Figuring out what to do when I grow up

I’m coming to the end of the education portion of my life. It’s weird and I’m scared excited and a little bit sick, but overall, relieved that this year will soon be over and I can get free time I haven’t really had since year 8 or 9 of Secondary School.

The question of what to do next has been one that’s plagued me for the last year and a half, and there’s been several different tactics people have suggested to me - one that was interesting was a woman at GHC mentioned her colleague repeatedly emailing her saying “What do you want to do”, which forces you to keep thinking on it and keep trying to narrow it down to the right path. As I did a talk on industrial placements, getting one and more importantly, getting the right one, I thought I’d write a little about my considerations on this topic.

  1. Looking over the past few years of Education, I considered what I’d really enjoyed and thrown my all into and loved seeing other people work with. These were actually things that I’d done in my free time, but involved the degree I’ve been working toward - making something people like and want to use, and making something physical. It’s funny how that occurred to me in the past couple of years - as a child I was always making crafty things like jewelery, handmade cards, baking and cake decorating, and I truly loved it and had so much patience for it all, but it only occurred to me that I could combine this into my job by fiddling with electronics.

  2. During my industrial placement, I considered what parts of it I’d truly enjoyed, and what parts I truly hated. I enjoyed the ability to easily make friends and organise things together, and have meetups organised both by myself and by the company I worked for/by social groups within that company. I liked developing code I knew people would use and getting a clearer picture on the development. I’ve grown to like project management a lot more from that, as having a clear map of where things are going helps a lot. I didn’t like the sheer number of people around me from day to day, nor the atmosphere that working in a corporate environment brought to the table. A lot of the processes in a big company feel slow, particularly as a techy person who’s expecting the industry to move at a pace, and I didn’t like that. From this I gathered how important the environment is to me as a person, that the job I wanted to do needed to be interesting, relevant and above all variable, and that the company size (though this can depend on the culture) can change a lot about how I felt about the experience. It was also interesting comparing my year of work in a x-thousands of people company to a placement I did in a 30 person company, and from that I knew I wanted somewhere in the middle of the two.

  3. I also spent some time re-looking at number 1 - did I like doing those things because they were my hobbies, and would I hate doing them if I did them for 8 hours every day? This can only be answered through experimentation, because I haven’t worked in a company that does the things I do in my free time.

  4. I took into consideration where I’d want to live, and how much that affected me. Within this I considered how I felt moving to Bristol, what things I struggled with vs. how I felt moving to Hull. Comparing the two, Hull is very close to home and that meant I could go home whenever I wanted to, but there’s not a lot to do in Hull so I knew I needed somewhere that would feed my appetite for learning, history, culture and people. For me, if these things aren’t covered, I can’t really fall in love with a place or feel completely settled, and I consider that quite important to standing on your own two feet. No offence to hull, it’s a great place and I’m sure it will improve with City of Culture, but it’s not for me. On the flipside, Bristol has all of what I’ve talked about and more, and I met some really fantastic people and discovered a whole side of the country that I completely fell in love with, but finding your feet 3 hours from your original hometown is tough because when you feel you can’t do it, there’s no where and no one to run to. And that’s tough. I knew that if I moved, I couldn’t move to that distance without knowing people there who could keep me going.

  5. There’s the experimental aspect of the whole process, and this bit I learned chiefly from doing my industrial placement: a job may look great to you on paper, and you may have mapped out your entire future and what your job will be like from the points above, but you’ll never truly know until you do the job how it will all pan out. So be prepared to review the steps, particularly “what do I enjoy?” a lot and don’t panic if it’s not all that you hoped for and more, because nothing is permanent, and that’s okay.