MY 2020: Graduating from university this year forced me to embrace change
2020 changed all my career aspirations. But it also taught me that a window is sometimes even better than a door.
In this MY 2020 series, Youthopia writers explore everything that happened in the past year – the good, the bad, the ugly – and also share their hopes and dreams for 2021. What’s yours?
For most of my life, I have known exactly what I wanted.
I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I was 10 and I spent the last 14 years making this dream a reality. I interned at various magazines and newspapers over my holidays, freelanced for lifestyle websites in between school assignments and got all my relevant paper qualifications in order.
I had a plan, a goal, and I was strategic in making it happen. Until COVID-19 happened, that is.
I was gearing up for November 2020, when I would graduate from university, excited to start looking for a full time job. I was counting on the contacts that I had made over the years and the knowledge I had gained to carry me into a great job and a fantastic working environment. I was excited to start adulting and saving for my future.
So imagine my utter shock when seven months before I was due to graduate, we were struck by a pandemic, of all things.
Despite the rapidly changing landscape, I was blessed to have a remote internship throughout the circuit breaker period as a result of a short bond I had to serve upon receiving a scholarship.
However, as the months went on and the economy worsened, I found myself in a strange limbo. I knew that getting a job at a magazine or digital site would be near impossible considering that media teams tend to be smaller. So I turned my attention to my internship company.
It wasn’t exactly the job I dreamed of, but it was a good role and I was hoping that I would get converted at the end of my stint. Unfortunately, due to the worsening pandemic, I found myself in October facing the fact that I would be graduating with no job and zero hope of securing one any time soon.
I began looking for jobs immediately. Bearing in mind that I am a person that consistently plans her life five years ahead of time, this drastic change in plans was a big deal for me.
Branching out, I began applying for marketing jobs, brand management ones and even some in human resource. A far cry from my dream to be a journalist for sure, but I knew I needed to get a job, any job, and to start supporting myself financially and saving for my future.
At first, this was really depressing and stressful. Rejection emails kept coming in and I felt like I was just settling as I applied almost haphazardly for almost every job that popped up on LinkedIn, regardless of the role.
My world felt like it was collapsing. I couldn’t believe that I would be graduating in two months and that I might actually find myself unemployed and with nothing to do.
That was when I landed up in the hospital.
Thankfully, it was just a stress-related flare-up of a pre-existing condition. I was so worked up by everything that was changing around me that I had completely worn myself down.
Two awful weeks later and I was back in school. It was then that I got an email from a non-governmental organisation (NGOs) that I had almost forgotten I had applied to.
It was for an SGUnited Traineeship role and I would be doing communications and marketing. It was also for an organisation that stood for women’s rights. Something that I have been so passionate about all my life, and an area that I have always wanted to do more in. It felt like this crazy year and all its uncertainties were starting to make sense at that moment.
I graduated at the end of November. Two days later, I started my new traineeship role at this NGO. I am no longer working in a fancy office like I was during my internships or earning a high salary like I imagined I would. I’m not attending media events and interviewing famous people anymore. But I have never, ever, felt more fulfilled.
Every day, I go to work and I feel so much joy and purpose. I find every opportunity to talk the ears off my loved ones, regaling them with stories about the injustices in society that I am only beginning to really see now that I am in the thick of it. I genuinely feel like I’m starting to see the world differently.
I started out this year believing that I was going to finally see the last 14 years of hard work pay off. Even though it looks so different from what I ever could have imagined, it did pay off. I get to use the skills I learnt over the years to give a voice to those who are ignored. I get to educate the public. I get to feel genuine pride in the work I’m doing.
Change sucks. It really does. It’s never easy to see well-laid plans and dreams get trashed, especially now when everything seems so dark and scary. But sometimes, change is necessary. We can get so fixated on the routines and expectations of life that we fail to consider that maybe, there’s another path.
And that’s what this year has shown me – that there are other routes in life and that it is okay to consider taking them. Sometimes, embracing change can lead to even better opportunities than you could ever have imagined for yourself.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, especially once my traineeship is over. But I’m very excited to be where I am right now and I’m looking forward to seeing my plans shift and bend because I believe at the end of the day, I will end up on the path that is the absolute best for me.
Other stories in this MY 2020 series: