As a student life can be pretty linear: after completing GCSEs, I studied A-Levels and then went to university. Having embraced the vision of becoming a teacher, I went back to university to study teacher training. For many students, the linear progression of life offers predictability and a sense that we know what we are doing.
When I was nineteen, securing a full-time career meant I would be able to get on with achieving my other life goals: passing my driving test and buying a house for example. The path to reaching my life goals seemed straightforward, and as long as I stayed on that path, I could achieve whatever I wanted.
What about when life doesn’t go as planned?
It was in my last school placement that I received a `Progress Alert`, an early indication that I wasn’t making enough progress to pass my degree and I started to panic. I was failing. I was forced to confront the idea of changing career after graduating: do I drop out of the PGCE and abandon the career I worked hard for? Or do I carry on pushing through and obtain a qualification despite all odds?
Feeling like life is ‘sorted’ was my comfort blanket
I decided to complete the PGCE and afterward became a Supply Teacher. I quickly realised that schools weren’t able to offer me a permanent position in this role, meaning that my dream of having a stable long-term career wasn’t attainable on this path.
Even though I felt teaching wasn’t for me, I kept persevering down the career path in avoidance of changing career after graduating. I was terrified of the alternative realisation that I didn’t have life ‘sorted’ or figured out. Yet, the more I worked in teaching, the more I forced myself to realise that teaching wasn’t my path.
Since deciding that I didn’t want to be a teacher, I have been learning that it is ok to change your circumstances and not be where you thought you would be when you graduated. Instead it is important to...
1. Take time to reflect
Becoming a teacher was recommended to me by my family and friends on the basis that I have a naturally good rapport with young people and a calm personality; this guidance was great when I first considered career decisions at 19 because it gave me a sense of direction.
Now at 26, I recognise that changing your career after graduating is ok, and it's also ok that life has been far from what I imagined.
2. Take time to network
Moving forward, I decided to approach colleagues, career advisors, and friends of friends. Speaking to others has opened my mind to more possibilities beyond teaching. Networking can help you explore different avenues after graduating first-hand.
3. Take time to find the positives
It feels like changing your career after graduating puts you back at square one, yet the reality of graduating is actually that everything you have learned can be applied elsewhere. Working in a completely new industry may feel like jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute, but I am learning that fear doesn’t mean you have to rush decisions just to feel like your life is sorted.
Before starting university, making decisions about my future was difficult because I had no clue what I wanted to do. Even now, I still don’t fully know what the future is going to look like but letting go of self-doubt has helped making decisions easier.
It can always feel like it is too late to change your career, degree, location; I am learning that I can still have the goals I have always dreamed of even if the journey looks different.