Graduating from university with an English Literature degree and not meeting the graduate programme requirements my job options dwindled: I could stay in London and hope that I’d get a job in teaching as a teacher’s assistant or I could do various other jobs with no connection to the industry I want to set up my career in.
At the time of applying lots of companies said the same thing ‘we want someone who has certain grades, and/or certain amount of years of teaching experience.’ The catch 22 arose when I could get neither one nor the other. I could get experience working with children but when I did and applied for work I found that I needed to have worked in a classroom environment for ‘x’ amount of time. Or, I’d need experience but few people were extending their invitation my way despite the fact I already had a little experience in what they were asking for… Or, my degree wasn’t in education. Talk about making it difficult! How are graduates or young folks supposed to get a foot in the door without some edgeways? I quickly learnt that it’s not what you know but who you know.
My grades from university weren’t what graduate programmes or certain agencies were after. So again, another situation had arisen. I gained a decent result from uni and I also worked part time since summers were long and penniless without something to do and some change. In my eyes, I was being practical – a multi-tasker (yes I made it up) you could say: I worked during uni. So why wasn’t I a suitable candidate? Why must I be “perfect?” on paper? I remember hearing on the news that companies from all industries nationwide were complaining about students who met their academic requirements to the T but weren’t practical in a working environment. “HA!” I thought, you got exactly what you were after but still you’re still not happy… But that didn’t solve my dilemma. London’s employers had angered me. I couldn’t, no matter how much I tried, get a job that would have got me to my next stage of my career ladder. I was heading a year’s experience so I could go for a PGCE the following academic year. I definitely I learnt not to a have such a regimented outline of life because it can certainly change without any warnings or reasons. Not saying you shouldn’t have one but to be open to changes – which I wasn’t at the time as I did everything I could to get noticed. I went on interviews and was rejected multiple times. Or I’d submit my CV and get the age old response – “due to too many applicants applying for this position…”
Naturally, questions arose in my mind – was going to university worth it? Did I waste my time and efforts as well as money? Why were other people around me were getting jobs with, what seemed like, no opposition? Why didn’t that happen for me?
Rookie mistake #1: don’t compare yourself. I learnt that quickly when I realised that God had an individual plan for my life. After God pointed out what was in my heart, I realised that something must be done about the bitterness of rejection, frustration and self-pity. I began to realise that being miserable about things simply won’t change the situation. Of course, it’s only natural to have those feelings but those feelings had resided in my heart too long. In that time of realisation, I grew closer to God and realised that my life wasn’t worst off than someone who had a job and was beginning their career: their life is their path – my life is my path. So key point I learnt and still have to remind myself now; be content in every situation.
Rookie mistake #2: doubting all my hard work and my education. When there are women fighting for education to be equally available to them and I have the opportunity to gain a higher education, my doubts …regrets would be a slap in the face to those activists. Though many people in the UK have a degree, it’s still an achievement to have completed it adding it to your life’s reservoir of accomplishments. So these questions were temperamental doubts. In hindsight they sound silly but when I was going through this, it felt as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
What was plan B since plan A lacked any sign of prosperity?
At this stage, I could have easily given up but I had encouragement from all around. I sat and spoke with people who’d gone through something similar or simply I just spoke with people – you could say I’m nosey but I’d like to say I’m an inquisitive being. I’d heard and spoke with several family members had gone abroad to work teaching English for a year. They had loved their experiences abroad. Some were in the same predicament as I was and one went as part of their programme at university. The idea landed sounded in my mind and I had peace about it. I was to go abroad. That was it!
But firstly, let’s not interpret plan B as a state of running – I wasn’t running from unemployment in the UK but rather, I was taking an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have considered had I’d been handed my career to me on a plate. And I’m not making a dig at anyone who has had been blessed with the job of their dream either. At around this time, the scripture Psalm 37:23-24 was brought to my attention almost daily;
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
I’m not a person who would just read the bible for the sake of claiming I’ve read it since it’s pointless. I’d began to search for scriptures relevant to my situations. Many came up but Psalm 37:23-4 was the one that hit home.
Once I took the focus off myself and my own problems and started to be happy for those who were happy, I’d been offered a job in an industry far from teaching. However, that job was the spring board to gaining a steady income again, which meant I could save which meant I could do things. I was accepted onto a CELTA course which was necessary for me as I had not been in front of a class or ran a class and wanted the experience. From then I took up two voluntary jobs and applied for gazillions of jobs abroad.
“Congratulations! Your ticket for your flight has been confirmed!” says the travel agent whom I purchased my e-ticket with. I’d bought a ticket for one from London Heathrow to Ningbo – a city in Zhejiang province in China. I’d been offered a job teaching English in a small town about an hour away from Ningbo last July, 2014. Though I didn’t really have an idea of what China was really like, I was still grateful for the change. There was, I thought at the time, only so much research you could do about a place before you got there. Maybe such attitude was a lazy one but I wanted to see what it was like with my own eyes. I’d grown weary of watching and reading online about the potential town but also, I was busy completing my CELTA.
A year on, and all what I saw online had been forgotten about. What I’ve seen and learnt online cannot be compared to physically being in China. I’ve learnt to adapt into a culture that still intrigues me and causes me to raise an eyebrow.
What I’ve learnt in this year abroad is perseverance. I have to always try and nothing worth it will be handed to me easily. I’ve learnt to have a plan of my goal but have multiple options in getting there which would in time relieve frustration and anxiety if one way doesn’t work out.