It’s easy to forget that going to college to get a degree does not make you instantly employable. It helps, but without relevant experience, many graduates will be left on the losing side of the intense competition in ‘the real world’. It can feel unfair that we are somewhat forced to follow the prototypical educational system, yet that still remains short in securing a decent future.
But it’s never too late to carve your own path. Here is how I did it.
I’ve always loved writing, but I hadn’t quite realised the potency of the written word or how many career avenues a writer could take. At age 19, my portfolio was rather limited: from the short story I wrote and ‘published’ when I was 8 (read: made on MS Paint and printed), the occasional article in my school paper, plus a few Tumblr ramblings. I knew that I had to get better in order to consider a writing career, but I just wasn’t sure what to write about.
After seeing the opportunity on Twitter, and completely on a whim, I applied for an unpaid internship at a UK music magazine. I had next to no previous music-related work to send over, save for a few sloppy reviews on my unknown blog. I threw together an email to send to the editor anyway and waited patiently.
I tweeted and emailed him in the following weeks to remind him about the application -- and low and behold, my persistence paid off. I had to move to be at the internship during the week, have others cover shifts at my day job, and rush back to work for weekend shifts to keep afloat. It was a grueling month of commuting, working, and very little cash, but it was the best start I could have had.
I knew very little about the music industry when I began, but I left equipped with confidence, experience, and a drive to one day return as a paid writer. There are a few people at the magazine that I’m still in touch with, but likely due to my inexperience at the time, I didn’t quite achieve that paid position I had set my aim for. I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I asked the magazine staff for recommendations of music websites to approach, and today I’m an editor at one of the suggested properties.
In case you were wondering, I still have never been paid for any of my music journalism. This avenue of work is hardly the most lucrative. However, the opportunities I’ve been offered and the writing practice gained have made it more than worth it.
I then decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in English Language & Linguistics. My writing was improving thanks to the music journalism, but I still wanted the qualification of a degree to fall back on. I began to participate at the student radio station and attended regular meetings for other clubs on campus.
Near the end of my first year, one of my closest friends came to me and suggested an idea for a club that our campus was missing: a live music society. We worked out basic some ideas of what we could do, which bands/artists we knew, and who else should be involved. Within a few weeks, we were accepted as a new society and excited about the prospect of launching the Sussex Live Music Society that September. Devastatingly, our co-founder passed away within a few weeks of our society’s acceptance. But at this point, giving up on his dream was out of the question.
Come autumn, we launched our society to immense interest -- more than we knew what to do with. We were six 19-21 year olds with very little experience. Luckily, our ideas and the drive to honour our friend compensated for that weakness. Our first few open mic nights and live music events were overwhelming and stressful. They were also successful and the university was so impressed by the audiences we attracted that they commissioned us to book regular shows. By the end of a year of hard work (and very little sleep), our society was deemed the Best New Society at our university’s student awards, plus achieved brief television and press attention along the way.
With the degree, the clubs I was a part of and created, the music journalism, and the part-time work all propelling me forward, I finally landed to explore the world of content marketing with my current job. I applied for this role on a whim too, but that extra-curricular diligence whilst studying gave me the extra edge and afforded me writing practice that was invaluable. Since early last year, I have written articles for The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Elite Daily, Cosmopolitan, Thought Catalog, and more.
I wouldn’t necessarily deem this a classic success story, as I still have no riches. What I do have is a decent degree, wonderful friends, a full-time job that I enjoy, and the opportunities to interview some of my favourite bands while attending amazing gigs. It’s been a zig zag journey of initiative and an outside-the-box resume landing me in the center of my passion. And honestly, that’s more than I could have hoped for at this stage in my life.