Deciding what to do with your life can be a very unsettling thing and it can seem like there’s an imaginary time bomb creeping up behind you, constantly giving the feeling that if you don’t have it all sussed very shortly after you’ve finished education, then you’re done for. Unfortunately it seems even worse when you come out of an extremely expensive education to find that that you probably just wasted 50k on a career path you don’t want to go down. From the tender age of 3 we are sent to school to start the process of becoming an adult, getting a job, to potentially work in that profession for the rest of our lives. Throughout school, there will always be those subjects you are better and less suited to, for a multitude of reasons, and your grades will reflect that. There will always be external factors that aren’t necessarily correlated to your ability, yet, you don’t realise how easily they could have been overcome until it’s too late and you’re technically a grown adult, feeling nostalgic about all of those times that actually weren’t that bad at all.
I finished school nearly 7 years ago now and as my mindset has matured and changed completely, I feel like kicking myself for everything I was reluctant to do or try during that time. Even after studying art / graphic design for 6 years at college and university with a year of freelancing since, I feel more torn than ever about what I actually want to do with my life and where I fit in with career options. I love illustration but there’s something missing, as cliche as that sounds.
There are so many people that go to university and afterwards, go into a completely different profession, I hear of this all the time. I can tell you that I actually premeditated this during my university course when I decided I wanted to work in illustration instead of graphic design after I graduated. I had illustrated my way through my art courses at college and I really tried to submerge myself in my course until the end of first year when I caved and started illustrating on the side. I knew already that a graphic design role wouldn’t be my calling when I graduated because all I wanted to do – and did – was illustrate every project I was faced with. I left university with the knowledge of it being a much harder ride for an illustrator than a graphic designer, with a lot less available, in house jobs and a lot harder to find work without an agent. Unless you’re an illustrator with the ability to chop and change styles and have this variety within your portfolio, you are appealing to a niche market only which again, makes it even harder. But this is also your strength where you can do your work and can have the pleasure of someone telling you ‘that’s so you’ when they see your work or get in touch with you to say ‘I recognised it as your work before I saw you were the artist’. A rewarding feeling every time.
My experience so far with changing the course of your career path is that it is full of lots of uncertainty and stress. Instead of going into a design studio to do graphics, I have gone fully freelance. Which can be quiet and can be busy. It does, however, have its perks, it allows me to be very flexible with what I want to do. As a freelancer, you are able to take each day as it comes. The best part is if you want to have a little lay in or spend the morning at the gym, or if you want to take some time to visit your grandparents or friends, you can. Unless you have a deadline coming up or things that you really need to get done for you, you can do whatever you want, for as long as you can afford anyway. I have to keep reminding myself that everyone has a different path, no two people are the same and also, everything has to turn out alright in the end, right? I am a firm believer that if you feel unhappy or unenthusiastic doing what you’re doing and if you have the option or skills to change, then go for it. All you have to do, is be prepared for the limbo stage while you get your footing. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t experience the slight pang of frustration when friends and acquaintances around you are utilising their rather expensive qualification and you can’t seem to settle down. Seeing everyone getting relevant jobs instead of drastically going off path will sometimes make you feel like you should succumb and just go back to what you got your degree in, after all, you studied it for 3 (or more) years and have the qualification… it’s a headache to think about but you need to keep reminding yourself that it will be in your best interest in the long run.
If you are a young twenty something with no idea where you fit within the career world, then I’m with you and really just trying to figure it all out. We all move at a different pace, no two people are the same and as hard as that is to remember, especially after submitting your hundredth job application for jobs that sound great, but you just know that your qualification or experience wont cut it – there is something for everybody. I have told myself time and time again that I have to keep going, keeping an eye out on multiple jobs boards in between freelancing and my writing. Even if a suitable job isn’t available right now, who’s to say that it won’t be in a week or a month. I do think we all need to stop being so stressed and putting this daily pressure to sort everything out right now. Sooner or later everyone figures it out and (hopefully) will be able to look back on these times as we look back on the times that we thought weren’t so great in school, as something that actually wasn’t so bad after all.