Written by Max Ibbotson, Final Year English Language Student and Careers Service Student Blogger
I wonder how many people woke up one morning, realised what they wanted to do, and ended up doing it. Can’t be many. The first job I remember wanting to do was to be an F1 driver. Travel the world, do some go-karting, earn loads of cash? Yes please. Plus, I got Ferrari overalls for my third birthday, so I looked the part – what more was there to do?
Then you get a bit older, a bit more sensible, and think ‘don’t be silly, Max: you’ll never be an F1 driver. You’d easily make it as a footballer though. Far more realistic.’ But time passed and I reluctantly discovered that three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and me being terrible at football. (Although, a ‘Most Improved Player’ award for 2010-11 re-ignited the fire… for all of 5 minutes.)
I’ve always known that I was going to go to university, mainly because it was always the next logical step (or at least the simplest step). When I was doing GCSEs, I had no idea what I wanted to do; I just knew I wanted to be at the University of Manchester. I ended up doing English Language, mainly for two reasons: an English degree leaves ‘doors open’, and I didn’t fail it (believe me, I tried). I wanted to be at uni because it was supposed to be ace: meet new people, get drunk and maybe learn a bit. I also wanted to go to uni in order to give me a chance of getting a better job, or at least a better chance of getting a job. There lies the problem: what job?
Now I’ve finished uni, I’m kind of out of ideas, like the writers for Game of Thrones’ last series. I want a career, but I’m not sure what I should do – how do I know that what I want to do is right?
- Money: Is your dream job going to leave you destitute? It’s all well and good being an outdoorsy person, but being homeless isn’t ideal. On the other hand, don’t do a job just for the money. You’ll realise that the monetary gain won’t, usually, outweigh the hatred for the job.
- Pride/Prestige: Its great getting a job that you’re proud of but will it make your family proud? They’re the ones that put up with you while you wanted to be an astronaut. Do the right thing, give ‘em something to brag about. Or at least do something where you hope they don’t disown you.
- Travel: ‘Who doesn’t want to go to new places with an employer’s expenses account behind them? (Beware of the companies who offer ‘travel opportunities’ when they just mean a weekly run to the head office. Sneaky so-and-so’s.)
- Pressure: Sometimes it’s nice to know that your job is important and you’re relied upon. But make sure that you’re up to it. For example, I could never be a heart surgeon, I’d have a heart attack every time I’d be needed to save a life…
- Down Time: Will your career be all work and no play? If you really love the job then it’s not too bad, but I know that I wouldn’t be able to go without my Sundays on the sofa.
Looking back, I think that the first serious thought I had for a job was one in PR. I’d binge-watched a lot of The Thick of It in first year and it looked quite fun to be as preternaturally raging as Malcolm Tucker. Plus, it seemed like the kind of job that, with its ‘knowledge is power’ thing, would satisfy a burgeoning superiority complex. English Language degrees tend to be good for this kind of industry, and so I might have a pretty good shot at ‘making it’. You realise as you get older that pursuing your dreams takes a lot of effort. Finding an ideal job tends to mean finding a middle ground between how good the job would be and how much effort it requires to get it and sustain it.
Then I fancied being a ‘writer’. Writer is in inverted commas because it’s a broad term: will I be writing epic novels or maybe I’ll be a journalist. There seems to be a lifestyle that many writers appear to have – travelling and eating and just all-round chilling – that’s, obviously, right up my street. Who wouldn’t want to do that?! However, when you start writing about things you learn three things: it’s very hard to actually make something people want to read; it involves constant practise and research that will make your head hurt; and you don’t actually get to travel and eat and chill if you haven’t already done 20 years of hard work and toil. Ugh.
Finally, towards the end of second year I decided that this was it: no more messing about with stuff I knew I was never really going to do – I was going to be a copywriter. This was a job that only entered my consciousness when I watched Mad Men – again – and it seemed an ideal job for three reasons: I could still do some creative writing with the security of a 9-5 job; I would be able to do something about the god-awful rubbish you see in adverts; maybe I could be like Don Draper too…
One of the few reasons I liked my degree was because we would analyse how language could be used in an infinite number of ways, and how each way that you spoke or wrote would influence people in an infinite number of ways. The whole game of adverts is to influence and persuade. I fancied a go at it.
The point is this: it’s fine to not know what to do! It’s fine to have a change of heart. It’s fine to be torn between multiple careers. I’ve spent many hours day-dreaming different careers. The truth is, you’ll never know for sure. You just follow what you feel is right at the time. Will the copywriter thing stick? Not sure. If not, then, unless I’m kidding myself and finding excuses not to work, I know it’ll be for the right reasons. Time will tell.