Deciding what to do with your career whilst young is a massive decision. Our lives revolve around needing money and not wanting to be a failure who relies on others to get by. I was 13 when I started making websites. After a lot of experimenting, I eventually realised that what I was doing as a hobby could potentially be a career for me one day so I decided to start learning, researching and developing my hobby into something I could eventually be paid to do. I turned 16 and thought I was ready to do some freelance work of my own. It was a big step but I found some pretty easily, put my all into it and started relying on myself to get things done. Most people got a Saturday job at weekends, I made websites instead.Eventually when I turned 17 and started college, I was confident enough that I wouldn’t need to go to university, thanks to all of the work I had put in during the prior years. I told my mum my big decision and my plan, this was the response:“No Alex, I think you’re being stupid, you’re too young, you’ll never get anywhere without university”
It hit me hard. Stereotypically university is the socially acceptable life path to get you on the right track with your chosen career. People tell you you’re going to need it to not be a failure. I was bought up with the idea that going to university was the only option, that I’d have to go to oxford or cambridge and get a good degree to be a success. I never failed at school and certainly didn’t get bad grades. But I decided to be different and never believed I needed university, despite having everyone around me (parents, teachers, others) telling me I was wrong and that I would never get anywhere without University. This made me even more determined to prove them wrong.
In my moment of determination, I decided to put my plan into action and made a portfolio of all of the freelance work I had done to date, put it live and the next day I was offered a job interview thanks to circulation via Twitter. My age didn’t get bought up as an issue, my work was what got considered and I got the job. I didn’t get judged on that fact that I was only 17 or the fact that I hadn’t been to university, I got judged on the fact that I had worked hard and not given up. And though I no longer work at the place that gave me this job, I have to thank them for taking a chance on me. It proved to me that I had made the right decision.
“you’ll never go wrong, just follow your heart” – I came up with this saying a few years ago, completely out of the blue and have always believed in it and stuck by it. If I had followed the advice that everyone was giving me, instead of following my heart, I wouldn’t have achieved what I wanted to achieve.
I guess I just want people to know that you shouldn’t always completely follow the advice people are giving you, take it on board, listen, but at the end of the day go for what you want to go for, not what your school or parents are telling you to do. I always had school careers advisors “advising” me that University was the way to go, I just didn’t listen to them. At the end of the day, it’s your life, your career and your future. You are the best judge of that so do what you want to do, work hard for it and flipping enjoy it. I’ve now just turned 20 and have now worked in the industry professionally for over 2 years now and for 4+ years in total, I’ve designed for some clients that I would never have imagined I would have worked with (facebook, sony, wrigleys and malibu to name a few) at Gamaroff where I was working. I’ve also made some amazing friends through the industry and I don’t regret following my heart at all. I proved everyone wrong and proved myself right. So if there’s something out there you want, go get it, don’t let anything get in your way, don’t be put off because of other peoples opinions — just follow your heart.
UPDATE: And to prove that following your heart is the right thing to do, now, in January 2014 – I have taken the jump from full time agency working and gone freelance! Let’s work together?