The job market is fucking hard. University is commonly known as the natural step from college and degrees are often seen as desirable or required amongst jobs on the market, especially in the design and marketing world. It’s a big decision that almost comes out of nowhere, especially when you’re growing up. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure.
To be or not to be
None of my family went to uni, so there was almost an unintended pressure, that I don’t think that they were aware of, for me to go to university as I was one of the eldest and it was my turn to make that ‘be it or end all’ choice.
Throw it back to high school leavers – I was taking my leavers book around the school to get it signed by friends and teachers, wishing me and countless others well at college and beyond. One teacher in particular, I approached to put a little inspirational message in my book and after a brief exchange, they asked what I wanted to do as a career. To which I said, “I don’t know”.
What kind of question is that, asking a 16-year-old what they want to do with their life. As if I planned my life out – kids at 25, a house and a career – it’s laughable! I didn’t know and I still don’t at 23. I then mentioned that I didn’t want to go to university either. To which they replied in short, that I wouldn’t succeed in life if I didn’t go…
16-year-old me (as stubborn as I am now) decided to let them write in my book, go home and try to prove them wrong.
I went to college doing courses I enjoyed and had a passion for, Media Studies, Graphic Communication and Geology (my curveball course) and I really enjoyed it. I learned how to read into messages within film posters, create storyboards, designed my own short children’s book and studied the formation of rocks and minerals. I was in my element (badum-tssss).
My work experience
I got my first job at 15 working on reception and doing the odd bit here and there. I worked really hard. It wasn’t until I was finishing up my exams at college, that I got into the marketing and design industry.
One evening, I was taking photos in Pin Mill, when my friend and I spotted a car that was about to get washed up by the tide, so we rushed to let them know. They spotted the camera in my hand and we got talking – I landed my first freelance job as a web designer and photographer. They taught me the ropes of designing a website and helped me get my first photography client at a local boatyard, in return I did data entry for their free coastal events guide.
After a while, I went back into retail, freelance was hard – especially as I didn’t really know what the fuck I was doing. I worked at Toys R Us packing and shipping orders and then started working nights at B&Q. From there, I stumbled across an apprenticeship at a local marketing agency, working days at the new job and nights at the old for a short time whilst I switched.
I’d never really done marketing or design properly, but I taught myself on the job. My first task was to design a business card for a client. I didn’t even know the dimensions or how to use the design software, so I called a print company and they helped me understand how to set up my first document on InDesign – thanks again dude if you’re reading this.
Experience vs degrees
I’m not saying that university isn’t worthwhile, because it is. But I don’t believe it’s for everyone, and that’s okay. Getting experience is just as significant as getting a degree – obviously, there are some jobs that you probably should get a degree for… but that’s not always the case.
If you’re not sure about going to university straight after college and you’re scared of making the wrong decision, don’t feel the need to rush into anything. There are plenty of jobs now offering degrees whilst you work and not to forget open universities – you won’t miss the boat just because you didn’t go straight after college. Even if you decide to not go full stop, don’t feel defeated and that an employer won’t be interested in you – build up your portfolio and experience. Show them what you can do.
I’m now in a position that I never thought I would be, I get to do what I love. I have a say when it comes to recruiting for the business and helping run it every day, managing a team of creatives, where I also get to be involved in some amazing projects!
I think it’s so important to hire for culture, experience and personality, rather than strictly if someone meets the criteria for having a degree. Luckily, I work with a boss who also has the same mindset. It’s tough as it is to get into this industry, so if someone applies and has a fantastic work ethic, talent and they fit the team, then it’s a no brainer.
Whilst this is just about my personal experience, and everyone’s different, you will find your way even if you don’t know where it is you’re trying to get to. Try new things, work hard and take chances.