Exam results day. Few other days strike as much fear, anticipation and often joy into the hearts of thousands across the country, planning their bright futures among a multitude of paths suddenly stretching out before them. But for those who might not have achieved what they wanted or expected, the roads ahead can feel suddenly closed off.
But fear not. As an industry, communications often attracts those who have taken a less conventional route into the field. And it’s far better for it. When making a career of knowing how to craft a good story, life experience, combined with skill, counts for as much as qualifications on a page.
There really is #NoWrongPath, as Lesley, Rachel and Anna can attest to.
Lesley Brydon, Managing Director
Having failed all but English in my fifth year, and not faring much better in sixth, my options were certainly narrowed. However, it was clear that an exam regime wasn’t suited to me. As a creative, yet practical soul – a route into work was always going to be a better path for me than another four or five years’ study. So, I rocked up at college to do a two-year communication studies course – a veritable buffet of advertising, marketing, journalism, design, multi-media, broadcast, and of course, PR – which I knew nothing about to begin with, but excelled in.
Completing my course during the deep recession of the early 90s, I was pitched straight into the ever-expanding dole queue. During this time, I worked as a volunteer press officer, firstly at Oxfam and then Children 1st. All the while, I wrote (in letter form!) to all the PR agencies in Edinburgh asking for a break. If they wrote back, even to say no, I tried again. After a year, someone gave me a chance and I started work as an account executive in my first small PR agency.
My journey and my passion for PR had begun in earnest, and I’m still relishing the twists and turns it has taken.
Rachel Russell, Graphic Design Director
I’ve always been creative but I was also good academically at school and so, rather than going to art college, I instead was lucky enough to head off to study English Literature at University of Oxford. I loved my course, but I always felt unsure about my next step. After graduating I got a job in marketing at Oxford University Press, but quickly worked out that a career in publishing wasn’t for me. I was spending all my time fiddling about on Quark designing flyers, and I knew deep down that my heart lay with design.
At 24 I left my job, spent a summer travelling about in Europe and then started a Communication Design masters at University of Kingston. Now I work full time as Graphic Design Director at Clark and I love it.
If I’ve learned anything, it would be to trust your intuition and you’ll never go far wrong if you follow your passions, wherever they lead you.
Anna Chambers, PR Account Director
At school, my best subjects were always art and English, but I never had a clear idea about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I also loved exploring and photographing buildings, so the school careers adviser suggested architecture could be the ideal career for me. I applied to study architecture at Glasgow School of Art and was over the moon to be accepted.
It turns out architecture is a lot more technical than I realised, and not as ‘arty’ as I’d hoped. I finished my degree, and worked for a year in an architecture practice, but my heart wasn’t in it – and architecture is definitely a career that needs dedication and passion!
So rather than pursuing qualifying as an architect, I made a complete change and did a postgrad in journalism instead. Afterwards, like many graduates, I found it hard to land a job in journalism with no experience – so my first job ended up being in comms, working for the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, which made use of all my skills. And that is how I ended up in my current career.
Many people don’t really know what they want to do when they’re only 18, and like me, may make the wrong decision – and that’s OK! My advice would be, have the courage to make the change and don’t get stuck doing something you don’t enjoy for the long haul. And if you don’t get accepted to the course you’d hoped for, don’t despair – there’s almost always a less traditional route into the career of your dreams.