In my final year at university I finally realised the power of connections. I learnt that most people are open to talking to you, if you approach them openly and politely. That way, you can build relationships and get advice from those in the industry. Throughout this, I would always make sure to include one question in the conversation – ‘How did you get into your current career?’.
I asked this, because the career I was interested in at the time was not really related to my degree. As expected, my interests had changed and grown from when I was 18 and while after these years I still liked my degree, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it full-time. The careers service my university offered technically supported going down career paths that differ from your degree. We even had a whole seminar on it. Yet, when I came to them with the career path I was interested in, they were stumped. Are you sure? This is completely different? It’s a difficult area to get into! For reference, I studied design and developed and interest in medical engineering and global health. Quite a jump, yes, but certainly not impossible.
So, I started asking those already in the field how they got there. Some studied it, others had connections in the field but the majority ‘fell’ into their career. It was so frustrating. I used to ask myself: ‘How can one just accidentally fall into a career? How can I try to plan my future with that information?’
And then… it happened to me. Literally. Not even in the field I was interested in at the time. But it happened. I left university and needed a job. I applied to tons, mainly based on flexibility and my knowledge that most big corporate firms weren’t for me. I preferred smaller startups and SME . And then, I got a freelance job in social media and digital marketing. This wasn’t a career path I had ever envisioned or really shown interest in, I had no idea about making social media content or communicating or even writing really. Around that time was when I decided to start my Instagram and blog to try and get some understanding of this new field I was thrown into. What better way to learn than to add some personal stake in the mix.
So while I did apply to this job, it wasn’t really a conscious career path. It was freelance and I really needed the money. But then, I got another job additional to this one and it was also in marketing and communications. And suddenly, this was my career. It’s how I pay my rent. I’m still quite freshly out of university but if I continue on this exact path I will be hired for marketing and communications in future roles as well. A sector that 5 months ago I had no clue about. It wasn’t my degree. It wasn’t even part of my year in industry (that’s a year in between 2nd and 3rd year at university in the UK where instead of studying you work and the university supports you – there are lots of special programs for this from top employers). And yet, I now consider this my career path – for the moment anyway. Who knows what comes next, right?
If you asked me how I managed, I would probably say the same – I just fell into it. It was more out of need than any specific decision making from my side. Yet, I really enjoy this sector. It’s fun, creative and fast-moving.
I still don’t think that’s helpful for anyone looking to get into a specific sector. It’s very much based on being at the right place at the right time or even lucky accidents. One sure way to get started in a sector is connections though. So when someone tells you they fell into their career, ask if they have any tips from right back when they first started in the sector they’d be happy to share with you. That way you learn more about the early stages of this particular career path, while at the same time building a potentially invaluable connection.