Why I had a career change at 23

So this week I started what I can only describe as ‘the job I left teaching for’. I know it’s early days and 3 days is probably not enough to go on to describe it as my ‘dream job’ but, honestly, I’m loving it. 

Where it began

If you’re not familiar with my journey so far, let me fill you in. I graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2016 (feels like yesterday) and wanted to leave my little town I called home in Gloucestershire to live nearer a city. So I moved to the North West of England, near Liverpool with my boyfriend. 

Me and my uni gals

In my final year of my degree ‘panic mode’ struck. I had a degree in Education studies, and I loved studying the psychology of learning, the history and culture of education across the globe and the sociology of different communities. But I was grateful that no part of my degree was about being a teacher and if I wanted to become a teacher I’d have to do my teacher training year after graduating. 

For most of my degree I said I didn’t want to be a teacher. And that was true, it wasn’t a dream of mine like it was for most of the other people on my course. But I attended my university’s big career fair, where all the graduate schemes were advertised, spoke to lots of employers and they pretty much all said the same thing. “With a degree in Education, why don’t you want to be a teacher?”

Back to the drawing board

Maybe I should give teaching a go? I remember sitting in my boyfriend’s tiny box room in our shared uni house and coming up with a plan on what we were going to do with our lives next. I knew from doing Camp America that I would rather teach teenagers than really young kids. I didn’t want to do another year at uni so on-the-job training courses seemed more preferable to me. I looked at Teach First but it was a 2 year commitment, so considered a School Direct route. And the big appeal… my chosen subject, French, was one of the ones that came with a tax-free bursary from the government to train, meaning I could also start paying off that student overdraft.

The most challenging year of my life 

I started my teacher training year full of worry and anxiety. This was probably because I already knew, deep down, this was not what I wanted to do with my life. It didn’t help that the department I was put in were not very nice people and went out of their way to make things even harder for me, offering me very little support with lesson planning and knocking my confidence levels to a new low. I honestly gave it my best shot but by Christmas I was having panic attacks on my drive to work (not safe – even crashed once!) and I spent every Sunday wishing it wasn’t happening all over again. I had no life outside of work as my only friends in the North West were my boyfriend and my teacher training friends (who also were struggling with the work load and pressure of the year). A few people dropped out, I could relate. Many times I look back and think I should have left then too. But I carried on and transferred to a different school where I felt happier and the staff were much nicer. They offered me a position to stay on for my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year and cover maternity and initially I wasn’t sure. However, doing this second year would mean that I’d have a full teaching qualification and if I ever wanted to go back and pick up a teaching job I could at any point.

More balance in my life

So I took the job and found myself finding much more of a work-life balance. I didn’t have to do any pointless and time-consuming paperwork anymore and I really enjoyed helping the children I taught. It restored my faith in people and helped me see that although teaching is a challenging job, working with a team of great people makes it 100 times easier. But this time when they asked me to stay on I decided not to. It was time to do something for myself.

A fresh start

After enjoying my last ever 6 weeks summer break, in September 2018 I set to work on starting a new career. I had a little wobble, what on earth was I going do if I wasn’t teaching? I applied to lots of media jobs I was totally unqualified for as I initially thought I wanted to work in Children’s TV and Educational Media as I thought I’d have to do something that related to my degree. I applied to work for BBC Learning 8 times over the course of 6 months and never got invited to an interview. Every ‘no’ brought out a different emotion but eventually I realised that maybe I was knocking on the wrong door. I’d applied for a short 2 month contract as an Events Promoter for small company that organised careers and networking events for female STEM students and got the job. This was exactly what I needed. Working with a whole team of twenty-somethings and getting to travel the country promoting and coordinating events was so much fun. It was clear however that this small company couldn’t offer me the kind of longer term opportunities or responsibilities I wanted so I started applying for Events jobs in my area.

At our Birmingham event (I’m on the right!)

The job I left teaching for

My boyfriend always told me that I wouldn’t find the perfect job I wanted straight from leaving teaching. I’m the impatient kind that wanted this to happen straight away but actually I’m glad that I experienced other things first as it made me more grateful of where I am now. Event Management suits me so well, and this organisation is actually a publishing company, meaning the ‘media’ element I was looking for is something else I am benefitting from.

If you feel you’re at any stage of this story then please remember that it won’t always be this way and you can walk away from anything that doesn’t make you happy. 

Follow me on Instagram: @iamgabymendes

Published by Gaby Mendes

Your 20s wing woman!

2 thoughts on “Why I had a career change at 23

  1. Hey! Reading your story is exactly what I went through! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that’s decided teaching wasn’t the right career and thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the best in your new career too. X


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