What Exactly do you Want?
The first thing I realised when I left university is that this adulthood lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My free time disappeared faster than I could weep over its departure and was replaced by this thing called a career which is apparently going to follow me around until I’m practically 70, like some kind of rabid dog.
However, I’m now almost a decade into what some consider “proper adulthood” and I’d say that it’s actually not as bad as it first seemed. I’m going to give you a bit of detail about the decisions I made over the last ten years and I’m going to call out a key event without which I simply wouldn’t be where I am today. Hopefully these will be helpful to you as you embark upon your own career journey. If not, well it’s only a thousand words, you won’t have wasted much time.
My firm belief is that ultimately your career needs to provide you with just one thing, it needs to be able to give you the means to live the life you want to lead. Bombshell right? For the majority of people money will make up a large part of those means, the funding to live the other parts of their lives the way they want. However, you also need to consider things like the amount of time you’re willing to invest in building your career.
Perhaps you’ll want to travel the world. The right job can definitely help you do that. Or maybe you want to help people. Plenty of paying jobs available along those lines. You should spend some serious time actually thinking what you want out of your career, bearing in mind it’s never set in stone and you can always make course alterations along the way. If you’ve thought through what you want out of life you’ll be in a much better position to decide what job is going to help you achieve that.
An English degree is going to open doors to a whole host of jobs and careers that can balance the above elements. There’s a definite bit of stigma around English degrees. But I can categorically tell you that in the majority of cases the nature of your degree will count for nothing more than an interview talking point.
Obviously if you want to be a doctor you need to study medicine, just as if you want to go and work for Boeing, tinkering with their aircraft you probably should have chosen an engineering degree. In the main though it’s the fact you have a degree, the level you achieve and the institute where it comes from that’s important. Even then, a few years down the line the experience you garner is going to count for a lot more than the degree you achieved.
Use Your Summer
Your English degree is your ticket into this amazing world of opportunity, but just because you have a ticket doesn’t mean you’ll be able to queue jump onto the ride you want. This is the single most important piece of advice I can offer regarding setting out. Make sure you begin thinking about your career before leaving university. The best way of doing that is to use your summers wisely. It’s actually worth repeating. Use your summers wisely.
Let’s face it, university is the most freedom, time-wise, practically any of us ever experience. When the summer break rolls around you can definitely afford to dedicate some of it to laying the groundwork for your future career.
My working life actually started over the summer of my second year at UEA. My parents pushed me into looking for an internship for a few months and I thank my lucky stars that they did. They run a business out in Turkey and I thought of using a couple of contacts they have in various businesses over there to see if anyone wanted a hard-working marketing intern for a few months. I chose marketing simply as it sounded like fun and I thought I could use this experience to see if it was for me.
I ended up working for a company called Numico on their baby milk brand Cow & Gate and I absolutely loved it. There were obviously challenges, my first consumer group in Turkish was something that will stay with me, but it cemented in my mind that this was an area I enjoyed and actually had a flair for. Crucially, it also gave me the stand-out required to successfully interview for my first job at Pepsi Co.
I can categorically say, without the summer internship I wouldn’t have gotten that job which in turn would have meant none of the following roles would have come about. If you end up choosing something that you don’t enjoy or for whatever reason don’t end up moving into that sector, then don’t worry. The proactive nature of finding an internship or placement is what will make you appealing to companies recruiting graduates. Anything you can do to show that you’ve made an effort to experience the world of work will stand you in extremely good stead.
My final piece of advice would be this. Remember that advice itself is just the experience of people who have already made their move. Take on board as much or as little as you think appropriate and don’t be afraid to take your own risks and make your own mistakes. That’s ultimately how you’ll develop your own career and how you’ll come across all the experiences-come-advice that you may want to pass on to future generations. Good luck.
Adam Ferguson has marketed for pretty much every FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company in the UK. That’s a slight exaggeration, but Pepsi Co, Unilever, Nestlé and Reckitt Benckiser are a good start. He’s currently taking a well-earned rest in the telecoms industry working for EE, but who knows what the future will bring.