We all have that fairytale that plays over in our minds.
You know, the one that goes a little like this:
You’re living in a nice part of London, preferably in zone 1. You’ve got enough cash stashed away to afford brunch on most weekends, plus tickets to the latest concert if you’re extra vigilant.
Oh, and did we mention, you’re absolutely smashing it at your dream gig?
Unfortunately, reality isn’t always so kind. A recent study found around 80% of adults don’t end up following through on the job they’d always dreamt of. Add to the fact that more young professionals than ever aren’t getting employed in the industry they qualified in, and it’s hardly surprising many of us end up in careers we weren’t quite banking on.
Which begs the question, what should you look for when the job you get isn't the one you want?
1. Do you know what perks you’ll stand to gain?
Perhaps right now you’re sitting at your desk, your degree rolled up in one hand as you cry, ‘But I want my 9-to-5 to count!’
We hear you. Now hear us out.
‘Perks’ don’t always have to mean an office with sleep pods to rival Google’s.
It can also refer to the amount of annual leave you’re entitled to, or whether or not flexible working arrangements are a thing, or if your company offers access to a mental health support system. (If they offer free nutritious breakfasts and after-work yoga classes? That’s an added plus.)
Before you accuse of us selling out, bear in mind these things do matter. After all, you’ll be spending a good 80% of your week at your job — meaning it’s important the company you end up with is one that works for you and for what you value.
2. What flexibility does it allow you?
Imagine a world where Harry Potter didn’t exist.
Back yet? Traumatised? Good. So are we.
(Sorry for taking us down that path.)
This might well have been the case if JK Rowling had simply shrugged her shoulders, plugged herself into the terminal at her first job, and decided that was it. As luck would have it, our favourite literary lady didn’t allow herself to sidle into complacency. She kept digging away at those aspirations.
If you’re still set on the path you originally dreamt of, it’s possible to pursue it on the side. You’ll just have to make sure that the little things — like your hours, your social expectations, and your pay — allow you to pursue the courses and time your dreams require.
Keep an eye on your company’s structures and policies, as well. If your aspirations aren’t quite so artistic as Ms Rowling’s herself, there’s always the possibility you can sidle sideways into the field you currently access.
For example: if you’re keen to get into marketing but have wound up with an admin job, keep an eye out for vacancies in your company’s department. There’s always the possibility a supportive line manager and company will help you transition across into the role you’ve verbalised wanting, whether that’s through further education or on-the-ground training.
3. Do you know where it could you take next?
Importantly, the first job you take out of uni doesn’t have to be your one and only. Think of it as a stepping stone on your path; as a chance to test the waters and figure out where you’ll leap to from here.
While a job in sales might seem miles away from the coveted black fabric of a director’s chair, keep in mind the experience, connections, and skills you could transfer to your dream career one day. As Edgar Wright would himself (presumably) say, the sell’s a key factor in getting the funding for a film. (Or — and more likely — a salesperson has got to have the same stamina and ability to endure as that of a director.)
Beyond that, your not-quite-dream job could also provide you with the perspective to understand exactly what you want out of the rest of the career; and equip you to chase just that.
Viv Mah writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.