Rant: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I had a rant about this on Periscope last week, which got a bit out of hand, so thought it best to write down my thoughts instead. I know I’m not alone in this feeling about our weird way of working our way through life and about how difficult it is to make a career change.


Isn’t it bizarre that here in Britain we are put in a position where we essentially have to make our life decision so young and then are put into a position where it’s really tricky to retrain later down the line. Essentially, we do our GCSE’s and if you’re deemed smart you’re pressured into going to do A Levels which leads to University and if you’re deemed not so smart your sent to college for an apprenticeship or other vocational course.

This definitely happened to me, I did A Levels and then the only choice I was given by my college was that I had to go to University. I went and studied Cinema, Photography and Television at Leeds University because at the young age of 18 with zero experience, I thought I wanted to work in this sector. What University taught me is that I didn’t really want to work in that sector, but then I’m stuck with this degree that I don’t really want to use. So yea, you stumble into whatever work it is that you stumble into and then once you’re in the routine of having bills to pay and living a certain standard of lifestyle it’s pretty damn hard to change your career.

Up until the age of 18 education is free, then you can easily get financial support to go to Uni and then it stops. You can’t get free education anymore as if the world thinks that education should stop at the mere age of 21. That’s weird right? Surely, we keep learning until the day we die? There’s things that a course can’t teach us either which we rely on Google to tell us how and why we should do things (e.g. paying road tax, becoming self employed…etc)

And on that point, why do we never get taught these genuinely important matters at school and just expected to know it once we’re an adult? No one teaches you these things, you just stumble upon them when they become relevant to you, usually because you’ve had a bill you weren’t expecting.

The pressure to have a high flying career and success in a particular field also puts a barrier on things, when are you supposed to have the me time you need to change careers or even just test something you fancy the look of? Especially, if you’re in London or another big city where it’s just constant go, go, go and massive expense, there is no time or money to take that time out. It’s easy to become stuck in a rut.

At present, if you want to re train or try something new career wise, you have to work beyond your means to save up the money, to change your living circumstances in order to have the time and cash to make it happen. This isn’t possible for everyone. That seems a bit insane to me, you’re basically saying that if you made the wrong course choices at age 18 (or even younger) you’re going to put yourself in a sticky position for the rest of your working life?

I’ve met a few people working in American brands where they have a more flexible approach to this situation which I would love to see implemented elsewhere. One example, invited employees to set personal goals (from wanting to set up their own biz, to loosing weight or buying a house) and then the employer actively took time each month to help employees towards their goals from giving them time off to research to a career change to offering free exercise classes at lunchtime. I know this is a rare format, however, don’t you think it’d make employees happier whilst they are there?

Anyway, I could rant for quite a long time. If anyone has any experiences to share about career choices and re training I’d love to hear from you. Did you retrain? How did you make a career change?



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5 thoughts on “Rant: What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. I totally agree with all that you said. Throughout GCSEs, A-Levels and Uni I’ve picked and dropped varying careers I’ve wanted to do. I used to want to be a nurse. Then journalist. Then screenwriter. Now admin or something in the exhibition/film sector. I hated all the pressure that got piled on all throughout academia to have something nailed down. What if you realised you didn’t like it, as I did with screenwriting? You’ve paid 3 years tuition fees (at £9k a year, if you’re unlucky like me) and got stuck with a life of debt for something you don’t particularly enjoy. The system just doesn’t help anyone.

  2. I still don’t have the faintest idea. I did a similar thing, I went and told the careers coach in high scholl I wanted to do something creative and ended up doing Media and Theatre A-levels. I was considerably pushed into going to uni (as I realise now that these industries don’t take anyone serious with just A-levels) and as I failed those it gave me a wake up call about my accademic abilities (or lack there of). So I got a ‘normal’ job – ironically as a temp doing Administration and even though I was rather pants at it at times I got stuck there – short admin job after short admin job. I think the whole careers system is bobbins! Who has the money or energy for night school? So now what!? Their should be a type of Apprenticeship for adults that pays accordingly.

    1. OMG! I so wish there was an adult apprenticeship scheme. I’d love to do that, but the wages are so shite that I just couldn’t afford the cut to do it, I think the only way it’s possible is if you live with your parents and don’t do anything fun in your spare time and that your parents don’t mind you living rent free and paying for all your food, which isn’t a luxury that many have. For a start, my parents live in the middle of nowhere which would mean I couldn’t work from there anyway!!

  3. What would you tell your younger self about the career choices you made? I would love to know as I am starting Sixth Form in September and although I am looking towards a career in journalism, I wouldn’t want to go to uni and realise it’s not the career I want to do! Thanks, Neha (nxha.blogspot.com)

    1. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what degree you do unless your degree is crucial to your career choice like a doctor or a scientist. If you think you want to do journalism, you’re best getting loads of experience and networking which you can do whilst you’re at Uni or college, that’s what I did. Write for local mags and meet as many relevant people as you can, then it won’t matter what degree you have. Applies to lots of industries. If you’re set on going to Uni I’d just choose whatever you think you can have fun with NOW and then re-evaluate your career options once you’re out of uni, older and wiser!

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