A Path Less Travelled


Chris O’Connor graduated from the University of Leeds in 2010 with a BA in English and Philosophy and then again in 2011 with an MA in Writing for Performance and Publication. He is currently a part-time receptionist at the Careers Centre whilst pursuing  his interest in writing and journalism.

I remember vividly my feelings as I approached graduation. It was a mixture of relief, excitement and most prominently of apprehension. Relief at finally finishing education, excitement at having the freedom to choose wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do but mainly apprehension of not knowing what that might be or how to get it.  It was a fear of the unknown and a large part of it was due to the relentless, and misguided, message pursued in the media that it is the worst time to graduate, that there are no jobs out there and that I was destined to become another unemployed graduate.

Whilst finishing my MA I got some part-time work as a student helper with the Careers Centre and I have to confess it was actually my first time in the building after being at the University of Leeds for four years. I mistakenly had the impression that it was only for people interested in careers like Law, Finance or Engineering. I didn’t think there would be anything for anyone interested in pursuing a career in writing or journalism. I was wrong and if this blog serves one purpose it will be that someone reading doesn’t make the same mistake I did!

Whilst working at the Careers Centre and with my MA graduation impending I initially began to apply for any job I knew I could do without much thought. I managed to get some interviews for some jobs which were better paid than what I was doing but my heart wasn’t really in any of them. It was at that point I really began to assess what it is I really wanted out of life and how I could tailor my career path towards that. With this in mind I listed all the things that I desired from my ideal job, things like being able to write, flexible working hours and being my own boss. From this I came up with a range of careers that fitted in with this and decided to have a go at all of them. To this end I became part-time receptionist at the Careers Centre to keep me afloat and in my spare time I currently pursue the following;

  • Writing: I write and enter short story competitions as well as writing comedy sketches and plays aimed at both radio and television.
  • Journalism: I write articles for a number of different websites and blogs from anything including film, battle rap, sports and careers.
  • Starting my own Business:  I’ve set up a website with a friend from University and we regularly speak with the advisers in the Spark team here at the Careers Centre for advice and guidance.

I am fully aware that this is a riskier path to take, yet each of these pursuits is teaching me a great deal and I am learning a lot of new skills. Ultimately if nothing ever does materialise then I can honestly say that I enjoy what I do and for that reason the process is worthwhile in itself; at the very least I feel I have added to my employability.

It is important to note that I am by no means suggesting that people do not take any employment opportunities that might present themselves. Working on reception part-time gives me the financial security I need to pursue other avenues as well as the discipline and organisational skills I need to be successful in my desired field. I do regularly keep an eye out to see what jobs are out there and if there is one I feel would improve my situation and it is also something I would enjoy more, then I would go for it. My other pursuits are things I will continue to work at indefinitely regardless of my situation so if I feel I need to improve it I will.

Finally if there are two things the past year has taught me they are the following:

  1. Learn to deal with rejection – It is part and parcel of the creative industries. If you have to go through twenty no’s to get to that one yes then you have to do it.  Never take it personally as a lot of the time it may just be down to someone’s preferences or opinions. Use it to drive you on.
  2. The Importance of Targets – Having things to work towards, such as competitions or self-imposed deadlines gives you something to focus on. It also gives you a strong sense of purpose and there is always that hope that this next one could be the break you need which can keep you going when times are tough.

Best of luck to anyone considering a similar path!

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Filed under Advice, How I got my job, Job Market, Networking, Postgraduate study

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