It’s that time of year: though the calendar year is far from over, the academic year is, for many, drawing to a close. For some students, it is the last time at their current institution, their final deadline has passed and the clock in the exam hall has stopped. Many will have worked for months with a determined focus on achieving their goal, and will emerge from the library or behind a desk, blinking into the bright daylight of a future full of possibility.
Some of them know what lies before them: further education, travel plans or a defined career path. Others will be uncertain what to do, or what they want, now that they are without a certificate to chase for the first time since they were a small child. Helpfully, for those who are experiencing anxiety or doubt, we live in the social media age, where advice is bursting forth from the internet, courtesy of anyone who has ever put down a pen and sought out a job.
A quick twitter search throws up thousands of results. LinkedIn’s homepage is covered with encouragement, such as try the unexpected or do something bold. The Wall Street Journal has gone a step further, combining twitter with vehicle-of-the-moment, Vine, to urge those already out in the big bad world to share their pearls of wisdom… in six seconds.
I graduated from university three years ago (Leeds Metropolitan University, BA Hons Events Management, if you’re interested) and have been asked on several occasions what my own advice would be to those following in my footsteps. What surprises me most is how much my advice has changed in that short space of time.
Even three years ago, I would have advised my friends, peers and successors to avoid compromise, to ensure that they did not take a job for the sake of being employed – and, where possible, I would stand by that now – but the benefit of my additional experience is that I now have an altered perspective. Today, I would urge anyone – no matter what the date on their last certificate – to do what they enjoy.
Many of us will spend at least a third of our adult lives at work – far too long, in my book, to be miserable. Adulthood should not be the end of dreams, of thinking big and having fun. It’s a cliché trotted out at any opportunity, but life really is too short to do something which doesn’t please us. Happiness is seen by many as a luxury, a commodity that they cannot afford. To me, it has become a necessity.
There are many things I love about the profession I have currently put on hold: the organisation, the contact with people, the opportunity to learn new things and, most of all, the thrill of months of work culminating in an experience which benefits your target market, but something was missing. When I considered what that might be, I looked back on times when I have been happiest, and I realised that one thing has endured despite negative experiences.
My passion, since I was four years old, has been horses and riding. The thrills have outnumbered the spills, the good days cancel out the bad and the rewards are endless. So what was stopping me from harnessing my passion and enjoying the time I spend working? The answer was simple: myself.
When I realised that, I took the decision to change: it was time to stop pulling on the reins, fighting the obvious and literally holding myself back, and doing what people have been shouting at me for over two decades – kick on.