My career goals changed after uni, and that’s okay

08 Mar 2022
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Having career goals is no bad thing – but what happens when they don’t pan out? Here’s how my plans changed after university (and why that’s not actually a bad thing).

If someone asked me back when I was 18 what I would be doing in ten years’ time, I probably would have told them something about how I planned to become an accomplished editor of a large national newspaper.

Obviously, I would be living in a city – most likely the cultural hub of London – and jetting off to Paris for the weekend would be a regular occurrence.

As it turns out, it’s ten years later and none of those things actually happened for me. But do I feel disappointed? Absolutely not.

Having goals is important and they kept me motivated throughout my degree. I worked hard because I had a plan, but twists and decisions along the way meant that, actually, it didn’t quite pan out the way I had always thought.

So, why did my plans change?

When I finished my degree, I jumped straight into the world of journalism by snapping up a role at a small cosmetics magazine in the heart of London. So far, so good. But, pretty quickly, I realised that London wasn’t quite for me.

Having studied in a town right next to the beach, I really struggled to find my feet amid the chaos of the London Underground, and fought with the financial pressures of a social life in the city. I missed the sea air and soon realised I wasn’t going to be living the high life any time soon.

So, ten months later, I packed my stuff up and nabbed a role at a local newspaper on the coast of Cornwall. For a few years, I battled my way through life in a newsroom and loved the fast-paced nature of it. The editor dream still hung over me (even if it wasn’t as ambitious as it once was) until itchy feet had me moving into radio.

At this point, I’d begun to realise that life didn’t have to be all about deadlines, though. News can be exhausting, the hours unsociable and it’s nothing like the movies. The dream of being an editor was dissipating, but I didn’t really care because things were already changing.

I’d found my editorial voice and realised I had a knack for networking. I wanted to tell the good stories, work with charities and try my hand at running my own business. A few years later and that’s exactly what I did (and still do now).

It’s safe to say the life I have now is nothing like I thought it would be. Ten years’ ago, I never would have thought I’d be living by the sea, a dog at my side (plus two very needy cats) and a business of my own. But I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason… and I’m exactly where I need to be.

So, what’s the plan now?

If life has taught me anything, it’s that planning too far in advance can be more troublesome than it’s worth. I still have 30 years left before retirement and I’m open to anything - who knows? Maybe that editor job will happen after all.

The most important thing, however, is not to be disappointed if it doesn’t; to appreciate the here and now, and pause long enough to look at how far you’ve already come.

Often, I’ve compared myself to others from my course who have, in some ways, gone further in their journalism degree than I ever did. But then I remember the punishing hours, stressful deadlines and general anxiety and realise that, just maybe, it wasn’t for me after all.

So, if your plan doesn’t pan out (or several years in you realise it might not be for you), that’s okay. You haven’t failed or disappointed anyone, you’ve just taken a different path. Chances are, you’re exactly where you need to be.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.