In the end, we only regret the (changes) we didn’t take
Change is hard. Resisting change when your mind and body are screaming out for it is even harder.
If there’s one thing I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self, it would be to worry less about securing my dream career pathway. During my teenage years, I was set on becoming a journalist. I loved to read and write; English had always been my favourite and strongest subject; and I dreamed of getting the opportunity to travel to foreign and exotic lands to nail the perfect story.
Apart from a brief affair with the idea of becoming an interpreter for a multinational conglomerate like the United Nations, I didn’t sway from this journalistic ideal for a good seven years. I exerted a lot of pressure on myself to obtain the required grades to gain entry into journalism at the University of Sydney, and daydreamed about studying on the green lawns outside the Hogwarts-inspired Quadrangle architecture.
I vividly remember accessing my Higher School Certificate results while on holiday in Paris, learning that I had indeed gained entry into the competitive course of my dreams.
What I didn’t count on was the course and university of my dreams not quite living up to my expectations.
In my first year of media studies, I studied a variety of arts subjects, including European history, German and psychology. To my dismay, among the subjects I studied, my media and communications subjects were my least favourite. I didn’t see how studying the history of radio and print media would bring me any closer to being a top-notch journalist.
I learned about the importance of employing persuasiveness and ruthlessness in order to access a unique angle on a story before competing journalists had the chance. There was something about the experience which didn’t sit right and ultimately felt incongruent with my personality and values.
Increasingly, I felt out of my depth and like I didn’t belong. I was drowning in a sea of high achievers who had spent their last few years of schooling amassing real-world experience for local print, radio and digital publications. How was I behind already?! I even entertained a transfer to “speech pathology”, given its strong focus on linguistics, before learning that the actual application was heavily anatomy and physiology-based – uninvitingly involving spending hours working on cadavers in a lab!
I could feel the need for change brewing inside me but I considered whether it would just be easier to quash this feeling and persevere for the next few years. I had worked so relentlessly to get there and was so set on becoming a journalist that it took months of reflection to prepare for the steps required to make the transition.
Something I learned about myself during this period was my strong need for reason and logic – to pursue a career which could be tied back to a framework, which journalism largely seemed to lack.
Even though I never had much of an interest in accounting, economics or finance, business seemed to call out to me. My dad spent thirty years of his life working in logistics for the multinational corporation, Procter & Gamble, and my mum had studied and worked as an accountant, so perhaps the idea should have been more of a no-brainer. The sheer range of majors on offer in a business degree appealed to me, including tourism management, given my interest in travel and learning about various cultures, in addition to marketing.
I also selected a university – the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) – which boasted a reputation for innovativeness and practical learning. That is, encouraging students to move beyond the theory, integrating application-based projects which involving resolving real-life industry case studies.
From day one, everything about the experience – from the subjects I had selected, to the university and my fellow students – felt right. The constant confusion and cloudiness which had coloured my experience at the University of Sydney had lifted. UTS also had a reputation of promoting intercultural awareness so I was able to meet and study with a number of international students throughout my degree. I joined a program entitled BUiLD (Beyond UTS International Leadership Development Program) which encompassed attending a number of conferences focusing on global issues, and participated in internships and short-term intensive programs overseas. A highlight was a short study program on Business in the USA at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte which included business visits that provided the opportunity to put real-life skills - from interviewing to negotiating - into practice.
My studies also involved engaging with and solving industry case studies. I was a semi-finalist of Microsoft Kinect’s Protégé Competition, developing and pitching a marketing plan to a panel from Microsoft regarding a new Kinect gaming application. The degree had a core marketing research component which would actually lead me to my eventual career path. In my last semester of studies, I worked on an Applied Project in Marketing, undertaking marketing research to form recommendations which were presented to the Children’s Tumour Foundation of Australia. I loved working on a marketing research plan from start to finish and was so gratified to discover that the client planned to implement the research.
Graduation from my degree at UTS was and continues to be one of the proudest moments of my life. Not just the sheer act of completing a degree, but completing a degree that I enjoyed, felt passionate about and was ready to commence a career in.
Of course, that’s not to say that it has all been smooth sailing since. While my degree choices have all assisted in shedding light on my passion for the travel and tourism industry, and contributed to development of skills in communications, business studies and marketing, marketing is such a broad field that I was hard-pressed in terms of deciding where to begin.
My first full-time role was in a broad marketing-based position for an international tour operator. The role was fast-paced, reactive and very sales-oriented. It ultimately led me to consider a more structured, marketing research position which would allow for forward, strategic planning. I wanted to re-experience the flow that I had felt in my last semester at university.
In a strange twist of fate, when the perfect marketing research position came up at Australia’s National Marketing Organisation, I learned that my communications background had actually helped to separate me from the other applicants. While all applications boasted strong research backgrounds, an important part of research is being able to distill the information and communicate it in a digestible and engaging way. Now if that’s not an example of things “coming full circle”, I don’t know what is!
I’m sure that I still have many career changes in my future. However, I can proceed with the knowledge that while change can be scary, feeling like you’re stuck somewhere where you don’t want to be is scarier. Listen to your mind and body when it’s calling out for change and trust that your collection of experiences will help you successfully arrive at your eventual destination. Life is too short to settle for something that you’re not truly passionate about.
Making a big life change is scary. But know what’s even scarier? Regret.