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  • Writer's pictureMcWhat


Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Why you're exactly where you should be.

If you've read my blog before, I've been very open about my health struggles that came to head while I was at school.

In February 2011 I had my spinal fusion, and then from the May I sat my SQA highers. Would it surprise you that I bombed?

My sixth year was spent resitting my subjects and learning how to study, as I missed it all the first time. As part of the SQA's annual #NoWrongPath campaign I got thinking about my journey.

After being told that I probably wasn't going to go to Uni, I applied to college and was swiftly rejected. As a seventeen year old whose friends all sat Advanced Highers and got A's this was pretty upsetting.

Girl with head in hands at laptop

There's a phenomenon I've noticed where if you're told how clever you are as a child and are expected to do great things, it actually ends up discouraging you more. I made my applications along with my friends and as they all began to receive unconditionals I kept my mouth shut and head down.

I eventually applied for Clearing through UCAS on results day in 2012, following another haul of crap results. By the time I managed to get on, my two options were Journalism or Health and Safety.

If anyone has ever seen my car or DIY techniques they'll know that H&S is something I could certainly benefit from.

As a teenager I used to read my dad's newspapers when he came home from work, unfortunately being further to the right, this was The Express, so it didn't set me in good stead.

University was fine. I enjoyed it, but do I think I needed it to be where I am now? No.

I didn't have a proper uni 'experience' due to travelling so far, so there wasn't ever a real student vibe - but I met my best friend there so it wasn't all bad!

girl at desk with head in hands with books and laptop in front of her

As much as I enjoyed my course, I knew from the start that it wasn't what I was destined to do. While other students discussed Machiavellian ideologies I was more concerned with scraping by. I left Uni and was made redundant the same month, so ended up signing on at the job centre.

I'd still have done this without a degree, and they couldn't have cared less about my qualifications, they made me apply to zero-hour contracts in local shops that wouldn't even interview me.

By chance I got the opportunity to interview with my now-previous employer as part of the Community Job Scotland scheme which I can't recommend highly enough if you qualify; and through some hard graft and sheer determination I've worked my way into a new role doing something completely unrelated to my degree - and something that I never really considered as a job!

Could I have ended up here without my qualifications? 100%

I have a brother with no Highers that literally slept in for a 2pm exam that for a period of time had a more highly paid job than I did after four years of studying. But he's a grafter too.

So if you've been put out by your results or next year is the big year for you, I have some advice.

  1. Don't beat yourself up, it's not fair and it doesn't change anything. Draw a line and start again.

  2. Upskill yourself. Metaskills is a massive part of your education whether or not you’ve even realised it. Sometimes they're called enterprise skills but essentially they're lifeskills - build on them! Use free resources like Google's Digital Garage and Accenture Digital Skills to get ahead of the game.

  3. Networking can seem daunting, especially if you're still at school or in education, but there's nothing more impressive than a young person with a bit of initiative. Figure out who some of the key - relatable - players are in the industry are, maybe it's a hiring manager you think could offer you work experience, or someone who you think could give some advice with regards to their own journey. Most people are more than happy to share their experiences.

  4. Have a backup. Maybe you really want to study English, what career do you see in your future? Have a couple of ideas up your sleeve to prepare for the unexpected. In my case, I always considered that I'd have the opportunity to go back to teaching, then delivered programmes to students and realised that I don't enjoy teaching. I like working with young people in a small group capacity, but in a class of thirty it's not for me.

  5. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Similar to number 1. Give yourself a break. There are so many expectations forced on us from a young age, you’re only human.

Had #NoWrongPath been a campaign while I was at school it would have made me feel a little bit more comfortable with my achievements - which even though they weren't as good as my friends', they were an achievement!

It might take you a little bit longer to get to where you want to be, but keep going – you’re doing great!


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