I Changed Career Paths… And It’s OK.

Last week, after a really good day at the office – or out of the office on work duties as it happens – I received a message on social media that rattled me a bit, and got me thinking about my career and what I’ve achieved since graduating. So this blog post is part therapy, and part insight into my brain, which I’m sure plenty can relate to.

Before I talk about the message in question, I’ll give you a little context to my journey to digital marketing guru, taking you right back to my GCSE and A Level years when I was 100% convinced that journalism was the career path for me. I thrived on getting small pieces published in my local paper and impressing my GCSE Journalism teacher, I worked on the school yearbook, and Journalism was the ONLY degree choice that I would consider, despite being discouraged by my careers advisors at school.

Fast forward to university, and I was now on a Journalism course that wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I was making the most of it by taking a supplementary NCTJ distance-learning course, as well as working part-time at a paper to make up for the fact that my course had no placement. My tutors invited me to events usually reserved for the Masters students, and once again, I took pride in excelling in my modules and beyond. I graduated with First Class Honours, I won the journalism prize for my year, and my Head of Department and dissertation supervisor both had high hopes for the cutting edge journalism that I would be involved in after I graduated – except that’s not what happened. And if I’m honest, that had been my intention for quite some time.

Instead of journalism, I aimed to go down the route of public relations, and in the process, found myself in content marketing, which has slowly but surely worked its way into digital marketing. I have had three ‘big’ jobs since leaving uni, each one edging further up the career ladder and increasingly playing to my strengths. I’ve very recently started a new job working for a fantastic company, in the heart of a growing tourism industry, with a large team where there is plenty of room for growth and development.

So why is it that, after a fantastic day with work, a simple message, suggesting that I wasn’t where said individual thought I would be in my life by now, was enough to put me off my entire week?

The message wasn’t meant in malice. It was lighthearted and I was initially glad to hear from them. But it struck a chord with me, moreso because it woke up a little voice that I had silenced in the back of my mind – was I wasting my talents? Had I taken my eye off the ball and accidentally wandered into a career I wasn’t meant to be in?

It took a LOT of thinking – the kind of thinking that you do at 4AM, when you’d really rather be dreaming about Patrick Dempsey or Gerard Butler – but I’ve finally settled myself that no, I’m not. Whilst, as far as my tutors at uni could see, I was doing a job that didn’t really relate to my career, and was beneath their expectations of what I could do, I was doing my thing, pursuing my interests, and going down a path that made sense to me.

Yes, when I graduated, I dreamed of living in London, working for a big magazine or newspaper, but when that didn’t work out at the time when I needed it to, I found my own way. That path wasn’t die-hard journalism, court reporting and shorthand as my tutors had envisaged, but realistically, those were never the jobs that appealed to me when it came to applications; it was always the lifestyle related jobs, the PR jobs and the digital jobs – which is exactly where I’ve found myself now.

To look at things in perspective, I’ve moved up to an executive position in 2 years since graduating, I am the youngest person in my office (apparently the youngest ever… which makes me feel very young, but kinda proud of myself) and I’ve managed to get a job with a good enough salary to buy my first home. I really don’t want this to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but if that’s not succeeding in my own way, then I don’t know what is.

I don’t ever want to say that journalism wasn’t the right fit for me, because I don’t believe that. I do miss the buzz of seeing my work and byline in print, I loved interviewing interesting people, and my barriers to succeeding in that field (like an irrational fear of phones) have disappeared with experience in the workplace. But, at the same time, I do think that I’ve found a role that is just as good of a fit, and largely uses the same skills. Again, that’s not to say I won’t go back to journalism, or I won’t dabble in PR, but I have no intention of leaving the digital world for a very long time. Digital is where it’s at nowadays – it’s fast paced and ever-changing and I am loving the challenge.

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SO, this has been a long and warbly post that I might not even read back, because I’m starting to lose sight of what the point was (but as I said, good therapy). However, I guess that what I was trying to say was that it’s easy to be jolted and upset by other people’s expectations of you, and maybe even the expectations that you had of yourself at some stage. But at the end of the day, it’s okay to change your mind, whether that means changing speciality, putting your skills to new use, or maybe even re-qualifying completely. In fact, it takes quite a bit of get-up-and-go!

As far as I’m concerned, so long as you’re making the most of your talent, working in an environment that you enjoy, feeling challenged and earning enough to do the things you love in life, then what reason is there to let anyone dampen your spirit?

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