“These guys won’t tell you, but they all think you’re mad doing what you’re doing”. Such were the paraphrased words of my former boss, bellowed audibly into my ear above the thumping music at my leaving do, as I said goodbye to colleagues I had spent 12 months working with, to return to education.
I could understand where the sentiment was coming from. I was leaving a stable job, working with decent people, and being on a relatively decent salary. However, coming back into education was never really a risk, and if it was, it’s surely worth it compared with the humdrum life of working full-time in an office, only ever looking as far as the end of the week and a chance to get away from the office for two blessed days. I knew that processing data, sending a few emails, and checking the Guardian’s liveblog wasn’t how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. It was a case of taking things into my own hands.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, I was involved with my student newspaper, eventually spending a year as editor in my final year. It was exciting, on-the-go, impulsive work, that also had a very tangible purpose and outcome, in the words of Lord Reith “to inform, to educate, and to entertain”. Lofty ambitions indeed, but setting your sights high isn’t a bad place to start. I knew it was something I wanted to do as a degree, however to embark on a career in journalism, NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualifications are essential, and a Politics and History degree didn’t do that. I’d set my sights on Sheffield (a reputable department, NCTJ boxes ticked, and a nice city), but had to answer that question of funds. Two years of working full-time followed.
As much as I may sound full of melancholy about my time working, it has been useful. Certainly, the fact that I’ve been on a train for 8am for the last 12 months has set me up nicely for the 8am start for shorthand we have every day. As for long days, I often didn’t get back until 6pm. On top of that, having had that experience of doing a type of job that I know I don’t want to spend my life doing, I reckon I appreciate things far more now. I go into every lecture wanting to squeeze every last drop out. I’m acutely aware that every day is a step closer towards the final end of my time in education, looking out to the career road stretching into the distance, hopefully. It’s a case of making the most of every opportunity, relishing and enjoying it all.