Class of 2019: I had no idea what I wanted to do, but this is how I found out!

Lewis Bailey studied Religion, Politics & Society at the University of Leeds, graduating in 2018.

With a love for Leeds but not many ideas of what to do next he pursued jobs where he could earn big money, however the reality of these roles led him in a different direction.

When I finished university my frame of mind was probably very similar to a lot of yours. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in Leeds and carry on living with friends, and I wanted enough money to live comfortably by paying all my bills, but also being able to carry on having fun outside of work.

Money, money, money…

I’d done well in my social sciences degree, so I felt confident I could secure any entry level job I applied for in no time. I quickly found out that this wasn’t necessarily the case, and I learned I had to tune in better to what my prospective employers were looking for, which wasn’t simply a good grade on paper and a confident interview.

My primary motivation when applying for jobs was money, but this quickly changed. I applied for numerous roles in a sector which I had no interest in whatsoever, just because the salary was high and I had the chance to earn uncapped commission. I’ve always been told I have the gift of the gab, so I figured I could fake it ‘til I make it just to make a bit of extra coin. The feedback for every interview I did- and I did a lot of interviews- was almost identical. I was confident and approachable with great people skills, but the passion for the business just wasn’t there and employers were concerned I’d leave after a few months.

The one employer who asked me back for a work sample probably could have been convinced if I’d tried a bit harder, but after getting an insight into the day-to-day role I quickly realised I couldn’t bear to sell my soul for a high salary and I quickly forgot about applying to the recruitment industry altogether.

Two valuable lessons

First, money isn’t everything, and it certainly isn’t as much of a motivation for me to get out of bed in the morning as I’d originally thought. It was time I started applying for roles which interested and excited me, and had the potential for me to develop my skillset in ways that were beneficial to my career path.
Second, I’m not as good at convincing people I’m interested in things as I first thought. As someone who came out of school with good grades and went straight to a top university, I wasn’t used to this kind of rejection so it took a lot of energy to stay resilient and treat every interview as a fresh one rather than a continuous losing battle.

Finding a job I really wanted

With these lessons in mind I started looking for jobs in the public and third sector, where I felt I could put my skills and passions developed throughout my degree to good use. I’d always been concerned with social justice and equality so the values of employers in this sector really resonated with me, and I was confident I wouldn’t feel like I was selling my soul for a salary.  I’m so glad I realised this, because now I am in a role where I can genuinely put my people skills to good use I am happy to wake up for work in the morning. This isn’t to say that the weeks I’d spent applying for the wrong roles were a waste of time, it was actually a really important experience for me in a number of ways. Most obviously, I’d already been interviewed what felt like a hundred times by the time I started interviewing for the jobs I actually wanted, so I was more than prepared to smash it.

Life lessons

I’d  learned a lot about myself and my motivations, and after deciding that money wasn’t the most important thing to me in a career, it has left me feeling a lot more comfortable with my future prospects.  Less obviously, I am now a strong believer in the fact that finding out what you don’t want to do is just as important as finding out what you do want to do. If I had never started applying for the wrong jobs, I wouldn’t have got to where I am now.

My advice

To anyone who is struggling to decide on what to do next is don’t panic! I’m lucky in the sense that I feel like I now know where I want my career to go, whereas a lot of people might work a dozen jobs before finding that out for themselves. The important thing to remember is that it’s okay to try something and decide that it’s not for you. Every experience is important to grow as an individual, and no decision you make now will be the wrong one, you just find out what works for you (and what doesn’t!).


Look at the University’s ‘Your Future‘ framework to help you consider your options and make decisions about your next steps.

Read more about what is available to you as a member of the University of Leeds Class of 2019

And don’t forget you are not alone, you can continue to access the Careers Centre services and support once you graduate.

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Filed under Advice, Class of 2019

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