When Nicole was in year 12, her high school organised for every student to sit down with the career counsellor and discuss what they wanted to do after school. This advice shaped her decisions about study and work, but not in a good way. Here's what Nicole wishes she heard.
I wanted to study journalism. I had always loved English; reading and writing, the idea of being paid to write seemed like the perfect fit for me. I went into the meeting and told my careers counsellor that this is what I wanted to do. Her response was, “There are no jobs in journalism, you should do PR, it’s big right now.” I didn’t even know what PR stood for at the time but she said it involved writing so I shrugged and said, “Okay”. She was the expert after all and I wanted a job after uni, right?
I got my first preference, studying a Bachelor of Communications (with a major in public relations – yep, PR!) and walked happily towards my future career. I must admit that throughout uni my mantra really was “Ps get degrees”. That is, while high distinctions or even credits would be nice, a pass still resulted in a degree. I kind of just did the bare minimum and enjoyed my time making friends and going out. It’s kind of funny that the time in our lives that we’re supposed to be studying to get a degree, to then get a job, is also the time when we’re legally able to drink and it feels like going out with friends and having fun is the most important thing.
In the last year of my degree I did a 12-month work placement through my uni, as a communications assistant at a zoo. My placement was amazing; I wrote stories, created content for social media, hosted a lot of media and got to cuddle orphaned wombats and joeys in between. It opened my mind up to a whole range of career possibilities. I graduated a year after my placement finished but never went back to full-time study. I worked part-time in events and marketing roles while finishing my remaining units.
Since graduating in 2015 I’ve worked in marketing, events and media. I feel that because most of my work experience has been in marketing, it kept me there and I’ve found it hard to break out of that area. While I have willingly jumped at every opportunity, I’ve always found myself thinking about what I really want to be doing: writing. I’ve also found myself thinking about what I really want to be doing with my career, and I now know that’s sharing stories.
It’s been four years since I graduated from university and while I’m currently working in a communications role, I feel like I lost a lot of time that could have been spent becoming really good at writing. Instead I find myself quite anxious and doubting my abilities a lot.
I don’t regret any of the jobs I’ve had. I’ve learnt so much and made some of my best friends through work. I also don’t blame the careers counsellor, I just wish it hadn’t been so black and white around abandoning journalism. I also wish I’d had the guts back then to say, “this is what I wanted to do!” and ask how to do it.
On annual leave recently, I was struck by the reality that I’m still so young (just 28 years old, is that considered young?) and could really do whatever I wanted with the rest of my life. So when I got home I applied for a graduate diploma of professional writing, I was accepted and am now in my second week of the trimester! Studying part-time while continuing to work full-time is a lot of effort but I’m enjoying what I’m studying so much that it’s now what keeps me motivated and keeps me going.
I’m so excited to have this opportunity to get back to doing something that I really enjoy. I know we need to think practically about the future but if you’re passionate about doing something, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t; there’s no reason why you can’t make your passions work for you. Personally, if I didn’t do this now I would be thinking about it for the rest of my life and I think we’re all better off trying and failing than wondering what could have been.
Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game – Yes, I’m ending this with a quote from A Cinderella Story (or Babe Ruth, however you want to look at it).