CV and LinkedIn said otherwise. I had no choice but to go right back to the beginning. So, after teaching children English, being interviewed for jobs at top publishing houses and five years since graduating with a decent degree at a top university, I decided to apply for an internship at the ripe old age of 27.
I’m not going to deny it; applying for an internship at my age is a little embarrassing – but only if you let it be. Sure, I’ve had to swallow my pride and accept a huge pay cut; I’m on far less money than anyone else in the office and, naturally, there are days where I will be doing the tasks that nobody else wants to do because I am the lowest in the pecking order, but so what? I’m currently learning more than I ever have, with people who are so kind, nurturing and interested and I am exposed, on a daily basis, to the industry that I think I am most suited to.
Ultimately, what I am trying to say is this: I spent many years turning down and shying away from opportunities because they weren’t exactly right. I have declined or regrettably failed to embrace golden opportunities and have quit things I probably shouldn’t have because they weren’t perfect. Even my time spent temping at as a receptionist at a media agency was worth something: it taught me how to handle clients and behave in a creative environment. I have come to realise that, in life, no experience is worthless.
So, if you are starting out in the world of work, then take the first thing that comes your way and give it your all - even if it is spending hours sorting through a post-fashion week cupboard or making pots of tea for your rude boss. Do it with a smile and do it well because with experience comes opportunity.
No experience will be perfect but all experiences are worth something.
Say ‘yes’ and the rest will follow.