This is an article I wrote for the Uni Australia website
University: a means to get a career or to study your passion?
Imagine this, you’re at a party and someone has just asked you what you’re studying at university. You tell them, slightly grimacing as their face goes blank. You brace yourself, as this happens often, for their scoffing response:
“Right, so… What kind of job will you get at the end of THAT degree? It is a degree isn’t it?”
This, unfortunately, is an unpleasant conversation you may have to experience if you choose to study a course which doesn’t have a simple yellow-brick path to a career. Yellow-brick paths are paved for those studying medicine, heath, business, accounting, law or education. I’m sure you can think of many others. Unfortunately for many looking for a creative career there’s nothing but a dirt track.
So why, I hear you asking, why would you put yourself through the humiliation? Why choose to study something you’re passionate about rather then something that will pay the bills at the end of the day?
These are things you have to consider when you’re umming and ahh-ing over which course to do. University is a commitment, you will be dedicating three to four years of your life to writing essays, studying and doing those awful exams. University is not just about becoming an even smarter cookie, but it’s also about experiencing and learning new things. You want to be able to enjoy what you’re learning and of course at the end of the degree you want to be able to walk away with experience in more than just mastering the art of beer pong. You want to be able get employment at somewhere other than just at the golden arches – McDonalds.
The first thing to do is ask yourself what exactly it is that YOU want to do. That’s right I’m talking to you and only you dear reader. Don’t listen to your Mum and Dad breathing suggestions over you while you fill in university applications, they will only try and attempt to live their dreams through you. They will also try and persuade you to study a university degree that will you get a high paying job; the type of high paying job which ensures that you and your family can bathe in wads of cash. But be firm; swat them away with a fly swat or a tea towel.
It doesn’t matter how much money there is in IT/Engineering/Commerce/Medicine etc if you don’t like it then a lifetime working at it will have you yanking out tuffs of your hair. University is about breaking free from the nest, time to start flapping those wings of yours and make your own decision about you want to do.
The problem with choosing to study your passion is that often the career options are limited, and what is out there is claws-out, a full-on cat fight competition. But do not be discouraged; do not take one look at the job jungle and scurry into accounting as being aware of your options is the best way to go into university. If you have your eyes wide open from the beginning you will be able to make the best of the opportunities. Trust me, at university there is plenty to get involved in. Talking to a career adviser is also a pretty good idea too; they can help you untangle the messy stuff in your head so you can have a clear, refreshed mind when applying for university courses.
Even before beginning university there are opportunities you can have to get an insider’s taste of a creative career. Creative careers are often found in tight-knit communities and from the outside it may seem similar to a secret society with a secret password bolting the creative employment from the world. However this is not the case, doors are usually wide open or opened after a single knock. No passwords or cult-like robes here.
Unfortunately, to get friendly or to use that awful word “network” with creative employers you will have to be willing to do a fair bit of free work. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as work experience, internships and volunteer work can give you a great glimpse into what employment and opportunities are out there. Often free-work is followed up by paid opportunities as employers already know your work ethic and strong commitment. Paid opportunities are usually not advertised but are given to those they know and trust already.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Studying your passion may seem a lot harder than studying an average degree, as there’s more commitment (and unpaid work) involved, but it won’t seem like work as it’s what you love doing. Remember that it’s your decision on what you do. It doesn’t matter if all your best-friends are doing nursing, good on them, but if want to do a degree in print-making, do it. Don’t just listen to your instincts, download them and play them on a loop on your iPod. And if you do choose to take the dirt path be confident that when someone does ask that dreadful question you answer with confidence,
“Yeah it is a degree and I love it. I know a job isn’t exactly certain at the end of it. Still I would not want to be studying anything else.”