The crossroads at 18 - Julia's experience

13 February 2020

By Sarah Knight

The crossroads at 18 - Julia's experience

​It’s approaching that nail biting time of year when A Level students gear up to start the exams that may determine their next steps. Will they be off to university and get in to the course of their dreams? Is an apprenticeship on the cards or is the time right to get in to the world of work?

This week, each one of the Sarah West team will take a look back at the choices we made – would we do anything differently? What did we think we’d end up doing career-wise back then? How does that match up with where we are now? First up’s Julia!

What did you want to do at 18?

“I had absolutely no clue! I remember having a ridiculous career conversation with a teacher about becoming a stockbroker…which was something I knew nothing about but seemed to make good money!”

What did you choose to do at 18?

“I chose to go to university. As I didn’t know what I wanted to do work-wise it bought me some time to decide. Plus it gave me the chance to leave home and grow up!”

Where did you go?

“I went to Bradford and studied Business and Management. I chose that because it was a really broad degree that meant I could head in any number of directions after it.”

Was it what you expected?

“I think so – we’re going back a few years now! I remember it dawning on me that passing the course was down to me. There were no parents making sure I got up in the morning and I had to be motivated to get to lectures, tutorials and do coursework. That wasn’t always easy!”

What did you get out of University?

“I obviously learned a lot however the main thing I got was growth as a person. Simple life lessons like learning to budget (well – ish), cook, do the washing up – just learning to live with other people and adapt and compromise did me the world of good.

“Yes, I learned a lot from my studies however I’d always viewed doing the course as a stepping stone to getting a job that needed me to have a degree.”

How has your choice at 18 impacted your life?

“Doing a degree has 100% impacted what I’ve done work-wise. I got on to a graduate scheme and stayed with BT for 12 years. I was recruited in to Customer Service but my heart lay with marketing – something I wouldn’t have known unless I’d done it at university. I still absolutely love communications and wouldn’t change a thing looking back – which is a nice feeling to have.”

Was going down the University route the right thing?

“Totally. I grew up and had experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise like getting to do a year at a university in France and doing Camp America.

“I came out of university in debt but nothing compared to the amount graduates are faced with now. If I was faced making the decision today, the thought of being saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt would really put me off – it’s a tough one.”

What would you tell your 18 year old self now?

“That it’s fine not to know where you’re heading. Over the years I’ve never had a definite plan and that’s OK. It’ll be interesting to see where I am in another 20 years!”

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