Next week, pupils across Scotland will receive confirmation of the provisional results they received from their teachers in June. For some, these results will enable them to move on to their preferred destination, while other may have to consider alternative options if their results were not what they expected.
Anyone who is having to reconsider their future plans because their results are not as they had hoped may be feeling particularly disappointed at the moment. However, there are lots of people who have had to change their plans when they didn’t work out quite as they had hoped.
As part of my job I often have to speak to young people about their ambitions for the future and help them understand the different pathways that are available to them. A key message that I like to pass on to them is that there is no wrong path to their preferred career destination, and they need to consider every option that is available to them.
I am sure many of them are inwardly rolling their eyes at me, thinking I am just another adult who doesn’t really know what I am going on about, but I am speaking from experience.
When I was at school, my ambition was to become a journalist. English was my favourite subject, I loved writing and I always chose the school newspaper for activities on a Friday afternoon.
When I was in sixth year, I applied to study a BA Journalism at Napier University and I was invited to Edinburgh to interview for a place on the course and complete a written test. This was a competitive course, and I knew it was important to do well if I wanted to get a place.
The day of the interview, I was unwell. I performed really badly and unfortunately; I didn’t get a place. I was devastated and needed to reconsider my options.
With the help of a Careers Adviser, I found an HND Journalism course at Aberdeen College (now North East Scotland College) and applied and was accepted there. I really enjoyed the course and it taught me all the skills I needed to do the job. Towards the end of my HND, I decided to move onto a degree and went on to study English.
Becoming a journalist was still my ambition and during my degree I wrote for the Uni newspaper. After I graduated, I spent a year travelling and wrote about my experiences for a local paper. I then spent a year at home, working full-time in a hotel and working two days a week at a newspaper for free. All with the intention of building my portfolio and gaining experience for a future career.
I then returned to Aberdeen to find a job in Journalism. While I was looking, I undertook temporary jobs in administration, one of which was as a typist with Grampian Police.
I undertook a two week placement with a newspaper in Aberdeen and…I hated it. I didn’t like the culture of the workplace and didn’t feel supported by the staff. I am really glad I discovered this during a work placement and not after I had applied for a job.
Then, a job came up as a Media Officer in the Police’s Corporate Communications Department. This wasn’t a job I would have ever considered if I hadn’t had the temporary job as a typist. The culture and people in the organisation were fantastic. Staff were welcoming and supportive and I knew I would enjoy working there.
I spent 12 brilliant years with the Police, working in several different roles within Corporate Communications, which gave me a chance to use the skills I had developed while training to become a journalist. My time there also enabled me to develop other skills that I have been able to take with me into my current job.
While my career journey hasn’t been the one I envisaged when I was at school, I don’t regret any of it. The various challenges and obstacles I overcame have all helped me learn something about myself and forced me to think about different options to help me achieve my ambitions.
The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but young people have had to contend with significant challenges including disrupted education and uncertainty over exams and results. For some, this will have an impact on their future.
I hope these challenges help young people learn about their own abilities, skills and resilience. As we progress through life, we all face challenges and need to make decisions that may take us in a direction we hadn’t planned. However, just because you don’t end up where you thought you would, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong destination.
To help young people across Orkney realise career paths can be varied and complex, we are supporting the ‘No Wrong Path’ campaign on Tuesday 10 August. You can read more here, or search the hashtag #NoWrongPath on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I am the Project Manager for Developing the Young Workforce Orkney.