How are you ever supposed to pick a career?

I should perhaps warn you that this blog post is a bit of a rant. But if you keep reading I imagine you’ll be getting an insight into what a lot of recent graduates are feeling. It’s especially relevant in the current economic times where most people are glad of any job and without realising it end up stuck in a career they have no interest in. A (fairly) recent article in The Times (which of course I can’t find now) referred to this as ‘buyer’s remorse’ which sums it up pretty well. Although I haven’t even got this far. I’m still dithering on the edges, unsure whether to buy or wait for something better to come along.

There are (according to a quick internet search and some probably very unreliable sources but it’s late and I want to get to the point) about 800 different jobs in the world. I can’t pick a TV programme to watch until I’ve scrolled through all the channels to make sure there isn’t something better on. I can’t buy an item of clothing until I’ve been to every shop to make sure there isn’t a nicer or cheaper version somewhere else. But I can hardly try every job in the world before I settle on the one I want to dedicate my life to. Even if I discount all the jobs that would require manual labour or anything that involves spending prolonged periods of time outside or with children it’s still completely unrealistic.

Some people are lucky enough to, from an early age, feel they have a calling in life. Some people want to work with animals or work with children or be an astronaut. And if they feel it strongly enough then suddenly their life has a purpose, they have something to aim for, something to build their life around.

I am not one of these people. I have never settled on any career and then still liked the idea in a month. My entire life has instead been focussed around making sure my interests and education were as vague as possible so I could still pick from as many careers as possible.

Though really, when it came time to pick my GCSEs or A-Levels it never occurred to me to think beyond just picking the subjects that I liked or with teachers that I liked or that my friends were doing. And for my degree I just chose one that didn’t limit my job options too much. Management and Economics – that sounds ok; I enjoyed my Business A-Level, probably give me loads of job choices when I graduated, I’ll do that one. Turns out t it did limit my career choices rather a lot. To nothing but boring jobs. All my uni friends graduated and went off to work for insurance firms or as accountants or in human resources. Not in any way my first choice of how to spend the rest of my life.

I do feel like I’ve been thrown into the big wide world without any guidance and just paddling like crazy trying to stay afloat. And, I might add, doing a very bad job. The careers service at school was absolutely hopeless, the one at university almost as bad. They were quite able to advise you so long as you went in with a career already picked out. If like me you had no idea what you wanted they just stared blankly at you for the ten minute ‘advice’ session before handing you several leaflets on accounting and shoving you out the door.

And now my life plan has backfired. Now that I have finally got excited about a career I’ve managed to choose one that not only is incredibly competitive but that I have almost no relevant skills for. Publishing – what was I thinking? Besides from reading quite a lot I don’t have anything to offer the industry. I don’t even have an English A-Level. Until the age of 17 my love of reading hadn’t evolved much beyond teenage fiction which, although now I consider to be just as legitimate a reason to say that I love reading as someone who reads Chaucer and Hardy, back then the two seemed poles apart. It wasn’t until my main role model became Rory Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls (rather embarrassing confession right there) that I started reading more serious books. And by then it was too late. 13 year old me had, without realising it, slammed so many doors shut in my face.

Yes, I’ve got all these cover letters drafted on my laptop arguing that, ‘my unusual insight into the world of publishing from a more business focussed background could be a real benefit to your company in these turbulent times for the industry and bring something a little different from the usual English Literature graduate.’ But they’ll never get sent. Right now I’m far too vulnerable for rejection. And I’ll probably keep telling myself that right up until I can tell myself I’m too old to start a whole new career.

And to add to all this, my rather extensive list of health issues means for the foreseeable future I couldn’t consider working full time. Not a whole lot of part time jobs in publishing for an unskilled, albeit enthusiastic, Business graduate. Even less for those who are too scared to even apply for two weeks unpaid work experience.

So I’m left with rather limited choices. Carry on down the path I’m on and I’ll end up in an unsatisfying administration career where I go home at the end of the day with a moderate pay cheque and without being able to feel that I’ve achieved anything, made any kind of contribution, just waded through bureaucracy and made a few spreadsheets.

Not everyone can end up in their dream career. If they did, the world would be devoid of insurance brokers, office managers and double glazing salesmen. And maybe that’s the price I have to pay for the decisions I made at 13.


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