Want a friend? Buy a dog. That was one of the first things I was told when I started working in the City, that was 8 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
I’m a Newcastle girl, born and bred. I left the Geordie Shore, much like many school levers, at aged 18 to start university. Also like many school levers, I had very little idea about what I wanted to do with my career and, to be perfectly honest looking back, I didn’t really know what a career was. At that time I thought a career meant a job. If you were lucky, you’d find one you could stay in for maybe 5-7 years, where you could grow, learn and climb the ladder, until you left and became a highflying manager somewhere, earning seriously big bucks. Many of my friends and colleagues have achieved just that and are very happy and quite frankly, many are a lot better off financially than I am! I made different choices and boy I’m glad I did. When I look at where I am now and the journey I’ve made over the last 15 years, I often wonder how a-levels in maths, physics and business studies, landed me a job as a freelance work psychologist and creative writer. Well, here’s my story.
When I chose my a-levels I was 15 years old and I wanted to be a civil engineer. Random, I know, but my dad is an engineer and I was daddy’s girl so it seemed logical at that time that I would follow in his footsteps. So, my dad arranged some on site work experience for me….
Day 1 was a washout and to top it off I was wearing a yellow, rubber rain mac, complete with Paddington Bear hat. Needless to say, my civil engineering career didn’t last long. The problem was, the a-levels I’d chosen didn’t leave me many other options.
I ended up picking a business degree and I thought I’d spice it up by studying Italian at the same time. I knew no Italian and I hated business studies. 3 weeks in I quit the course. I was completely lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do and a bunch of fairly low grade a-levels that were good for pretty much nothing! So, and this is no joke, I opened the university prospectus, shut my eyes, swirled my finger across the page and picked a course. Computing and Management Science. Again I hated it, but this time I stuck it out. I have to admit, I did very little work and basically lived it up university style. I partied hard and had the time of my life and for 2 years, it was amazing. Then I got ill.
For the next 3 years I suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome. I had to leave university and return home. I only had half a degree and I had no idea when or if I would ever get well. That was the first time in my life that I’d had to make some really tough choices. So, despite barely being able to walk or brush my teeth, I was determined the illness wouldn’t beat me and I decided to continue studying. Back in those days, it was very difficult to study for a computing degree from home, access to hardware and software was tough and my university wasn’t catered to distance learning, so I started an accountancy course with the Open University. My logic was that it was still somewhat business/numbers related so it coupled well with my (limited) computing knowledge. Guess what? I hated it; but I finished the course and I ended up with an Open Degree in computing and accountancy.
Miraculously, during the last few months of the course, I got well. It was incredible, suddenly, I had a life again and I knew I had to grab it with both hands. That was when I moved to London and luckily, my random career path to date landed me my first job in the big City. I slept on a friends’ couch and missed home terribly but that first job kept me going. I worked as an accounts assistant for a spread-betting firm. This was where I met the man who told me to buy a dog. I have to admit, he was wrong because throughout my career in London I have met some fantastic people and many of them are still amazing friends now, although I did learn a few sharp lessons along the way; but that’s another story!
I worked as an accounts assistant for about a year before I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided I needed to do something more people focused and so I moved into a role as a receptionist / personal assistant. I moved to a few different companies over the years but I continued these roles for the next 4 years.
This was a fun time for me, I worked in many very wealthy financial institutions and got to meet people, see things and attend parties I never thought a little Geordie girl would get to experience. I had a fantastic time but for me it wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel challenged by my job and I really wanted to do more. So, I decided to study again. This time I studied psychology and I studied part time while I worked, and I really did work. I worked harder than I’d ever done before and I knew it was because I really wanted it. I think that is how to make a success of anything, make sure you want it first; the rest will come. It was a really tough time because my job was incredibly busy, with long hours and a lot of overtime but I loved psychology so I kept going. I spent 3 years working towards my MSc in Occupational Psychology and it was the best thing I ever did. It has landed me jobs in HR, consultancy and working for a large Healthcare organisation; but recently I decided it was time to start living my lifelong dream: to work for myself.
A couple of months ago I started planning my route into freelancing. It is still very early days but I have found my first client and I have a few more irons in the fire. Being my own boss means that I am in control of everything I do and when I do it. That doesn’t mean I can get up at lunch time, make a couple of phone calls and watch TV all afternoon; it means early mornings, late evenings and a lot of grit and determination to make it work; and I will. The great thing about being freelance means that I can also continue to develop my other passion in life, writing.
It’s been a very colourful road to get to where I am today but I can safely say that I have never been happier. I have tried out so many different jobs and industries and I now know what makes me tick. I don’t know what the future holds or if this life is sustainable, but right now I am giving it everything I have and I have high hopes that my non-traditional career will keep on thriving.
So, if there is anything you can learn from my experiences so far, it should be that you may have to try out various industries, jobs, even study various subjects, to finally find your passion and succeed in life. Be patient, and never give up.