From education to employment

“Don’t Limit Yourself”: Ex-Graduates Share What Career Success Looks Like For Them

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According to the government, in 2021/22 there were 2.86 million students at UK higher education institutions – but how many of these will graduate straight into a career directly relevant to their degree?

In the time of first degrees, postgraduate degrees and degree apprenticeships in a multitude of industries, linear career paths are becoming a distant memory. 

To illustrate this and offer solace to upcoming graduates, the student placement review site, RateMyPlacement, shares case studies of ex-graduates who are proving successful in career paths unrelated to their original degree subject.

The company asked the individuals three key questions. Here are some of the stand-out answers that will help upcoming graduates prepare for life after graduation.

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

When asked why their current role is so different to their degree topic, many illustrated how their career path just ‘happened’. Lauren, who originally studied MA English Literature and History of Art said, “I never really made a conscious decision to strive to work in Marketing, I sort of fell into it.” 

Others changed their career paths as they realised that employment opportunities in their chosen field were scarce. Katie, Agency Account Director, who originally studied BA Graphic Design said, “The progression routes both professionally and financially were quite stunted.”

While others are still on a road of self-discovery, such as Kiera, PR Account Manager, who said, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished university, and I still don’t know exactly what I want to do now. I enjoy PR but it’s not my career dream – I’m still trying to work out what my dream is.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

RateMyPlacement then asked the ex-graduates if they would do anything differently so that current students could learn from their regrets. Some wished they’d studied a different subject that related more to their current role, such as Beth, a current Associate Director of a Content Performance Agency who originally studied BA Commercial Photography, “I have no regrets about where I ended up or what I did, as I have a great job at a place I love, and I met my husband at university. If I were to start over, I’d have loved to learn more about business, as it relates a lot to what I do now.”

Others regretted the lack of testing out other careers they’d done before committing to their university subject long-term. Lauren continued, “Getting the experience much earlier could have helped me get to where I am quicker. But I don’t regret any of the jobs I did, they all helped me learn new skills, figure out what I didn’t enjoy and mould my career from there.”

While some regretted choosing university as the higher education option for them such as Thomas, Production Planner who originally studied BA Architecture, “If I had a time machine, I’d go back and persuade myself to not study architecture, or at least drop out and find something else early on.” 

What piece of advice would you give to upcoming graduates?

Finally, the ex-graduates were asked what advice they would give to students facing impending life beyond university. Associate Director, Beth, said, “I would tell them to say yes to things and get to know as many people in their industry as they can, it’s helped me out massively!”

Systems Engineer, Thomas, said, “Don’t limit yourself, especially if you’re a STEM student. We all learn to think in such a logical way when we’re at university, and it’s those skills that make you so valuable to companies when you graduate.”

Finally, Account Director, Katie, advised, “Try and get as much work experience within your industry as you can as it is eye-opening and also starts opening up those connections for when you do get into work.”

Early careers expert and co-founder of RateMyPlacement, Oliver Sidwell, shared, “Upcoming graduates need to stop seeing time after graduation as the endpoint and reposition their perspective that it’s the beginning of something – that starts when they want it to. There’s no big timer in life counting down or running out – they should take a breath and follow their gut instinct on what feels right to them.

They need to take the time to apply for Graduate jobs and schemes that sound interesting to them, take a gap year and see more of the world and apply for internships to gain more experience and get a feel for what they might want to do and then – leap

They should then follow the ex-graduates’ advice, say yes to things, drop out when they don’t like it and not be afraid for their career path to be anything but linear.”

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